The Edmonton Oilers traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome today, a cost cutting move in front of the Leon Draisaitl contract (this fall) and the Connor McDavid deal (next fall). One way for the organization to achieve more efficient cost certainty for support players is a thriving draft and development program. Picture if you will a procurement system so deep that Jordan Eberle’s replacement is already on the roster, having been successfully idling on the 2line for 100 games.
It’s a dream but if the Oilers are going to contend for the next decade and beyond, procurement will be key. Peter Chiarelli will be relying on players who are not yet proven this fall to fill holes made by injuries, cap inefficiencies, faltering free-agent signings and bad luck.
Tomorrow night, Chiarelli and his staff will (probably) pick a player at No. 22 overall and that prospect is likely to be a forward. There are two reasons for a thin forward prospect pool: Unsuccessful drafting five+ years ago and all those early in the first round lottery picks arriving in the NHL right off the hop. Edmonton’s forward prospect group needs some help.
OILERS TOP 10 FORWARD PROSPECTS
- R Jesse Puljujarvi. Posted 28gp, 1-7-8 in the NHL and 39gp, 12-16-28 in Bakersfield this season. Consensus (including the general manager) has him in the NHL this fall.
- LC Jujhar Khaira. He went 10gp, 1-0-1 in the NHL 27gp, 8-12-20 in the AHL, showing real offensive growth in his third pro season. I think he’s probably a lock for the Matt Hendricks role, his salary saving the team $1M from Hendricks deal of a year ago.
- L Tyler Benson. Went 33gp, 11-31-42 with the Vancouver Giants before being shut down once again due to injury. He is healthy and has been invited to Team Canada summer camp. I’ve always wondered what the Oilers would do with him if Benson had a strong training camp (keep him for a time?) but one more (healthy) year of junior is the play here.
- L Joey Laleggia. He is an RFA and a recent convert from defense to forward. From Boxing Day forward, he went 43gp, 18-13-31, most of that time at forward. He is undersized but skilled. No idea if he has an NHL future but certainly worth signing to second contract.
- LC Joe Gambardella was a late spring addition via college hockey. Went 41gp, 18-34-52 with Union College and then 6gp, 1-2-3 for the Bakersfield Condors. Ryan Lambert might be the smartest guy writing about hockey consistently and he loves Gambardella. It’s easy to forget about guys like this in summer but we’ll see the lay of the land come fall.
- RC Aapeli Rasanen. He played very well in the USHL (38gp, 7-18-25) and we can hope for progress at Boston College in the fall. Smaller center, two-way type, speed has always been the down arrow.
- RC Tyler Vesel. Played with Omaha in the NCAA (39gp, 14-21-35). He enjoyed a breakout offensive season, that sometimes happens with older college prospects (he is 23). He has one more year in the NCAA and then we’ll see.
- R Patrick Russell. Spent first pro season in Bakersfield (68gp, 8-9-17) and shot the puck a lot (150 shots, 2.21 a game) without getting much in the way of results.
- RC Kyle Platzer. Went 51gp, 1-7-8 in Bakersfield and is now two years through the entry-level deal. Platzer has two-way skills but doesn’t play a lot.
- R Greg Chase. Scored 48gp, 3-11-14 in the AHL in his first full season, showing some signs of the talent that had many talking about him during his junior career. A big season on the way, he’ll need to emerge as an NHL regular.
Puljujarvi is a lock for an NHL career, and Jujhar Khaira is NHL-ready and that’s a nice option for the team. Laleggia and Gambardella are building their resumes and you can make a case for a couple of others. The overwhelming takeaway from this list? Edmonton needs to draft a forward at No. 22 tomorrow night.