We are through the summer acquisition period and the Edmonton Oilers and Bakersfield Condors have collected names for the winter. Among the things I’ll be watching closely: New AHL defensemen Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Ziyat Paigin and Ryan Mantha as they adjust to pro hockey.
- LD Ziyat Paigin, 22. The most experienced of the new blue, he has played in 95 KHL and 5 AHL games in the past several seasons. A giant Russian (6.06, 209), the Oilers like him plenty. AGM Keith Gretzky was quoted recently in a Chris Westcott article talking about his skill and willingness to play in Bakersfield. That’s a big deal for Russian players and it can go either way. Bogdan Yakimov looked very close to making the NHL full time before getting sent down to the AHL. He didn’t stay long and is now back in the KHL, his North American career at least somewhat in doubt. Perhaps Paigin will be more like Anton Slepyshev, who has invested a lot of time in California working on the things required to become an NHL regular. If Paigin is in for the long haul, that’s a big deal. Scouting report: Paigin is a big man, who can play defense and use his giant wingspan effectively. He does post offense, but most of it comes from a mammoth shot from the point. Don’t expect end to end rushes or Erik Karlsson passes, but he does appear to have an NHL skill set. Speed and closing gaps are going to be the things that delay progress. Expectation: Among the four new hires, I have a feeling Paigin gets the first NHL call. Why? He’s a little older, has KHL experience and the quotes from Gretzky are glowing. Now, the Oilers say nice things about all of their prospects but based on the organization’s own established tendencies I can see the club rewarding Paigin for being a good soldier and taking the trip to California with a smile. Just a feeling based on verbal about smiles and fitness.
- RD Ethan Bear, 20. If you make a list of things a player chosen in the fourth round should accomplish in the two years after draft day, surely Ethan Bear checked off all those boxes, and kept on going. On his draft day, the scouting reports talked about steady play, good passing, an excellent shot and the ability to play defense. Bear has continued progress, culminating in being named the WHL Defenseman of the Year. The award is aptly named the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy. Scouting Report: At this point in his career, Bear has the entire range of skills, it’s just a matter of honing them and figuring out where he lands on the depth chart. His shot may mea he gets power-play time and his passing ability will help there, too. I think he may take some time adjusting to the speed of the game (defending it) in Bakersfield, but the scouting reports from the WHL indicate he was effective in all areas. Expectation: He could emerge as a key player in Bakersfield this fall, and the fact he is a righty helps a lot. I don’t expect we’ll see him in Edmonton beyond a quick cup of coffee, but it is reasonable to expect substantial playing time in the AHL.
- LD Caleb Jones, 20. I’m all about draft day scouting reports but most of those for Jones missed the mark. There were phrases like “lacks creativity” that implied he might be limited offensively. Wrong! He has been splendid in the WHL, competing with Bear in terms of points and clearly adding offense to his resume. Scouting Report: Mobile, good passer, Jones is like every other defenseman on the planet in that reading and reacting to plays is an ongoing item. His speed helps on both offense and defense, so his ability to recover is very good. Expectation: I expect he’ll (like Bear) work on the things remaining in his game while with Bakersfield. We may see him for a game or two this winter, and then have a much better idea about his NHL readiness this time next summer.
- RD Ryan Mantha, 21. Mantha blossomed as a 20-year old in the OHL. Players often post massive boxcars in their overage year, that’s expected. Sometimes (Orest Kindrachuk is the first one I recall, mid-70’s) it’s something more than just being a year older than everyone else. Either way, the Rangers passed on signing him and Mantha posted some rocket totals (65gp, 17-41-58 with Niagara IceDogs) in his final OHL season. Scouting report: He is a big man with a big shot, plus he can play defense. The big change between the day the NY Rangers decided not to sign him and the day Edmonton signed Mantha? Foot speed, as described by Brock Otten of OHL Prospects. Expectation: He is probably the least likely to play in the NHL this coming season. I think he’ll spend the entire year in the AHL, maybe even get some time in the ECHL. Mantha is a fascinating prospect, is his late development real or merely an older player dominating young competition? We’ll know more in a year.
- Among the four men, who do you think plays in the NHL first?
- Among the four men, who do you think has the most impressive NHL career?
Let me know!