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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

TOP 20 PROSPECTS (ON EDITION) NO. 10-1

Last night we talked about the back end of the Oilers current prospect group, counting down from No. 20 to No. 11 prospects. Today we’ll finish it off with the 10 best prospects currently in the system. I count prospects as players who have fewer than 50 NHL games and for goalies the number is 25. My Oilers Nation Top 20’s (here is last year’s) differ from my Lowetide list in two ways: Being NHL-ready is a primary item for the ON list and this list values all contributions (defensive players don’t get punished on this list for lack of offense).

TOP 10 PROSPECTS, SUMMER 2017

  • No. 10 (Last Summer NR) G Nick Ellis. Bakersfield (AHL) 34gp, 2.69 .918. Ellis played extremely well in Bakersfield and if he can repeat his performance the Oilers may have a logjam at No. 2 goalie (a damned nice problem to have). The most encouraging thing about Ellis are his last two seasons (.936 as starter in Providence and his Bakersfield season) and the possibility of this being his established level. He was obscured in college by Jon Gillies and maybe the Oilers caught lightning in a bottle with this player.
  • No. 9 (Last Summer No. 11) L Joey Laleggia. Bakersfield (AHL) 67gp, 20-18-38. Gerry Fleming and the Bakersfield coaching staff moved him from defense to LW. Starting on Boxing Day forward, he went 43gp, 18-13-31. One dimensional players can have great success when that one dimension is scoring goals and Edmonton badly needs inexpensive offense.
  • No. 8 (Last Summer NR) LC Joe Gambardella. UMass-Lowell (NCAA) 41gp, 18-34-52; Bakersfield (AHL) 6gp, 1-2-3.  Gambardella is a perfect fit prospect in that he plays center, is an aggressive forechecker and can generate offense from turnovers and in transition. I don’t know if he can penalty kill but that alone could get him NHL time this coming winter.
  • No. 7 (Last Summer No. 10) LD Ziyat Paigin. Ak Bars Kazan (KHL) 17gp, 1-3-4; Bakersfield (AHL) 5gp, 0-0-0. His scouting report suggests shutdown capabilities, massive wingspan, big shot without being an expert passer or transporter. This suggests third pairing and defensive work. If he is mobile, Edmonton may fast track him when injuries occur. Reports in his Bakersfield games had him lacking speed but that could be adjustment to new league.
  • No. 6 (Last Summer No. 13) RD Ethan Bear. Seattle (WHL) 67gp, 28-42-70. Bear’s final junior season was so good he won WHL Defenseman of the Year. He had a good skill set on draft day but has worked on his game and arrives in pro hockey with a real chance to fill multiple roles. I think he (and Jones and Paigin) will spend most or all of 2017-18 in the AHL. Edmonton’s defense is going to be crowded by the end of the decade if two or three of these young blue develop on time.
  • No. 5 (Last Summer No. 9) LD Caleb Jones. Portland (WHL) 63gp, 9-53-62. He may be the best skater among defenders in the system and that’s a big advantage when hitting pro. Jones surprised with his offense in junior and that gives him more ways to make the NHL. I always put Bear before Jones in my Lowetide rankings, mostly due to handedness. The other thing to consider is speed, and I think Jones may be closer to being NHL-ready because he can fly. It’s a close race either way, but in the ON ranking Jones is ahead again this summer.
  • No. 4 (Last Summer No. 4) LC Jujhar Khaira. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 10gp, 1-0-1; Bakersfield (AHL) 27gp, 8-12-20. A lock for the roster this fall, he is the top ranked center in the system at this time. I expect he’ll replace Matt Hendricks on the Oilers roster, possibly getting penalty-killing minutes as the season grows. He’ll need to chip in 7-10 goals on offense, that’s the only real question. Oilers love his size and speed combination.
  • No. 3 (Last Summer No. 5) G Laurent Brossoit. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 8gp, 1.99 .928; Bakersfield (AHL) 21gp, 2.67 .908. My line in the sand for goalies to graduate is 25 games, and LB is at 15. There was a race to become the first Bakersfield Condors player to emerge as an NHLer, with Brossoit, Jujhar Khaira and Anton Slepyshev neck and neck. Slepyshev passed 50 games in 2016-17, but Khaira and Brossoit can join him this coming season.
  • No. 2 (Last Summer NR) R Kailer Yamamoto. Spokane (WHL) 65gp, 42-57-99. Junior numbers were fantastic. He was 28-20-48 at 5×5 this year, behind only Cody Glass among WHL players. Top skill, fantastic speed, good scorer but a better playmaker. Size the only issue and he’s a lock for pro hockey fall 2018. Had a strong WJSS and has people talking. I don’t think he plays in the NHL this coming season but wouldn’t be shocked to see him getting nine NHL games.
  • No. 1 (Last Summer No. 2) R Jesse Puljujarvi. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 28gp, 1-7-8; Bakersfield (AHL) 39gp, 12-16-28. He’s just a big kid learning the game at this point, but the tools are mind boggling. Puljujarvi is a big man at 19 (6.04, 203) and as he grows into that body we’ll have a little better idea about his as a player. I think he’ll be an excellent two-way winger with good offense, we can’t project him as an impact scorer from here. Either way he’s a helluva prospect.

Last year’s Top 20 is here.

  • HOCKEY83

    Would love to see Puljujarvi become the player he should have been last season in the NHL but the Oilers misplayed him like they did with Yak and destroyed his confidence before they sent him down last season like they love to do with some of their high draft picks for some reason.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Player he should have been? He was 18 years old and coming to a new continent to play the game on a different sized ice. He performed, in my opinion, as reasonably expected.

      Any expectations that he would score more in the NHL last year, to me, were unreasonable.

      I look forward to seeing him take a nice step this year – having a full summer to train (and not rehab and injury) should be a big plus.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        i love comments that suggest it’s always the Oilers fault if a player doesn’t develop! Jesse simply wasn’t ready and now he may be. same happened to Leon and look at him now! and Nail just never developed plain and simple, and he had most other scouts his draft year into thinking he was a lock for 30 goals in the NHL. thing is that sometimes it’s not always the team’s fault, sometimes a player just doesn’t develop, it happens.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Yak was very, very skilled, which accounted for his high draft…
          However, for what ever reason, the poor guy had no hockey sense?
          Can’t teach that… easily anyway.

    • Samesame

      Player he should’ve been? world juniors to the nhl is a massive jump and one many many many players struggle with. he wasn’t ready for the show, plain and simple. he even struggled abit at times in the A. and had a really tough world championships. this isn’t the organizations fault at all. they could’ve used a skillset like his and tried to give him some time but it didn’t work out. kids got all the skillz and size in the world but its not even a done deal that he’ll ever be a great nhl’er. this isn’t some failure by the oilers, its part of the business. some kids cant make the jump.

      As far as yakupov, I cant believe hes even still a topic of debate. He got hot for a stretch at the beginning and end of a shortened season. but oher than that, his entire nhl tenure until multiple coaches in multiple cities has been an utter disappointment. he doesn’t have the head for the game. and his leash in the nhl is almost at an end I bet. people need to stop pointing to his hot streak in his rookie year as the rule rather than what it clearly was, an exception to 4 awful seasons

  • 24% body fat

    Yamamoto a lock for pro fall 2018? Should oilers not let him physically grow in junior first before bringing him to the AHL? He has more skill than Hamilton and Pitlick but sending to more physically ready players to the AHL in those two hurt there development and not help it. Especially considering the AHL coach values veterans over development.

    • OriginalPouzar

      I can’t imagine going back the junior as an over-ager having any positive effect on his development.

      He will be 20 at the beginning of next season and pro hockey against men is where he will need to be. Next year’s camp and season will tell alot about the future of this player.

      • madjam

        Disagree with you there . Bear , Jones and Mantha have grown in all areas being an extra year back in Juniors . Draisaitl another perfect example after his first stint here . Not going to hurt Yamamoto if they send him back to juniors this season .

        • OriginalPouzar

          You are misunderstanding – Yamamoto will 100% be back in junior for this coming season. I’m talking about the season after.

          The past above suggested that Yamamoto be back in junior for the fall 2018 season when he will be 20 and eligible for the AHL.

          There is zero chance the team will want him to go back to junior for a 5th (over-age) season as opposed to play in the AHL (if not ready for the NHL – likely).

      • 24% body fat

        how about the fact that it will be easier to avoid injury while filling his body out playing against boys instead of men 40 pounds heavier than him with a physically mature body

        • OriginalPouzar

          He will be 20 – he won’t be going back to junior after this season.

          He will need to learn to play with guys 40 pounds heavier than him if he’s every going to make it the NHL – avoiding injury in junior for a 5th season will do nothing for him.

          He will be a pro hockey player at that time and we’ll find out if he’ll be able to figure out how to survive against men – he’s got a year to continue to work on gaining muscle and weight and working on his game knowing full well that, in a year from now, he’ll be playing against men.

        • Samesame

          hes gotta play against the men at some point. bluechip prospects rarely get sent back to juniors as overagers. theres just nothing more to gain after tearing the league to the tune of like 1.5ppg.
          the guys that go back are generally the projects/lowered tired guys/weak skaters etc

          barring some season ender where he hardly gets any playing time all season, theres almost no chance hes not a pro at 20

  • OriginalPouzar

    I’m intrigued to see LaLeggia at his first camp as a winger and, hopefully, he gets in to a few pre-season games.

    He scored quite a few goals in the back half of last season – can he do that at the next level?

  • madjam

    I expect Bear to get quite a few games with NHL club while Sekara out . Almost every WHL Defenseman of the Year has gone on to at least a 23 game stint over last 20 years – only 3 times in that 20 years did it not happen .

    • OriginalPouzar

      I expect Bear to get zero games at the NHL level this year.

      He likely needs a good 2 years of minor league development time.

      I actually expect him to struggle early in the AHL adapting to the speed of the pro game but to come on a bit as he gets more comfortable.

      He is behind – Gryba, Stanton, Simpson, Fayne.

      If we have to go that foar down the depth chart, we are in big trouble and its likely that Paigan (pro experience) or Jones (superior skater) would get the call.

      • madjam

        Doubt it , as none of your others bring the offence we need , or ability to quarterback a power play that Bear appears to have . I expect him to get more than the proverbial “cup of coffee” this year . I think you will be pleasantly surprised even if in a limited role .

        • TruthHurts98

          He will have to come to camp in unbelievable shape and really shine for that to happen. He looked unprepared last year and it took him a while to get going once the WHL season started. TM said he’s going to try to Benning on the PP point. And we still don’t know if PC will make another trade. Dog days of summer are boring and I for one can’t wait for the season to start!

        • JimmyV1965

          There’s virtually no chance Bear plays in the NHL. Anything can happen, but very very unlikely. The Oil have an outstanding PP. They don’t need someone to QB the PP with McDavid and Drai.

          • OriginalPouzar

            Agreed – almost no chance. There is never zero chance but, even as far as the new minor league d-men go, Bear is likely behind Paigan and Jones as far as an NHL call-up goes.

        • OriginalPouzar

          No, they don’t bring the offence or ability to PP a QB but we don’t even know if Bear can bring either one of those things in the AHL let alone the NHL

          I keep reading about the need for a PP QB when our PP was 6th overall for the season and #1 in the last few months.

          Sekera is out for a few months so there is a hole on PP2, however, frankly, Sekera wasn’t great on the PP to start with and Matty Benning may be a better option in that spot.

          At the end of the day, not many non high pedigree d-men make the jump directly from the CHL to the NHL, even for a cup of coffee. Lets let our developing 5th overall pick continue to develop in the proper league. Lets let him get used to the pro game. Lets use the pro depth we actually have on defense to allow our prospects the time to develop. They deserve that.

        • Carl the tooth

          Is bear in wjc . Caleb jones /Ethen bear. Are they both top 4 in wjc ? Will one play a bigger role than the other that would be how I’d compare the two players

  • dolenupnorth

    Hey Lowetide just wondering why you would call Joey legs, one dimensional. Seems that a d man turned forward that can score and has wheels doesn’t fit the one dimension description.

  • Mitch92

    Puljujarvi came in last season as an 18 year old rookie coming off of a knee injury that hampered his off-season. I expect that Jesse will come in this season much better prepared for the rigors of an 82 game plus play-offs. One of Jesse’s problems last season was the language barrier. I hope he is able to understand and comprehend his coaches better this season with the help of Jussi Jokinen. Improving in that area will allow his game to flourish. My hopes for Jesse are to lock into the top six this season and become a consistent contributor offensively. Time with Connor will help in that regard.