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.