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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers seriously lack forward prospects

Part of a disappointing season means calling up NHL-ready prospects to see if they can fill roles. What makes a disappointing season even worse is when there’s nothing of substance to call up. Jesse Puljujarvi’s already in Edmonton. After the Oilers’ 2016 first-round pick, there’s no one in a veteran-filled Bakersfield team.

Bakersfield’s top-five scorers by age: 25, 25, 25, 28, 32. Two of those players are on AHL-only deals (Ryan Hamilton and Josh Currie). Joey Laleggia is a defenceman converted to forward. Ty Rattie and Brad Malone are NHL/AHL tweeners. 25-year-old players in the AHL are usually more suspect than prospect.

The Oilers don’t have one forward under 23-years old with 10 points in the AHL. It’s not like these AHL veterans have created a winning atmosphere in Bakersfield either. The Condors are last in the Pacific and are just .500 after winning two games against Los Angeles’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign before getting blown out 6-0 to Anaheim’s affiliate.

Some of this is a result of the amount of draft picks sent away by the Oilers. They’ve essentially given up an entire draft class worth of picks in trades for Patrick Maroon, Cam Talbot, Griffin Reinhart and as compensation for hiring Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli.

Edmonton’s recovered a few third-round picks when they sent away Teddy Purcell and Justin Schultz at the deadline, as well as the Nail Yakupov trade. Early returns on those picks aren’t good. Markus Niemelainen followed up his draft season with a nine-point campaign in the Ontario Hockey League. Now he’s not playing much for HPK Hameenlinna in Finland. Matt Cairns jumped leagues before landing at Cornell for the 2017-18 season. He’s not an everyday player and has no points.

This is where the Griffin Reinhart trade hurts so much. Matt Barzal aside, the Oilers yielded nothing from two high draft picks in a deep draft. Edmonton’s system looks completely different with players like Joel Eriksson-Ek or Mitchell Stephens in it. Chiarelli’s inability to extract picks alongside Adam Larsson and Ryan Strome also shines through here.

The Saskatoon Blades host the Swift Current Broncos Sask Tel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, October 06, 2017

This is also a symptom of drafting high every year. Before last season, the Oilers missed the playoffs ten years in a row and had nine top-ten draft picks. Those players make the NHL much sooner than those picked in the 20s, especially top-five picks. Connor McDavid was never spending any more time in junior. Jesse Puljujarvi started the season in the AHL but was called up due to a shallow right wing.

Next year has to see more prospects in feature roles, but it still makes the Oilers’ decision to sign seven AHL players to NHL deals even more confusing. None of those players look like NHL hopefuls, and Bakersfield already had Currie and Hamilton on AHL contracts.

Maybe this means moving a defence prospect for a forward prospect makes sense.

Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson, and Cameron Hebig will graduate to professional hockey. Benson is the exact type of prospect who should receive a healthy chunk of minutes on the farm team. Yamamoto is a first-round pick and a right-wing, so the Oilers are probably tempted have him on the NHL roster. Chiarelli, or whoever is general manager, needs to add NHL depth so Yamamoto doesn’t have a red carpet to an NHL job.

A year in Bakersfield won’t hurt Yamamoto. 22nd-overall picks usually take a few years to make the NHL.

2016’s 22nd-overall pick, German Rubtsov, is playing in the QMJHL and probably headed to the AHL next season.

Ilya Samsonov was Washington’s 22nd pick in 2015. He’s playing in Russia, but likely coming over to North America next year. He could be Washington’s backup or playing a lot for their affiliate in Hershey.

Kasperi Kapanen was picked 22nd in 2014 and is just playing regular minutes as of late. He spent one year in Finland before playing three seasons in the AHL. He played 17 NHL games in the three years after being drafted.

Yamamoto doesn’t have the expectations of a top pick. He could spend another year or two in junior and provide a value contract for Edmonton afterwards. Contending teams don’t count on players like him.

Kirill Maksimov looks like a legitimate prospect with the season he’s having in Niagra. Ostap Safin hovers around a point per game in his first year in North America with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Graham McPhee and Aapeli Rasanen are showing signs of life in college, but neither has a resume that indicates a future NHL scorer.

Edmonton’s situation means they can recoup some assets at the deadline for their pending free agents. Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu should return a second or third-round pick, but it’s possible the Oilers opt for a prospect instead. Tampa Bay and Boston are rumoured to have interest in Maroon, and both teams have a wealth of forward prospects playing the AHL.

The Oilers badly need to improve their forward prospect depth. They’ll need cheap forwards to compliment their roster when McDavid and Draisaitl take up a quarter of the salary cap. There’s currently nothing in Bakersfield and only a few on the way, which is bad news for a team at the bottom of the standings.

  • Serious Gord

    As I stated elsewhere- Vegas isn’t even a year old yet and they have better depth than the oil.

    Say what you want about the nhl roster and it’s flaws – the biggest issue/weakness of this team has been depth and it’s been that way for almost the entire 2000s.

    Absolutely this is largely due to abysmal- crony -ridden scouting but not far behind is the pro scouts.

    Sigh, so many people to fire and do little time…

    • McDavid's Comet

      I agree with you completely Gord but, anyone that reads this knows darn well that this “boys on the bus” regime isn’t going anywhere. I can only hope Keith Gretzky is a Ken Holland “type” GM. *long sigh*

  • Duke of OiL

    Ok,so what does a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick do for us.Noone,and I MEAN none has an eye for talent in the organization so why trade Paddy and Letestu for picks?
    We posted several times that Griffin would not be a player,anyone who watched the oil kings at the time that had any hockey sense knew this other than our Oiler talent scouts.So painful,it really is…..

    • toprightcorner

      McKenzie had Reinhart listed as a top 5 pick and he was a top 10 on every other list and your saying anyone who knows anything about hockey knew he wasn’t an NHL player? He didn’t turn out to be one but not one scout or insider thought he would be a bust.

      • Dr Dragon

        Ya but the Oilers traded for him 3 years after he got drafted when he clearly was to slow and not progressing at all. Its was on of the most brutal trades in one of the deepest draft in a decade that coulda got us 2 blue chip prospects

  • morsecode89

    How can read this list of trades and look at our prospect cover and still thinks we still have competent management?

    Debate the trades for Hall, Eberle, Jultz, Yak, Reinhart and others all you want, but the fact we have no prospects between age 20-23 pushing the river in the AHL 2+ years after those trades happened is a fireable offence on its own.

    • toprightcorner

      The lack of 20-23 year old drafted prospects is the fault of MacT, not Chia. Chia’s first draft included Benson, Jones and Bear, all who are still quality prospects. Don’t blame Chia for stuff from before he was hired.

      Your saying he should have gotten picks for Hall instead of a player? Yak and Schultz got the 3rd round picks they were worth, those picks rarely turn. Your expectations are unrealistic.

  • DOD BEGINS AGAIN

    Just tank baby, tank. Another top 5 pick for the Oil to ruin… it really amazes me about how inept this team is at drafting. Of all th3 recent top 5 picks, arguably only two of them turned out to b3 great players. One of them was a generational talent. Disgusting.

  • Ty Guy

    So we grab some prospects in return and send them to an AHL team to be surrounded by nobody? hang them out to dry until they are deemed untradeable, non NHL calibre assets? I know it needs to start somewhere but this is ugly.

    • crabman

      or we grab prospects that are on the cusp of making the NHL buy playing on teams with depth at that position blocking their way. They become the cheap contract players supporting our stars in the next couple of years. the exact kind of depth we need moving forward. would you prefer a late 2nd or 3rd round pick that may or may not turn into one of those prospects pushing for NHL time in 4 or 5 years?

  • percy

    The management is the laughing stock of the NHL. If it wasn’t for Mc David i would rent the Seattle bound U Haul myself. Quit watching the game again at the end of the second.

  • Hemmercules

    Is ON trying to drive us into a deeper depression?? Not that some of us aren’t already there but these articles are really driving home just how bad this org actually is. I actually thought they might rebound next year but the list of needs is so long it will likely be 2-3 years before they can be competitive again. Maybe a fringe playoff team next year if Talbot takes a 180.

    • MrBung

      Because there are still too many media types (e.g. Stauffer) out there that are selling that this team is not far off from being competitive and think that this season rather than last season is the aberration. No last season is the aberration. ON has laid out on multiple fronts why that is the case.

    • McDavid's Comet

      Think of it like this: it took us 10yrs. of failure to accumulate what good prospects we had, it took Charelli 2 off-seasons to pooch it all away. Pathetic… really pathetic.

      • crabman

        @Morning I still believe the Oilers can make a quick turnaround next year and be a playoff team. Goaltending needs to improve. overall team defence and special teams need to be fixed. I think most of this is possible with the proper coaching. Implementing a system that complements the players we have. We have some elite talent on this team and when you have that the chances of a quick turnaround is possible. Changes need to happen but it is still possible.
        @McDavid’s Comet, What prospect pool did Chairelli lose? I think he has done a poor job of getting more for our players and a poor job of adding prospects but what prospects did we have that we lost? Our prospect pool has been pretty bare for a decade long before Chairelli arrived. He hasn’t ruined it he just hasn’t fixed it either. that is still on him but too often people get blamed for more than they are responsible for.

          • crabman

            @OilersGM, I haven’t forgotten the Reinhart deal. It was an awful deal but he didn’t lose prospects the Oilers already had. He traded away important assets that would have given us good prospects. That falls under my assessment that he didn’t improve our prospect pool. Same can be said for not getting picks or prospects back in the Hall and Eberle deals to even out the lopsided exchange of talent.

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    No prospects? Yeah right, what about….Oh, and there’s….

    You’re right, we’re screwed.

    All Chia had to do was not trade for Rienhart and grab an extra pick is the Eberle and Hall deals and suddenly its not so bad. But unfortunately that only happened in a parallel universe.

    • camdog

      No NHL ready prospects for next year and maybe the year after. Come trade deadline day if they trade Maroon/Letestu they have nobody to call up. There best prospect right now is there first round pick in 2018 draft who ever that is. Come next fall the talk won’t be about Safin, Yam, or Benson being ready it’ll be about a player that hasn’t even been drafted yet…

    • TruthHurts98

      Yamamoto might just might pan out. Don’t count on any of the other 3 being NHL players and if they do, it’s a big if, nothing more than a Slepyshev or Caggiula. Benson is Pitlick #2 who isn’t really tearing it up. St. Louis has 4th and 5th round picks producing far more. So yes, no real prospects. Maybe Yammer.

  • Squishin

    The GM needs firing, it’s obvious he has no skill at this job. He mortgaged the future of the Oilers for essentially nothing. Selling low (Eberle, Hall), buying extremely high (Lucic, Russell) are his trademarks, along with generally wasting the once-plentiful assets of the organization. Apart from lucking into McDavid, there has been very little to like about anything Chiarelli has done. Fire him now, and bring in someone to stock the cupboards.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Ruined the Bruins and got canned by Cam Neelly, Spoiled the Oilers, soon to be fired.
      Boston traded Dougie Hamilton, a big slow D-man to acquire draft picks. Boston had a real quick turnaround.
      Lets hope things go that well for Edmonton.

  • ubermiguel

    I’m still thinking the plan needs to be: move your pending-UFAs for prospects or picks, don’t get rid of actual NHL players (e.g.: Lucic, Russell, Klefbom, RNH) for magic beans or cap-space, coach better (I still think McLellan’s a good coach, but Nicholson needs to make him accountable), and scout better. Nicholson needs to tell Chiarelli make the team better without block-buster deals; that means improve from within which will take time and hard work, but there’s no substitute for hard work. Has there ever been a team that built long-term success through trades?

      • ubermiguel

        A decade+ of NHL coaching success says that this years’ special teams fiasco is an anomaly. He still needs to be held to account for it, but name a better replacement who’s available.

        • Spydyr

          It is not our job to find his replacement that is on the GM but since you asked I would research and find the most successful young up and coming coach that has won at every level ,has great ideas and understands today’s NHL game. Then I would not fire McLellan over Skype.

          • ubermiguel

            And on goes the coaching revolving door, because that’s how winning organizations are built. We already have an experienced NHL coach with 400+ wins on the payroll, why go hunt unicorns? McLellan is a good coach, not necessarily a great coach, and maybe there’s someone better available, but he’s not even close to the worst problem this team has.

          • Spydyr

            You sound like you work for the Oilers bringing up past successes. How many wins does Scotty Bowman have as a coach should they bring him in? What matters is future wins not past wins.

            Who said he was the worst problem? You do know you can address more than one issue at a time to fix a team that is obviously broken.

    • crabman

      @ubermiguel, sometimes a change in coaching is what’s needed. We can’t say because we changed coaches before and it didn’t work out so we shouldn’t change now. I for one think McLellan has lost the players. and the pk isn’t just bad this year. it is worse this year but it was awful the last 60 games last year too. and our pp has one of the world’s most talented players on it and is bad. special teams and team defence and systems have a lot to do with coaching. I think it is time for a change. And good teams do this. Pittsburgh is a great example. St.Louis as well. They fired coaches with winning records because the team needed a change. Pittsburgh won cups shortly after their last 2 coaching changes and the Blues look better since hiring Yeo even though they were good teams under Hitchcock. And the Wild have looked better under Boudreau than Yao. Sometimes good coaches are the wrong coach for a team. the trick is finding the right coach for the talent you have. Good teams make a coaching changed too.

    • MrBung

      The only thing this organization can do anymore is have celebrations for the glory years. We are another bad season away from them playing old 80s games on the big screen at Rogers place and charging to see those.

  • Moneyball

    I’m going to stop reading these posts because they are inaccurate and far too negative. What prospects does Boston have at forward? A couple of decent ones which is what most teams have. Over the past couple of years the drafting has improved and I like a bunch of the prospects and picks that are in the system. 4 years ago the cupboards were bare, not today. As far as the oilers team itself goes, get better special teams coaching with a modestly improved power play and penalty kill this team wins a lot more games. In the off-season get an up and coming goalie to support Talbot maybe Montoya is it but we are far from 3 years away from the playoffs, next year is very possible.

    • Hemmercules

      They do have some defensive prospects but on forward its seriously lacking in quality. The farm team is in the basement, the NHL team is in the basement. The team will be largely the same next season so I do’nt have high hopes for the special teams unless they actually pull the trigger on a coach or 2. I hope Chia doesn’t make a bunch of rash decisions trying to make a run at a wild card spot next season. Next season is probably a re-tooling year more than anything, I don’t envision going from 27th to playoffs with everything Chia has on his list.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Support Cam Talbot, I like the idea of Knee Braces to keep him standing up. I can’t see him being a #1 goaltender on a Stanley Cup contender. He is way too inconsistent, last year in the playoffs, he gave up 3 goals on 3 and a half mins. Blew another one in OT. Got yanked twice, one 7-0 against SJ. Oh right Goaltender Interference. Really.

    • crabman

      @Moneyball, I agree we are not as far off as some people think we are. We have some very high end talent on this team and when you have that you have a chance at a quick turnaround. Special teams and goaltending needs to improve. Talbot had great numbers in his 2 years with NY and better than league average his 1st 2 years here. This year is an off year and I’m hoping he bounces back. It’s great to have elite goaltending but it isn’t needed. Talbot just needs to get back to career averages and he is at worse a league average goalie, which is fine. And every year there are league veterans like Vanek this year or Stepniak from a couple years ago who can be brought in cheap to play up and down the lineup and contribute. these stop gap players are out there every year and can help a team like the Oilers short term. I have no problem with Chairelli’s drafting since joining the Oilers. It’s too early to tell how he has done but most experts say you need 5 years post draft before you can judge. Chairelli’s problem as a gm has been pro scouting and trades. I worry he can’t find the proper complimentary players and continue to not get enough for his assets he sends away. and I worry we have the wrong coach to turn this team around. The proper changes in management and coaching and I think we are back in the playoffs next year.

  • toprightcorner

    This is why the Oilers should be trading Maroon for a young, high end AHL player. A draft pick, even a late 1st rounder, is still at least 3 years from the NHL. Thats too far away with McDavids contract kicking in.

    • crabman

      at least 3 years away and may turn into nothing. at least with an NHL ready prospect you have a better idea what you are getting at help a lot sooner. The question is do you have conference in Chairelli and our pro scouts ability to correctly identify the right player? I don’t. still better than the draft crapshoot though.

  • percy

    We need an owner who can call the head of hockey operations and order him to clean house. ASAP. And make sure it’s ASAP or it’s your job too. We need someone in charge that can take this mess and fix it.

  • Dave in LA

    Chiarelli has done nothing to restock the shelves in either Bakersfield or Edmonton. Total failure as far as I’m concerned.
    Still plenty enough talent on the big club but a coaching staff with no pushback or no answers to the specialty teams. Gerard Gallant would have these guys motivated.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Interesting article. I hope there’s a follow-up that talks about their decent depth at defence right now. They’ve done quite well drafting and signing defencemen and they’ve got some legit prospects in The Bake right now.

    #positivefriday

  • Curious

    If this continues next year (which it might), and we have a competent GM in place, perhaps the “untradeable” start to become tradeable. Yes Connor is a remarkable hockey player, but with the cupboard being so dry, who is he going to play with? Would you be better off with 5 young prospects and let them develop as a team versus having a superstar and nobody else? I liken it to Lindros back in the day….I dont think we are at that point yet, but if the wheels fall off again, Id look to see what you could get. Its a team game.

  • Hakuna Mcdavid

    Okkkkk oilers fans, time for a wake up call. No truly contending team has this secret pile of prospects waiting to be called up when they are going on a cup run. This is what happens when you’re winning, it’s EXACTLY what happened to the blackhawks, they just get bailed out with good scouting and better college recruiting. It also happened for Pittsburgh and every other team that’s commits for a year. Guess what, they’ll get them back when they decide to sell after a playoff run. Same as every team. And don’t even bother drawing any kind of parallel to Vegas, that is the most ridiculous comparison possible and honestly just dumb. They are a total aberration and literally designed to be full of prospects, they also just happened to have pulled off the some of the great heists in their expansion draft. The prospect cupboard may be a bit bare but also all of the first round picks are in the friggen nhl. All your best players have barely broken 20, what do you think a prospect is?