No, this post isn’t about Brandon Davidson — we’ve known for a while that the Oilers really did find a hidden gem in him during the sixth round of the 2010 draft. But while we’re chatting about Davidson, let me just quote that old saying, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.” Well, Brandon must be ours, because he came back and will hopefully be sticking around. Have you figured out who I’m rambling about yet? It’s Jujhar Khaira, who was taken with the 63rd selection in the third round at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft!
A Junior A stud
Khaira planned to go the college route after being passed over at the bantam draft. He played Junior A Hockey with the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.
As a 16-year-old rookie in the BCHL, Khaira was able to rack up 42 points (10G, 32A) in 58 games played, which was good enough to tie for second in points on the team. The next season as a 17-year-old, he improved his numbers in fewer games played, putting up 79 points (29G,50A) in 54 games.
The Oilers took note and jumped at the chance to draft Jujhar ahead of players like Jimmy Vesey, Esa Lindell, Shayne Gostibehere, Matt Murray and Colton Parayko. Those players were all taken later in the third round.
A change in development
Khaira only played one season at Michigan Tech during 2012-1013, where he scored 25 points (6G,19A) in 25 games. He then gave up his final three years of eligibility to sign a contract with the Oilers. At that point, no one knew what the Oilers plans were for their centreman for the upcoming season — he could have either been assigned to the AHL Oklahoma City Barons or joined a CHL club. The Oilers went with the latter and had him play with the Everett Silvertips, who owned his major junior rights.
The Surrey native fared well in his only season in the WHL, on a team that featured future top NHL prospects Noah Juulsen and Micro Mueller, and fellow Oiler Ben Betker. He played top minutes in 59 games during 2013-2014, and potted 43 points (16G, 27A). The Oilers then had him finish out the season in the AHL with Oklahoma, where he played nine games, including three in the playoffs where he had a lone goal.
The next season Kharia made the jump to the AHL full-time with the Barons. He was finally filling out that 6’3 frame like the Oilers had hoped he would. Jujhar only had 10 points (4G,6A) over 51 games, but he was finally developing a mean streak (63 PIMs).
Kharia returned for the 2015-2016 season just as mean and hungrier for points. He cemented himself as a big body who could chip in every one in a while, the Oilers took notice, and they called him up to the big club for the first time. There was a backlog at the bottom six and Jujhar was only able to stick around 15 games where he was -2, with two goals, and 13 assists.
Jujhar earned another call-up to the Oilers in January of last season. He displayed all of the tendencies that we wanted from him — a gritty, big bodied man who wasn’t afraid to get into the corners — yes, that’s what she said, that’s what I said. Unfortunately, after missing time due to an injury, it almost appeared as if he was coasting his way through. Maybe it was due to injury, or maybe he felt he had cemented his spot in the lineup.
Making a case
Jujhar entered this season ready to claim his spot in the bottom six, and while this season has been bumpy for the team all around, Kharia seems to be getting better every game. Off the ice, Kharia has taken a big step in the community, he’s the Oilers ambassador for the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone campaign.
While I’m not saying Jujhar has been perfect this season (no Oiler has been), Jujhar has been a bright spot. In 46 games played this year he has 17 points (9G,8A) and 31 PIM’s, he can lay a mean hit or drop the mitts when needed. He’s also discovered his scoring touch — the kid can fire a nice wrister!
It’s exciting to see a player develop right from the draft, especially since we haven’t seen many outside the first round do that. What’s your favourite Jujhar Khaira moment from this season? Let me know your thoughts below!