Photo Credit: Steve Hiscock, Saskatoon Blades

The Oilers are aggressively adding forward prospects

A month ago, I wrote about the lack of forward prospects in the Edmonton Oilers pipeline. Jesse Puljujarvi isn’t really a prospect anymore, which leaves Kailer Yamamoto as the only forward prospect that has a chance to make an impact in the NHL within the next year.

Since then the Oilers have added:

C J.D. Dudek – Boston College
C Colin Larkin – UMass-Boston Div III
C Cooper Marody – U. of Michigan

That’s three players who could be playing in Bakersfield next season, with Yamamoto and Tyler Benson graduating to professional hockey as well.

This is in addition to overage Western Hockey League centre Cameron Hebig, who was signed at the end of the December. The Oilers have recognized the lack of forwards in their system and are trying to fix it. Bakersfield has too many American Hockey League veterans getting minutes when the Oilers need prospects playing those minutes instead.

The Oilers are in this position because they’ve drafted at the top, where most players make the NHL immediately, and they’ve traded a lot of draft picks in an attempt to get better.

The Oilers didn’t pick a forward after selecting Connor McDavid first overall in the 2015 draft. The Griffin Reinhart trade has been relentlessly talked about, but for a good reason. It’s not hard to see how two, young forward prospects drafted with those picks could be finishing their first year of professional hockey right now, maybe even with a brief campaign in the NHL.

The Reinhart trade will go down as one of the worst in recent years and a reason why the Oilers don’t have cheap talent to fill out the roster.

There’s an argument for acquiring prospects instead of draft picks: they’re closer to the NHL and Edmonton needs players in the AHL and not junior hockey. But prospects worth anything are rarely traded. Cooper Marody is likely the highest quality prospect procured by Edmonton recently, and even he wasn’t rated much in Philadelphia’s strong system.

Larkin comes from a league that historically produces almost no NHL players.

Dudek isn’t producing any offence that suggests an NHL future.

Hebig is having a nice year in the WHL after missing all of 2016-17, but that should be expected from an overage player.

Edmonton’s desire to address their forward prospect depth is good. They need young players to come through the system and make an impact in the NHL, but it’s hard to see how these additions move the needle for Edmonton’s prospect pool

It’s still better to have younger players like Hebig and Marody playing big minutes in the AHL than older AHL veterans. Maybe one of them surprises in professional hockey, even if they lacked the offence in college or played in a lower league.

The Oilers’ need for forward prospects is still there. They’ll need to improve their drafting and developing, and resist trading high draft picks for mediocre prospects like they did with Reinhart.

Edmonton’s aggressive approach in signing undrafted free agents and trading for prospects is like taking a swig of mouthwash for strep throat. It won’t hurt you and might help a little bit, but still doesn’t address the underlying issue.

  • Hemmercules

    Explore all options. If they don’t work out its still worth a try. Hopefully they can pull some good names at the draft this year and stock the cupboards a bit as long as they don’t trade those picks on gambles.

  • Rock11

    They wouldn’t have drafted forwards with the picks traded for Reinhart. Remember that team still had Hall, Eberle, and Yakupov(when people still held out hope) along with RNH, Drai and 97. Forwards were not going to be the priority.

  • TKB2677

    I am an Oilers fans so I am fully prepared to have some fans and bloggers come in and piss all over these moves to try and take away ANY sort of positives because that is just what Oilers fans and bloggers do. In my opinion, I don’t see how any of these moves can’t be seen as positive.

    If you go look at Bakersfields roster, they seem to have some dmen coming but it’s a waste land for any remotely decent forward prospects. People talk about needing some of the young talented guys to go to the minors, to play and develop. Totally correct. So when they sent down Puljujarvi, last year and this year, who does he have to play with? Ryan Hamilton a mid 30’s AHL plugger. Brad Malone, a career AHLer who on a good day can MAYBE be a 13th NHL forward. They have a converted dman in LaLeggia at forward who with Rattie being up in the NHL is SECOND in team scoring. He’s got 36 pts. WOW. There is a reason they go out and sign all these borderline useless AHLers like Callahan, Downing, Ferlin, go down the list. They have no one else. So I don’t see why signing or trading for a few of these college guys who are still young, can skate, have some skill and might have a chance to be something is a bad thing. When Benson turns pro and if Yamamoto spends time in the minors like he probably should, I would much rather have them playing with a fast, young, skilled college guy than having Brad Malone as their center. Then listen to fans complain that these guy aren’t producing enough in the minors.

    • fasteddy

      One thing you are missing is that Brad Malone is 4 times the player, (today), than some never drafted college free agent centre that scored some in Div 3. I completely get your thought process, but you’re overlooking that playing with a hardened pro isn’t the worst way to learn. It’s a hard, hard game reserved for the absolute elite athletes…..if it were as simple as letting some overlooked younger guys play everyone would do it. (Another point is many of these players are within a year or two age-wise of a Ty Ratttie….not exactly pups you can take 4 yrs with).

  • ed from edmonton

    PC has used the NCAA to fill out the AHL team since he arrived. I don’t think any of the FA signings are likely to play in the NHL, nut they need people to fill out the AHL roster. Maroday seem, perhaps, to have a bit more than the others but whether he signs is a question. PC has been able to sign NCAA FAs (Cagullia, Benning for eg) so I remain optimistic here. I do take objection to the statement ” the Oilers don’t have cheap talent to fill out the roster.”. Caggulia, Sleppy (if hes back), Pakarrinen, Rattie (?), Aberg, Khaira, all make let than $1M per year and won’t6 be getting much more during their next one. i would say they have too much cheap talent, teh roster would look a lot better if PC has used his cap space better.

  • 24% body fat

    They arent prospects if they are never going to play in the NHL. Marody has a chance, the other guys are just there to make it look like Chia is doing his job.

  • TKB2677

    When I look at the Marody trade. The Oilers traded a 2019 3rd round pick which they had 3 of, for a 21 yr old skilled, fast, right handed center. If you go down their depth chart in their system, they don’t have any of that. There is zero guarantee that he pans out to anything but at the same time, there is a very low chance that any 17 -18 yr old they would draft next year with that pick would turn into anything. Once you get out of the first round, the chances of a player taken in lower rounds every making the NHL let alone doing anything drop dramatically. Whatever kid they could have drafted with that 3rd, is 3 yrs from turning pro because you can’t even take him until next year and most likely at 18, he plays 2 more junior years. Then once he turns pro, in all likelihood, he takes at least a year of AHL time. So maybe if you are lucky, in 4 years you might have a player just starting his NHL career. Most likely, it will be much longer than that, if at all. If they sign with Marody which I assume, they wouldn’t make the trade unless they at least had a pretty good feeling they could, he could be in their organization next year and if it happened to work out, by the time whatever kid they could have drafted even turns pro, he could be in the NHL actually contributing.

    Considering they had 3 3rd round picks, its not a bad gamble to use 1 of them.

  • Kepler62c

    As much as I know the 2018 1st Rounder is one of their best assets to move and get better NOW – I personally think they should use it and add another top notch prospect. We have Yamo and Benson. That’s it. F or D I don’t much care.

    • TKB2677

      The Oilers sit in 24th position today with 71 pts. They are 1 point behind the Isles & Rangers, 4 behind Carolina. The Oilers have 8 games left. Given how they are playing, how there are some players wanting to finish strong and McDavid seems to want a scoring title and Talbot looks like he wants to finish the season playing really well. I see them jumping past the Isles, Rangers and Carolina for sure. Outside chance at Calgary though I doubt it. So I think they finish in 21st. So that is the 10th overall if they stay in the same spot. A 10th overall pick probably finishes junior and is at least 1 yr of minors. So I that is at least 3 yrs before he cracks the NHL. If you could get a player, like say a right shot PP guy and part of it was your #10, I would do that all day long.

      Here is a completely pie in the sky idea. The Flames crashed and burned this year. They wasted their 1st on Hamonic so they are giving up a lottery pick. Apparently according to Freidman, they are looking for a 1st rounder. They are probably going to fire the coach but clearly their mix is not right. If Hamilton was available and part of the package was the Oilers first, would you make the trade? I would. A 15+ goal, 50 pt, right shooting dman. I don’t think it would happen but if you could get a player that makes your team better instantly and will be an impact guy for at least 5 yrs, I’d do it.

      • A-co

        And if you finish 21st overall that pick could still move up to a top 3 pick where there is some serious talent…hopefully the oilers fall into a top pick with the lottery..

      • pkam

        I would agree with you if there is no expansion draft coming up soon. The player we pick in the coming draft will not require protection, the player we trade the pick for probably will.

      • Retired Secret Agent

        @TKB2677. I agree wholeheartedly, but I don’t think the Flames will trade a player of DH’s caliber to the Oilers. I know I wouldn’t to such a big divisional rival.