Back to the Future?

As the Oilers get set to open up rookie camp it’s time to take a look at seven prospects who could surprise and start the season in Edmonton. One thing we need to take into consideration is that all of these kids will need to maintain their focus on the ice and not get distracted by Connor McDavid’s new glorious flow when he hits the ice for main camp.

Clearly, not all seven of these kids are going to crack the roster on opening night but there could be room for one…..or two….or three.

Right now the 14th forward spot is pencilled in for Scottie Upshall who is coming to town on a PTO, it’s not crazy to think one of these kids impresses more than he does. On the back end you have one spot for Gravel, Garrison or one of defensemen listed below.


1. Kailer Yamamoto – RW

To be fair I’m not even sure this would really surprise anyone. Yamamoto cracked the starting line up last season and the current situation on the right side isn’t any better than a year ago. In order for Yamamoto to be in the opening night line up he will have to outplay Ty Rattie, does that really seem that difficult? Yamamoto will likely need to have a productive pre-season but as I’ve mentioned before the organization is in love with his ability to think the game and that’s reason number one he’s at the top of this list.

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Likeliness: 8/10

2. Evan Bouchard – D

At the time he was drafted I was rather confident Bouchard would at least earn an opportunity to be on a plane overseas with the Oilers. The loss of Sekera certainly helps his chances and I’m not sure the addition of Jerabek or Gravel really hurt his chances that much. I don’t think it’s crazy to imagine an opening night line up that looks like this on the back end.

Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Benning
Russell – Bouchard


The Oilers have brought in some veterans to make sure Bouchard doesn’t simply get handed a spot but that doesn’t mean he still won’t earn one.

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Likeliness: 7.5/10

3. Cooper Marody – C/RW

Multiple members of the organization have told me they expect Marody to play games in the NHL this season. Is that at the beginning of the year though? The former Wolverine, from what I’ve been told, is more ready to play in the NHL than Drake Caggiula was when he came out of college. I wouldn’t be surprised if in five months Marody is higher on the depth chart than Caggiula. If Puljujarvi finds a spot in the top six Marody could find himself fighting for a job on the third line.

Likeliness: 6.5/10

4. Ethan Bear – D

When Ethan Bear wrapped up his trial run with the Oilers last year I was left thinking there is definitely something there offensively but the other side of his game still needs some work. I think most of you would agree that another dose of AHL seasoning is in this player’s best interest.

Likeliness: 5/10

5. Kirill Maksimov – RW

This one would classify as a significant surprise. Look, Maksimov is the ultimate long shot but he’s also exactly what the team needs. He is a right-winger with size who can absolutely hammer the puck. He scored .55 goals per game in the OHL last season and finished with 1.29 points per game, those numbers put him among the league’s offensive elite. If he gets a pre-season look with McDavid or Draisaitl and develops some chemistry there is nothing stopping the Oilers from keeping the 19-year old around.

Likeliness: 4.5/10

6. Caleb Jones – D

This time next season Caleb Jones should be pushing for a spot on the Oilers out of camp, at least that’s where I’m projecting him to be. A handful of things would need to happen if he plans on making the team this year. Jones will make the team if Jerabek, Gravel and Garrison all suck and the Oilers feel Bouchard and Bear both need more time. Sounds easy right?

Likeliness: 3/10

7. Tyler Benson – LW

Tyler Benson is an offensive weapon if/when he is healthy. As Benson said after the informal skate on Tuesday this is the first time he’s actually coming into camp healthy. Considering his offensive pedigree I hope he gets a chance to skate with some likeminded players in prospect and main camp. I really like the idea of a healthy Tyler Benson about 18 months from now.

Likeliness: 2/10


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What’s likely is that one of these kids has a spot on the opening night roster. There’s an outside chance that two of them will be ready to face Taylor Hall and the Devils in Sweden. I wouldn’t be shocked if Yamamoto, Bouchard and Marody are all on the 23-man roster to start the year. I know most of you are thinking I’m crazy right now but does it really seem that nuts to suggest Yamamoto, Marody and Bouchard outplay Aberg/Rattie, Upshall and Gravel in the pre-season? I don’t think so.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • ed from edmonton

    Don’t underestimate how big the jump from CHL to NHL is. A guy with years of pro experience like Aberg, Rattie, Upshall, Gravel, Jerabek have a big leg up on rookies. Also given the pressure on TMAc to succeed (real possibility of being out of a job if they have a bad start) the appetite to stake his job on rookies will be low.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I’d like to add William Lagesson to the list as I think he’s got a chance to play some NHL games this year. He had a very good season in the SHL last year earning the trust of his coach and gaining minutes through the year – often playing over 20 min/game down the stretch. Big defensive d-man who can also skate and move the puck – nice skill-set.

    Although Caleb Jones did come on a bit in the second 3rd of the season, its fairly clear that, at least at the end of last year, he’s not ready for the NHL and needs more time. I’d put Lagesson ahead of Jones as far as readiness for the NHL (not necessarily ceiling). It will be interesting to see the battle for ice time between those two in Bakersfield.

  • Spydyr

    Todd likes veterans. With the tough schedule the Oilers have to hit the ground running, probably not the best time to be breaking in rookies. I’m thinking Bouchard may get a look if he has a good camp and pre-season. The other kids would have to be outstanding or have someone really crap the bed in camp and pre-season .

  • Abagofpucks

    Its exciting to think of all the rookies we have simmering on the stove. This camp is going to be more competitive than previous years 1 or 2 might make it. But no matter what, anybody who thinks they have a spot on the team right now better look over their shoulders because there’s a rookie that wants his job.

  • daryl

    Did you watch the prospect camp? Bouchard needs a lot of work on his acceleration off the mark and his edge work. At the worlds he got beat by speed and poor gap control he is not ready.

  • Abagofpucks

    Evan Bouchard will not be on the Oilers this year past a few games in preseason.
    I’m really thinking Kailer and possibly Marody, and Bear likely will play half the season in the A but he might stick if he gets called up due to injury.

  • chezzychez

    I can see Kirill making a case for a couple regular season games. His shot is arguably better than anyone else on the right side this year. Plus it screams crap shoot over there. If he takes another mammoth leap like he did last year he might see some games early on.

  • OilersBro

    I know it’s a small sample size but the OHL to NHLe multiplier is 0.3. Evan Bouchard improved by 60 points over the last 2 years so if he continued at that pace in the OHL he’d score 117 next year in 67 games. That means his level of play on average translates to around 43 points in an 82 game season in the NHL. Not bad.

  • JSR

    Yamamoto is too small for the NHL. We are not talking about someone 5’10” and 190lbs. here…he’s 5’8″ and 153lbs, as per stats on NHL.com.
    Bouchard will be given 9 games.

      • Oiler GM

        A player who played with McDavid in Junior….. Who scored over 50 goals with and without McDavid on his team. Debrinkat is now a good NHL player, Oilers drafted Benson over him, just a few picks before. Debrinkat seemed like the obvious choice at that point in the draft….. I hope Benson eventually proves me wrong but that one’s been a head scratcher since day one.

        • You would think when they won the lottery, they would get a player that the next Generational player would be comfortable with. So many miscues over the years, nothing surprises me any more.Just sit back and see what the next incomprehensible move will be.

      • HOCKEY83

        28 goals in his first season as a 19 year old. at only 5″7″ DeBrincat will be a prolific goal scorer in this league. 167 goals in 3 seasons for erie…the kid knows how to score.

    • Redbird62

      Gionta, Desharnais, Fleury and Debrincat – 4 quality NHL players shorter than Yamamoto. From a weight perspective, Gaudreau is 157 and DeBrincat, Ronning and Sullivan are all listed at 165. Apparently you would have never given any of them a chance. Yamamoto may fill out some so I doubt he stays the lightest guy to play in the last 30 years. There have been many dynamic NHLers who were “undersized”, but were quick enough and smart enough to be very effective offensive players. He has a major challenge to forge a successful career (but so do most draft picks), but I won’t be surprised or shocked if he does.

  • BringJordanHome

    I know it’s a little selfish but if both Bouhard an Yamamoto is on the ice at the sweden game then that would make my day as im from Gothenburg and it’s kind of a once in a lifetime oppurtunity to get to see McD, Nuge, Drai and all the others.