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.
SEVEN PROSPECTS WHO COULD SURPRISE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
SO WHAT’S LIKELY?
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.