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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Mid-Season Top Ten Prospects

As the current Oilers get set to return to the ice this weekend in Philadelphia it’s time to take a look at how the future of the organization is stacking up.

After chatting with a few sources I’ve put together the Oilers top ten prospects as of January 2019. The group continues to trend in the right direction and it leaves me wondering if we will see one of these names moved prior to the trade deadline in February.

1. Evan Bouchard – D – London Knights

23GP: 8g – 21a – 29pts

Bouchard is once again having an excellent season with the London Knights. He is well over a point per game pace and has 10 power-play points since returning to junior. Bouchard is most certainly shooting the puck, as he has 93 shots on goal in his 23 games played. Just for comparison, fellow first rounder Adam Boqvist has 87 shots in 33 games for the Knights.

I think it’s fair to say Bouchard didn’t impress at the World Juniors but he certainly wasn’t a disappointment either. There are areas of his game that need work but there is no doubt he is the best prospect in the Oilers system and I don’t even think it’s close.

OILERS ETA: Fall 2019

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? Not a chance. If the Oilers really wanted to move Bouchard for help they could have very easily done so at the draft. It would make zero sense to move him now.

2. Kailer Yamamoto – W – Bakersfield Condors

13GP: 4g – 4a – 8pts (AHL)
17GP: 1g -1a – 2pts (NHL)

The fact that Yamamoto has played more games in the NHL than the AHL this season just goes to show the Oilers still haven’t figured it out with their young guys. Bob Nicholson has said they want to take a more patient approach with their young players moving forward — we’ll see if that holds true. Yamamoto should likely remain in the American Hockey League for the rest of the season, especially with things going pretty well down there right now.

OILERS ETA: Late Fall 2019

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? Unless there is a blockbuster deal that can help the Oilers now and in the future, I’d say Yamamoto isn’t going anywhere.

3. Tyler Benson – W – Bakersfield Condors

42GP: 5g – 29a – 34pts

The highlight of this season for Tyler Benson is that he’s one of just three players to have dressed in all 42 games for the Condors. Benson is putting together an excellent rookie season in the AHL with 34 points in 42 games. He has scored just five times but I don’t think anyone has ever projected him as a goal scorer at the next level.

OILERS ETA: Spring 2020/Fall 2021

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? I think it would be a mistake to move Benson at this time. He’s obviously not untouchable but I wouldn’t be quick to throw him into a deal for immediately help unless the return was excellent.

4. Caleb Jones – D – Bakersfield Condors

24GP: 3g – 12a – 15pts (AHL)
17GP: 1g – 5a – 6pts (NHL)

I know a few folks believe that Jones should be on the third pair up here in Edmonton but I think the best place for him right now is back in Bakersfield. During his debut with the Oilers, he showed all of us what he could end up being capable of, but some more seasoning in the AHL is what’s best. I could see him pushing for a spot on the third pair at the beginning of next season and eventually developing into a second pairing d-man down the road. 

OILERS ETA: Late Fall 2019

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? I think his play over the last couple of months will make the Oilers less likely to move him prior to the deadline.

5. Cooper Marody – C – Bakersfield Condors

32GP: 9g – 23a – 32pts (AHL)
6GP: 0g – 0a – 0 pts (NHL)

With 32 points in 32 games, Cooper Marody leads the Condors in points-per-game. It’s encouraging to see his offensive prowess from the NCAA translate so well to the American Hockey League. During his brief stint with the Oilers, he looked like a guy who could eventually play bottom six minutes if he continues to work on his foot speed.

I mentioned in my pre-season Top Ten Prospects that the Oilers are expecting him to arrive in the NHL sooner rather than later, so I’d start to pencil him to next year’s lineup.

OILERS ETA: Fall 2019

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? He’d be more likely to move in a deal than Benson or Yamamoto but once again I wouldn’t involve him any deal for a rental.

6. Dmitri Samorukov – D – Guelph Storm

39GP: 4g – 20a – 24pts

The Oilers appear to have found themselves a legit prospect in the third round of the 2017 draft. In my opinion, Samorukov was more impressive than Bouchard at the World Juniors. This 19-year old is now in his third season in the Ontario League and is putting up respectable numbers offensively. He has steadily improved his +/- from -24 in his first season to -10 last year to where it currently sits at +13.

OILERS ETA: Spring 2021/Fall 2022

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? Samorukov has developed to a point where he would now carry a decent amount of value in a deal. With Klefbom, Nurse and Jones on the left side for the next few years you could see Samorukov in some sort of deal. I’d be hesitant to move him simply because I think his upside is still very much a moving target at this point.

7. Ryan McLeod – C – Saginaw Spirit

42GP: 15g – 32a – 47pts

The Oilers training camp sensation has appeared to take a small step forward offensively this season in the Ontario Hockey League. McLeod was traded earlier this month in the OHL, moving from Mississauga to Saginaw, which is good news for him as Saginaw is a contender in the Western Conference.

A few of my fellow members of the media got a little carried away this past fall by starting to hint that he may make the big team out of camp. That would have been both crazy and stupid. McLeod’s speed and size will get him to the NHL, it’s the rest of his game that will determine when he arrives.

OILERS ETA: Fall 2022

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? If Ryan McLeod is part of a deal to a secure a top six forward with term I’d be ok with it.

8. Kirill Maksimov – RW – Niagara IceDogs

44GP: 30g – 31a – 61 pts

The very raw Kirill Maksimov continues to dazzle with skill in the OHL. Last season the big Russian scored 34 goals in 62 games. This season it took him just 44 games to hit the 30-goal plateau. He’s a part of one of the most dangerous offences in the league and currently sits 13th in goal scoring in the OHL.

As impressive as Maksimov is offensively, his all-around game will need a lot of work in Bakersfield.

OILERS ETA: Fall 2022

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? Makismov is still a project so I’m not sure how much value he would have in a deal.

9. Ethan Bear – D – Bakersfield Condors

37GP: 2g – 17a – 19 pts

I think some folks have been surprised that Bear has yet to get another taste of the NHL this season, especially with all of the issues on the Oilers blueline. He was injured for part of the season but has just two goals in 37 games. His 19 points are good for second among blueliners in Bakersfield. We saw during his debut last season that there are still areas of his game needing work and I for one support him remaining in Bakersfield for as long as needed.

OILERS ETA: Spring 2020

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? I’d say Bear is the most likely of all the players on this list to be moved prior to the deadline. With Bouchard now in the fold on the right side and Joel Persson likely coming over to North American next season, Bear could be hard pressed to fit into the Oilers plans moving forward.

10. Olivier Rodrigue – G – Drummondville Voltigeurs

37 GP: 2.50 GAA – .899 save% – 27 wins – 7 losses

When you first see the numbers above you probably won’t be impressed but you need to look at how he compares to the rest of the netminders in the QMJHL. Rodrigue’s save percentage is good enough for fifth in the league and he actually leads the entire league with 27 wins.

He’s an athletic and aggressive goaltender who will need years to develop but when you invest a second round pick in a goalie you likely understand he’s going to take time.

OILERS ETA: Fall 2023

DEADLINE DAY BAIT? Don’t see him having much trade value at this stage of his career.

IT’S COMING ALONG

The Oilers pipeline seems to be improving every time I put together a top ten. With growing depth in the organization, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oilers be more than willing to part with their second-round pick prior to the deadline this year.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:



  • samakehurst16

    If the oilers are legit going to focus on development and only calling up “over ripe players” it would be a mistake to have Bouchard start the season in the NHL getting 3rd line min. His only downside is his defensive game which needs fine tuning and the chance to develop confidence in his defensive skills. He can do that for a year in Bakersfield. He could be a #1 for a very long time if he’s allowed to grow properly. I would love to see him spend a year down. Anyone els agree?

    • rnj

      I’d have Jones as #2 or #3, he seems like he’s got a lot of potential. Yamamoto’s ETA I’d say fall 2020 or spring 2021. Bouchard should also be a fall 2020 prospect.

      Everyone talks about waiting then tries to rush guys. If you want a successful long term contender you need to wait a couple years while the pipeline develops and you get a constant stream of graduating players. The benefit of keeping talent down while it develops is a better environment for other future talent to develop as well.

      • samakehurst16

        Everyone knows Bouchards offensive ability’s would mesh very well in the NHL and he wouldn’t look out of place with the puck at all. Elite level vision and passing ability. However, that being said. He NEEDS to develop his game, playing in a faster paced atmosphere then the WHL. I agreed with sending him down one more year because of playoffs WJC and the fact he’s expansion draft protected. If he develops his defensive game he will be a top defencemen in the NHL. The Oilers will stunt his development if they throw him into high pressure high risk of failure situations when he’s not ready. It’s sad we’re still saying things like this after J. Shultz.

    • CityofWhat

      Yes, no knock on Benson but we should’ve took DeBrincat instead who has already proven himself at the NHL level and is on pace for a 35-38 goal season. As most know DeBrincat was Connor’s linemate in Erie and had 3 50 goal seasons. Now most would say hindsight is 20/20 but there was a lot of questions regarding Benson’s injuries at the draft. DeBrincat would look great as McDavid’s shooter but another miss by the Oilers.

    • Rufio Barcoli

      I sure wish that Puljujarvi was getting Top 6 minutes and consistency instead of random 4th line teammates.
      If he is going to develop in the big league he needs to play with teammates that belong there and not players worse than him.

  • Rufio Barcoli

    One of the few players on the list that I would part with would be Yamamoto.
    I still have yet to see what the hype about him is.
    He has not had one stand out play in all his time in the last two years. An average prospect at best.
    His AHL numbers and impact are nothing to write home about.
    I say trade him now while he still has value.

  • TruthHurts98

    It’s unbelievable how Oilers media keeps talking about trading away prospects for short term fixes. The Oilers won’t make the playoffs this year and if they trade away the rest of the future to only get swept by the Flames, where is the logic in that??? It’s going to take at least a couple seasons to fix this awful mess. Successful teams think long term, Oilers think short term and continue to be the league doormat. It’s flat out insanity.

  • FanBoy

    Imagine giving up Benson, Yamamoto, and McLeod for Jake Muzzin. That’s basically the package Toronto sent over and the media says its a great trade. I don’t care how deep the organizational pipe line is, that is never a good trade for an aging dman.

  • Oilerz4life

    Really interested to see how Maksimov develops. Hopefully the Oilers develop him properly and he doesn’t end up being Yak 2.0.

    It sucks that the Oilers aren’t involved in the Young Stars tournament anymore. I used to go each year and it was really cool to see how these players actually play the game in person and not just read about it.

    I remember Puljujarvi dominating that tournament and it would be sweet to see the Oilers own the tourney in the future, especially with all these prospects. I really wish the Oilers would pull their head out of their a$$ because a fall vacation Oilers tourney in Penticton is mint.

    • toprightcorner

      The Oilers and Flames wanted to have a couple games in Alberta but VAN would not allow it. I agree with both Edm and Cal stepping away and hopefully they can start their own by stealing WPG. The Oilers want easier access for their fans to watch the rookies and so they should

  • Oilerz4life

    Also, Bouchard has a bright future in the NHL and it’s great that a good chunk of that future will be with the Oilers. I think he is going to be the Offensive D man the Oilers have been coveting for years and he’s going to put up some serious points in Oilers silks.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Justin Schultz, …..has a bright future in the NHL and it’s great that a good chunk of that future will be with the Oilers. I think he is going to be the Offensive D man the Oilers have been coveting for years and he’s going to put up some serious points in Oilers silks.

  • Danger Pay

    When is the media going to make Ole Daryl step in front of the cameras and face the music? I would like nothing more than to see his smug face answer some tough questions.

    • BobbyCanuck

      Well, then the media would not be Edmonton MSM would it? It would have to be held elsewhere, like in the UK, those sports reporters ask rather uncomfortable questions, I guess they are not concerned about getting their media pass taken away

  • OriginalPouzar

    Sorry Dusty but part of that write-up on Maksimov is not really fair – of course, almost all prospects coming from the CHL need “work on their overall game”, however, Maksimov in not just an offensive guy – he’s got a very responsible and advanced two way game and is a top penalty killer for Niagara. Sure, his overall game does need work but probably less so than most of the other prospects. The comment to me is a bit misleading and, those that don’t follow the CHL closely, would likely infer he is weak or lazy defensively which is not true.

  • OriginalPouzar

    On Bouchard:

    He actually had solid possession numbers in his short stint as an Oiler but lets not forget that he played extremely sheltered minutes at 5 on 5 so there is a QOC factor. If I recall, yes, he made nice outlet passes when he had time and space but struggled when pressured, generally, and was giving up a few high danger scoring chances per game that were outweighing his positives.

    No worries, he was a newly drafted teenager and, at camp next year, he’ll have an extra year of development.

    My fear – winning the race based on draft pedigree. Our CEO was very express one week ago that this organization has rushed its top prospects and has brought them to the NHL too quickly. He was express that the organization needs to shift in that regard and over-ripen the top prospects in the minors.

    Given that statement, how can Evan Bouchard break camp with the team given the other options that will likely prove to be just as ready or pretty darn close? Maybe Bouchard outperforms Persson and Bear by a bit, however, at the end of the day, Bouchard’s development is so much more important to this team’s success in the future than Bear or Persson that I would think they HAVE to send him to the AHL – slow-play him, let him over-ripen, etc.