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.