If you’ve ever wondered how good hockey prospects get lost in the crowd, we’re about to see it. This is the exact spot where Houston lost a generation of first basemen 40 years ago (John Mayberry, Cliff Johnson, Mike Easler, others) and there’s every chance the Oilers are going to make a mistake on an early decision.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER NINE ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: G Devan Dubnyk (157)
- December 2005: L Tony Salmelainen (70)
- December 2006: D Jozef Hrabal (0)
- December 2007: G Devan Dubnyk (157)
- December 2008: D Cody Wild (0)
- December 2009: L Teemu Hartikainen (52)
- December 2010: C Anton Lander (68)
- December 2011: R Tyler Pitlick (3)
- December 2012: R Tyler Pitlick (3)
The only real player to come from this far back is Dubnyk, and as a first rounder if he was ranked #9 (twice) during a less than stellar era that’s not a good reflection on the player. Salmelainen was last generation’s Omark (Omark is a better player, but Salmelainen had some nice things too) and I still hold out hope for Harski and Lander but MacT has no attachment and Roman Horak might be better than both of them.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Stu MacGregor told us the scouts had Martin Gernat inside their top 35.
- Redline scout Radim Jelinek: Gernat is a smooth skater with fluid stride and decent footwork for his size. Has very good vision and hands, moves the puck well, handles the puck with confidence making solid decision with puck. Likes to join the rush regularly and shows good instinct in sliding from the point into scoring positions. Just started developing physical play in his game, still very inconsistent using his body, needs to play aggressive, physical game all the time. When he uses it then he is tough to beat 1 on 1, angles forwards to the outside, tights forward up at the boards, hits hard. Lacks strength right now and still growing but has frame to fill it out. D-zone coverage is still very average, needs to read the play better defensively, improve positional play and play much tighter game. Very raw but I like his progress throughout the season and see some similar things in his game as in Martin Marincin’s. He is far from him as Marincin was first rounder in my eyes while Gernat is later-round pick but upside is there.
- Kirk Luedeke: Slovakia’s best defender has excellent size (6-5) and good mobility for such a big kid. He’s fluid in his movements and still a little gangly, but had a couple of memorable plays where he jumped in from the point to get a good shot off, but was denied by Gibson. He was burned on a couple of missed coverages, but overall, was one of Slovakia’s better players in a thrashing. Lack of physical play and strength is his biggest shortcoming right now, but he has the kind of projectable upside that makes him a solid sleeper for the 2011 draft.
POINTS BY DISCIPLINE, MARTIN GERNAT
|GERNAT 2011-12 WHL||60, 7-25-32||60, 2-20-22||60, 0-1-1||60, 9-46-55|
|GERNAT 2012-13 WHL||23, 1-5-6||20, 2-5-7||20, 0-0-0||23, 3-10-13|
|GERNAT 2013-14 AHL||8, 0-3-3||8, 0-0-0||8, 0-0-0||8, 0-3-3|
That Oil King season was a beauty. I saw him good several times and if he can get back there Gernat will scoot right up this list again. The problem now is opportunity—he may not get much of one this season and NEXT year could see Darnell Nurse and Dillon Simpson added to the pro group that includes Klefbom, Marincin, Fedun, Davidson and Musil (plus anyone I’ve forgotten). If you’re Martin Gernat, there’s plenty of time, but if an organization comes knocking and is looking for a throw-in? He could be it, and there’s evidence he’s significantly more than an extra.
His pro debut (in terms of boxcars) has been excellent. He’s getting even-strength points and he’s not on the powerplay—yet.
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2011: 19
- Winter 2011: 7
- Summer 2012: 5
- Winter 2012: 6
- Summer 2013: 5
- Winter 2013: 9
Gernat got passed this winter by a mid-20’s KHL defenseman (Belov), 2 teenaged giants who may one day be NHL center’s (Khaira and Yakimov) and Dillon Simpson (who was drafted exactly one round in front of him). There’s no sin in any of that, but it’s also true a lot of his skills are duplicated and Gernat’s competition is closer to NHL ready. It’s not an ideal spot for him as an Oiler prospect, but he has all kinds of natural skill and no doubt has value now—which should increase as he plays more pro hockey.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING THIS SEASON
- Jonathan Willis: Martin Gernat’s been playing mostly third-pairing minutes (when he plays) and he’s been okay. His talent is obvious, much as it was with Marincin a year ago; he’s big and fast and gifted with the puck. With that said, he’s also a chaotic defender – again, it’s difficult not to compare him to Marincin as a rookie pro – and he’s only really shown himself ready for the minutes he’s been given, no more.
- Bruce McCurdy: Gernat has the wingspan of a condor. His size and reach are major plusses, even as it will likely take him a while yet to grow into his gangly frame. At 6’5 he doesn’t fit the mould of an offensive defenceman, but that is Gernat’s primary strength. By eye he’s a creative player with an excellent first pass, good wheels, and strong powerplay skills. On the defensive side of the puck, he’s a work in progress who has made solid strides over the past two years, but will still need plenty of refinement before he’s close to being NHL-ready.
He’s raw, he’s talented and he’s blocked by at least a couple prospects. Gernat’s a talented puck mover, but Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin are clearly ahead of him and I do believe Simpson has passed him. Gernat could be the most talented offensive player in the group, and if he is that’ll help him move up the depth chart, but on the list of mobile youngsters who can play defense and move the puck the talented Gernat is behind Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin and Simpson in my view.
That one WHL season—the impressive EV and PP numbers—gives us a hint of what might be possible. If that player emerges at the pro level, the Oilers will have a watershed of blue with every chance one of them slips through the cracks.
(all Barons photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)