The Edmonton Oilers best prospects are graduating this spring. Those prospects are sensational young players, but make no mistake: They are leaving behind a very poor prospect list. Among the alarm bells going off in Peter Chiarelli’s brain, behind defensemen who can play, value contracts and the power play, re-stocking the prospect shelves has to be high on the priority list.
- Edmonton Journal, 1969: ”We couldn’t believe the way the draft went, it was ridiculous,” said Del Wilson, Montreal’s Director of Player Personnel. ‘‘We got 10 of our top thirty-three. We were hoping to fluke out and maybe get four.” Wilson quotes (Sam) Pollock as saying after the draft: ”We’ve either got the best or the worst scouting staff in the world.” Source
Montreal, in 1969, received the first and second round picks due to a ridiculous rule I won’t bore you with, suffice to say it skewed the balance of power in the NHL to an insane extent and it is a rule the league should have been ashamed of—and they did abolish it after 1969. Problem? Montreal received Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif from the rule, effectively robbing expansion teams from getting a shot at a brilliant two-way forward and terrific scorer, respectively. Incredible.
Despite all the hoopla about getting 10 of their 33, Montreal didn’t fare all that well. Bobby Sheehan was a fleet center with some skill, but Montreal missed on their other selections. In fact, by the time Montreal chose Sheehan No. 32 overall, most of the best talent had been taken. Names included Bobby Clarke, Ivan Boldirev, Andre Dupont, Ron Stackhouse and Dick Redmond. Montreal missed on later gems like Butch Goring, Don Saleski, Brian Spencer and others. It is very important to maximize draft picks, understanding that after a certain point the chances of getting an actual player is basically a crap shoot. Edmonton needs a watershed draft in 2016. Will they get one? Here is an update on the Oilers top prospects from my winter list.
photo by Connor Mah
- C Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (28, 12-19-31). Since I wrote about him in November, he has returned and posted 15, 7-12-19 while pushing many nights. He graduates from the top 20 and is the most important asset for team building in the NHL today. Oilers must pinch themselves daily over their incredible fortune. Generational talent.
- C Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (55, 16-28-44). Another graduate, he has posted 50, 13-24-37 since I wrote about him for the top 20. Draisaitl has been so impressive over the season it is possible to entertain the idea of building a three-scoring line offense as early as next season. Unicorns? Unicorns. Big C with speed and skill.
- D Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers (55, 2-6-8). The third graduate from the winter list, he is 46, 1-3-4 since I wrote about him for the top 20 prospects (the offense has dried up completely). Defensemen take time to develop, and Nurse would probably have benefited from more time in Bakersfield. I like his long-term future, but playing time in Edmonton next season may be harder to find. Future shutdown defender.
- W Anton Slepyshev, Edmonton Oilers (11, 0-1-1) and Bakersfield Condors (31, 7-3-10). Had a tremendous training camp, but slowed during the regular year (he was in the minors when I wrote about him) and had injury issues in Bakersfield. This is an NHL talent, and I think he might be able to establish himself as a scorer. Important for Edmonton to develop players like Slepyshev, they can’t be pissing away talented players. That said, I could see Slepyshev bolting back to the KHL for next season. Skill winger with size, not a lock to become an NHL player.
- D Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oilers (15, 0-1-1) and Bakersfield Condors (25, 1-7-8). So much has been written about GR, it is almost impossible to talk about him without bias entering the conversation. He is 22, he is not a typical No. 4 overall, and playing in Bakersfield appears to be the best place for him at this time. The Oilers are enjoying the results of Brandon Davidson’s 150 AHL games, perhaps we should wait in writing off Reinhart. It was an overpay, that is not something Reinhart should answer for, now or later. Developing defenseman.
- G Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton Oilers (1, 0.93 .970) and Bakersfield Condors (28, 2.69 .919). Along with Brandon Davidson, the feel good development story of this season is Brossoit. He will be a prospect on next winter’s top 20, but he may do it as a full-time member of the Oilers. Craig MacTavish takes a lot of heat, and deservedly, but that was a good trade. Emerging goaltender.
- G Anders Nilsson, Edmonton Oilers (26, 3.14 .901). Had an fascinating Oilers career in about a six month time frame. From curio to impressive to wobbly to gone, that is one quick episode. Now in St. Louis, we wish him well. Gone.
- D Brandon Davidson, Edmonton Oilers (48, 4-6-10). He was 12, 2-2-4 when I wrote about him, 36, 2-4-6 since then. Davidson has emerged as a complete defender, a five-year overnight sensation. Thrilled for him, he appears to be taking on more of a role in special teams. May be a top 4D as soon as next season—in fact, he is playing there now. The new Fernando Pisani.
- D Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds (60, 17-41-58). Bear is enjoying a terrific season in the WHL and is trending well ahead of expectations. Very important not to overreact to this season, it is a long road. That said, you can only play the games in front of you and Bear has been splendid. Promising defensive prospect.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton Oilers (51, 4-4-8). Since I wrote about him, he is 33, 1-4-5 and that lack of offense makes him vulnerable for next season. One thing we need to remember about the Oilers is this: They are going to get bigger (he is 6.01, 215) and more experienced (he is 24, with 68 NHL games). There may be a role for him, but it is not guaranteed. Pakarinen is the sixth player in the top 10 who will not be on the summer list (McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, Nilsson, Davidson, Pakarinen). Checking or depth winger.
- C Bogdan Yakimov, Bakersfield Condors (19, 3-4-7) and Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik (11, 3-1-4). A frustrated Yakimov bolted back to the KHL, and his return date is unknown. A giant (6.05, 232) center, he would seem to be a useful player when he develops, but the offense didn’t spike in year two. It is anyone’s guess in regard to Yakimov as a solution next season, probably wise to bet against him returning. Giant flight risk. Update: The day after this post was published, Yakimov returned to NA and the Condors. Wildly encouraging news.
- F Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton Oilers (15, 0-2-2) and Bakersfield Condors (32, 8-14-22). A very encouraging season from the big forward (he is 6.03, 214), very impressive in both cities. Khaira has one more year of his entry-level deal, and I can see him playing in Edmonton part-time again next year. Rugged forward with some skill.
- D Caleb Jones, Portland Winterhawks (63, 10-39-49). I read a lot about these young prospects, before the draft and then I drill down on information after the draft, too. Everything I read about Jones suggested he was a little shy offensively. That appears to be false, and we could be looking at a more complete player. These are early days, but factoring in this offense, and the fact his Dad was an athlete and his brother is extremely successful in the same sport, this is a player to watch. Complete skill set appears to be his resume.
- C Kyle Platzer, Bakersfield Condors (39, 5-10-15). Platzer is somewhat similar to Kyle Brodziak in his early days—not exactly setting the world on fire. He isn’t playing as much as some of the prospects ahead of him on this list, one hopes he gets more playing time next season. Two-way center under the radar.
- D Ziyat Paigin, Kazan Ak Bars (8, 0-1-1) and Sochi HC (37, 9-18-27). Paigin’s progress this season has been incredible, to the point where he might rank as the No. 1 prospect on the list heading into the draft this summer (remember, most of the top ten graduates). Big (6.06, 210) and effective. A giant on the way.
- D William Lagesson, UMass-Amherst (25, 2-5-7). Mobile defender impressed Oilers fans at the world juniors, and will probably move up the list in summer. Looks like his defensive skills are the greatest part of his game, he is a promising young player. Promising defensive defenseman.
- D Joey Laleggia, Bakersfield Condors (45, 7-16-23). Laleggia has had an unusual season, including time on left wing where some believe he has played his best hockey. He is terrifically skilled and running a pro power play seems to be something he will be good at as he matures at that level. There are defensive issues, but the coverage aspect appears to be improving. Offensive defenseman with rover rising.
- D Dillon Simpson, Bakersfield Condors (39, 2-10-12). Simpson is a quiet prospect, you have to pay close attention to get much information. He is progressing as a defenseman, and recently had a slight uptick in the offense (1-5-6 in his last 10) and that may be due to callups for other Condors blue. Very difficult player to assess, as was Brandon Davidson. Slow, steady progress for steady defenseman.
- R Greg Chase, Bakersfield Condors (19, 1-6-7) and Norfolk Admirals (26, 15-9-24). Chase is performing well in both cities, but you can’t ignore the fact he is getting more playing time in the ECHL. I see that as an benefit for this player, as he can hit the ground running next season ala Mark Arcobello and Josh Winquist in previous seasons. Agitating winger with offense, has a long way to go.
- D John Marino, Tri-City Storm (43, 3-22-25). Among the impressive 2015 draftees (this top 20 houses five names called in that draft. A smooth skater with a range of skills, we are miles away from knowing him as a player. All of the indicators look good, plenty of good arrows. Puck-moving defenseman with wheels.
I will do the 21-40 update sometime in the next few days. To give you an idea about how many players will graduate, and how little there is developing under the NHL level, here is what my top 10 would look like currently (using this 20 minus graduates):
- D Ziyat Paigin
- G Laurent Brossoit
- C Jujhar Khaira
- D Griffin Reinhart
- W Anton Slepyshev
- D Ethan Bear
- C Bogdan Yakimov
- D Caleb Jones
- D John Marino
- D William Lagesson