Every spring and summer, we talk about ‘the Detroit model’ and every fall the Oilers employ teenagers and new professionals. Every fall, we talk about the importance of the minor league kids getting playing time, and every spring we talk about the lack of development due to inactivity. One thing I do believe in: estimating ETA for prospects based on their most recent seasons. Last year’s look is here, and here is this spring. Any prospect appearing in Bakersfield makes the list.
- C Leon Draisaitl. Spent just six games in Bakersfield, and then caught fire in the NHL, now standing at 69, 18-32-50 in what has been a highly successful season. Turns 21 in October, should be an NHL top 6F for more than a decade running.
- D Darnell Nurse. He would have benefited from a much longer AHL run, but spent his rookie pro season in the NHL (66, 2-7-9). Several math folks have mentioned improved play by number, I have not seen it but he does look impressive during games. A human change in the weather for Oilers opponents, good lord it has been a decade since Edmonton had this kind of crank on the back end.
- R Tyler Pitlick. He is 35, 7-14-21 this year and 194, 28-57-85 overall. Pitlick has kind of been at this spot for years, but injuries robbed him of chances and now he is so many GMs removed from his draft day one wonders if anyone really knows him. Could be an expansion draft candidate as a free agent, if I were him I would try to gain freedom in time for that draft.
ANY DAY NOW
- D Griffin Reinhart. His NHL run now is much better than earlier in the year, but there are some issues—including the bonus dollars and cap implications. A healthy Oilers team probably starts him in Bakersfield this fall and has GR as one of the early potential recalls.
- G Laurent Brossoit. Another strong AHL season has been followed by an uneven audition period in the NHL. Edmonton signed him to a one-way deal late in the season, suspect they will hire some insurance before training camp. I think he is close, but the audition has been a concern.
- C Jujhar Khaira. He is 40, 10-16-26 this year in the AHL, and 97, 14-22-36 overall. A lot of his ranking comes from the impressive NHL showing, big guy with grit and some idea about what he is doing. I like the fact they sent him back—see if he can post a little offense. Could make opening night but more likely a mid-season callup.
- C Bogdan Yakimov. It is hard to suss out the Yakimov story. He has not been stellar in the AHL, and he bolted to the KHL mid-season (and was injured). On the other hand, I can tell you at least one person in the NHL community I have spoken to is/was genuinely surprised Yakimov didn’t spend the season in the NHL.
- D David Musil. Confounding story, he has played three AHL seasons, shown progress, and is blocked so badly he is basically a canary in a coal mine. Scott Zerr named him as the best defender in Bakersfield, and I believe him. Musil is a smart defender and effective in a shutdown role in the AHL. He is also blocked by any number of lefty defenders in Edmonton. Suspect he (or others) are heading out of town.
ONE MORE YEAR (OR LESS)
- D Jordan Oesterle. He has been in the NHL a bit this year (14, 0-5-5) and his AHL numbers this year (42, 3-20-23) and overall (111, 12-37-49) are solid-to-good. He might be an early recall candidate in 2016-17, don’t think he will make the club out of camp. A nice signing by Craig MacTavish.
- R Anton Slepyshev. Big winger has had a weird season, NHL and AHL time. I hope he hangs around for another year, there are things to like about his skill and the Oilers are not overrun with wingers who can play even a complementary role offensively.
- D Dillon Simpson. I like his season, but if there was a 1.5 years or less category that would be perfect. Subtle game, his offense is a little better than you would think and it appears he is learning the pro game slowly but surely. Determined player, he is making progress.
TWO MORE YEARS (OR LESS)
- D Joey Laleggia. It is tough to gauge these players, but in the case of Laleggia there does appear to be enough offense to merit NHL discussion. Questions about him surround coverage and ability to win battles. He is a new pro, but turns 24 in June, so time is of the essence.
- L Mitch Moroz. Another half season for Moroz, who in fairness to the organization has had some issues staying healthy. I think he is exactly the player type Chiarelli will value, although Moroz has to get in there and earn the job. He is certainly in the right organization to get a push.
- C Kyle Platzer. He has shown progress, despite playing in only 40 games as a new pro. He has the look of a two-way player, one hopes for an offensive spike in year two. This is the kind of thing that gets the Oilers in trouble in my opinion—Platzer has played half a season in a full one. I am not aware of a team having great success via slow playing their prospects.
- LW Josh Winquist. He is 30, 8-20-28 this year in Bakersfield and 77, 16-31-47 in his AHL career. He is unsigned by Edmonton, so could become a free agent this summer. Although the Oilers don’t have him on their 50-man list, he is a more substantial prospect than many under their control.
- LW Kale Kessy. I have him in the same spot as last season, seems to me he ran in place despite good health this year. At the beginning of 2014-15, lots of chatter about him an increased foot speed, but not much shaking these days.
THREE MORE YEARS (OR LESS)
- C Marco Roy. As is the case with so many Bakersfield kids, he isn’t really playing enough to be noticed good or bad. Played in 45 games in two leagues as a rookie pro. Porridge development.
- R Greg Chase. Not certain what happened to him this year, looks like he simply wasn’t given an opportunity. Chase performed well in the AHL (19, 1-6-7) compared to many of the kids who played more. I wonder if this season was designed to get his attention.
- L Braden Christoffer. After a fantastic TC and winning an NHL deal, Christoffer didn’t have an easy time in pro (the Oilers lead the AHL in half-seasons by prospects). No idea where he is as a hockey player based on 30 AHL games, but will guess it isn’t good.
- D Ben Betker. I think the Oilers may have felt a season in the ECHL was the best way to develop him, allow him to figure out the speed of pro hockey. A bigger test will come next year.
- Eetu Laurikainen. A .906SP in the AHL isn’t going to turn heads, but he was effective in Finland and deserves at least a season of AHL duty before the team makes a decision.
One final note: Of course it goes without saying that many of these players will not play in the NHL. A good way at looking at this list: If a player is ready now, and not in the NHL, that is not a good thing. As well, if a player has been playing pro for three years and is still two years away? Yeah. Not so good.