With so few actual Oilers prospects in Penticton on the weekend, I thought it might be an idea to track back to the Top 20 Prospects list of summer. Below is the complete list, including players no longer in the organization. After the entire ranking, I have a few notes on additions I count as being prospects.
TOP 20 PROSPECTS, UPDATED
(This is the summer 2017 ranking, not a new ranking)
- (1) R Jesse Puljujarvi. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 28gp, 1-7-8; Bakersfield (AHL) 39gp, 12-16-28. Destination 2017-18: NHL push, the Oilers have cleared the decks. The summer trades, free-agent signings and lack of activity with names still available is a giant neon tell. Peter Chiarelli wants Jesse Puljujarvi in the everyday lineup and inside the top 9F. If he can score 20, some big problems get solved.
- (2) R Kailer Yamamoto. Spokane (WHL) 65gp, 42-57-99. Destination 2017-18: Impact WHL winger, he could spend some time in the NHL at the start of the year. The period from now through the end of next week (September 22) will be vital. Yamamoto was quiet in Penticton, he’ll need to make a lot of noise in his first two NHL exhibition games. My RE had him going back to junior, I might be wrong about that prediction.
- (3) RD Ethan Bear. Seattle (WHL) 67gp, 28-42-70. Destination 2017-18: A full season in Bakersfield, possible NHL cup of coffee. Bear is a substantial prospect, incredible based on where he was chosen in the draft. It’s important to note he is not ‘a lock’ for an NHL career, as there is much for him to learn and overcome. I think his skill set is an excellent match for this team.
- (4) LD Caleb Jones. Portland (WHL) 63gp, 9-53-62. Destination 2017-18: A full season in Bakersfield, maybe NHL look-see. He may be the best skater among defenders in the system and I was so impressed with his calm feet in Penticton. I’m not sure Jones is as natural a defender as some of these other kids, but his tools might be better. Does that make sense? I’m excited to see how he does this year.
- (5) L Tyler Benson. Vancouver (WHL) 33gp, 11-31-42. Destination 2017-18: A healthy and productive WHL season. He is skating now and Matty had a column up at the EJ suggesting the hope is Benson joins Vancouver in a month. He badly needs to play.
- (6) L-R Ostap Safin. Sparta Praha (CZECH) 8gp, 1-1-2. Destination 2017-18: Big minutes and strong boxcars in the QMJHL. Simon Boisvert had him No. 25 on his final list, just behind Yamamoto. He will play for Saint-John of the QMJHL this season, a massive break for us and I think a better spot for Safin. His Penticton experience (long stretches of pedestrian play followed by sheer brilliance) perhaps offers us a clue about this player and what he needs to work on.
- (7) LC Jujhar Khaira. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 10gp, 1-0-1; Bakersfield (AHL) 27gp, 8-12-20. Destination 2017-18: Full season in the NHL, this is the time to establish an NHL career. I expect he’ll replace Matt Hendricks on the Oilers roster, possibly getting penalty-killing minutes as the season grows. He’ll need to chip in 7-10 goals on offense, that’s the only real question.
- (8) LD Ziyat Paigin. Ak Bars Kazan (KHL) 17gp, 1-3-4; Bakersfield (AHL) 5gp, 0-0-0. Destination 2017-18: AHL to start, but his pro resume should mean some NHL time in 2017-18. He’s a fun player to watch, that shot in Penticton give us an idea about his offensive potential. He made some very risky plays at the tournament, seems to have some of the riverboat gambler in him. Size and wingspan are his defensive calling cards.
- (9) G Stuart Skinner. Lethbridge (WHL) 60gp, 3.26 .905. Destination 2017-18: Strong year in the WHL, possible WJ’s appearance. He announced his presence with authority in Penticton, we’ll track his progress this winter and hope to see him at Christmas.
- (10) L Kirill Maksimov. Niagara (OHL) 66gp, 21-17-38. Destination 2017-18: Big step forward and a prominent role in OHL. His two goals in Penticton will be talked about all winter long. He’s very skilled and a first-shot scorer is one of the top needs of the team. How many will he score this winter?
- (11) G Dylan Wells. Peterborough (OHL) 52gp, 3.07 .916. Destination 2017-18: Impact final OHL season, good chance to play at WJ’s. Year over year save percentage progress (.871 to .916) was amazing and his playoff performance (.930) added to the strength of his season. He is slated to get the college game tomorrow night and then we’ll watch him over the winter in the land of Roger Neilson.
- (12) LD Dmitri Samorukov. Guelph (OHL) 67gp, 4-16-20. Destination 2017-18: A strong OHL season and emergence as a top NHL prospect. Showed well at the Hlinka and U18’s, but his OHL report card was mixed. He needs to be consistent in the OHL but I was very impressed with his mobility in Penticton. Small sample size but enough to understand why Brock Otten was raving about him.
- (13) LC Joe Gambardella. UMass-Lowell (NCAA) 41gp, 18-34-52; Bakersfield (AHL) 6gp, 1-2-3.Destination 2017-18: Rookie pro should have offensive success in the AHL, could get NHL cup of coffee. With an NHLE of 82, 13-25-38, he might be the most NHL-ready of the forwards who have yet to play a big league game. He could take a little time to adjust and may emerge as a winger (instead of center). Time in Bakersfield will figure out what he’ll be in the organization.
- (14) G Laurent Brossoit. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 8gp, 1.99 .928; Bakersfield (AHL) 21gp, 2.67 .908. Destination 2017-18: NHL backup. It is his job now. My feeling is he gets this entire year to show what he can do, and unless he fumbles badly (requiring a deadline deal) this will be a full chance to establish himself as an NHL goalie.
- (15) RD Filip Berglund. Skelleftea (SHL) 47gp, 0-9-9. Destination 2017-18: One more SHL season before coming to North America. He needs to play regularly in the SHL and play more than he did a year ago. Swedish Poster had a fascinating update recently telling us there is more competition for playing time this fall. That’s good, he needs to push through and play a lot and competition is always a good thing.
- (16) L Joey Laleggia. Bakersfield (AHL) 67gp, 20-18-38. Destination 2017-18: More goals in the AHL, and an NHL callup to see if he can help in the NHL. From Boxing Day forward, he went 43gp, 18-13-31. He is waiver eligible and maybe they lose him. Otherwise, 25 AHL goals and some NHL time seem like a reasonable prediction.
- (17) G Nick Ellis. Bakersfield (AHL) 34gp, 2.69 .918. Destination 2017-18: Effective AHL starter, his first NHL action. He posted superior numbers to Brossoit in Bakersfield, so at some level he has forced himself into the conversation. I think he’ll spend the year as starter in the AHL, maybe an NHL appearance if Talbot needs a week off in the spring and the standings allow.
- (18) RC Aapeli Rasanen. Sioux City (USHL) 38gp, 7-18-25. Destination 2017-18: Depth minutes at Boston College. He is progressing as a checking center with skill, speed being the one nervous item. Ideally he spikes a little offensively but college freshman often play so little we may get meager boxcars from him.
- (19) RD John Marino. Harvard (NCAA) 35gp, 2-13-15. Destination 2017-18: Another quality season in the NCAA, possibly in a more prominent role. A strong freshman season for Harvard has Marino’s stock on the rise. I think he may have more offense than the numbers imply the Harvard depth chart is pretty stacked with puck movers.
- (20) RD Ryan Mantha. Niagara (OHL) 65, 17-41-58; Bakersfield (AHL) 2gp, 0-0-0. Destination 2017-18: Top 6D in the AHL, a slight chance of some ECHL time. The 6.05, 225 defender is going to get a chance, which may include power-play time. His shot is impressive (based on the poor boards in Penticton) and he should get some chances in Bakersfield despite the crowd.
- (21) LD William Lagesson. UMass-Amherst (NCAA) 36gp, 2-6-8. Destination 2017-18: Establishing himself in pro hockey as a regular with Djugardens (SHL). He was loaned the Swede to Djurgardens IF in Sweden, but we got a chance to see him in Penticton. We may never hear from him again but Lagesson left a good impression.
(22) LD Jordan Oesterle. Signed in Chicago.
- (23) LD Dillon Simpson. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 3gp, 0-0-0; Bakersfield (AHL) 53gp, 3-8-11. Destination 2017-18: Mentoring the new kids in Bakersfield, waiting for an NHL recall. Played in his first three NHL games this season and was quietly effective. Signings of Yohann Auvitu, Ryan Stanton and Keegan Lowe mean he’ll have a harder time getting a recall this winter. I’m not going to bet against him.
- (24) L Graham McPhee. Boston College 39gp, 2-8-10. Destination 2017-18: Increased minutes and offense in NCAA. We should begin to see what kind of offense he can deliver this season, as McPhee will be a sophomore with the BC program. These early college years are kind of vague because we don’t see these kids.
- (25) G Shane Starrett. Air Force (NCAA) 37gp, 1.99 .925. Destination 2017-18: Will battle for starting AHL job, he has an excellent resume. In his two NCAA seasons, he posted .924 and .925 save percentages, suggesting this is in fact his quality of play. At 22, he is a solid pro prospect. We’ve seen him once, he reads well and now the rubber hits the road.
- (26) RC Tyler Vesel. Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA) 39gp, 14-21-35. Destination 2017-18: Another strong season in Omaha. Blossomed in his junior college season with Omaha. The numbers say he is emerging,but beware older college forwards who begin to post big numbers later in their career. I don’t think we’ve seen much from the Chiarelli administration on any plans they might have to sign him.
- (27) LD Markus Niemelainen. Saginaw (OHL). 59gp, 3-6-9. Destination 2017-18: Regular shifts with HPK in the Sm-Liiga. He is one of three second-round picks in 2016 who had uneven seasons and frankly I’m not sure what to expect from him. He needs a recovery season.
- (28) LC Skyler Brind’Amour. USNDTP (USHL) 8gp, 1-0-1. Destination 2017-18: Big numbers for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL. Draft and follow meets NHL bloodlines and there’s a lot of information missing. I am looking forward to seeing what he brings and based on size (6.02, 170) and Dad (Rod) he could be a far bigger man by the time he starts college with Michigan State in 2019. He is going from the USHL to BCHL, that’s a backward move in terms of competition. Curious.
- (29) L Aidan Muir. Western Michigan (NCAA) 20gp, 2-9-11. Destination 2017-18: Healthy and good numbers in final college season. He is 6.04, 212 and has one more year of college eligibility. His NHLE (18.5) suggests he may have pro-level offense and his size/style suggests the current Oilers management will have interest in him upon graduation.
- (30) RD Phil Kemp. USNDTP (USHL) 25gp, 2-2-4. Destination 2017-18: Yale University, where he’ll fight for playing time. Good size, a fine skater, he looked better than advertised in that summer tournament. I’m not sure he’s a puck mover but the young man can pass.
- (31) LD Ben Betker. Bakersfield (AHL) 30gp, 1-5-6; Stockton (ECHL) 5gp, 3-2-5). Destination 2017-18: He should emerge as an AHL regular. Gigantic blue (6.06, 228) turns 23 in the fall, so his time is now. He has good mobility for a player his size, but is getting overrun by the oncoming defensemen.
- (32) R Greg Chase. Bakersfield (AHL) 48gp, 3-11-14. Destination 2017-18: Will attempt to push through a very crowded depth chart to play regularly in the AHL. He has now played 76 games for Bakersfield, posting 5-18-23. This is a season where he must emerge. He has talent.
- (33) R Patrick Russell. Bakersfield (AHL) 68gp, 8-9-17. Destination 2017-18: Finding the range offensively. There is urgency here. He had a disappointing pro debut but still had 150 shots on goal. If he get a feature role we could see a spike in goals.
- (34) RC Kyle Platzer. Bakersfield (AHL) 51gp, 1-7-8. Destination 2017-18: A strong showing in Bakersfield is a must for Platzer. He and Chase are in the same boat although I don’t think they are applying for the same job. If the script continues along the current path, Platzer will be in another organization this time next year.
- (35) LD Matthew Cairns. Fargo (USHL) 17gp, 0-4-4; Powell River (BCHL) 18gp, 2-14-16. Destination 2017-18: Slated for Cornell, he may play sparingly. I’m concerned that he didn’t play enough in Fargo. That’s a junior league and a drafted player should have no problems. Powell River numbers were better, but that’s a lesser league. When you draft a player in the third round and he isn’t a regular in the USHL following season, what does that say?
- (36) RD Vincent Desharnais. Providence (NCAA) 32gp, 2-1-3. Destination 2017-18: His junior season in the NCAA is straight ahead. There isn’t a lot of offense but the scouting reports are strong about him defensively. Handedness is an advantage.
(37) L Joey Benik. Signed with Lillehammer (Norway).
- (38) L Evan Polei. Red Deer (WHL) 69gp, 33-29-62; Bakersfield (AHL) 1gp, 0-0-0. Destination 2017-18: ECHL and AHL time, trying to earn an NHL contract. An AHL-only contract, his size and skill (6.02, 227 and 33 goals) are intriguing. Good hands, speed the issue and we’ll see in a year. He was a quality junior and played well in Penticton.
- (39) R Dave Gust. Ohio State (NCAA). 39gp, 18-23-41. Destination 2017-18: Finding a role on an offensive line in Bakersfield. He is 23, 5.10, 174 and arrives on an AHL deal. I like his skills, he is small and that is a challenge.
- (40) R Chad Butcher. Medicine Hat (WHL) 68gp, 27-76-103. Destination 2017-18: ECHL likely, needs to thrive. Small winger with range of skills, good offense. Speed main weapon, hire 10 of these at a time if they have speed. He was on fire in Penticton.
- (41) L Braden Christoffer. Bakersfield (AHL) 49gp, 5-3-8. Destination 2017-18: Living on the edge, hanging by a thread. Signed in a training camp fever, Christoffer has been unable to score enough or get enough playing time. This is a big season for him.
(That was the summer 2017 ranking, not a new ranking)
LATE ADDITIONS (ALPHA)
Since my summer list, there have been a few worth additions who I will consider for the winter list. Here they are.
- R Mitch Callahan. Grand Rapids (AHL) 66gp, 16-27-43; Detroit Red Wings (NHL) 4gp, 0-0-0. Callahan performed very well over several years in the Detroit system, and is a productive player at that level. At 26, he’s going to need a break and the Oilers are a team that may have a need at the position.
- LC Grayson Downing. Iowa Wild & Tucson Roadrunners (AHL). 59gp, 9-16-25. Edmonton signed him on the downbeat, he posted 40 points in 56 games as an AHL rookie in the previous year. He’s 25 and this coming season will be important for him.
- R Brian Ferlin. Providence Bruins (AHL) 2gp, 0-0-0. His story is pretty amazing, coming off some significant injuries and I think this season is going to be about getting back to regular status. Chiarelli drafted him so that’s a real connection.
- LD Keegan Lowe. Charlotte Checkers and St. John’s IceCaps (AHL) 71gp, 6-12-18. Lowe is in an interesting spot, he could see NHL time this year.
- G Edward Pasquale. Grand Rapids (AHL) 29gp, 2.43 .919. He is 26, and his last three AHL seasons (.920, .919, .919) show a certain quality. I think he’ll play in the AHL all season.
- R Ty Rattie. Chicago (AHL) 22gp, 2-3-5; St. Louis (NHL) 2gp, 0-0-0; Carolina (NHL) 5gp, 0-2-2. Of all the players signed around July 1, Rattie has the biggest opportunity to play in the NHL this season. In my opinion. He was a fine scorer in junior I bet the organization wants to have a long look at him in training camp.
- LD Yohann Auvitu. Albany (AHL) 29gp, 5-8-13); New Jersey (NHL) 25gp, 2-2-4. Mobile defender is 28, older for a prospect. Had an unusual path to the NHL and has some things that make him attractive. He is creative and can move the puck effectively.
I’ll begin the Winter Top 20 in late November.