Oilers Top 20, June 2007

First new list since December (you can find it to the right >>) and several changes. 4 players from the most recent draft make the list, 1 falls off the list because the Oilers chose not to retain his rights (Umicevic) and Hrabel looks like he’s still an Oiler so he stays for now.

Marc Pouliot graduated, Ladislav Smid was never on my list, and Robert Nilsson has already played most of a full season so I haven’t included him either.

One other note: I’m a fan. F-A-N. This isn’t designed to be anything but a fun exercise and exchange of ideas. I’ve been following the NHL draft since 1971 (closely since 1973) and cheering for prospects is just about the most fun a fan can have.

But the emphasis is on fan.

  1. Center Sam Gagner. Just drafted and he goes to the top of the chart. Nice range of skills: creative, terrific playmaker, good skater, can take and make a pass and make plays in traffic. I saw him take a terrific hit at the WJC’s and he got right back into the play. Scouts have said he can play well without the puck but we can also guess he’ll need work in that area. Played in the USHL and this was his rookie OHL season. Gagner’s ppg number at 17 (2.23) is exceptional, but we need to temper expectations for the same reasons Schremp’s numbers needed to have some air taken out of them (Schremp’s 17-year old ppg was 1.15 btw). I don’t think the Oilers will move him along as quickly as they did Hemsky, but he’s the most talented forward they’ve drafted since 83.
  2. Left Wing Slava Trukhno. Love this player. He is a quality offensive player, doesn’t shy from traffic and has some hustle, size and grit. That’s an extremely valuable set of skills. I like speeds’ take on him (which was basically that Trukhno represents everything the Oilers DON’T like and they took him anyway) and suspect he’ll kick ass as a pro this fall. How many Oilers prospects over the last decade were skilled AND had size AND some grit? That 2005 draft could end up being the motherlode.
  3. Center Andrew Cogliano. Has the skills of those throwback centers like Dave Keon and Ralph Backstrom: amazing speed, aggressive on the forecheck and great anticipation. He also delivered a quality offensive season in the NCAA while still playing second fiddle. One of three forwards on this list who may end up becoming a top flight NHL player. Cogliano has an outside chance of making the big club imo if he can impress as an “energy” type player. From what I’ve read, the fastest Oiler prospect.
  4. Defenseman Tom Gilbert. Looked very good in his NHL late-season audition and could very well pass some of the kids on D this season. Smart player with good offensive upside and seemed to impress coach MacTavish last year. There’s almost no negatives, the only one I can think of being that it would be nice to put him on the third pairing with a veteran defender (which the Oilers cannot do). Had the best AHL rookie season by an Oiler defense prospect since Doug Lynch, he should get a full 550 at-bats and would have to be considered a candidate for the All-Rookie team in 07-08.
  5. Center Rob Schremp. Has terrific puck skills but the learning curve is as steep as many NHL teams implied by allowing him to slip deep into the first round. I have him this low because his ceiling appears to be much lower than his OHL numbers implied (we HAVE to get ATOI) and because there appears to be at least some indifference about addressing areas of weakness. A clever one dimensional player, I think we’ll know he’s ready when Schremp stops doing circus-like things and gets down to the business of helping his team win. He remains a likely candidate to be traded.
  6. Defenseman Taylor Chorney. Undersized skill defenseman who has some strength issues which we saw at the World Juniors. He seems to have a nice range of skills and no major weaknesses (aside from size) that time and experience won’t improve (reads and coverage without the puck). He really stepped up offensively this season and had a major role for the Americans at the WJC’s. He should be the best defense prospect this team has developed since Tom Poti.
  7. Goalie Devan Dubnyk. Huge goalie played well in Double A and looks to play big minutes in the AHL this fall. I’m not a fan of holding prospects back, but the year in the ECHL may benefit Dubnyk as he got his feet wet as far from the spotlight as is humanly possible. His stats tell us he’s a very consistent goalie and the best news so far is his lack of injury.
  8. Center Ryan O’Marra. I’d rank him much higher save for the injuries. O’Marra is another player with a wide range of skills (versatile, terrific shot, no fear, drives to the net, smart player, excellent speed, he has size) and looks more like a MacTavish-type than pretty much anyone else on this list (I define a MacT player as someone whose skills without the puck are close to or equal to puck skills). He’s one guy who could challenge the top 3 on my list (if healthy).
  9. Defenseman Alex Plante. I’m pretty high on him because he has a nice variety of skills and he MIGHT be a home run. The downside is coverage, agility and decision making, but the two really good scouting sources (ISS and RLR) both like him. He’s a typical Oiler draft in that they like to take big men with another identifiable skill (Plante can skate and move the puck). High risk/reward pick, has a chance to be the new Niinimaki.
  10. Defenseman Josef Hrabel. I was going to nick him because of the questions over his Oiler status, but to hell with it. If we’re going to learn anything about stats predicting the future upside of individual players, this guy is the current poster boy. Skilled puck mover who lacks the size NHL teams look for but may find a career anyway.
  11. Defenseman Denis Grebeshkov. I liked him a lot in 2002 (he was drafted 26th spots ahead of Matt Greene) but there’s no real way to see if he’s progressed until training camp in the fall. He’s a physical player who can move the puck and would have to be considered a favorite to make the big club this fall (perhaps over Gilbert who I think is a better prospect).
  12. Left Wing Jean Francois Jacques. It’s like watching your son sing off key at the school Christmas concert: it’s a train wreck but you don’t love him any less. Jacques’ lack of effectiveness at the NHL level is somewhat baffling, as his AHL performance (plus his training camp) implied he was ahead of a few first rounders. I don’t think they can give up on him, but JFJ will need to show a lot this fall.
  13. Center Riley Nash. I like what Redline wrote about him: “A really well schooled, all-around player who can play it any way you want. Big, raw, naturally athletic kid who can skate, shoot and pass. Also likes to get his nose dirty and really carried his club down the stretch.” Redline is easily the hardest marker and those words don’t come easy.
  14. Defenseman Jeff Petry. I should have him higher but have decided to nick anyone who didn’t play in a measurable league. The USHL has produced some fine talent and this guy had a huge year, but let’s see what he can do in college. Impressive skill set and there’s little doubt he’d go much higher if they could do the 2006 draft over again.
  15. Center Kyle Brodziak. Looks to me like he’s the new Rem Murray. Brodziak is the highest ranking “future role player” on my list, but he’s earned it. Good size and strength and he’s coachable. Limited upside but I think he’s a player.
  16. Defenseman Theo Peckham. Just an amazing series of positive comments have Peckham here. Apparently he’s that steady defender who makes the right decisions without the puck with alarming regularity. Good size, uses it well and makes the right play. Love this player type.
  17. Defenseman Cody Wild. I was going to rank him lower but MAN this guy had a good season on a crappy team. It’ll be very interesting to see if he can put up big time numbers when he turns pro. Puck moving defender whose numbers went backwards (point total down from 21 to 14) on a team that went from 105 goals to 76. Providence hockey must be awful.
  18. Defenseman Mathieu Roy. Lacks the footspeed that NHL defenders possess, but otherwise he looks like a player. Lots of passion, loves to hit and stands out among Oilers prospects as a guy who punishes opponents. I’m betting he has an NHL career.
  19. Center Milan Kytnar. Reliable two-way center plays hard every shift. Great hand-eye, anticipates well, coachable. Strong skater with a minus first step, good hands and size. Accurate passer, can shadow his man. Good playmaker who sees the ice well. (Source: ISS).
  20. Defenseman Bryan Young: The new Tom Reid, steady and reliable but center ice is just a rumor. I like Young’s grit and energy.

Gone from the December 20:

#3-Marc Pouliot graduated

#8-Alexei Mikhnov

#11-Jeff Deslauriers

#12-Dragan Umicevic

#17-Jonas Almtorp

#19-Glenn Fisher

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29 Responses to "Oilers Top 20, June 2007"

  1. jon says:

    Good list and fun read. I’d argue that Cogliano should be above Trukhno and Grebeshkov in the top5. Your site remains a source of entertaining debate and information in an otherwise hockey-less week. ;)

  2. uni says:

    Your posts are always a good read LT.

    I’ve never see alarming regularity used in a positive regard though, I couldn’t help laughing when I saw that. =)

  3. jerk clown says:

    Nice list…although I can’t quite understand why you’ve hitched your wagon to Josef Hrabal.

    My only arguments would be O’Marra at #8 (I would say top 5), but you make a legitimate point about his injuries….and Almtorp dropping off the list. I’ve never seen the guy play, but didn’t they think this guy was close to being ready as a #12-14 forward last year? I think the fact he’s signed and going to play in North America this year bodes wells for his future. He should probably be in the top 20 as opposed to some of the other cusp guys.

    Good job.

  4. Oil Stain says:

    Great work Lowetide.

    It’s pretty hard to argue with any of the comments on those players which is saying quite alot, because I love to argue.

    I’m really intrigued about Plante. He seems to have a great upside and it’ll be nice that we’ll get to have some first hand looks at him next year with the Oil Kings taking the ice.

    My one quibble is that Tyler Spurgeon missed the cut. He showed pretty well in the AHL last season and may be a sleeper in the Pisani mold.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Interesting comments so far. I had Almtorp at 20 btw but decided to pass on him over the defender (10 defenders on the list btw).

    I also chose Kytnar over Omark and sadly passed over both Mikhnov and Colin McDonald (sniff).

  6. momentai says:

    jerk clown:

    Josef Hrabal has been playing in the top league in the Czech Republic since he was 17 (albeit when he was younger, he was playing infrequently which is to be expected). Recently in Russia he put up 7 pts in 20 games which is pretty good all considerable. PPG is comparable to Grebeshkov who is about 2 years older.

    There’s value there especially for being such a late pick.

  7. uni says:

    I’m still very disappointed by Mikhnov last year…maybe he’ll come back and surprise at training camp this year? =)

  8. doritogrande says:

    Always love reading another fan’s take on our prospect system. Your list looks pretty solid to me, but can you explain to me why Jeff Deslauriers dropped off your depth chart? I think he’s still got a shot at the NHL, and that’s because it takes much longer for goalies to develop than say a forward.

  9. Lowetide says:

    doritogrande: Deslauriers hasn’t really put up SP numbers that warrant him being in the top 20. I’ll be the first to admit that what I don’t know about goalies is a lot.

  10. jerk clown says:


    i’m familiar with Hrabal, i just don’t think he’s in the top 10 prospects in our system…my comment was more in regards to LT’s love affair with him…i think in one post he called for Kevin Lowe to be fired when it looked like the Oil would lose his rights (i’m exaggerating)…

    …to simply make a judgement based on numbers is sketchy, i don’t think hockey translates to numbers like baseball does, and I know a lot of the posters/readers are Billy Beane-iacs…don’t get me wrong, they can be useful in evaluating, but there are so many little things that help a team win without showing up on score sheet…nobody keeps stats about successful chips off the glass, denying body position in front of the net, poke checks or tying up loose sticks…most of the people on here are pretty astute hockey observers so i know you guys know this stuff….also if he’s the #10 guy in our system, why the heck would we have waited that long to lock him and risk losing him?

  11. choppystride says:

    I had high hopes for Trukhno coming into this season but he really didn’t deliver as much as I was hoping. He was a shooting star but seems to have plateaued. Hopefully I’m wrong and he was simply playing injured or concentrating on his defensive game or something.

    As for Cogs…. after watching him for 2 straight WJHC’s, one has to question whether his hands (and offensive acumen in general) is even as good as Marchant’s. But even he turns into Marchant, that’s still a pretty useful player.

    Chorney looks like a pretty decent prospect. Could develop into another one of those not-too-physically-threatening NCAA type d-men who play anonymously but solidly in the NHL for years. Desperately need to gain some strength though.

    My darkhorse to make it is that Russian kid Bumagin. Not exceptionally physically gifted but seems like a pretty smart player. Could be a decent bottom 6er if we ever work out an agreement with the Russians and bring him over.

  12. Lowetide says:

    jerk clown: I understand your point but Hrabel’s been pretty consistent for awhile now so I don’t think it’s a fluke. Based on his numbers and the fact that the leagues he’s played in don’t give out second assists often, I think he deserves a shot (doesn’t mean he’ll get one, mind you).

    choppy: Trukhno had a blazing start and then one or two concussions. He had a solid year based on the injury trouble imo.

  13. RiversQ says:

    I’d say Plante, Hrabal, Chorney, and Dubnyk are a little high.

    So the Oilers traded Bergeron for a guy that’s already behind four dman prospects on this list? That’s not too encouraging.

    Grebeshkov’s definitely ahead of Hrabal and I can’t see him being behind Plante or Chorney when he has three years of pro experience to their combined zero and he has produced at every level. Also with respect to Hrabal, he’s played a grand total of 20 games in the RSL, so it’s hard to say he’s producing at the same level as Grebeshkov especially when he’s the younger less experienced player.

  14. RiversQ says:

    BTW, by “not too encouraging” I meant file that trade under “Suck.”

    Also, were Alzner and Plante defensive partners or what?

  15. Kyle Kosior says:

    Having watched Chorney for a couple years, I am really very high on him. As others have suggested, he is very soft at times, but will hit and mix it up if he gets hit first. He is a MUCH better player when he is playing angry. The upside is that he plays very smart, and can recover nicely when Brian Lee makes mental errors.

  16. Lowetide says:

    RQ: I think there’s a big difference between “closest to the NHL” and upside. Do you think Grebeshkov is a top 4 guy?

    I don’t know that he isn’t, but his career path doesn’t look similar to the guys who’ve made it that far up the depth chart.

  17. Kyle says:

    I would put O’Marra ahead of Schremp for two reasons 1) Shremp just seems so far away from a legit NHLer, 2)A lot of O’Marra’s injuries have been flukes and away from the game.

    Otherwise really interesting list. I’m suprised by your Plante optimism.

  18. RiversQ says:

    Lowetide said…
    RQ: I think there’s a big difference between “closest to the NHL” and upside. Do you think Grebeshkov is a top 4 guy?

    So now this list is all upside? I thought that wasn’t your bag, LT.

    I don’t know that he isn’t, but his career path doesn’t look similar to the guys who’ve made it that far up the depth chart.

    Is Hrabal’s any better? If it is I don’t see it. Plante’s certainly isn’t IMO. I still haven’t heard about his Alzner connection yet either.

    The problem with going by upside is that sometimes you’re just making an uninformed decision because the means for comparison isn’t really available.

    We know more about Grebeshkov because he has done things at a higher level than the other dmen ahead of him on the list. I can’t fathom penalizing him for that.

  19. RiversQ says:

    I forgot to finish one of my thoughts there…

    As a 21 yr old, Grebeshkov had 49 points in 75 games on a good AHL team that played in the AHL-on-steroids year of 04/05. That’s a pretty phenomenal season. Does anyone above him have an item like that on their resume?

  20. Ribs says:

    Just wondering…. If Lowe had traded up and grabbed Cherapanov or Esposito… Where would they place on this list?

  21. Lowetide says:

    ribs: I’d have him first (Cherepanov).

    RQ: Upside is my #1 consideration. Pouliot was never #1 on my list because imo there were others who “might” have worked out better.

  22. Bill Needle says:

    Ryan O’Marra’s career path appears to be frighteningly familiar to Steven Rice. He’s got the junior rep, the extensive world junior success and the inevitable trade to Edmonton for one of the Oilers’ fan favourites… and I imagine it doesn’t take a big drop in one aspect of O’Marra’s game to drop from a Craig MacTavish style player to a Steven Rice style player.

  23. Black Dog says:

    Interesting list LT – should be interesting to see who sticks, who gets moved and if we have any surprises.

    So, that’s the next question – unfair I know because we have not yet seen the result of July’s frenzy. I read today that Tarnstrom may be a good bet to return and that in addition the Oilers were looking to add another veteran. And they had Hejda in the mix as well. (This was the Sun btw so take it for what its worth).

    So if they add two to three vets (and would that not be wonderful?) and keep Staios and Smith, that leaves two to three spots for Smid, Greene, Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Roy.

    Who sticks, in your opinion? Who gets moved – lets stick with the D? or is this a question for another post?

  24. Lowetide says:

    bdhs: I think Smid has a job for life and they seem very high on Greene (although when Semenov stalled they did take him out to the woodshed).

    Should they add another veteran AND Hejda, I’d think it would be Gilbert on the outside looking in for certain and then probably Grebeshkov as the guy they need to make a decision on (in the 7-8 slot).

  25. Barry says:

    Anybody else surprised they are reportedly looking at Dicky Tarnstrom?

    I had kind of figure that they would go after a #1 Dman and field a lineup of:

    #1 Smith
    Staios Greene
    Smid veteran X

    With veteran X being someone like Hedja or (if I was GM) Sutton.

    Tarnstrom got beat out by Bergeron in the cup run and seems too small. I though Hejda was better than Dicky.

    Any word on whether Grebs is getting a 1 way contract? Don’t they have to sign him before July 1?

  26. Black Dog says:

    barry – I think grebs is signed already and I believe it is a one way deal

    LT – that would be the way I see it too – Grebs is beyond Gilbert in terms of experience, readiness etc –

    Ideally but of course we talked about this for, what, seven months last year, they sign hejda and tarnstrom and add a third veteran guy. That would mean Smid or Greene would get moved and thus you would have five vets plus one of the aforementioned kids plus grebs as your 7. My guess is they add two vets, still move Greene or Smid and have Gilbert or Roy as the 7 with Grebs bumped up a spot.

    As for tarnstrom, barry, I think he was hurt in the Cup run, honestly – either that or MacT took a hate to him (in which case why would they pursue him now?)

    iirc that was the case – he’s not a star by any means but he can run a PP and is a reasonable player I think, definitely out of the 5/6 pair

  27. Dennis says:

    I had a laugh at the way the Sun rolled out the D depth chart. They basically gave us this unnamed vet dman and it was pure speculation.

    I thought Kevin Lowe had the byline or something.

    Good job, BTW, LT. I don’t really know enough to comment on the kids but I find I’m a decent judge when they turn into young adults and I get to see them play;)

  28. Doogie says:

    Also, were Alzner and Plante defensive partners or what?

    I think they were mostly a power-play combo, though my memory’s a little fuzzy, especially since I spent the first couple of months getting to know the team and getting used to following the game without a TV again. Also, between the WJHC and injuries, I think they might have only played in the same game 45-50 times out of 72, which bears remembering.

  29. jon says:

    Grebs is not yet signed as he’s not eligible to signed to an NHL contract until the European leagues are open for transfers, which is July 1st for them as well I believe. Same deal for Tarnstrom. He’s technically not signed until the 1st. I have pretty good faith in Grebeshkov as a player actually. He’s been described as playing with grit, speed, and determination and generally Russian defensemen with those characteristics turn out not bad. I think he’ll be a steady surprise who will get paired with Staios or Smith.

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