Oilers Top 20 2003-2007 (Through the Past, Darkly)

This is Alexei Mikhnov. He is a legend among Oilers fans who follow prospects. A giant of a man who was first seen by Edmonton scout Kenta Nilsson on an unlit outdoor rink at midnight in a blinding snowstorm. Nilsson immediately convinced everyone on the scouting staff that the young Ukrainian was a freak of nature. Alas, it is Kenta Nilsson who is the freak of nature, a man who is so passionate and has the courage of his convictions to the point where the Oilers have spent over one dozen picks on his European “finds” without getting one NHL player in return.

Honestly.

Predicting the future is never an easy thing, and Kenta Nilsson takes a lot of crap from Oilers fans online in regard to the Mikhnov and other picks.

Is it that easy?

No. Here are my top 20 lists over the years, with Mikhnov NR, 17, 17, 7, 8:

Summer 2003
  1. Jarret Stoll
  2. Jani Rita
  3. Marc-Antoine Pouliot
  4. Raffi Torres
  5. Jesse Niinimaki
  6. Jeff Drouin Deslauriers
  7. Doug Lynch
  8. Kenny Smith
  9. Matt Greene
  10. Mikael Joukov
  11. Ivan Koltsov
  12. Brock Radunske
  13. Colin McDonald
  14. MA Bergeron
  15. Ty Conklin
  16. Fredrik Johansson
  17. JF Jacques
  18. Dwight Helminen
  19. Tony Salmelainen
  20. Kalle Olsson

Players who played in the NHL in bold.

November 2004

  1. Rob Schremp-Not a complete player by any means, but a potential impact player.
  2. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers-Don’t know the reason for his long layoff, but he’s making a huge leap with early success.
  3. Marc-Antoine Pouliot-He’s a kid who could falter in one area and still make it to the show. If he can score 20+, be a plus player and do his voodoo in the faceoff circle then that’s a helluva hockey player.
  4. Jeff Woywitka-Size, calm feet, makes a nice outlet pass and is progressing. Lots to like.
  5. Doug Lynch-Pretty much the same as Woywitka only more offense so far, and maybe not the smoothness or footspeed (my take, could be completely wrong).
  6. Colin McDonald-Best PF prospect in the system imo.
  7. Jean Francois Jacques-Is stepping forward in a big way.
  8. Matt Greene-Possible impact defender.
  9. Devan Dubnyk-There’s a monster in net.
  10. Roman Tesliuk-I like how he handles the puck when I see him. Confident.
  11. Tony Salmelainen-Size only concern now.
  12. Brad Winchester-Has turned a corner.
  13. Jesse Niinimaki-The body of Rip Van Winkle ain’t gonna get it done.
  14. Zack Stortini-Showing some promise.
  15. Troy Bodie-Ditto.
  16. Brock Radunske-Based on potential.
  17. Alexei Mikhnov-I give the hell up.
  18. Jani Rita-Boy, did the 90s blow or what?
  19. Liam Reddox-Skill.
  20. Mike Bishai-Has overcome exceptional odds.

Players who played in the NHL in bold.

May 2005

  1. Marc Antoine Pouliot-Has a lot going for him imo. Good size, can make a pass, and appears to be one of the few first round forwards the coach might like.
  2. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers-The first of many prospects who didn’t have a solid season, but he did play and ended the season with more good than poor efforts.
  3. Devan Dubnyk-He had a solid season and played well late in the season and in the short playoff.
  4. Rob Schremp-Improved as a scorer, but apparently hasn’t progressed as a 5×5 player. Some complained when London acquired Fritsche, but the real question is why did the team feel a need to go get him?
  5. Matt Greene-If he turns pro, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes the coach to elevate him past Woywitka.
  6. Doug Lynch-Had a poor season after a terrific rookie season as a pro. I’m betting he comes back strong in the fall and returns to 03-04 form.
  7. Kyle Brodziak-Fine 20 year old AHL season, especially the second half. This generation’s Shaun Van Allen?
  8. JF Jacques-Prototype for the new generation of Oiler winger. Had a terrific season.
  9. Jeff Woywitka-In danger of getting passed by a second tier of defensemen.
  10. Brad Winchester-Splendid season. Back on track as a prospect after a couple of indifferent college seasons and a rough transition to pro.
  11. Dragan Umicevic-Did the Oilers accidentally pick a guy the Senators wanted?
  12. Liam Reddox-Scored at a Schremp-like pace and isn’t as small as first thought.
  13. Geoff Paukovich-Half hockey player, half monster.
  14. Colin McDonald-Injury hurt his season.
  15. Mathieu Roy-Got everything possible out of this season.
  16. Roman Tesliuk-Started terribly, improved as the season rolled on.
  17. Alexei Mikhnov-Season wasn’t as bad as it first appeared. Get him over here.
  18. Jani Rita-All reports say he had a good season in Finland.
  19. Tom Gilbert-Had a very good season.
  20. Tony Salmelainen-Missed a massive chance to move ahead of Rita, etc.

Players who played in the NHL in bold.

December 2006

  1. (6) SLAVA TRUKHNO, LW Gatineau (QMJHL) 32gp, 15-44-59. Trukhno is a player who gets results no matter the quality of his team or his linemates. A recent slump can’t hide an elite level 18 months since he was drafted. Oilers scouts have never looked so smart.
  2. (1) ROB SCHREMP, C SWB Penguins (AHL) 23gp, 4-13-17. Slips one notch but I believe he’s having a good first year pro. Schremp is having to buckle down for the first time (probably) in his young life because this is the first time he’s playing against men who are better than him. One hot streak away from being a PPG player. Suspect he’ll be one by the end of the year.
  3. (2) MARC ANTOINE POULIOT, Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 6gp, 0-1-1 and SWB Penguins (AHL) 18gp, 8-10-18. Has the widest range of skills on this list. Pouliot has some exceptional passing skills and once he gets enough experience at the NHL to have the speed of play match his brain he’s going to be impressive.
  4. (5) ANDREW COGLIANO, Michigan (NCAA) 18gp, 13-10-23. Has scored more this season than he did all of last year and leaves for the WJC’s playing at a high level. Asiaoil believes this Christmas will be his time to shine. I still think he’s going to be a Dave Keon type: amazing speed, aggresive on the forecheck and a guy who helps his team so much as a checker he gets put into less offensive situations. Ralph Backstrom was exactly that kind of player too.
  5. (6) JEAN-FRANCOIS JACQUES, Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 9gp, 0-0-0 and SWB Penguins (AHL) 5gp, 2-4-6. Marching in lock-step development wise with Pouliot, Jacques’ skills are ideally suited to the 4line and he looks to be a step ahead of MAP in terms of getting comfortable. Physical player with the ability to change the tenor of a game with one hit. I think he’s going to do lots of things that grab headlines in his NHL career (a little like Raffi in that way).
  6. (8) D Tom Gilbert, SWB Penguins (AHL) 22gp, 3-13-16. Having as good a rookie season as any Oiler rookie D prospect in the AHL since Doug Lynch. He’s 23 (and Lynch was 20) and that’s a big difference but Gilbert appears to be close to NHL ready. Good puck mover has the kinds of skills Edmonton is looking for but they can’t bring him up because the team already has too many rookies. He might be the minor leaguer traded in the next 30 days.
  7. (9) G Devan Dubnyk, Stockton (ECHL) 13gp, 2.78 .914SP. Big man was consistent as a junior and seems to have the same ability early in his pro career. The open question here is the quality of league he plays in, but he’s a pro player and has adjusted as well or better than any of the juniors-to-pro’s so I see no need to penalize his number (without a way to put the ECHL in context). Consistency in a goalie is a very good thing.
  8. (7) LW Alexei Mikhnov, Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 1gp, 0-0-0 and SWB Penguins (AHL) 13gp, 3-7-10. A great mystery has been solved. Alexei Mikhnov is in the group of players who should have come to North America earlier. The gap between his RSL experience and the NHL is too much to make up in a short period of time and although Mikhnov has a real shot at the NHL his impending UFA status and the rich crop of graduating prospects hurt his chances with the Oilers. There is no way to frame his not playing now in a positive light. Plus the 4th line minutes and shuffling from team to team in the RSL should serve as warning to the Oilers that not bringing these guys over early enough has huge implications.
  9. (NR) D Jozef Hrabel, Vsetin (CZE) 20gp, 3-7-10. Last season with the same team he went 33gp, 3-9-12 so he’s improving his st ats. He’s a smooth skating defender who makes a nice outlet pass, more finesse and positioning than rocket shot and heavy hitter. Must be signed by June 1, 2007 or he becomes a UFA (thanks to speeds for info). He is 21 years old and playing in a very good league and because of that ranks a hair above the 19-year old at #10.
  10. (14) D Taylor Chorney, North Dakota (NCAA) 16gp, 2-8-10. Along with Cogliano, this is a player to watch at the World Juniors over Christmas. Undersized puck mover who has good instincts and is progressing nicely. Chorney is 19 years old and playing against much older competition and playing well. Lots to like about him. Team USA will be counting on him this Christmas which means he’ll be front and center for the entire tournament.
  11. (NR) G Jeff Deslauriers, SWB Penguins (AHL) 13gp, 2.04 .921 I’ve ranked him below Dubnyk because Deslaurier’s inconsistent pro career is just short of baffling. So far in December of this year, Deslauriers has faced 93 shots in 3 games and allowed 3 goals total (SP=.968). Last December he faced 114 shots and allowed 14 goals total (SP=.877). It’s still a small sample size and maybe these shots are coming from less dangerous places but the evidence is mounting that the light has turned on for Jeff Deslauriers. If he can be consistent through this time next season then Deslauriers may pass Dubnyk as a prospect. Amazing.
  12. (10) LW Dragan Umicevic, Djurgarden (SEL) 27gp, 7-11-18. Skill winger is having a solid year. His points-per-game total is progressing (.511 last year, .667 this year) and his career continues to resemble Tony Salmelainen’s progress through his early 20s (at 20, they had very similar totals). Umicevic is probably a “tweener”, not quite skilled enough to make the grade while still showing tremendous flashes of brilliance. It would be nice to see him in North America for a season. Must be signed by June 1, 2007 (thanks to speeds for the info).
  13. (11) D Bryan Young, Milwaukee (AHL) 16gp, 0-0-0: In this calendar year he’s had an impressive Memorial Cup, made an AHL team out of camp and survived and played in 16 of 24 games for a poor club. Dependable, reliable stay-at-home defender whose skill set at 20 years old has him playing in the AHL. Impressive.
  14. (12). C Kyle Brodziak, SWB Penguins (AHL) 24gp, 5-10-15. His NHL job went to Toby Petersen this season but Brodziak is knocking at the door. Intelligent player a coach can count on, the 22-year old is probably NHL ready for the 4th line/3rd line role.
  15. (19) D Jeff Petry, Des Moines (USHL) 16gp, 6-6-12. He’s got some nice things going on and is having a solid year. An Oiler scout who posts from time to time on hfboards implied he may come quickly in a recent thread. We’ll see about that, but he’s certainly putting up numbers (albeit in an inferior league compared to the others on this list-and it’s his second year at that level). I’d have him a little lower but I believe the scout in question is the same guy who covers off the QMJHL so he must know something.
  16. (NR) D Theo Peckham, Owen Sound (OHL) 22gp, 7-15-22. He’s not on the list because of the offense (I don’t think the numbers reflect what he is) but based on the glowing reports I’ve read and the impressive game he had recently against the Russians. Admittedly that Russian team they send over for the CHL series is junk but this guy loves to hit people and has an idea about end zone coverage. Love this type of player.
  17. (13). C Jonas Almtorp, Brynas (SEL) 21gp, 2-4-6. He impressed everyone before heading back to Sweden and one suspects he has a future with the team. Quality 2-way prospect in an organization that values just that thing. You’d like to see a little more offense, though.
  18. (NR) D Mathieu Roy, Hamilton (AHL) 25gp, 6-11-17. He’s having a helluva s eason folks. I heard somewhere he was pissed at being sent down from training camp and he’s played like it. He’s lucky in that MacT doesn’t really care about pedigree and if the reports we read are similar to the ones the Oilers are getting this guy is an option down the line. 23 years old.
  19. (NR) G Glenn Fisher, Denver (NCAA) 11gp, 2.15 .928 Alright smartass you tell me how to keep him off the list. Having an amazing season after SP’s of .872, .889 and .898 in his first three seasons. He’s well clear of his co-goalie (.906, 2.64) and at 23 appears to have a future as a pro goalie.
  20. (NR) D Cody Wild, Providence (NCAA) 12gp, 0-7-7. Skates well, thinks the game well, moves the puck well. Had a very good season a year ago and looks like he’s about to repeat it.
  21. R Zach Stortini, Hamilton (AHL) 25gp, 7-3-10. He’s been impressive.
  22. D Dan Syvret, Grand Rapids (AHL) 24gp, 4-8-12. Interesting player.
  23. F Alexander Bumagin, LaDA (RSL) 20gp, 1-1-2. At the WJC’s apparently.
  24. R Colin McDonald, Providence (NCAA) 16gp, 7-1-8. I can’t help myself.
  25. R David Rohlfs, Michigan (NCAA) 19gp, 10-10-20. Late developing Coke machine.

NHL players in bold.

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