This is Riley Nash. He is the top prospect in the Edmonton organization, and represents the tail-end of a stunning group of selections 2005-07. From the time the Oilers picked Andrew Cogliano in 2005′s first round to the moment they selected Nash two years later, the procurement group landed a cluster that looks as strong as anything we’ve seen since 1979-83.
Already in the NHL are Sam Gagner and Cogliano. Still to come are Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney, Jeff Petry, Cody Wild and any number of deep selections that include Slava Trukhno and Chris Vande Velde.
This group has run all over the 2003 and 2004 picks, with Pouliot and Schremp still waiting in line or on the fringes of NHL employment. The roster spots meant for those kids have been taken away by younger men who are extremely unlikely to give them up.
This time next season, we’ll probably be talking about Riley Nash coming out of college, about Theo Peckham forcing Ladislav Smid or Matt Greene off the roster, and about the trio of college puck movers (Chorney, Wild and Petry) who begin their climb up the depth chart with similar skills and not enough room at the top.
The Oilers lost Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano off this list and are still loaded at center and defense. Plus they addressed the need for a shooter with their first round pick this summer. It’s a nice place to be.
- C Riley Nash: Tops the list because of a wide range of skills. He impressed with speed and skill at the recent Oilers rookie camp and his NCAA debut was solid bordering on spectacular. Edmonton fans have been able to track college centers a lot recently (Horcoff, Comrie, Cogliano) and this one looks like he’ll arrive right on time. His draft resume said he was a big, naturally talented kid and an all around type who could play it any way required. December rank: 7th.
- RW Jordan Eberle: According to ISS, he has the tools required to become an NHL sniper: great touch, hockey sense, quick release, soft hands. Smart, smart player and his goal total gets overlooked despite his playing in an extremely tough league. His 42 goals in 70 GP comes in a league that averages 5.72 goals-per-game. As a comparison, the OHL (6.89) and the QMJHL (6.84) average a goal per game more, meaning Eberle’s 42 goals would be north of 50 in the OHL. Unranked in December.
- D Theo Peckham: You can tell a lot about how an organization feels about a prospect just by listening to the men in charge. The Oilers love Theo Peckham. The only negative quote I have ever found about him was after his 13-minute NHL debut against Columbus in March. Kevin Lowe: “He’s got to work on getting a little quicker stick.” They love his jam, his ability to make decisions, his calm feet and his fearlessness. His open ice hit on the Jacket’s Jared Boll made an impression and there’s more to come. Possibly as early as the fall. December rank: 11th.
- D Taylor Chorney: I have Chorney at the top of the list from the puck mover family for two reasons: draft pedigree and wheels. I have him behind Peckham among defenders because of his recent injury and the fact that Peckham is farther along as a prospect despite being 6 months younger. He’s steady in all areas, moves the puck very well and has plus speed. That’s a wonderful combination for a defender and makes up for a lack of size. I think we’ll see Chorney play in the NHL a little in 08-09. December rank: 4th.
- C Rob Schremp: Here’s a guy who deserves a chance. The Oilers at center since about 2003 have resembled the Houston Astros and their power hitting prospects from about 1971-75: there’s a lot of talent that will eventually find its way but some guys are burning daylight and running in place. Sometimes teams have so much talent in one spot that several seasons are wasted because of it. Schremp isn’t that player yet, but he deserves a chance beginning now. I’m not a huge fan, but any fool can look at Mike Easler’s career and know he could have played long before he got a chance in the show. December rank: 5th.
- D Jeff Petry: This is Dan’s son. He does not have first round pedigree but if they re-drafted that season one suspects Petry would go in the first 30 picks. Has a wide range of skills and keeps picking up awards and honors as he rolls through his amateur career. Guy Flaming feels he’s the best prospect in the system. I have him lower because of a few reports about high risk plays without the puck, his being a little shy of Chorney as a skater and the fact that he did not reach college hockey until 2 months before his 20th birthday. December rank: 10th.
- LW Liam Reddox- The biggest surprise year over year among Oiler prospects. Based on how the coach used him in Springfield he seems to have a nice range of skills and could be a role player in the show soon. With the Oilers allowing Curtis Glencross to leave via UFA and the laundry list of injuries on LW at the major league level, Reddox is likely to spend more than 40 games in the show if all things stay the same through the summer at his position. December rank: 13th
- LW Slava Trukhno: Struggled in the AHL, especially at EV. He had a 9-game streak where he went 7-5-12, +3 and that appeared to have taken place about the time Pouliot was recalled and Trukhno enjoyed more skilled linemates and increased powerplay time. Finished 64gp, 14-21-35 in Springfield. December rank: 8th.
- D Cody Wild: Oilers signed Wild on the strength of his NCAA season for Providence (32gp, 4-18-22) and he arrived in time to play a little in Springfield (13gp, 1-2-3) which should give him a nice head start for next year. One of three recently drafted college defenders (Chorney, Petry, Wild) who have a nice combination of skills that are similar to each other. I have Chorney ranked first and Wild ranked last among these three, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of separation. December rank: 14th
- G Devan Dubnyk: 33gp, 3.12 .904 in the AHL which don’t indicate future #1 starter. He moved up from the ECHL this year and had consistency problems. Looked terrific at times and overwhelmed at others and appears to need at least one more AHL season before he’s ready to push for NHL employment. His high ranking relative to performance is due mostly to my having very little knowledge about projecting goaltenders and his original draft number. December rank 9th.
- C Chris Vande Velde: Before he was drafted, Vande Velde got some very nice reviews (including a reference to Keith Primeau in one Redline post). He had a wonderful season, probably did more to advance his cause than anyone not named Liam Reddox on this list. It’s important to remember though that despite the impressive year (43gp, 15-17-32) he did it at age 20 in his sophomore season in the NCAA. He was also on a terrific skill line quite often, with 06-07 Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan and former 1st rounder T.J. Oshie. Good size and skill, if he can duplicate this past season one suspects he’ll turn pro. December rank: 18th
- D Sebastien Bisaillon: He had an injury plagued season but the numbers say he’s a player. He has possibly the best shot of the D prospects on this list. He ranks behind the 3 college group because he’s more of a “chaos D” than the others and he is slightly undersized, plus of course the injury may have set him back. The Oilers have made some nice decisions out of the Q since 2001. December rank: 19th.
- LW Bryan Lerg: A shooter who is a step ahead of several players in terms of being NHL ready because he’s 22-years old. Lerg went 20-19-39 in 42 games for Michigan State (NCAA) and led the club in powerplay goals (10). When Edmonton signs a college free agent or an undrafted junior said player often ends up having a career at the high levels of pro hockey. Lerg is a player of interest, especially considering the LW injury concerns detailed earlier. Size a problem. December Unranked
- D Josef Hrabel: The math has been a fan of this guy from the start and I bet you he makes some noise in TC. He’s a smooth skating defender who makes a nice outlet pass and a plus shot. He should be closer to NHL ready than anyone but Mathieu Roy and Theo Peckham on this list. Interesting player. December unranked
- D Johan Motin: Motin’s draft pedigree was stellar before the start of the 07-08 season (ISS had him 13th overall as late as November) but he has some nice things in the resume. Strong skater, good passer and he can move the puck efficiently. His decision making wanders toward “high risk” and he needs to mature but he looks like he might be a player. A very nice +5 at the World Juniors. December unranked.
- LW Linus Omark: Omark had a very nice SEL season (55gp, 11-21-32) but he’s 5-9. I’d expect him to see North America at some point in time for a full season and he could surprise. His offensive numbers tower over the other Swedish forwards drafted by Edmonton recently. The list of undersized skill players he’d have to pass on the Oilers depth chart to get a chance in the show is very long and impressive. December Unranked.
- G Jeff Deslauriers: 57gp, 2.90 .912 in the AHL. Easily his best season as a pro, Deslauriers seems to have the confidence of management. Kevin Prendergast made a point of saying that the Oilers may have three goalies at the NHL level this season and there are rumors that Roloson may be traded. There is no doubt this is his chance and with his pedigree and resume it may be his only NHL shot. December rank 17th.
- D Mathieu Roy: Went 20gp, 2-8-10 in Springfield and 13gp, 0-1-1 in Edmonton and missed a ton of time in both leagues due to various injuries (most often: concussions). Roy is in danger of losing his career to injuries but when healthy shows some signs of having enough talent to have a future as an NHL role player. December rank 16th.
- C Teemu Hartikainen: Prendergast: “His skating needs to improve a little bit but he’s six-foot-two, 200 pounds and he uses his size. He should be on the Finnish junior team at the world championship. I really liked him when I saw him this year. He’s almost a poor man’s (Tomas) Holmstrom. He competes all over the ice.” International Scouting Services: Great work ethic, loves to play a physical style and can chip in offensively. My own feeling is that he’s a draft long shot but the things he does well make him a possible role playing forward if he develops. December unranked.
- D Alexandre Plante: A high pick who had a lost season. Part of it may be that Plante’s draft clippings may have been out of sync with his actual skill set. By that I mean that if he isn’t on the powerplay the offensive numbers aren’t going to be there. Including playoffs he went 51gp, 1-4-5 and the big difference season over season (stats-wise) was the lack of time on ice when his team was on the powerplay. When he was drafted Redline said: “At 6-4/215-pounds, he showed surprising offensive skills, particularly on the PP, where he can act as either trigger man or quarterback. He’s not a big baggage smasher, but will use his body in front and to tie forwards up along the walls.” Recent articles on him have suggested he’s physically better and looking forward to a big season. He’ll need it to get back on track. December ranking: 12th.
- Graduated from December top 20: Sam Gagner (#1), Andrew Cogliano (#2), Tom Gilbert (#3), Kyle Brodziak (#6). That’s a terrific amount of talent.
- Falling off the December list: Colin McDonald (#15), Ryan O’Marra (#20).
- This is a good list but not as strong as June 2007 (obviously). Should the Oilers sign another player to an offer sheet and lose their first three picks in 2008 they would run the risk of ending what has been a quality draft run 2001-08.
Not on the List
- D Jordan Bendfeld
- RW Troy Bodie
- G Bjorn Bjurling
- C Alexander Bumagin
- LW Philippe Cornet
- C Robby Dee
- G Glenn Fisher
- LW Matt Glasser
- RW Stephane Goulet
- C Milan Kytnar
- RW Colin McDonald
- C Jacob Micflikier
- LW Alexei Mikhnov
- RW Ryan O’Marra
- LW Geoff Paukovich
- G Brian Pitton
- RW William Quist
- LW Brock Radunske
- RW David Rohlfs
- C Tim Sestito
- C Tyler Spurgeon
- D Bryan Young
No Longer Prospects
- Kyle Brodziak
- Andrew Cogliano
- Sam Gagner
- Tom Gilbert
- Denis Grebeshkov
- JF Jacques
- Ryan Potulny
- Marc Pouliot