That’s Jani Rita with clearance on Henrik Sedin from September 30, 2003. Rita’s problem was he couldn’t do this OCT-MAY and it cost him his NHL career (unless he’s the new David Vyborny).
I always like to offer a disclaimer when talking about ranking prospects. Rita is one end of the scale, someone like Fernando Pisani is the other. Rita was much ballyhooed (don’t see that word much anymore, I always thought it deserved better) as a prospect while Pisani couldn’t get arrested on a fanboard for love nor money.
And so it goes.
We’re fans. We can stare at the numbers, run them through Desjardins, read all the scouting reports and consult a ouija board but none of them would have been able to tell us that inside Pisani lived the heart of a lion and inside Rita there was a hitch in the giddyup.
Here is my Oilers top 20 with all of the prospects who’ve graduated taken out. It resembles the December top 20 but is not the same because some have passed others. My list is not similar to anyone’s but I do have reasons for ranking them in the following order.
The Oilers draft 22nd and may select a player who is better than anyone on this list. They did last season when selecting Sam Gagner but he was a much higher selection. The list overall is deep on defenders and shy on forwards who display a wide range of skills. I have included their Desjardins NHLE’s for fun. I have also included some Europeans for this list, although most won’t make the final cut at the end of June after the draft. All ages for 07-08 season.
- Riley Nash (Cornell NCAA) (11-19-30): 18-year old with a wide range of skills who impressed at the recent rookie camp. He was something of a draft reach but seems to have covered the first round bet. I haven’t heard any rumblings about bringing him out of college a year from now when he turns 20 but he appears to be on track ala Andrew Cogliano. DECEMBER RANK: 7th
- Theo Peckham (Springfield AHL) (4-5-9): 19 when the season started. There seems little need to kid ourselves here this guy has ripped up the charts since he was drafted. Although he was selected outside the first round and there are several prospects who easily trump his stats, Peckham has the look of a man who’ll be an NHL regular very soon. The men at the end of the depth chart at the NHL level for Edmonton should be looking over their shoulder beginning at this fall’s training camp. DECEMBER RANK: 11th
- Taylor Chorney (North Dakota NCAA) (2-17-19): 20 last season. His injury at the end of the college season is probably enough to cost him a real look at this fall’s training camp and he appears to be about to begin a battle for the title of best puck mover at the minor league level. Based on foot speed and development curve I think he’s the best of the good mobile defenders. DECEMBER RANK: 4th
- Rob Schremp (Springfield AHL) (11-26-37): 21 in 07-08. Schremp had a very nice minor league season and appears to be close to NHL ready. It may not be as an Oiler but he’s certainly doing all the right things (lifting redwoods in California with the Moreau’s, who appear to be hockey’s answer to the Mandelbaum’s) and I think we can agree he’s earned a chance in the NHL somewhere. DECEMBER RANK: 5th
- Jeff Petry (Michigan State NCAA) 2-17-19: 20-year old defender who had a splendid college debut. Guy Flaming loves him, but there are some issues. I’ve read a couple of places that he has “good speed for his size” which would rank him well back of someone like Taylor Chorney and he isn’t in the same league physically as Theo Peckham. DECEMBER RANK: 10th
- Slava Trukhno (Springfield AHL) 9-13-22: 20-year old pro season was well short of expectations. I like him plenty based on his wide range of skills and would guess that his TOI number (especially at EVs) would probably shed more light on his season than the boxcar numbers. Lots to like from his draft day notes, including an ability to create offense on his own. DECEMBER RANK: 8th.
- Liam Reddox (Springfield AHL) 9-17-26: 21-year old arrived out of the blue and was probably 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. DECEMBER RANK: 13th
- Devan Dubnyk (Springfield AHL) 33gp, 3.12 .904: 21-year old moved up from the ECHL 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. DECEMBER RANK: 9th
- Cody Wild (Providence NCAA) (4-19-23): 20-year old had a fine college season and turned pro in time to actually do some things in the AHL (13gp, 1-2-3). He’s going to have a hard time in this organization because the procurement department appears to have done a nice job gathering puck movers 05-06. DECEMBER RANK: 14th
- Sebastien Bisaillon (Springfield AHL) 6-13-19: 20-year old had an injury plagued season but the numbers say he’s a player. Ranks in the top 10 because his offense appears to be on par with the others on the list (Chorney, Wild, Petry) and he’s played about half a pro season. He also has possibly the best shot of the group. He ranks behind the group because he’s more of a “chaos D” than the others and he is slightly undersized. DECEMBER RANK: 19th
- Chris Vande Velde (North Dakota NCAA) 12-13-25: 20 years old. Before he was drafted, Vande Velde got some very nice reviews (including a reference to Keith Primeau in one Redline post). It took him some time to find his way at the NCAA level (this was his sophomore season) but he appears to be a legit NHL prospect. Good size and skill, if he can duplicate this past season one suspects he’ll turn pro. DECEMBER RANK: 18th
- Bryan Lerg (Michigan State NCAA) 16-15-31: 21-years old. Oilers signed him to a 2-year entry level deal in the spring. Lerg went 20-19-39 in 42 games for Michigan State (NCAA) and led the club in powerplay goals (10). The Oilers usually don’t go fishing in the free agent pool unless they’re convinced on a guy and a high percentage of these Oilers signings end up playing for them. DECEMBER UNRANKED
- Josef Hrabel (Cherepovets Severstal RSL) 4-12-16: 22 years old. A modern Carroll Sembera, his hgt/wgt number on draft day (6-00, 165) is a tad unusual for an NHL D prospect. He’s a smooth skating defender who makes a nice outlet pass and a plus shot. He’s signed now so is back on my top 20 (there was some speculation a year ago that he was no longer Oiler property). DECEMBER: UNRANKED
- Jeff Deslauriers (Springfield AHL) 57gp, 2.90 .912: 23 years old. 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. DECEMBER RANK 17th
- Linus Omark (Lulea HF SEL). 13-24-37: 20 years old. Certainly since Prendergast took over the scouting department, the Oilers have done well selecting overage players in the draft. 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. DECEMBER UNRANKED
- Mathieu Roy (Springfield AHL) 3-11-14: 23 years old. 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). Signed to a nice $500k contract this season but may not clear waivers if sent out in the fall. He’s played 30 NHL games and should graduate this list if he can stay healthy. DECEMBER RANK 16th
- Stephane Goulet (Springfield AHL) 9-6-15: 21 years old. His AHL numbers include 8-2-10 totals in 20gp and a period in March where he scored 5 goals in 5 games. He’s a guy who we should keep an eye on because his one area of strength (shooter) is an organizational weakness. DECEMBER UNRANKED
- Bryan Young (Springfield AHL) 0-1-1: 21 years old. Through the end of December he was -14 for the Falcons and the organization implied he was trying to do too much. Things turned around in the new year and Young went +10 the rest of the way to finish up just over par. Young is strictly a stay-at-home type which stands out on this list. DECEMBER UNRANKED
- Alex Plante (Calgary WHL). 1-1-2: 18 years old. Quoting Guy Flaming: “A serious training camp charlie horse that morphed into long-term back pain led to several months on the sidelines. Shortly after he returned to action, Plante was hit from behind and suffered a concussion after going head first into the boards. Perhaps most unfortunate is that during his long absence from play, the Hitmen went out and replaced him with veteran players who did not relinquish the ice time they picked up”. Including playoffs he went 51gp, 1-4-5. 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
- Alexei Mikhnov (Yaroslavl Lokomotiv RSL) 18-27-45: 25 years old. He had a decent playoffs this spring (16gp, 3-5-8) and a solid regular year (52gp, 14-20-34, +15) and the numbers say he can play. I doubt it’ll ever be in Edmonton, but maybe another NHL team will offer up a draft pick for him. DECEMBER UNRANKED