#1 Prospect Winter 2008: Riley Nash

Current Rank: #1
Summer 2008 Rank: #1

In ranking Riley Nash as the top prospect in the Oilers organization, it’s important to make a couple of points clear right at the top of the discussion. First, the ranking is based heavily on statistics and scouting reports of player type and there is no weight given to how close the player is to making the NHL. Second, there is a distinct bias towards a certain player, which favors Nash heavily. I’m betting Riley Nash becomes Chris Higgins and then further betting that Jordan Eberle peaks this side of “impact scorer” at the big league level. I’m confident in the bets but there’s no clear cut #1 choice this winter.

When Nash was drafted most of the focus was on Sam Gagner. It took awhile to get a sense of the player but Redline Report was helpful in creating a thumbnail sketch of 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.

There’s a wide range of skills here and that’s the main reason Nash gets the number one slot. This time last season Nash was 9gp, 3-6-9 with Cornell on his way to a solid season in which he would be named the ECAC Rookie of The Year. He had 32 points in 36 games at Cornell and his Desjardins NHLE (11-19-30) suggested Edmonton might have a two-way player who could post some nice numbers.

A closer look at Nash’s 07-08 NCAA season shows us he ranks fairly well when compared to some other Oilers picks who played college hockey at the same age:

  1. Mike Comrie 1.05
  2. Riley Nash .889
  3. Andrew Cogliano .718
  4. Shawn Horcoff .575
  5. Brock Radunske .317

Much has been made about the quality of opposition that ECAC teams play, but it is no slam dunk that the gap is wide. A two-game series this weekend between Cornell and college powerhouse North Dakota saw each team win a game (although UND did outscore Cornell 8-5) and I’d bet money a bigger factor when evaluating prospects is the TOI total for each player.

This summer Nash showed up at the Oilers prospect development camp and impressed everyone. Kevin Prendergast: “He was rookie of the year, he was an all-star, he stepped in as a freshman and earned his ice. We knew when we drafted him he was a special player. He does everything right. He’s not exceptional at any part of the game, but his whole game is very solid.” Nash seemed to enjoy his time, saying “it wasn’t really like a battle camp, it was more skills and drills and skating. You’re on the ice quite a bit, so we were pretty sore. Other than that, it wasn’t like they critique your every move.”

Nash’s team didn’t start playing regular season games until everyone else was well into the season, something that might hurt his chances at making the World Junior team. So far he’s scoring at a .625 clip on an offensively challenged Big Red team (Nash is 8gp, 3-2-5 +3) that has scored 17 goals in those 8 games.

The bet for #1 overall prospect is Eberle’s top end skill against a backdrop of size and average speed versus Riley Nash who doesn’t grade out at the top end in any one category but delivers across the board. In terms any Oiler fan can relate to, this is picking Shawn Horcoff over Mike Comrie fall 1999.

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37 Responses to "#1 Prospect Winter 2008: Riley Nash"

  1. Black Dog says:

    Oh great so this guy is another third line centre! ;)

    LT, have been waiting for this to start up since you announced it last week. Always enjoyable.

    I like the sound of Nash – what I especially like is it sounds like he is a hockey player – like Gilbert, Horcoff, Visnovsky, Smyth – he knows how to play the game.

  2. Lowetide says:

    I’m really hoping he makes the WJC team so we can get a look at him.

  3. Lowetide says:

    And re: the photo, is it just me or is that the Jeff Bagwell batting stance?

  4. Black Dog says:

    I’m just happy he doesn’t look like Opie anymore. Wasn’t sure if I could cheer for anyone who looked like that.

  5. Black Dog says:

    But yeah I think if the kid is in the mix for the WJC then he is on the radar.

    That could turn out to be a draft that makes this club for years.

    Maybe not but I’d say they may be 3 for 3 in the first round now that Plante seems to have gotten it together/stayed healthy.

  6. kanadienkyle says:

    I was at both games and was very impressed. Can play wing or center and has great instincts. Have both games on tape if questions arise.

  7. Lowetide says:

    canadiankyle: How strong is he along the boards? I know he’s 19 and some of these guys are a lot older but is he able to beat these older defenders in puck battles?

    Also, how big is he? I know his speed is pretty good (he scored on a breakaway according to Area Voices) but when I saw him last season he still looked 18 size-wise.

  8. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Looks like another Pouliot to me.

  9. Matt says:

    In terms any Oiler fan can relate to, this is picking Shawn Horcoff over Mike Comrie fall 1999.

    So basically, if MacT is coach, then Nash is #1, but Eberle would be if you had a guy who could coach talent? ;)

  10. Matt says:

    Sorry, that was kinda troll-y. It’s not my fault; it’s the euphoria of having Mike Keenan behind the bench. Never any drama surrounding that guy!

  11. B.C.B. says:

    How is every post about MacT?

    I think Nash, should be a good prospect. I would rate skill and size as > more skill and no size. As the Oilers atand they have the small skill (Gags + Cogs) and could use some of there larger 1st round picks to bloom well.

    I am really cheering for Nash, even though I almost kick the TV when Lowe didn't pick Nick Petrecki. But I also almost fainted when Lowe let Cherepanov go at 15th. That day I decided not to watch the draft on TV again, since I didn't know that much about the kids (other then RedLine, TSN's list, and a little youtube scouting) and it wasn't worth getting excited/mad over players that I might never hear about again.

  12. B.C.B. says:

    I was trying to write ‘stand’ not ‘atand’.

  13. kanadienkyle says:

    I don’t have a strong recollection of a lot of board work, but he does finish his checks and play with an edge at both ends of the rink. From what I do recall, he did come away with the puck when push came to shove.

    He looks to be fairly tall but still very slight, I noticed a big difference in bulk when he would faceoff with Vande Velde. I would assume he could use some more time bulking up.

    As an aside, I really liked that he is borderline dirty with his stick in front of the net and his shot on the breakaway was terribly impressive.

  14. Ribs says:

    When it comes to guys like these, an NHL shot is often the difference between the tweeners and the guys who can really excel in the bigs.

    I don’t know what kind of goaltending he’s up against where he’s at but a WJC call would be of great help to him in this area (let alone all other areas as well).

  15. Ribs says:

    Oh, and that photo is messed up. He looks like some sort of creepy photo-realistic bobble head.

  16. Lowetide says:

    I always try to find an unusual photo, one maybe no one has seen. My suspicion (having played around with photography 1000 years ag0) is that an “art” type wandered into the rink from the Cornell web/newspaper and this is what they brought back to their editor.

    Who was sleeping.

  17. raventalon40 says:

    I’d still pick Peckham over Nash, not because of his skill package but due to pure awesomeness.

  18. Alice says:

    # Position: C
    # Shoots: Right

    Looks like in 6-7 years we might have that veteran RH pivot. Who says there’s no plan??

    But seriously, how does he look on the dot [can't be worse than that pic!] ?

  19. Traktor says:

    I watched him play against Harvard last year and from what I remember he definitely isn’t afraid to bang. Stuck up for his teammates more than once when they got rocked by an opposing player. Good board work and really good at using his body to shield the puck to create time and space. Set up his teammates a couple times in the slot with passes that required first rate vision.

    I’m thinking a meaner Horcoff with a much better shot. Can’t go wrong with that.

  20. Lord Bob says:

    Sorry, LT, but you’re wrong. Eberle is producing extremely strong results playing against superior players in more games. Nash is producing extremely strong results playing against inferior players in fewer games. All else being equal, Eberle has to get the nod. :P

  21. Traktor says:

    Lord Bob – Any NCAA team would hand it to any WHL team.

  22. Scott says:

    @Fake MacT:

    This is the player Pouliot should have been. He sounds like a Kesler from comments at the WJC development camp.

  23. Dennis says:

    Is that the wide stance Larry Craig was talking about?

  24. Scott says:

    Just a note on the drafting. The Oilers scouts can almost always target good prospects, they just usually fail to get them (draft position).

    I’ll always trust the Oilers when they trade up (they usually fail trying to trade up for a player who becomes a stud), it’s when they trade down that they seem to screw the pooch (Niinimaki, Pouliot). Saying that one of the interchangeable Getzlaf and Pouliot would be available in 2003 really hurts, but they had targeted a decent player that year (Nilsson).

    I, for one, was not cursing the TV when we picked Riley Nash.
    They also “got their man” this past draft in Eberle.

  25. Scott says:

    I wish blogger had an edit function.

    That first paragraph sounds like I think the Oilers scouts fail more often than I meant to.

    Read it: “When the Oilers scouts fail, it’s usually because they miss the guy they really want and fall back to their less-robust second teir list”.

    Interesting and related side note:
    At the 2005 draft, Lowe said that they really wanted Mason Raymond to fall a bit farther, who was just behind Taylor Chorney on their list.

  26. Alice says:

    The faceoffs don’t look to be a weakness:

    paced by freshman Riley Nash who won all 12 of the draws he attempted.

    Altho the number guys are going to insist that 100% is Unsustainable, and he might come down 10 points towards the mean. Still, 90 wouldn’t be bad.

  27. Scott says:

    Unrelated update:

    Nilsson is doubtful for Wednesday and the weekend (upper body).

    Schremp’s best shot to date in his career will likely be this week.

    The lines had chemistry this weekend and MacT probably won’t break them up to start on Wednesday, meaning a direct replacement for Nilsson, and nobody comes closer to his skillset than Sugartits.

  28. quain says:

    The lines had chemistry this weekend and MacT probably won’t break them up to start on Wednesday, meaning a direct replacement for Nilsson, and nobody comes closer to his skillset than Sugartits.

    I disagree, Ladislav Smid is a strong candidate to play second line winger.

  29. Scott says:

    Robin Brownlee is reporting that a call will be made to Springfield, but MacT won’t say who is coming up.

    His guess is the same as mine.

  30. kanadienkyle says:

    The faceoffs were pretty good for Nash, even up against Vande Velde, who has been pretty good for the Sioux.

    I would say he gives up some bulk to VDV and was winning most draws on quickness/technique.

  31. Lowetide says:

    He’s 80-79 on the dot through 8 games, 50.3% and he takes a lot of them.

  32. quain says:

    Stupid numbers guys and their regressions to the mean.

  33. Coach pb9617 says:

    LT, who do you have as a comp for Nash, a ROY with decent numbers in a shitty league?

    Steve Sax?

  34. Lowetide says:

    At the end of last season he was tracking as the new Chris Higgins. Real close. He does seem to have a “touched by God” quality to him though, if he romps through the post Christmas schedule we may need to aim higher.

  35. Coach pb9617 says:

    So two years in the A?

  36. Lowetide says:

    It’s hard to say. Oilers have Horcoff, Gagner and maybe Cogliano up the middle next season with Brodziak, Pouliot and others around to help.

    Could Nash break into that lineup should he turn pro? I’d say he’d get at least 40 games in the AHL no matter what. Remember, Horcoff was 22 when he turned pro.

    Nash is 20 next year.

  37. Lowetide says:

    Nash got a WJC invite from Hockey Canada, along with Eberle.

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