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:
- Mike Comrie 1.05
- Riley Nash .889
- Andrew Cogliano .718
- Shawn Horcoff .575
- 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.