The change from winter 2007 to winter 2008 has been drastic for the Edmonton Oilers and their prospect base. A year ago the Oilers top 20 was headlined by Gagner, Cogliano, Gilbert and Brodziak. This year’s list has some nice things but nothing like that graduating group. I doubt we’ll see that kind of quality and quantity for some time.
There are some very good players on this year’s list. Most of them will be back on this list one year from now and we’ll have a much better idea about which of these 20 will make the show. As it is, the top 2 prospects are clear of #’s 3-6 and #7-17 are close together. Number 18-20 are trying to establish themselves in very important seasons and at the end of this post there’s a few comments about some other prospects.
Here’s the Winter top 20.
- NUMBER ONE: Riley Nash who has a wide range of skills and belongs to the Horcoff family of players. We’ll know more about him this summer when he makes his decision to turn pro or go back to college.
- NUMBER TWO: Jordan Eberle who can score goals. It is a rare and valuable skill. We’ll see this kid in the fall and at this point he’d be a long shot for the roster but a strong camp might change things.
- NUMBER THREE: Theo Peckham plays a hard nosed style on a team that lacks more than one rugged player. This player has progressed steadily since his draft day and should be an NHL player by this time next year.
- NUMBER FOUR: Rob Schremp is a one dimensional talent who has taken his entire entry level contract to make the grade. There’s not an Oiler fan alive who wants to see him on this list next December.
- NUMBER FIVE: Alexandre Plante had a terrific comeback season after losing one year of development to a series of injuries. The Oilers have to decide if they’ll sign him or allow him back into the draft in favor of a top 50 pick. I suspect they’ll sign him based on this season, but he’ll need plenty of time in the minors based on the scouting reports.
- NUMBER SIX: Liam Reddox who qualifies as the guy who wants it most because of the role he plays now compared to the junior scouting report. Lack of size probably means a career filled with injuries but based on the last 18 months I’m not betting against him. There’s a good chance he won’t be on next year’s list (now at 12 games, needs to play in 38 more before next December).
- NUMBER SEVEN: Jeff Petry badly needs to have a quality second half in 08-09. This summer he’ll have to make a decision about turning pro or returning to college and the best decision might be to stay.
- NUMBER EIGHT: Chris Vande Velde is moving up this list based on size and secondary skills. If he could be Shawn Horcoff lite (or Shawn Horcoff, the younger) without the offense (he won’t match Horcoff’s output) the Oilers will have a useful player.
- NUMBER NINE: Cody Wild is the most unusual prospect in that the numbers say one thing and the organization is handling him in quite another manner. He’ll be on this list again next year and could be anywhere #5-#20.
- NUMBER TEN: Linus Omark has made it very obvious that bringing him over for next year is a must. Oilers fans have learned not to expect much from Edmonton’s Swedish draft picks but this fellow might be different.
- NUMBER ELEVEN: Taylor Chorney had an awful beginning to his pro career but remains a talented puck mover. Questions about size and play away from the puck will remain and the rest of his AHL season will tell us a lot about Chorney’s future.
- NUMBER TWELVE: Jeff Deslauriers is the player on this winter’s list with the best chance to graduate before next December. He’s had a fine NHL debut season and if he can sustain the momentum will have been badly underrated on this list.
- NUMBER THIRTEEN: Slava Trukhno is at a point where he needs to deliver offensively. His second AHL season doesn’t look terribly different from his first pro season and that’s a problem. Trukhno needs a strong second half.
- NUMBER FOURTEEN: Bryan Lerg is the top undrafted prospect in the Oilers system and is having a very good first pro season. Undersized but a skilled goal scorer, I’m excited to see how many goals he can score over the rest of the season.
- NUMBER FIFTEEN: Devan Dubnyk is the latest goalie enigma in the system. He had traction early in the season before a disastrous December. He’ll need to turn it around after Christmas.
- NUMBER SIXTEEN: Sebastien Bisaillon is a quality offensive prospect learning the defensive trade in the AHL. If he can continue to impress there may be an opening in the 6-7 rotation as soon as next fall in Edmonton.
- NUMBER SEVENTEEN: Johan Motin is another Swede who might have a career. A stay-at-home type with a mean streak, that makes him unique on this list.
- NUMBER EIGHTEEN: Teemu Hartikainen is an interesting long shot. He has size and some grit plus maybe a dash of Esa Tikkanen crazy in him. Interesting player.
- NUMBER NINETEEN: Phillippe Cornet was told to add an edge to his play and from reports this fall and winter he’s done just that. We know he’s skilled, but adding a physical element makes him a better bet despite the size issues.
- NUMBER TWENTY: Milan Kytnar is the final name on the list this winter. Kytnar has had a terrific season in the WHL and has shown exceptional progress. A “player to watch” the rest of this season.
A few notes
The top 20 are ranked in a specific order. I have zero devotion to things like “close to NHL ready” or “safe” players; I do value goal scoring and more than that a player with a wide range of skills. An injured player will be nicked on my list and there’s a certain bias toward a player who is keeping his head above water in the AHL versus a guy who is playing very well in junior. Example: Bryan Lerg>Phillippe Cornet.
There’s a bunch of players who were considered for the top 20 and I wanted to take a few minutes before posting the final list to make note of them.
- Josef Hrabal: He was ranked #14 in the summer but the injury at TC put him back. The results have been only average since his return to health so I took him off the list. However, Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies have always implied he had some ability with the puck so he’s definitely a player to watch over the rest of this season.
- Tyler Spurgeon: He’s the fifth member of the Oilers prospect group that plays center and brings some degree of skill on both sides of the ball. It’s completely possible Spurgeon has an NHL career in a “poor man’s Rem Murray” kind of way.
- Andrew Perugini: Tied for 10th in ECHL save percentage (.913) and would have made the top 20 but hasn’t played enough (10 games) for us to get a strong idea about him. Should he continue to play well he’s certainly a considersation for the top 20 in June.
- Colin McDonald: His plus minus is better this season but he’s got 3 goals and hasn’t scored in December. I don’t know that he gets a second contract.
- Mathieu Roy: He’s struggled this season. Badly. Added to the injuries and the kids who are pushing him and Roy’s one-way deal over two years didn’t work as planned.
- Tim Sestito: The Oilers are much higher on him than the math tells us they should be. His -1 is a huge improvement over last season’s -25.
- Bryan Young: He’s been lost in the flood of kids on the blue and at this point is the new Chris Hajt.
- Stephane Goulet: The scoring isn’t coming like we’d hoped it would for Goulet.
- Matt Glasser: Scored a hat trick recently after what seemed like a decade of zero’s. I doubt they offer him a pro contract.
- Alexander Bumagin: Not considered for the top 20 due to his being Russian more than anything. The chances of this kid playing in North America are not high based on the relationship between the NHL and KHL.
- Alexei Mikhnov: His scoring has stalled this season. Remains a player of interest.
- William Quist: You know, he’s a very interesting player. However, he’s just a kid and apparently making good career decisions isn’t in his vocabulary. He was a draft sleeper from the second they called his name but there are things to like about him. From the sounds of things, we’re more interested than he is and Quist as a prospect is probably DOA at this point. When Kevin Prendergast is burying you a bridge is burning somewhere.