Summer 2009 Top 20 Prospects

The Edmonton Oilers added some real quality to their prospect list during the 2009 entry draft. The way they went about it was a tad unusual, but looking at other quality drafting teams (see St. Louis and Jarmo Kekalainen) it was a year for “going off the board” and many fans were left begging Mr. Google for information yesterday. The Oilers nailed their first rounder (with some luck) and followed it up with a reach pick in the second round. They spent the third round devoting precious selections to area scouts (MacGregor seems to put a lot of weight into the opinions of men like Mike Peluso and Bob Brown) and their strong arguments for specific players.

The Oilers then selected some quality in later rounds and that is reflected in the new top 20. Just a quick note here: The slotting of the new hires has nothing to do with draft number. It’s a guess based on their range of skills, their pedigree and the chances of them ever seeing the light of day in an NHL arena.

  1. L Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson. The selection of Magnum PS at #10 represents the highest European pick in franchise history. The Oilers got a break and took advantage of it, getting a player Redline report says has “blazing speed and is the best pure skater in the entire draft. He’s also got good size and strength, and has been competing against men in the Swedish Elite League all year, so he may be ready to step in and play in the NHL right away.” Beauty prospect. Winter 2008: Not ranked.
  2. D Theo Peckham: A hard-nosed defender who can fight, he can also hit and block shots. He’s risen to the top of the Falcons blue and although it’s a terrible team that’s a tough league and Peckham played the toughest available opposition and survived (-7). Quinn should see a lot of himself in this fellow and I suspect graduation day will come in 09-10. He has made steady progress while making predictable progress through the system, and in this way resembles Detroit Red Wing-style prospect development. Winter rank: #3.
  3. C Riley Nash: Improved nicely season over season, and that combined with a wide range of skills makes him next on the list. Concerns over size (he’s tall enough but resembles a pencil) and the short season the brainiacs at Cornell play keep him out of top spot this time around. Winter rank: #1.
  4. R Jordan Eberle: The most famous prospect in the system courtesy a spectacular (and timely) goal at the World Juniors. Eberle stalled after the WJC’s and even though we can make allowances for team etc, the numbers serve as warning in terms of expectations. We shouldn’t expect him to have a big training camp and make the big club in the fall, even with a pretty strong AHL debut this spring. Winter rank: #2.
  5. D Alexandre Plante: He lost much of 07-08 to injury, but recovered this past year and had a quality season on a very good club. His skating is going to be an issue, but the things that got him drafted in the first round (size, skill, reach) are still there. The Oilers would do well to review Peckham’s development and set a similar path for Plante. Winter rank: #5.
  6. C Chris Vande Velde: The big man had a fine season. He managed a 56% faceoff percentage, scored well (18-17-35 in 43 games) and was +10 on a team with only two players in double black digits. He’ll play another season in college in 09-10 and the possibility exists that he’ll have a brief minor league career ala Shawn Horcoff once he turns pro next summer. Winter rank: #8.
  7. C Teemu Hartikainen: A big jump for the Big Finn but he had a beauty season at a very young age. Hartikainen’s season at 18 (51gp, 17-6-23) is even more impressive when split (he went 10-5-15 in his final 20 games). He has size, skill and gumption, with foot speed keeping him from the upper echelon. Winter rank: #18.
  8. R Toni Rajala: Stu MacGregor: “We had him on a good spot on our list. He led the under-18 world championships in scoring. He’s a real competitive guy, maybe size is an issue a little bit, but he plays in the hard areas. He’s a kid with really good speed and hockey sense. I don’t know why he dropped back that far, but we’re pretty happy to get him.” I’m not sure about the “hard areas” comment, as Redline report offers this on him: Toni Rajala may be both tiny and mostly a perimeter player, but his ultra-high skill level and goal scoring prowess simply can’t be ignored. I think he might be a more skilled version of Tony Salmelainen and that’s a pretty good player. 19 points in 6 games at the U18 WJC’s gets him to this number. Not ranked in winter.
  9. C Linus Omark: He took a huge step forward this season and would rank higher save for the birth certificate. Omark’s monster season came at 21, and it’s important to remember that he’s 4 months older than Cogliano. He’s 7 months younger than Rob Schremp. I can see him being a late bloomer and am all for bringing him over to see what he can do, but the idea that the Oilers should part the waves for him is a non-starter based on his age when the light went on. Winter rank: #10.
  10. C Anton Lander: A wide range of skills lands him in my top 10. Lander’s scouting report shoud appeal to the blogosphere as it screams “responsible” and “smart”. Here’s Elite prospects: “A very smart two-way player with excellent hockey sense. Lander reads the game well and makes mature decisions with and without the puck. Plays with some intensity, but his skating needs some improvement.” I wanted to rank him higher based on range of skills, but this is the right slot. Not ranked in winter.
  11. C Milan Kytnar: He turned 20 the other day and celebrated with a contract not long after. I like his size, skill set and the splits (35gp, 9-16-25 early and 30gp, 18-21-39 later on) and most of all the fact that he has a wide range of skills. Winter rank: #20.
  12. G Devan Dubnyk: I placed him here because the big kid actually improved his number on a terrible team. Not by a lot (.904 to .906) but that Falcon team was awful and the coach overworked Dubnyk for much of the season. It’s important to get some support for the real prospects in the minors and Dubnyk is surely one of them. Winter rank: 15th.
  13. L Philippe Cornet: He had a terrific season. He started 31gp, 11-24-35 and ended 32gp, 18-24-42. Let’s not get too carried away (he’s still a small forward) but there are things to like and he’s certainly a prospect of interest moving forward. Winter rank: #19.
  14. D Taylor Chorney: Man he had a period of adjustment. In his first 34 games he looked as bad as bad can be: 34gp, 2-7-9 -21. In the second half things settled down (34gp, 3-9-12 -8) to the point where I’d guess the Oilers can count on him to have a good season in the AHL if they don’t run him out there against the angry men in that league. However, he is not close to NHL ready based on 08-09. Winter rank: #11.
  15. G Jeff Deslauriers: He spent most of the season with the Oilers, but incredibly played only 540 minutes. He’s still nowhere near a proven talent, but the organization clearly believes he can play at the NHL level (or has earned the right to play and prove himself). I’ve been presented with strong evidence that goalies with similar resumes don’t often become stars in the NHL, but he’ll get a chance to show us all in 09-10. Winter rank: #12.
  16. D Johan Motin: He moves up not just because of the fact he played in the SEL at age 18, but also because the scouting report looked good the day he was taken. He’s got an edge to his game, and he’s got enough size to be considered an NHL option. Winter rank: #17.
  17. G Olivier Roy: More from MacGregor: “Well we thought he would go a lot higher than that. He’s been a No. 1 goaltender since he was 16 years old. He’s one of those guys that has a lot of potential. He left Canada’s camp for goaltenders in June and they were extremely happy with his play there. He’s a guy who is going to have a chance to play at the world junior level in the next couple of years. We’ll look to him to be a real good prospect.” He’s aggressive, a competitor and has quickness. Not ranked in winter.
  18. D Cody Wild: He had a weird year. Wild was a healthy scratch fairly often and he spent time in the ECHL, but based on Jonathan’s quality of competition numbers he played some pretty tough veteran opposition (especially early). I think we’re going to get one good defensemen from the college trio of Chorney, Wild and Petry, and haven’t a freaking clue which one it’ll be at this point. Winter rank: #9.
  19. D Jeff Petry: I don’t know if people are still touting him as the team’s top prospect but for his sake I hope the hype ends soon. Wow what a bad season. Petry started the year by going 18gp, 1-6-7 -11 and capped it off with a tidy 20gp, 1-6-7 -20. Winter rank: #7.
  20. C Rob Schremp: I swear something happened to this guy during the season. In December, he was showing some nice growth as a minor league EV scorer, a column that is important for any prospect. As of December 4, 2008 Schremp was 18gp, 1-12-13 .722 EV points-per-game and that was easily a career high for him. After that date, he went 51gp, 2-4-6 .112 at even strength. That’s an elevator shaft. Winter rank: #4.

Some final notes: I borrowed some quotes above (Stu MacGregor’s) from Don Brennan’s fine article in the Sun. This was a wonderful article and here’s hoping Mr. Brennan finds more opportunities to write about the Edmonton Oilers.

Also, several players from the draft yesterday are not on the top 20. The reason they aren’t here is that I have no real way to quantify them. I believe the Oilers have a solid group of scouts so if they say that Hesketh and Bigos are players that has some weight. However, the level they’re playing doesn’t really lend itself to projection and we’re just going to have to wait on them. We should get a much clearer picture by Christmastime.

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