The Edmonton Oilers have had a sorrowful NHL season. However, the “silver lining” this year comes in the performance level of a plethora of prospects across the hockey world. Not all of these kids have their arrows pointing in the right direction, but this season–more than any I can recall in recent years–has had more quality prospects building on their previous levels of ability. Good news for Stu (Magnificent Bastard) Macgregor, a little late for Kevin Prendergast.
Here are the Oilers major prospects, their Desjardins NHLEs, any other pertinent information on them and an idea about where they might land in the summer top 20. Per 82gp, assuming the same role, time on ice, etc.
- Jordan Eberle (WHL). 22-23-45. His final junior season has been a strong one. Although prone to streaks, there’s very little doubt that Eberle is at the very top end of the WHL talent pool at this time. He’s the only skill player on the Pats without a minus total (he’s at E) and his special teams impact (17 goals on the PP, 6 on the PK) tells us he must be getting some big minutes every game. This should serve as a caution with regard to Desjardins. He’s ranked #2 on my top 20, he’ll fall no matter who the Oilers select in the first round this summer.
- Magnus Paarjavi-Svensson (SEL). 18-23-41. MPS appears to be improving his EV play based on the math. He’s also shooting way more this season: 138 shots in 42 games compares well to last season (103/50). He’s also playing almost 17 minutes a night, a huge step from last season’s 11:13. If he comes over for training camp this fall, I suspect it might be hard to send him back to Sweden. Redline suggested he might be NHL ready before the draft. He’s ranked #1, will likely fall to #2 when the Oilers select Hall or Seguin.
- Linus Omark (KHL) 22-14-36. His NHLE is off by quite a bit from last season and we can’t really blame increased competition levels. Recent updates from Gabriel Desjardins have suggested the gap between SEL and the Russian league has not only closed but may have gone the other way (Swedes passing the Motherland). Omark is undersized and 23, so this season actually raises more questions about where he’ll land on the Oilers depth chart. I think he’s trade bait at this point. I ranked Omark 6th in the winter top 20 and would suggest he’ll be outside the top 10 this summer.
- Chris Vande Velde (NCAA) 13-18-31. A unique player on this roster for a few reasons. Vande Velde has real size, plays a rugged game and has shown over time that he’s a legit faceoff option (his current number is 54.3%). He leads his team in scoring and I think he’s going to surprise many Oiler fans with how quickly he arrives in the show after signing his pro contract. I ranked him 4th in the winter top 20 and no one caught him over the winter.
- Riley Nash (NCAA) 8-21-29. Nash may be spending his final few months in the organization. Based on Kevin Prendergast comments a year ago and Bob Stauffer comments very recently it is terribly obvious the Oilers don’t think he’s progressing. I think there’s every chance Nash gets moved in the next several months, but there’s a story to tell with this player. His PP numbers are off since the new year, and I suspect it is because the team is using him in a different role. His Desjardins NHLE isn’t far off previous totals and his FO percentage is off the charts (a lofty 62.77% according to “Soli” at hfboards, thanks for the info). When they drafted Nash, the Oilers expressed delight at acquiring a center with size and a wide range of skills. It looks like they got him but I don’t think they’ll keep him. I have Nash ranked 3rd overall and he’ll move down only because of the summer draft.
- Philippe Cornet (QMJHL) 11-17-28. In recent years the Oilers have used the QMJHL more often and it has allowed the fanbase to learn about the league. Suffice to say there’s a reason Gabriel Desjardins knicks it a little more than other leagues (or has in the past). Recent Oiler examples of Q scorers not delivering as expected in pro hockey are Marc Pouliot and Slava Trukhno. With that as the backdrop, combined with the fact that he’s run in place offensively for awhile now, I think Cornett is a player likely to fall several spots from his #13 in the winter rankings.
- Teemu Hartikainen (SM-LIIGA) 11-16-27. A big man who started the season slowly but has come on of late (scoring 7 goals in his last 17 games). He was Rookie of the year in Finland’s highest league a year ago and is building on that (points-per-game has improved from .450 to .609 year over year) and he’s been money in two World Junior championships now. He trails both Nash and Vande Velde at this time but the gap is not large. I had him ranked #9 in the winter and expect he’ll move up a little.
- Jeff Petry (NCAA) 4-22-26. After a very poor season in 08-09, Petry has turned it around in his junior season. Petry is 22 years old (same age as Peckham and Chorney) so there’s a real danger in overrating him because of performance in an inferior league (NCAA-AHL). However, he does have a nice range of skills and there’s a real chance he’ll improve on the #7 ranking from December.
- Anton Lander (SEL) 8-13-21. Oilers are very high on Lander and he might come over this fall as part of a package deal with MPS (for old timers he’d be playing the Matti Hagman role). His TOI (17:48) per game is a factor not considered in these projections so the estimate is likely a little strong. Having said that, if his skill set defensively is as advertised (and we’re talking Doug Jarvis level at this point) then offense isn’t going to be his game. I ranked him 10th in the winter and he should stay at or near that number. Lander will be passed by one or two draft newcomers but will also pass a player or two currently ahead of him.
- Toni Rajala (WHL) 11-14-25. Rajala is the 6th F on a powerful offensive team in junior so his stats are probably inflated. Still, being Tim Wallach-batting-6th-at-the-end-of-the-offense isn’t a bad thing and the kid has adjusted well to North America. I’m more impressed with his season than Cornet’s based on age, number of seasons in his league and the amount of games he’ll play before the club has to make a decision on him. Rajala was ranked 16th and may move up a few.
- Taylor Chorney (AHL) 6-8-14. I think we’ve seen enough of Chorney at the NHL level to know that he should be able to post offensive numbers in the show if everything else breaks right (he continues to develop, avoids injuries and earns a spot in the top 6D in the next few seasons). Logic dictates the gap between Chorney’s numbers and Petry’s NHLE is likely less than implied here, but it does appear Chorney is in danger of being a “tweener.” He’s not going to be able to fall back on physical play so this number isn’t a good one. I had him 8th in the winter and a good guess would be 11-14 in summer.
- Cody Wild (AHL) 0-14-14. I’ve tracked Wild with Chorney and Petry for several years now and never really felt that this guy was out of the picture. Math tells us he’s a player and one hopes he finds an organization that sees him as a prospect. I ranked him 17th in winter and think that’s about right for Wild.
- Colin McDonald (AHL) 6-6-12. I keep trying to find a player with similar skills who ended up having an NHL career. It’s very difficult because the offense doesn’t appear to be there, but on a team sadly lacking grit McDonald will do until something better comes along. I had him 18th in winter and he’ll be among a group of players vying for 20th spot this summer.
- Slava Trukhno (AHL) 6-6-12. McDonald has a fairly wide range of skills and still we have to believe that his career won’t have much sustain because there’s not enough in his bat. Imagine then how difficult it would be to build an argument for skill player Trukhno. My only hope is his recent impact (17gp, 6-5-11 E) but this comes at the very end of a three year entry deal. He won’t make the summer top 20 and may be gone soon.
- Alex Plante (AHL) 1-6-7. Plante has been steadily moving up the Falcons depth chart all year and no matter what happens from here out this has been a successful 1st season in pro hockey. Regarded as a raw talent with mobility issues, Plante impressed everyone with his physical play and decision making in a very short stint with the big club. I had Plante 15th in winter and he’ll certainly improve on that number in summer.
- Theo Peckham (AHL) 0-7-7. Math tells us Peckham isn’t going to be a player the Oilers count on for offense. His gritty style and aggressiveness are a breath of fresh air for an organization that is often too passive. Peckham has had injury and conditioning issues (addressed a few times by Rob Daum) so will fall in the summer rankings. He was #5 in winter and is in danger of dropping out of the top 10.
- Johan Motin (AHL) 1-4-5. The young Swede has been a healthy scratch a few times this season, so the learning curve from SEL to AHL must be a steep one. He does have some nice things in the toolbox (size, positioning, mean streak) and the Oilers have been known to HS the wrong guys, but I thnk his #11 ranking in winter might have been a little aggressive.
- Devan Dubnyk (AHL) .910. His SP number is the best of his pro career and he’s shown some flashes during an inconsistent NHL audition. The strongest argument for Dubnyk once again comes from the other Falcon goalies, as they are humming along with a collective .884SP when Dubnyk is not playing. I ranked him 12th in winter and it’ll be hard to move him much either way.
- Ryan Stone (graduated). Stone made the Oilers out of camp and had an impact physically before being injured. His NHL numbers (27gp, 0-6-6 .222) are a little below what Desjardins suggested last season (82gp, 7-19-26 .317) but certainly close enough to be in the range. I’ve graduated him before game #50, but the injury cost him several games and at this point we pretty much know what he’ll be in the NHL.
- Olivier Roy (QMJHL) .909. His SP ranks 4th among league regulars and just behind the more famous Jake Allen. It’ll be miles and miles before we know what he is, but so far Roy is tracking well, winning games and is well clear of his backup (.895). I had him 19th in winter and Roy will be moving up.
History tells us that 5 or 6 of these names will end up playing over 200 NHL games. At the top are two very nice skill forwards (MPS and Eberle) and if we throw Omark in that group then there’s three skill players to track together. They are followed by the two-way centers (Nash, Vande Velde, Hartikainen and Lander) and then the laundry list of defensemen plus two goalies.
If I’m a betting man, the 5 players I’d chose to bet on having NHL careers are MPS, Eberle, Nash, Vande Velde and Petry. Which means that’s the top 5 moving forward. Peckham falls out of the top 5 due to injury and that’s a huge consideration. The Oilers have lost a ton of good blue prospects over the years to injuries and Peckham might be the lastest example.
A few final items: Hall and Seguin project offensively in the range with Eberle and MPS. If we’re expecting an immediate 30-goal scorer we need to pray to Luck and hang around horseshoes. Neither player looks at this point to be offensively superior to Sam Gagner, as his NHLE for his draft year was an impressive 16-39-55.