A lot has changed since I did the December top 20 and even more has gone down since last summer’s entry draft. Last year I did a top 20 (pre-draft) on June 1 and had planned on doing it again this June 1. However, an important family issue means there will be little time on the weekend and I wanted to get this right while there was time.
Graduated from last summer’s list: G Jeff Deslauriers, C Rob Schremp, D Cody Wild.
- L Magnus Paarjarvi-Svensson. His NHLE (82gp, 16-22-38) from the SEL last season suggests he is probably NHL ready (certainly ready for this edition of the Oilers). His impressive WJ’s and WHC performances added to his fame and Oiler fans await news that he is signed and coming to camp. Best LW to come through the system since Ryan Smyth.
- R Jordan Eberle. His NHLE (82gp, 22-24-46) from the WHL suggests he is the most offensively ready Oilers prospect. Eberle’s issues (foot speed, size) will always be issues, but his positives (he’s a shooter, plus he has performed well at all levels) mean he is exactly the type of player Edmonton fast-tracks (dating back to Comrie, Hemsky and Gagner). I doubt he’s on next season’s list.
- C Riley Nash. His NHLE (82gp, 13-26-39) suggests Nash is certainly worth an NHL look-see this fall. If Nash and the organization were getting along it might be possible to suggest a Shawn Horcoff-like developmental line (full college career, turn pro and then spend 20 games in the NHL before making the show) but I don’t think he’ll be an Oiler prospect a year from now. When Oilers fans fret over the organization not getting the most out of their assets, situations like this one are what they’re worrying over. The same strong-willed determination we’re seeing with Nash may one day make him a team leader. I don’t think it’ll be with the Oilers, though.
- C Chris Vande Velde. His NHLE (82gp, 13-21-34) is solid and his positives (faceoffs, he’s rugged and has size) are not duplicated on the prospect list. Vande Velde could surprise a lot of people and pass some first rounders in the race to NHL regular status. He has some very good arrows.
- D Theo Peckham. He lost a season due to injury and conditioning problems and should he fail to show up in top condition this fall one imagines the organization will sour on him. However, Peckham (like Vande Velde) has a nice window of opportunity here based on his skills (tough, defense first) and the organization’s lack of quality and depth in exactly this spot. We’ll get a strong tell about Theo Peckham in the fall; if he shows up in terrific shape and determined (remember Brodziak a few years ago at TC?) the Oilers should have an NHL defenseman for years to come. The job is his to lose.
- L Linus Omark. His NHLE (82gp, 20-15-35) and his age (23) added to his size (he’s another minute man) mean two things for him this fall: he needs to come into camp and outplay the other minute men and then he needs to keep doing it every night until he’s established at the NHL level. Unlike Robert Nilsson, Omark does not have draft pedigree. Like Nilsson, Omark is facing a long list of similar talents (some of whom have strong ties to the organization and major CYA importance to the scouting staff). Omark is similar to Schremp in that he arrives late to the party with the reputation of being a one dimensional type. I like him as a player, but don’t like his chances.
- C Anton Lander. His NHLE (82gp, 9-12-21) isn’t overly impressive (there are a half dozen better offensive prospects as close or closer to the show) but this “Doug Jarvis” comparable I keep seeing is a tremendous positive. If Anton Lander can fill a role as a quality 3rd line center and a capable penalty-killer, he’ll deserve this ranking and then some. This is a player whose boxcars may not tell the story. Think Mike Peca.
- G Devan Dubnyk. The highest ranking goalie on the list, Dubnyk might be at a crossroads with the organization. He showed well in a late season run with the Oilers (he had a .912SP in his final 10 games with the Oilers). Should he one day establish himself as an NHL #1 goalie, the Oilers will have turned around a long list of failed goalie draft picks post Moog-Fuhr.
- D Alex Plante. His pro debut was the most impressive in the entire system. Plante is a high draft pick but injury set him back and expectations were not high for him entering this fall. Injuries and callups forced Plante up the depth chart and he played well, so well in fact the club rewarded him with a call to the show (4gp, +1) last season. He’s in a position now to take advantage of struggles by Peckham or actual NHL defenders and play for prolonged periods in the NHL next season. I bet he’s passed Chorney on the depth chart.
- D Jeff Petry. His NHLE (82gp, 4-22-26) makes him (once again) the strongest offensive defenseman in the system and his wider range of skills gives us some hope for a more complete defender than someone like Chorney (Petry is 4 inches and 20 pounds bigger than Chorney). Petry’s -10 in 8 AHL games to close the season once again gives us pause in regard to rushing college defensemen to the show.
- L Teemu Hartikainen. His NHLE (82gp, 12-14-26) tells us he projects as more of a role player than Nash or Vande Velde. He is a little sluggish as a skater but has good size and I think enough offense that his bat won’t be considered a negative (negative like Colin McDonald, who would have a career waiting if he could score once in awhile). I can’t wait for him to get here, because my suspicion is that he’s better than the numbers imply. Having said that, the math says we’re looking at a 4th liner with nice secondary skills.
- R Ryan Stone. He’s on the list because injury made it impossible for him to play 50 NHL games (that’s my line in the sand for prospects). Stone’s ranking has a lot to do with the lack of similar player-types in the system. If the Oilers had several bigger forwards who could play a physical style and be somewhat responsible then Stone might be farther down the list or not on the list. However, he’s a legit prospect based on the Oilers inability to fill the position and is at this time the best NHL ready option on the list.
- D Taylor Chorney. His NHL performance (42gp, 0-3-3 -21) and his AHL totals (32gp, 4-9-13 -20) are a concern to those of us who eat Cheesies by the barrel in our basements; I imagine the Oilers are apoplectic about his math mark. I know he looks like a player (wonderful skater) but there should be real concern about this player as a defenseman. He’s not strong enough, he’s not going to have a chance to gain the experience needed at this level before getting passed by other defensemen, and he isn’t going to have much trade value if he posts another similar season. I think we can agree there’s legit concern about this player in the higher reaches of Oiler management.
- G Olivier Roy. An impressive QMJHL season (his .908 SP was 5th among regulars in the Q) added to a solid resume make him the next great hope for an Oiler picked goalie to have an impact in the show. He’s done everything right since draft day, including shaking off a slow start to have a strong season.
- D Johan Motin. Motin made his pro debut and performed well. His numbers (he’s not an offensive defender) are rock solid in the AHL (55gp, 1-5-6 -5 on a terrible team) and he would rank higher if there was any evidence he played against tough competition in the minors. He may be ranked too low on this list, I’ll watch for Jonathan Willis to update the toughness of minutes played in Springfield. That aside, it looks like the organization regards him as a depth player at this time.
- R Toni Rajala. His NHLE (82gp, 11-15-26) is in the “tweener” range and there’s a very good chance he’ll be much less than we’re hoping for based on how good he looked on televison. His season just wasn’t that impressive. Maybe he had a tough time adjusting or didn’t get the playing time that other prospects received, but the math says he’s a long shot.
- L Phil Cornet. His NHLE (82gp, 10-17-27) imply a classic “tweener” and one wonders about his first pro season. His minor league career begins at a time when the Oilers are very interested in building a better AHL club, which may mean a full season at the ECHL level. Not a death sentence for a prospect (Liam Reddox played in the ECHL his first pro season) but probably not what young Cornet is hoping for this fall.
- D Troy Hesketh. He’s miles away but did progress as a player in high school and he’s going to blue factory Wisconsin after he graduates. When in doubt, bet on the tall trees.
- R Colin McDonald. Good size and strength, he can’t hit a lick. This season’s NHLE (82gp, 6-5-11) isn’t going to get him a job and he’s been playing in the AHL for 225 games now.
- D Josef Hrabal. “The Pencil” was a regular in the Czech league this past season and I’m still convinced he’s a prospect. The rumors about the Oilers buying him out seem to have been incorrect.
There’s the list. It’ll change after draft day, the number one slot will no doubt go to Hall/Seguin. I also suspect Riley Nash will be traded. Did I miss anyone?