2010 Winter Top 20

This is the strongest group of Oiler prospects I can recall. The 79-81 Oilers top 20 would have been better but after that this group must be the best. Potential and upside fall under the “If Wishes were Horses” category and we must know that some of these young men will falter. I think Oiler fans deserve good news by the tonne at this point in franchise history, so this list celebrates the future whatever it may be for the Copper and Blue.

  1. Taylor Hall: Since we’re new to the #1 overall stuff, most Oiler fans were tentative in their projections of the future. Kid gloves, don’t push him, speak in hushed tones. No pressure. That’s quickly being replaced by excitement and some real faith in the Oilers future, maybe even some swagger from the Oilers fan. Taylor Hall has accomplished a lot since June and he’s just getting started. How high can he fly? He may never reach the ground.
  2. Jordan Eberle: Hockey’s James Sidis is so far ahead of the competition when it comes to thinking the game it’s scary. Eberle doesn’t have the hardest shot, is not the fastest man on skates and is not known for feats of strength, but he has an uncanny ability to make the right play, position himself in the right place and adlib based on circumstance. We may run out of adjectives.
  3. Magnus Pääjärvi: We’re still trying to figure out the kid from Norrkoping. He has tremendous open ice speed, soft hands and the frame to compete in all areas. He’s a bit of a perimeter player currently, but also has excellent instincts defensively (and in fact does many things you associate with a center: first man back very often, etc). I don’t know where he’ll slot eventually and at this point it doesn’t matter.He’s his own man and productive even at this early stage of his career.
  4. Martin Marincin: The first defenseman on this year’s list, he came out of nowhere once the season began. Marincin is displaying a wide range of skills and counts size and wingspan on his resume. The Oilers badly need a “complete” defensemen from their system and Marincin may answer their prayers.
  5. Theo Peckham: Teddy Peckman began the fall as a bubble player. The Oilers decided not to risk waivers despite an average training camp and have been rewarded by quality play. Punishing hitter, Peckham is a welcome sight: an Oiler draft who can play defense. Although technically not a rookie, his emergence and quick move up the depth chart may make room for a rookie D soon.
  6. Curtis Hamilton: Health is the big difference for the Saskatoon Blades winger. He’s among the league leaders in points, plus minus and assists. His invite to the WJ selection camp was good news; the fact that he made the roster is music. He’s a perfect fit for team need and could be fast tracked to pro’s if he finishes strong this season.
  7. Tyler Pitlick: Big forward with a nice range of skills. It took him a little time to adjust to the WHL, but a 7-game point scoring streak has him north of a point-per-game pace on the season. Pitlick wasn’t extended an invitation to the WJC by the USA team, which has to be viewed as a disappointment.
  8. Linus Omark: The best interview on the top 20 list, Omark has a welcome touch of show business. He may have limitations to his game, but his strengths have garnered an NHL audiiton. I don’t have any idea how the Oilers could send him down at this point in time.
  9. Anton Lander: The modern Doug Jarvis has been stepping up his offensive game this season. His reputation as a 2-way center is welcome news for the current Edmonton Oilers and I think he has a chance to make the big club next fall. If he can impact the faceoff battle, we could see Lander in an Oiler uniform next season.
  10. Alex Plante: Toughness and a relatively smooth transition to pro game places him ahead of a few defensemen in OKC. Has displayed a willingness to mix it up and may get a boost because he’s a somewhat similar player to Peckham on a team that badly needs physical people who can actually play the game at NHL level.
  11. Devan Dubnyk: Big man has been very impressive with the NHL Oilers this season. Coach Renney will need to use him more in the second half of the year or risk injury to the aging Khabibulin. The jury is still out on DD’s ability to be an NHL starter for an extended period but he’s earned the right to audition.
  12. Jeff Petry: Big defender with speed and mobility, he plays an intelligent game. Used extensively on the OKC powerplay, his EV numbers are comparable to the other Barons blue. He might get his call to the show in the next couple of days.
  13. Ryan Martindale: Center with size and skill having a breakout season in the very strong OHL. Injured ankle has derailed him for December and he was not part of the WJ selection camp. Martindale’s issues (desire, consistency) have been answered in a big way this season. If he can keep it going, the Oilers might have a top 6F in Martindale.
  14. Chris Vande Velde: Big college center turned pro this fall. He had a strong training camp with the big club but has been subpar since being sent to the AHL. When the Oilers recalled O’Marra and Omark, the push went to the Finn Hartikainen and others. Vande Velde remained on a secondary line in what has been a disappointing season. VV has the size and strength (plus FO ability) the Oilers are looking for in their forwards, but he’s hitting well below the Mendoza line.
  15. Olivier Roy: Athletic goalie has run hot and cold this season in the Q. Started off well but was average to poor for a long stretch before recovering recently. Chosen as one of two WJ goaltenders for Canada, a strong WJ’s might propel him to a strong second half.
  16. Taylor Chorney: He’s done exactly what was required: recovered his career by playing solid defense in the AHL. His pro career has been chaotic for several reasons, the big one being the organization pushed him due to injury and shortsightedness. Chorney has been paired wth Alex Plante for much of the season and it’s a tandem that has performed well. Chorney’s well down the depth chart now and would have to be considered a bit of a long shot for the Oilers, but he may have a career after all.
  17. Teemu Hartikainen: Big Finn had an immediate impact on the AHL powerplay. Since the O’Mark/ra recall to the NHL, he’s been playing a bigger role overall and the results are impressive (4gp, 2-3-5 +5). His 5 powerplay goals lead AHL rookies. If I started this list today, Hartikainen would be higher in the rankings based on his season (somewhere in the 13-15 range).
  18. Brandon Davidson: Part of the very strong 2010 draft, Davidson is a puck mover who developed late (or at least got his opportunity at an older age). He’s having his second straight solid year in the WHL and is posting very good numbers at even strength. He’s an interesting prospect. 
  19. Jeremie Blain: Taken deep in the draft, he’s battled injuries early but posts crooked numbers when he’s playing. His QMJHL team relies on him heavily despite his youth and inexperience.
  20. Tyler Bunz: Breakout season for WHL goalie. His SP is among the best in the league and he’s backstopping the Tigers to an impressive record. If defensemen develop by sundial then goalies do it slower than molasses in January. He’s making progress.
  21. Shawn Belle: Barely missed the top 20. Belle has a nice size/speed combination and I think he’s going to play north of 200 games in the NHL. I just don’t know if it’ll be as an Oiler. They have a lot of options and the organization is waiting for kids like Petry and Plante. There is a window of opportunity for him, though. It’s right now.
  22. Johan Motin: I think the Oilers might have a player here, but he’s a subtle bugger. Motin appears to be a third-pairing, low event AHL defenseman at age 21. He’s probably going to have to watch auditions by Petry, Plante, Chorney (again) and possibly Marincin before getting an extended NHL look. The nature of the hockey business suggests he may bolt for Europe once he’s an rfa in summer 2012. I think there’s a player here.
  23. Ryan O’Marra: Getting another NHL look as we speak, it’s a reflection of his ability that the one NHL team in dire need of a right-handed checker sent him away during training camp. O’Marra doesn’t bring enough offense (well below the Mendoza line in the AHL before this season) and there aren’t many people who are going to impact 5×5 offense on his line (maybe Omark). He’s getting his chance now, but I don’t think he’ll stay up when the injured men return.
  24. Milan Kytnar: I’ve mentioned Scott Reynolds excellent work here a few times during the top 20 discussion, and Kytnar is a freak on the forward list. It jives with some comments I’ve read here and there.
  25. Toni Rajala: He’s not having a great season but the kid has lots of skill and speed. Plus he’s a typical Finn (no fear) so I suspect we’ll hear from him again.

A few other notes:

  • Guys like Liam Reddox and Jeff Deslauriers have graduated. A rule of thumb is 50 NHL games for skaters and 30 for goaltenders.
  • The graduating class for 2010-11 is going to be spectacular: Hall, Eberle, Magnum, Peckman, Dubnyk, possibly Omark and there’a s rumor Petry gets recalled today. We should remember the 10-11 season for the quality and depth that arrived from the procurement department.
  • There are a number of guys not listed who are doing fine (Bigos, Dee) but there are also some cracks in the machine (Cornet, Abney, Hesketh). You never want to write off prospects this early, but things are not going well for these fellows.
  • From the summer list, Johan Motin (#17) and Toni Rajala (#20) were flushed; Brandon Davidson and Tyler Bunz were added.
  • I argued for Colin McDonald here, but he is not on the Oilers 50-man list so is technically not a part of the Edmonton Oilers at this team. I would like to thank the Canadian Bar Association (many of whom appear to be screwing the pooch at this blog during working hours) for pointing it out.
  • The current list is overundersidewaysdown compared to one year ago. Gone from last winter’s list are Riley Nash, Phil Cornet, Ryan Stone, Toni Rajala, Cody Wild, Colin McDonald, Slava Trukhno and Troy Hesketh. That’s a lot of turnover, but the new hires shine brightly compared to those who were left behind/fell off the list.
  • I’ll be spending a lot of time documenting the 2011 entry draft starting in the new year. I think Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor is a little easier to predict than Kevin Prendergast or the desert fox in later years.
  • Among the current Oiler prospects invited to last season’s NHL scouting combine: Tyler Bunz, Brandon Davidson, Taylor Hall, Curtis Hamilton, Martin Marincin, Ryan Martindale, Tyler Pitlick. That’s 7 players, all of them on the current top 20. Incredible. We should pay attention to that list when it comes out in the spring.

Thanks for your input, I enjoyed doing this again. It helps that the list is so incredibly deep and has such quality at the top, and your comments are always welcome. Even the lawyers. :-)

Merry Christmas everyone, and God bless you. I hope you get what you want for Christmas, please don’t drink or toke and drive.

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