Summer 2011: Top 20 Prospects

It is now bordering on ridiculous. As noxious as the regular seasons are around here, the collective is doing an excellent job of adding future warriors. Either the Edmonton Oilers are going to do massive damage, or some good soldiers are heading out of town at a young age. There’s no middle ground.

Graduates from last summer’s list: Taylor Hall, Magnus Pääjärvi, Jordan Eberle, Theo Peckham, Linus Omark, Devan Dubnyk and Taylor Chorney (all graduated to the NHL or exceeded 50 NHL games and are no longer considered prospects on my list); Johan Motin (regressed). There are also a large number of prospects not listed here (Troy Hesketh, Cam Abney, Phil Cornet, Kristians Pelss, Kellen Jones, Jordan Bendfeld, Frans Tuohimaa) who might be in the future. I had to stop somewhere, it’s 28 deep and this is a top 20.
  1. C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Remind me, when did the Oilers have a center with enough skill to be considered a future difference maker in the o-zone? Weight or Arnott is my guess, and the whispers are that RNH could be something special. One of the questions we can ponder over the summer is “which winger will he develop chemistry with?” come the fall. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will certainly get the first few at-bats, but Omark and Pääjärvi are out there and the ridiculous Hemsky remains an option. His Desjardins NHLE (82gp, 11-27-38) is shy of Hall’s from a year ago (82gp, 17-29-46) and even if we factor in age difference (5-6 months) I believe Hall was a better offensive prospect at the same age. Still, this is another outstanding prospect for the Oilers, and the four year run of first round selections that began with Eberle has been stellar. Stu MacGregor, you magnificent bastard.
  2. D Oscar Klefbom: Redline had him #11 in the entire draft, saying he was “the best pure passer” of the top end blue for this year’s entry. Redline then shifts into overdrive: “At Red Line, we believe he might ultimately become the best all-around balance of offensive upside and physical strength in this year’s class.” I don’t know what he is, but it sounds very good. Klefbom’s range of skills means that he can have an impact even if he doesn’t bring a lot of offense when he arrives in the NHL.
  3. D Jeff Petry: Mobile defender with a wide range of skills, has shown enough already to suggest the Oilers have a legit top 4 talent here. Young man with size, mobility and intelligence. Oiler fans will turn on him in the “Tom Gilbert” way but for now we can celebrate a solid prospect who delivered on promise. A fine young prospect, perhaps overlooked a little because of the marquee value of Hall and the rest, Petry (and Peckham) represent important developments along the blue for an organization badly in need of help at the position.
  4. L Curtis Hamilton: Impressive season has him here, He’s a solid 2-way winger. He just needs to do it on a bigger stage (consistently) to move up this list. Hamilton has a nice range of skills, and we should expect that he’ll get a long look on the skill lines during the next few training camps. Although Hamilton has the tool kit to be an effective checker, it’s also true that there’s an impressive amount of offense there and he comes with the reputation of being a digger along the wall and is strong on the puck. A very good prospect.
  5. L Teemu Hartikainen: Hartikainen showed well when called up at the end of a very successful AHL rookie season. A wonderful prospect with size, skill and hands. Hartikainen was not a highly touted prospect and his draft day scouting report suggested foot speed would be his anchor. That didn’t look like a problem during his late season audition. I’m not sure where he’ll slot, but if he can find a center to work with there appears to be enough skill to establish himself as an NHL player. 
  6. C Anton Lander: The modern Doug Jarvis or does he have more offense and less defense? We’re about to find out. He has an enormous defensive reputation for such a young player, can’t remember the last Oiler center with this kind of rep. Marchant didn’t have this kind of rep iirc. The thing to remember with this player is that his skill set suggests he can do a lot to help his team win hockey games even if he’s not posting major boxcars.
  7. D Martin Marincin: Lost traction after an outstanding start, making it difficult to slot him until we see more. There is much hope for this player, but he needs to bulk up and those splits (first half: 33gp, 10-25-35 +6) (34gp, 4-17-21 -18) are enormous. I’ve looked long and hard and haven’t seen any injury reports, so he must have run out of gas. We hope for more in 11-12. Puck moving defender who can play the position, he’ll be the next guy up for the AHL roster.
  8. D David Musil: A throwback defender who fills an important role. A candidate for the “next Jason Smith” for an Oiler bunch who should be pretty good by the time he hits the NHL. Musil isn’t going to bring the O, but he appears to be plenty good enough to supply the D. A safe pick and a needed skill set (as reflected by the sheer number of defensemen taken in rounds 2-7).
  9. G Tyler Bunz: Emerged as a legit prospect this past season. His SP (.919) ranked among the WHL’s best and he showed very well in the playoffs (although he did sustain an injury). Oilers don’t fast track goaltenders so it’s going to be awhile (Roy will get his shot first, it’s shaping us as another JDD-DD match). But the arrows are strong.
  10. R Tyler Pitlick. PF prospect suffered a late season injury and played the entire season on the wing despite being touted as a center of the future. His offense was a little shy, but the boxcars (56gp, 27-35-62) ranked him 3rd among WHL rookies and his EV stats (56gp, 22-19-41) suggest he might be a player. His 22 EV goals rank him 2nd among Tigers during the regular season despite missing several games and playing only sporadically on the big scoring line. Pitlick has moved down the prospect list since his draft day.
  11. G Olivier Roy: Solid technical goaltender lacks the size most NHL teams look for in their starters (he’s listed at 6,00, 180 so he’s not an imp). Butterfly type, he ran hot and cold all year long but looks like a legit pro prospect.I think he trails Bunz in the race for this cluster’s best G option, but that’s jst a guess. The Oilers won’t have to make a decision on either for some time, so for now it’s just flying sorties.
  12. D Jeremie Blain. Impressive season for lanky defender. Although he took forever to recover from injury, once he did Blain showed a nice range of skills and reports have him being vital to the team’s success. Oilers think he’ll fill out and he could be a late round gem down the line.
  13. C Chris VandeVelde. Looked pedestrian based on AHL numbers, but his coach defended his play and there was anecdotal evidence VandeVelde was being used as a tough-line match up. His play when called to the NHL was solid and helped his final number on this list. I dion’t think he’ll make it, but that NHL stint was solid.
  14. C Tobias Rieder: Looks like he’s a candidate for diamond in the rough. Chosen after the obvious offense was long picked, Rieder is undersized but determined and more than a little skilled. Redline gushed about him, brought into perfect focus by this statement: among the 2011 draft picks on this list, Redline liked only RNH, Klefborm and Musil more.
  15. D Colten Teubert. Tough defender is a real throwback and an intimidating player. Thunderous hits and a mean streak make him somewhat unique and his role as an enforcer is backed up by the ability to play a regular shift. Unlikely to impact at the NHL level next season, he should see a cup of coffee during 11-12. His AHL coach says Teubert plays with such an edge he already grabbed opposition attention after short weeks in OKC.
  16. D Brandon Davidson. Late bloomer has calm feet and can move the puck expertly at junior level. Knock on him was skating but he seems to have improved enough for it to be a non-issue in the WHL. Played 2 AHL games on a PTO (professional tryout) and early returns were positive. 
  17. G Samu Perhonen. Have no idea what to do with him. I expect Perhonen will open up a SAAB dealership with Tommy Salo by the end of the decade but Janeway found a wormhole for Voyager to save Tuvok so maybe MBS can find a goalie to save Steve Tambellini.
  18. D Alex Plante. Enjoyed a much stronger season in 10-11 at the AHL level, but has been unable to jump the queue. Petry, Peckham and Chorney have held serve, and although Plante has not been passed by draft picks taken later, it’s also true that the organization felt a need to trade for a similar player (Colten Teubert). I think Plante may be in a little trouble as an Oilers prospect.
  19. D Martin Gernat: Intriguing prospect who either bribed all English speaking bloggers to write glowing scouting reports or has some actual abiltiy. My choice for draft sleeper of 2011, Oiler chapter. Luedeke and Bugg are a perfect match in their assessment: there might be a player here.
  20. C Ryan Martindale. Enjoyed a very strong OHL season and looks ready to turn pro. Has not signed a contract with the Oilers, so that’s something to follow. Played on a very famous line and delivered impressive numbers. His issues had mostly to do with consistency so the offensive output would seem to answer that question. I’m not certain the Oilers love him as one of their own.

    Missing the cut

The Oilers prospect list this summer is exceptional. At the bottom end there isn’t much to choose from (Ewanyk vs. Czerwonka? I have no idea which prospect is more likely to fill a role in the NHL five years from now) so most of these 9 kids might be on your top 20 list and you’d be right. I’m posting it because in some way it shows just how much talent is available to the Oilers at this time.
  1. D Taylor Fedun: Outstanding college OD who is mature for a prospect and could come quickly. We don’t know enough about him as a defender to project him with any kind of confidence but he’ll got a full season to show his stuff in OKC.
  2. L Drew Czerwonka. Big man impressed with rugged style and surge offensively. Part of a surprising Kootenay Ice team, we have to wonder a little about the offense but he does seem to have decent hands.
  3. R Toni Rajala. Undersized skill winger had a solid year in Finland. Teenagers often get benched for long periods in the SM-Liiga (ask Jani Rita) so the fact that Rajala played a regular shift in 44 games bodes well.  
  4. D Dillon Simpson: A solid prospect but not good enough to break into an impressive top 20. A nice range of skills and from the scouting report it sounds like he’ll battle the Brandon Davidson’s of the world for playing time in pro hockey.
  5. C Travis Ewanyk: PF who works his bag off (source: Redline) and can win faceoffs, but the batting average is poor. Good NHL role players often come from failed scorers but sometimes you can bring a kid like Ewanyk along and he learns to score enough to stay in the lineup.
  6. C Tanner House: The Oilers might have something here. A nice range of skills, including a solid defensive rep plus he delivered in a very short period in OKC (6gp, 1-4-5 at the tail end of the regular season). One never knows, but he could fast track to the NHL should Lander show signs he needs AHL time and VandeVelde falters in TC. A very nice signing by the Oilers. 
  7. C Milan Kytnar: Enjoyed a solid first year pro after spending an extra year in junior. Kytnar didn’t see a lot of post-season action, perhaps a reflection of his status once all those prospects were sent down from Edmonton at the end of the season. A player to watch in 2011-12, he certainly surprised with his quality of play in OKC. 
  8. D Kyle Bigos: Huge defender (6.05, 230) had another solid year for Merrimack (NCAA). Scouting reports have him playing heavy minutes in all disciplines, so it looks like the Oilers may have at least an AHL regular in the big man. It’ll be years before we know the entire story.
  9. C Mark Arcobello: Not on the radar to begin the season, the undersized center forced his way up the OKC depth chart upon his arrival. An absolute long shot to have an NHL career, there are Frank St. Marseille’s every once in awhile and this guy might be one.

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