The Edmonton Oilers have some prospects on the up elevator and others who didn’t wait for the elevator and just jumped down the shaft. It has been a year of substantial improvement and blossoming, and a year that has been so devastating prospect status may no longer be the description applied. Let’s have a look.
The Winter Top 20 is here, we’ll do the top 30 in order.
- L Nail Yakupov: 8, 5-1-6 in the NHL after scoring 10 goals in 22 KHL games. The kid has been at least as much fun as advertised, an offensive dynamo whose spirit for the game shines like a diamond mine. He’s a rookie, but there are signs he’s learning the finer points on the job, and the things he does that make him special can’t be taught. Loved his reaction to the empty netter against Colorado yesterday. What a cool kid. Up arrow.
- D Justin Schultz: 8, 2-3-5 in the NHL after 34, 18-30-48 in OKC. He’s playing big minutes and showing impressive skills all over the ice. We’re one sixth of the way through this shortened season and he’s on track for 30 points, which is an incredible season for a rookie blue. Effective passer, he’s not getting that wrist shot to go past NHL goaltenders but that shouldn’t come as a shock. It’s still effective because the shot is accurate and gets rebounds. What an enormous addition to the young and developing Oilers. Up arrow.
- D Oscar Klefbom: 11, 0-3-3 in the SEL before his season ended with a shoulder injury. It was a pretty severe injury, costing him a large amount of development time. Among the defensive prospects in the Oilers pipeline, Oscar Klefbom offers the best combination of size, skill, mobility and defensive acumen. The multiple good arrows are somewhat offset by his increasing injury difficulties. Make no mistake, this is a blue chip prospect if the injuries don’t drown him. Corey Pronman: ”NHL GM on newly signed Oscar Klefbom. “Physically mature, great skater. Projects to play against best players and some offense.” Down arrow.
- D Martin Marincin: 40, 4-12-16 in OKC and healthy all year. I did an update on him Friday, that covered most of it. The important thing with Marincin is that he’s ahead of the other kids on this list (Schultz aside) and he’s healthy. If we take the top 3 defenders on this list, Marincin’s health, development timeline and range of skills put him in a very good position to have an NHL career with the Oilers. Klefbom will likely get the first NHL chance, but that’s not necessarily the best way to develop blue. Another season or more in OKC, and arriving in the show at the end of his entry level deal puts Marincin right on time. Up arrow.
- L Teemu Hartikainen: 7, 0-1-1 in the NHL and playing about 10 minutes a night in the NHL. Hartikainen will be waiver eligible soon so must show value. I believe he’s passed that grade and now its a matter of his being able to post enough crooked numbers to hold sway with the up and comers. Hartikainen has (imo) slightly changed his style to a more physical, crash and bang player to fit the Oilers needs but has not added a bunch of addled penalties while doing it. He’s played about one half of a full season in the NHL now, goign 5-6-11 in 36 games. He’ll need to score a little better (say 15 a season) to keep the job that is there for him. Up arrow.
- D Martin Gernat: 10, 0-5-5 in the WHL and finally healthy. Gernat lost some precious development time but appears to be returning to form (3 assists last night). I spoke to Corey Graham and Guy Flaming about him this week, and both said the same thing: skating well, has some rust, the skill is there. He’ll have a chance to play close to 40 games if they go deep into the post season, that is plenty of time to get something out of this season. Flat.
- C Jujhar Khaira: 25, 4-13-17 in the NCAA and gaining recognition as a quality prospect. For freshman, even getting ice time is an issue, but Khaira has been getting plenty and in all kinds of situations (all of his goals came on the PP). He’s 6.03, 195, playing center, has some bite in his game and took about two weeks to move all the way up the depth chart at Michigan Tech. Up arrow.
- D David Musil: 44, 6-16-22 in the WHL and the question with Musil will always be footspeed. He can play defense–he’s a solid defender in the WHL–but mobility is going to be an issue. I think he’s miles better than Alex Plante, but what I think doesn’t count–next season in the AHL will be a large test. We’ve seen how difficult the transition has been this season for Marincin, and should expect a bumpy ride for Musil when he turns pro. Flat
- R Tyler Pitlick: 32, 1-4-5 in the AHL and an injury that may change his career progress a great deal. The concussion was a concern and the inability to light the lamp a danger sign, but the ripped knee ligaments (using Jim Matheson’s choice of words here) suggest the young man has had a major setback. We’ll see, but he’ll be two-thirds of the way through his entry level season by summertime, and we have not seen the kind of development one hopes for in a #31 overall selection. Elevator shaft.
- D Dillon Simpson: 28, 2-14-16 in the NCAA and a player who is developing well in North Dakota. As with Musil, we’re going to be seeing a defensemen with footspeed issues and a ton of ability to read and react, but Simpson has been working on his skating and is improved in that area. Simpson has moved up the depth chart and at this point we should consider him in the group of prospects that starts with Klefbom and ends with Gernat: Simpson is trending. Up arrow.
- C Anton Lander: 39, 3-7-10 in the AHL and 2, 0-0-0 in the NHL. Lander appears to have left a lot of his scoring in the SEL, and at this point that item will be a major part of his story. Called up this weekend to the NHL, Lander looked good on the PK again but the only offense I’ve noticed is two long range shots with zero chance of going in. He’s not shy–Lander will engage–but I don’t know where the offense is going to come from. Flat.
- L Mitchell Moroz: 51, 9-16-25 in the WHL and he’s matched last season’s point output in 15 fewer games. Moroz can make plays, but consistency is an issue and his passing/taking a pass ability need improvement if he’s going to play with skill at the next level. Moroz was part of one of the most incredible fights I’ve seen in recent years earlier in the year, and that will get him a contract and a lengthy pro career unless they ban fighting. Flat.
- L Tobias Rieder: 38, 17-18-35 in the OHL. At this point he’s mirroring Liam Reddox perfectly (huge year in the season after his draft and then back to normal), but like Reddox his wide range of skills will get Rieder plenty of chances. No doubt he gets a contract in my opinion, although like Reddox he may spend some time in the ECHL as a rookie pro. Down arrow.
- G Tyler Bunz: 24, 3.43 .879 in the ECHL. I think we can begin to wonder about Bunz as a pro prospect. In the time Edmonton has been sending kids to Stockton I don’t recall these kinds of numbers even on the guys who fail to make it as AHL regulars. Since we know he was a quality G in junior, we’re left to wonder about the concussions, maturity and the other things that derail hockey players. Disappointing player. Elevator shaft.
- D Joey Laleggia: 27, 9-13-22 in the NCAA and he remains a pretty incredible PP contributor. I don’t know that the Oilers turn him pro this fall–they have so many graduating blue–but this is an interesting player and somewhat unique among Oiler prospects. Flat.
- G Olivier Roy: 19, 2.86 .899 in the AHL and I do believe he’s made some progress this year. Roy didn’t play for a long stretch–when the really good players were in town–and then got the job handed to him when Danis got called up. He’s playing more, and despite being wildly inconsistent there have been incredible flashes of brilliance from the youngster. I don’t think the Oilers have Dubnyk’s replacement here, but with some years in the AHL he might have a career in the NHL. Flat.
- D Colten Teubert: 43, 3-3-6 in the AHL and I believe he’s now blocked from the NHL for the forseeable future. Why? The Oilers went out and got a better Teubert in Fistric and still haven’t given up on Peckham. What’s more, the “defense first” guys above him (Klefbom, Musil) are going to be playing North American pro hockey soon. I still think he has a career as a 5-7D in the NHL, and maybe in Edmonton, but Teubert’s window is closing for this time around, and the Fistric pickup proves it. If the Oilers felt Teubert could do the job, he’d be doing it. Flat.
- D Taylor Fedun: 41, 2-10-12 in the AHL and he’s moved up in the estimation of the Oilers. He was a mid-week recall for training camp and is playing a feature role with the Barons this season. I don’t know where he fits long term, but he’s going to get some callup games in the next few seasons and I suspect he could grab a foothold on a job during one of them. Up arrow.
- L Curtis Hamilton: 35, 2-2-4. Not much to say, he’s been passed by so many kids drafted after him the mind boggles. Martindale and Pelss from his own draft year were taken after him and have moved ahead of Hamilton. He has one more year of his entry level deal after this one, not a lot of teams looking for a player with Hamilton’s resume. Elevator shaft.
- L Daniil Zharkov: 39, 14-9-23 in the OHL and much improved since the WJ’s. In 9 games since the New Year he’s 9, 6-6-12 +14 and looking very good in the OHL. His team has improved their overall roster and Zharkov is performing well with the more skilled linemates made avaialable. Up arrow.
21-30 and beyond later today.