JUJHAR’S BIG JUMP

One of the stories that ran out of sequence this summer was Jujhar Khaira’s signing. It makes a difference, because there’s an increased chance that the young, developing Khaira will be placed in a league that is beyond him, and he’s still a developing player. If he’s overwhelmed in the AHL, he might end up in the ECHL. Is that a good place for him? And if he ends up in the WHL, he might end up with Kevin Constantine as coach. Is that a good place for him?

I’m on record saying that if a player is clearly ready for the next level, then bring it on. I know many who read this blog don’t feel that way, but the bottom line here is that the Oilers have turned many 1st rounders pro before the two year junior window closes. That list would include Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov–elite skill players considered to be at or near the top of their draft year.

Jujhar Khaira isn’t a lottery pick, and he isn’t a first round selection. He’s a 3rd round selection and he had a fine WCHA debut with Michigan Tech. I get that things are changing for Michigan Tech (quality of opponent issue in their new situation) and I get that Khaira feels playing more games is a good idea. Totally makes sense.

However, he just turned 19 last week. He’s barely older than Marco Roy and Ben Betker, two of the kids Edmonton drafted this summer. I’m concerned that the player requested the signing and that the organization will make the wrong decision on him this fall, to the point of allowing him to play pro before he’s ready. 19, one good WCHA season.

Is there any real evidence he’s ready for the AHL? Would the struggles of Pitlick, Hamilton and Martindale server as a cautionary tale? I think this might be too soon. I really like Khaira as a prospect (#6 prospect in the summer 30) but this next  move is really important.

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22 Responses to "JUJHAR’S BIG JUMP"

  1. speeds says:

    Do you think it’s a bad idea to give him 5 or 10 AHL games, depending how ready he looks at camp, before sending him to the WHL? If he looks ready for the AHL after that, great. If not, he’ll have seen the next level, and goes down to the WHL for the rest of the year.

  2. Lowetide says:

    speeds:
    Do you think it’s a bad idea to give him 5 or 10 AHL games, depending how ready he looks at camp, before sending him right to the WHL?If he looks ready for the AHL after that, great, if not, he’ll have seen the next level, and goes down to the WHL for the rest of the year.

    I’d be fine if they did it that way, but he’d have to show a lot in main camp (not just the rookie camp). Honestly, I don’t follow the WCHA that closely but are there a lot of third rounders jumping to the AHL after one season?

  3. speeds says:

    Lowetide,

    I don’t know if there are a lot, but I would guess it might tend to be a good sign if a player leaves early. A sign of development going quicker than initially expected?

  4. Lowetide says:

    speeds:
    Lowetide,

    I don’t know if there are a lot, but I would guess it might tend to be a good sign if a player leaves early.A sign of development going quicker than initially expected?

    Maybe, I just didn’t read that much evidence that he was hitting it out of the ballpark. A good season to be sure, and I like him as mentioned, but for me that’s a reason to be extra cautious here.

  5. Hayek says:

    Khaira and his agent probably just recognize a perfect opportunity now. Barons are pretty thin at forward now, so it’s conceivable if he has a good camp, he could be in the mix for PP time there (especially with Harti gone).

  6. Mr DeBakey says:

    I believe I’m quoting Coach MacT when I type
    “You gotta put guys in a position to succeed.”

    Junior, Junior. Junior
    Please

    Khaira will help the Oilers win games sooner if he plays in the WHL this coming year.
    Its impossible to prove, of course.

    The media, fans and GM’s desire for shiny new things drives this debate.

    Pick one – Couture or Gagner?

  7. dessert1111 says:

    From Khaira’s perspective, he is going to push for an NHL job but realistically expects to play for Everett. He says he is too young for the AHL (though he might be wrong in this circumstance).

    This is according to an interview he did with Reid Wilkins on Oilers Now.

    He could’ve requested a contract for many reasons. He might have not liked living in the US. He might not have liked Michigan Tech or his degree. He might see his chance to be a pro hockey player and thinks playing more games will help him.

    MacT has said all the right things about prospect development and I doubt his mind is clouded by Khaira so much that he’d put him out of his depth. Wherever he ends up, I’m sure it will be a careful decision.

  8. supernova says:

    dessert1111:
    From Khaira’s perspective, he is going to push for an NHL job but realistically expects to play for Everett. He says he is too young for the AHL (though he might be wrong in this circumstance).

    This is according to an interview he did with Reid Wilkins on Oilers Now.

    He could’ve requested a contract for many reasons. He might have not liked living in the US. He might not have liked Michigan Tech or his degree. He might see his chance to be a pro hockey player and thinks playing more games will help him.

    MacT has said all the right things about prospect development and I doubt his mind is clouded by Khaira so much that he’d put him out of his depth. Wherever he ends up, I’m sure it will be a careful decision.

    dessert1111,

    I am glad you stated this, I haven’t heard Khaira’s interview. I am happy he wants to push for a job at the NHL but expects to play in Everett.

    I think Bob Green will help down the road with this type of issue down the road. With his in depth knowledge of junior hockey and soon to be depth of knowledge of NCAA hockey, he can help management understand which players are ready for each level. I know he isn’t on the player development side by procurement and development should have a symbiotic relationship.

    Maybe I am a little jaded or gun shy because I seem Pitlick play about 30 times in his only junior season. I felt then that he was a good if not very good player at the WHL level, but thought he should stay another year in the NHL. I always use the term at bats but I am a big believer in what Malcolm Gladwell writes about, and that people need enough experience and to be put in a position to succeed before the excel. Of course their are always a few outliers each year that can make the jump, but the oilers are guilty of not allowing their prospects to over ripen.

  9. iHockeyWpg says:

    Aside from the recent bus incident, what is Constantine’s track record with developing prospects? I’m all for Khaira playing in the dub for one season. Pro hockey too soon could really hurt the kid. Sure, missing a steady cheque from the AHL may be a big deal, but did he not just pocket a 90k signing bonus? I hope they put him in the WHL. Maybe the Oil Kings can get him in a trade so they can monitor him more closely. The AHL is just too risky for a 19 year old even if he is 6’3″ and 200lbs.

  10. Bank Shot says:

    This may be Jujhar trying to make an impression with the org. He chose to leave after the free agent rush. Coincidence? Maybe he looked up and down the center depth chart, and saw a grand opportunity to make an impression with an org and a new boss that is short on centers. If Jujhar can be the cream of the crap in training camp then he stands a real shot of getting a couple of games or being a possible call up.

    More likely, he just saw that his college division is going to a junior A level, and he feels the WHL will help him develop better.

    Either way its something fun to talk about. I personally don’t believe this will impact his development. I believe that if the guy is a player, he will show it eventually regardless of what level he ends up at this season.

  11. OilClog says:

    I say bring it on!

    If he wants the challenge, takes the challenge, and raises up! Fantastic. The Oilers need this! They needs guys coming up that we’re told, they couldn’t do it, weren’t ready, don’t have the talent! The guys that make it through that, are tough as nails, work through anything, competitive battlers!

    If he falters and never becomes a player in the Bigs.. It’s really no loss.. We lose prospects every year, we’re Oilers, nothing new.

  12. melancholyculkin says:

    I really don’t understand the aversion to using the ECHL as a development league. Eventually some smart team is going to start treating it the same way MLB teams treat AA baseball.

  13. FrankenOil says:

    Since he was drafted from the Junior A, is he subject to the same rules as if he was drafted out of the CHL? If so, he wouldn’t be eligible to play in the AHL.

  14. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    In his interview with Oilers Now Khaira seemed pretty clear it was between the NHL and WHL and he was banking on WHL.

    I think he was even under the impression that he was too young or something for the AHL.

  15. speeds says:

    FrankenOil,

    My understanding is that only players drafted from the CHL are not allowed to play in the AHL before age 20. The NHL/CHL agreement isn’t publicly available (at least, I haven’t seen it) – I don’t know if it applies to players drafted from the AJHL/BCHL.

    It’s a pretty rare thing for someone to be drafted from the AJHL or BCHL and make the NHL or AHL prior to 20. Turris was drafted from the BCHL, played a year of college, and then played in both the NHL and AHL as a 19 year old – from that example I’d imagine Khaira could play in the AHL but I suppose it’s possible things could have changed since then, or that the situation isn’t completely analogous?

  16. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    from this post

    http://lowetide.ca/blog/2013/08/khaira-where-does-he-fit.html/comment-page-1#comment-245582

    “it is just after the 7 min mark on the Aug 8th 4th half hour Show Clip”

    can’t find Oilers Now archived back to the 8th… any help?

    http://www.630ched.com/oilers-now/

  17. RexLibris says:

    The Senators have offered Cowen an 8 year deal, after playing only 90-odd games in the NHL.

    Taken with the Alfredsson debacle and a series of other botched/leaked trades, rants about targeting players from ownership, etc and it is hard to not to question some of the decision-makers in this organization.

  18. Chester Copperpot says:

    I just want to add a personal note about Jujar’s development. I was the coach of a major midget team he tried out for in the lower mainland of BC (Valleywest) and I cut this kid in training camp. When he tried out he was a feisty mean player who had a little touch around the net but was small. With the overwhelming amount of returning players with the same characteristics, I cut him and he returned to his midget team. Next time I see him he’s grown 4 inches and gained 20 lbs and now looks like a beast. Players are scared of this guy when they see him sitting on the bench. Next thing I know is he’s not trying out for major midget, he’s already been granted a spot in the WHL. I really missed the boat on this kid, and that’s why I’m commenting on this forum rather than sitting in some GM chair with the Oilers. The reviews of him are outstanding since that summer.

    As far as Constantine goes, he is an excellent developer of young players. He teaches responsible two way play and is a hard ass, but has proven results. I couldn’t be more happy to have Constantine developing this kid. He’s better than most guys out there and has a record to back it up.

  19. Lowetide says:

    Chester: Excellent information, thanks so much. I’m always surprised and delighted when we get insight like this, and very much appreciate you sharing this information.

  20. jp says:

    Chester Copperpot,

    Agreed. Great insight!

    speeds:
    FrankenOil,

    My understanding is that only players drafted from the CHL are not allowed to play in the AHL before age 20.The NHL/CHL agreement isn’t publicly available (at least, I haven’t seen it)– I don’t know if it applies to players drafted from the AJHL/BCHL.

    It’s a pretty rare thing for someone to be drafted from the AJHL or BCHL and make the NHL or AHL prior to 20.Turris was drafted from the BCHL, played a year of college, and then played in both the NHL and AHL as a 19 year old – from that example I’d imagine Khaira could play in the AHL but I suppose it’s possible things could have changed since then, or that the situation isn’t completely analogous?

    I’m not certain of the rules, but is it possible that even though he was drafted out of the BCHL, since his rights are owned by a WHL team he’s still not AHL eligible? As far as I know only Europeans who weren’t drafted into the CHL (like Smid) end up playing in the AHL at 19. Also, some late birthdays are AHL eligible in their draft + 2 years.

    For Turris, he played most of his 19 yo season in the NHL and only 8 games in the AHL. My guess is that it was a “conditioning” stint or something like that. I’m not sure that he was AHL eligible at 19.

    For my part, I hope he does play the year in the WHL. Worst case he’s a front line player and top scorer. Maybe he could handle the AHL, but my guess is he’d be in over his head.

  21. gcw_rocks says:

    Tyler Pitlick is the cautionary tail here. Send him to junior.

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