TRAINING CAMP HOPEFUL #1: TONI RAJALA

Toni Rajala has really come a long way in one year. After leaving the WHL, he continued his development back in Finland, and we really didn’t have much in the way of expectations when he arrived in North America to continue his pro career. I expressed some doubt about his ability to make the Barons, and in fact Rajala found himself in Stockton early season.

2013-14 RE: 2, 0-0-0

On 12 December I ranked the prospects 1-30:

  • #26 L Toni Rajala 18, 13-12-25 (ECHL) and 5, 1-1-2 (AHL) has made an impression and one gets the feeling the small forward will get a push if and when the stars return to the NHL. I don’t think the Oilers will let him go back to Europe without a full AHL season.

Fast forward to today, and Corey Pronman’s list of top 10 Oilers prospects:

  • 4. Toni Rajala, Left Wing 
  • Year in Review: Rajala increased his stock as much as almost any other prospect this season. He started the year in the ECHL after being a slightly above-average player in Finland, and he ended up as one of the top offensive players in the AHL.
  • The Good: Rajala is a dynamic and exciting forward. He has great puck skills, displaying the ability to make defensemen miss with consistency while generating a lot from his individual skill. He is also an above-average distributor who is not selfish, despite his great hands. He makes all the right reads and his decisions are quick. Rajala skates at a good level, with quality speed and agility.
  • The Bad: His physical game is a major question mark. Rajala is small and very slight, with a major need to bulk up as much as he can. His defense also needs work.
  • Projection: He could be a second line winger.

I do have Rajala playing a couple of games in the RE projection, but the real story for this player will be via OKC in 2013-14. If he blossoms offensively, the Oilers will have a strong option on the wing from the Barons–courtesy a 4th round pick (101 overall) in 2009.

One final note: he ran away with my 5×5 TOI/Points estimate for the Barons (here) post-season.

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25 Responses to "TRAINING CAMP HOPEFUL #1: TONI RAJALA"

  1. Hammers says:

    Unfortunately he is a small forward amongst a team of small forwards . That doesn’t say he can’t play in the NHL but he needs the oportunity to at least be tradeable and I won’t be surprised to see him get 8-10 games or more this upcoming year . This Guy can play but needs a top 6 role on a team with 7 top 6 players right now . Tough to get value unless they give him a shot . Sort of like Omark but we screwed him and therefor the Oilers . Time will tell .

  2. Racki says:

    Not that I want him shipped off, by any means, but it would be nice if he gets some games here to showcase himself as a good enough player that other teams would really want him. Maybe a team like Detroit where those smallish players seem to excel (and should excel even more out East). But again, I am in no hurry to see him gone or anything, but if he helps address needs, why not.. plus I also try and think of it from the player’s point of view.. what’s best for them?

    I think there’s a good player here though, it just might be hard to really ever see him on the NHL club with the current make up, but sadly players will get injured at some point. He can play both sides I believe too.

  3. cabbiesmacker says:

    Biggest wall for this kid is which teams system he’s in. Oilers being hugely short of tough to play againsts doesn’t bode well for his NHL aspirations here.

    Rajala – Omark – Arcobello………shrug. That’s not a slam either. Just the way it is

  4. jp says:

    It’s real tough to see him fit amongst the Oilers scorers long term, but it isn’t hard to imagine him getting some games due to injury or forcing his way onto the team during camp. If he ends up playing with Hemsky for a chunk of games he could put up some points and make himself a trade target, or even make another Oiler expendable (if only Hemsky). I don’t think anyone expected him to score a point per game in the AHL – you never know, he might keep it up in the bigs.

  5. Jordan says:

    cabbiesmacker:

    Rajala – Omark – Arcobello………shrug. That’s not a slam either. Just the way it is

    Considering the players they have in the system… why don’t the Oilers just try to create the smallest, most skilled team the NHL has ever seen?

    I mean, it’s not like Katz wouldn’t have an amazing health plan for them once some of the get injured, but… if you’ve got the Oilers 2 top lines, and fill the rest out with undersized scorers… I’d be willing to see if they can win games 7-5.

    Wouldn’t you?

  6. jp says:

    Jordan: Considering the players they have in the system… why don’t the Oilers just try to create the smallest, most skilled team the NHL has ever seen?

    I mean, it’s not like Katz wouldn’t have an amazing health plan for them once some of the get injured, but… if you’ve got the Oilers 2 top lines, and fill the rest out with undersized scorers… I’d be willing to see if they can win games 7-5.

    Wouldn’t you?

    That would be awesome for a while.

  7. Dead Cat Bounce says:

    I f the Oilers are considering investing time, energy and money in Rajala, why wouldn’t they just short circuit the process and sign Mason Raymond?

  8. Lowetide says:

    Rajala’s season in 2013-14 is going to be interesting. He enters it as (basically) the best offensive weapon on the team and coming off a tremendous close. I’m looking forward to seeing how his story works out.

  9. Nightman_ says:

    Dead Cat Bounce,

    2.275 cap hit last year. What number do you see him signing for this year given the market? Lets say 1 a year deal.

  10. jfry says:

    I can see a year where there is a lot of flux in the top 6. Of the top 9, only Gordon has an established reputation of playing a lot of games. Rajala seems like a decent bet to step into top six wing duty if anyone gets hurt and the third line is having success and coach doesn’t want to move hemsky up. Lots of items in the air, but looks good for Arco and raja to get some starts even given their size.

    Weird that everyone thinks Detroit likes small players just cause they like “euros”. Their team is always a decent size

  11. bazmagoo says:

    How can St Louis afford to keep Bouwmeester, Shattenkirk, and Pietrangelo if they hope to keep a 50 million dollar internal salary cap as is rumoured.

    There’s only one guy I’d trade any of the kids for, and that’s Pietrangelo. If the internal salary cap of $50 million is legit, then why not offer Yakupov for a signed Pietrangelo? Yakupov is a budding super star on his entry level deal, Oilers get the legit #1 defenceman they need to compete, win win for both teams.

    Don’t get me wrong I love Yakupov but our team just isn’t balanced enough. That would make us pretty darn balanced asap in my opinion.

  12. striatic says:

    Yakupov is going to be the best player on the Edmonton Oilers, better than Taylor Hall, and soon.

    trading him for Pietrangelo, signed or no, is a huge mistake.

  13. bazmagoo says:

    Definitely “bold” as the saying goes. Considering Hemsky could be given a 2nd chance in that spot, I’d consider it. Yakupov is a dynamo, but I think Pietrangelo is a legitimate #1 d-man for the next 10 years. Both all stars.

  14. striatic says:

    especially when Bouwmeester is UFA next summer.

  15. bazmagoo says:

    Bouwmeester signed a 5 year, 27 million dollar extension with the Blues today. That’s what made me think of this trade scenario.

  16. bazmagoo says:

    If the Oilers landed Pietrangelo for Yakupov, they’d definitely make the playoffs next season imo.

  17. striatic says:

    The Oilers are overloaded with Defensive prospects right now, with no one around to take Yakupov’s RW minutes after this season.

    looking forward 2 or 3 seasons, Yakupov provides much more balance than Pietrangelo.

  18. bazmagoo says:

    Fair point, but all of our defense prospects are still “prospects” and not a guaranteed NHL player.

  19. striatic says:

    anybody taking Yakupov’s minutes on the second line after Hemsky leaves is going to be just as unproven as those defensive prospects.

  20. bazmagoo says:

    Why does Hemsky have to leave? What if he gets a chance to win the 2nd line right wing position back? He’s under contract and is an Oiler through and through, and he’s only 29.

  21. HBomb says:

    I’d FAR rather do Eberle-for-Pietrangelo than Yakupov-for-Pietrangelo.

    Hall, JSchultz, Yak, Nuge are my list of Oiler untouchables.

  22. Lowetide says:

    Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls. Don’t trade the #1 overalls.

  23. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Never trade a 1st overalls on ELCs and under the rights gun for years. Never.

    Eberle is a better chip to try and land a big D name. He’s entering his money years and he’s limited only by comparison with Yak.

    ——–

    Dead Cat Bounce:
    I f the Oilers are considering investing time, energy and money in Rajala, why wouldn’t they just short circuit the process and sign Mason Raymond?

    Yea. Only losing teams invest time and money into “failed prospects” that score 3.81 5×5/60 in the AHL playoffs who were picked in the 4th round.

  24. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    I think Rajala might get as many as 10 games, but I’d say a RE estimate is 6 1-1-2, with a very real chance he gets into 15 to 20 games.

    I think Zuccarello might be an interesting comparable for Rajala… but the same problem persists. Rajala will need to find a team with a hole in the lineup or willing to run a small guy in the bottom six.

  25. bazmagoo says:

    Agree with you guys for the most part, but a few things to consider:

    1 – St Louis only does this if they get a value contract back, so Eberle doesn’t work
    2 – Pietrangelo was a #4 overall pick so he’s got the same/similar pedigree
    3 – Oilers win this trade scenario this season, in the future would be anybody’s guess
    4 – The Oilers do NOT have a balanced team, too much offense not enough defense
    5 – #1 defencemen do not grow on trees so don’t underestimate Pietrangelo’s value

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