Joanne Ireland wrote an article yesterday that gives us an excellent timeline on Jujhar Khaira’s summer. You’ll recall Khaira signing somewhat out of the blue during the quiet period in early August–out of time when things usually get done. In Ireland’s article, she details Khaira’s summer: packing just enough for development camp (leaving the rest at Michigan Tech) with the assumption he’d return in the fall.
Long story short, he impressed the Oilers at the development camp so much they signed him to an entry level deal, effectively “fast tracking” his development in either Oklahoma City or Everett. Ireland’s article is excellent as always, recommended reading. One quote I found very interesting:
- Todd Nelson: “I noticed a drastic change at this development camp. He’s improving every time I see him, and after seeing his brothers, if everything goes as planned, he’s going to fill out nicely.”
Khaira’s stated goal in the article is to play in OKC, but I’m not certain that’s the wise course here. Based on the Oilers own recent history, sending another young forward to the minors may be unwise (Khaira won’t turn 20 until next August, whereas a player like Tyler Pitlick turned 20 soonafter his debut AHL season began). Let’s compare the struggling OKC forwards drafted by the Oilers with Khaira (using NHLE and their final junior/college seasons).
Vollman WHL/WCHA NHLE at age 18/19
- Curtis Hamilton (age 18 years, 11 months on Oct 1 of his final WHL season) 82, 9-19-28
- Tyler Pitlick (age 18 years, 11 months on Oct 1 of his WHL season) 82, 10-14-24
- Jujhar Khaira (age 18 years, 1.5 months on Oct 1 of his NCAA season) 82, 6-17-23
Khaira has a (basically) one year advantage on the two struggling Oklahoma wingers, but he’s also younger and the AHL has men 10 or more years older playing to provide for their family and the one in a million shot at an NHL job. This is no touch football league we’re talking about here and the NHLE’s (this is Vollman’s metric I’m using here) suggests Khaira’s offense isn’t so good we’re talking about a sure thing. I understand he has a wider range of skills (size, plays with an edge) but if you can’t hit above the Mendoza line your career choices eventally come down to a preference for Switzerland or Russia. As a comparison for Khaira, let’s run Pitlick’s two AHL seasons once again using Vollman’s equivalencies.
Vollman AHL to NHLE for Tyler Pitlick
- Age 20: 82, 5-11-16
- Age 21: 82, 3-7-10
Khaira is a year younger than Pitlick, and that development year should mean his bell curve sends him to the farther reaches compared to Pitlick. Still, sitting on a bench and in the pressbox at 19 is a bewildering development decision, and Todd Nelson is the same coach who had Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton. His words above suggest he’s impressed with the young man’s development, but there’s a wide gap between development camp impressions and making out the lineup card in Oklahoma City.
I remain concerned about the Oilers placement decision in Khaira’s very important 19-year old season. Make it Everett.
There’s a terrific story up at Oilers Nation by Kevin McCartney giving an independent view of the Flames-Oilers young stars game the other night. Here’s what he said about Khaira’s night:
- McCartney: Khaira was one of the few Oilers who was generating offence from down low. He drove the net, banged bodies to win pucks, and generally caused havoc for the Calgary defenders. It was obvious he’s a prospect of interest. He did, however, over-pursue the puck at times and was left stranded on plays in which Calgary was able to move the puck off their end wall. He may be used to hockey in which his physical skills are superior to those around him, or perhaps his college team played an offensive system in which the centre went low. In either case, his defensive coverage in transition was non-existent. Once the Flames had their half-court established, Khaira continued to over-pursue all the way to the side boards.