We discussed the gap between Detroit’s development system and what the Oilers are doing a little yesterday afternoon. I wanted to look a little deeper to see if we can identify the gap in another way: actual NHL prospects. In order to qualify, players have to be going in a good direction—that’s all. I’ve allowed a couple around the fringes of each side, but these are trending men we’re dealing with here.
- R Gustav Nyquist, 24. 15GP, 7-4-11 and 57GP, 28-20-48 with Detroit. Slightly undersized winger who is brilliant and has an amazing future. How in hell they kept him on the farm for 137 games is beyond me. The best prospect on either team.
- C Riley Sheahan, 21. 31GP, 8-10-18 and 42GP, 9-15-24 with Detroit. Big two-way center, a first-round pick in 2010 (ten selections before Tyler Pitlick) and he looks like a winning bet from here. Scored better in the NHL than The Hockey News suggests he will long term.
- G Patr Mrazek, 21. 32GP, 2.10 .924 and 9GP, 1.74 and .927 with Detroit. The Hockey News marked him as a quality prospect and he sure has the look based on numbers. He was chosen 20 slots after Tyler Bunz, 2010.
- R Tomas Jurco, 20. 32GP, 13-19-32 and 36GP, 8-7-15 with Detroit. The Hockey News tells us he’s a talented scoring winger with speed and size. That’s a universally valued player no matter the range of skills. The Hockey News says he has some maturing to do without the puck, but this is an excellent prospect.
- L Teemu Pulkkinen, 21. 71GP, 31-28-59 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (3 games). The Hockey News describes him as an extremely skilled winger with slick moves. He can play either wing, the ? is size but he looks very good from here. The last 21-year old Oiler prospect to score close to 30 in the AHL? Jason Chimera popped 29 at the turn of the century.
- D Ryan Sproul, 20. 72GP, 11-21-32 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (1 game). This is a 6.03, 185 offensive defenseman who could be a very good two-way player over time. Had a solid pro debut after playing in front of Darnell Nurse at SSM. I’d say he’s a quality prospect.
- D Adam Almquist, 22. 73GP, 4-49-53 and 2 games (with a goal) in Detroit. Undersized puck mover drafted in the bowels of the 2009 draft enjoyed an exceptional season in the AHL. No idea if he’ll make it, but he’s a real prospect.
- G Tom McCollum, 23. 46GP, 2.30 .922. A first round pick in 2008 (chosen eight slots after Jordan Eberle), he’s losing ground to Mrazek but I included him because he had the fifth-best SP in the AHL last season.
- R Landon Ferraro, 22. 70GP, 15-16-31 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (4 games). Fell off offensively this season, he isn’t a big player and appears to be something of a tweener. I’ve included him because of his draft pedigree (No. 32 overall in 2009, eight selections ahead of Anton Lander).
- R Mitch Callahan, 22. 70GP, 26-18-44 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (1 game). The Hockey News describes him as an energy guy with skating issues. A guess would be he’s a Pitlick comp, but that’s a guess.
- D Xavier Ouellet, 20. 70GP, 4-13-17 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (4 games). Another puck mover, The Hockey News says he can run a power play but he didn’t in his first season pro (and that happens a lot). Average size, who knows? But he’s a prospect going in a good direction.
- R Andrej Nestrasil, 22. 70GP, 16-20-36. Another 2009 draft pick (No. 75 overall, four picks after Troy Hesketh), he has size and took a very nice step forward this season. I don’t think there’s a long NHL career here.
- D Alexey Marchenko, 21. 49GP, 3-15-18 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (1 game). Bigger defenseman with puck-moving ability, his boxcars are nothing special. Too soon to know, he could surprise.
- R Martin Frk, 20. 50GP, 3-9-12. Like Ferraro, he’s included due to draft pedigree but had a poor season. Two items come to mind: playing time (like Pitlick as a rookie) and the quality of RW above him. I’d suggest we should expect a spike in the coming season.
This is an organization that develops talent in a very effective manner. If my son was an NHL prospect, I’d light a candle every hour on the hour leading up to the draft and hope the development team in Motown got him. Few till the soil with the touch of these Detroit wheels.
- D Martin Marincin, 21. 24GP, 3-4-7 and 44GP, 0-6-6 with Edmonton. 6.04 and nearing 200 pounds, he was a sight for sore eyes when he got off the plane and showed he was in fact an actual defenseman. The Hockey News: Is quite lanky, with a very projectable 6-5 frame. Boasts great puck-moving qualities and offensive acumen. Also displays plenty of shutdown upside. I like him better than Klefbom, but suspect the organization prefers Treble Klef.
- D Oscar Klefbom, 20. 48GP, 1-9-10 and 17GP, 1-2-3 with Edmonton. Klefbom gets nice words from The Hockey News: Owns massive shutdown upside, thanks largely to great size (6-3, 204 pounds), a physical edge to his game and mobility. Also possesses a little puck-moving and offensive potential. An Oilers first round pick who turns out well after spending time in the AHL? That my friends is what we call a unicorn.
- C Mark Arcobello, 25. 15GP, 10-18-28 and 41GP, 4-14-18 with Edmonton. A truly wonderful story, he overcame bias and his own organization to post a terrific season in both Edmonton and Oklahoma.
- C Anton Lander, 22. 46GP, 18-34-52 and 27GP, 0-1-1 with Edmonton. Two-way center with average size, scored well at 19 in the Swedish league and then again last season in OKC at age 22. Other than that, crickets with the bat and truly ghastly in the NHL. A grand opportunity awaits him this season.
- R Tyler Pitlick, 22. 39GP, 8-14-22 and 10GP, 1-0-1 with Edmonton. A versatile forward who has enough size and speed to play in the NHL, but may lack enough offense to hold on to an NHL job.
- D Martin Gernat, 20. 57GP, 4-71-21. 6.05 and now over 200 pounds, he’s a big, raw defenseman with two-way ability. Similar in style and appearance to Martin Marincin, his rough edges may mean he’s a three year AHL defenseman. He shows potential as a complete defender.
- D Taylor Fedun, 25. 65GP, 10-28-38 and a cup of coffee with Edmonton (4 games). Undersized two-way defender who seemed to get more attention for his offense than overall play. RH, reliable and a hard worker.
- D David Musil, 20. 61GP, 2-12-14. Physical stay-at-home defender overcame lack of mobility and had a strong pro debut. Musil is so good at reading sorties that he can make up for other deficiencies. The question becomes ‘can he do it in the NHL?’ and at this rate he’ll get a chance during his entry-level deal.
- L Roman Horak, 22. 53GP, 21-27-48 and a cup of coffee with Edmonton (2 games). A nice pickup in mid-season, he played very well once he move over to the wing. I don’t know if we’ll see him again, but there’s evidence he can play.
- D Brad Hunt, 25. 66GP, 11-39-50 and a cup of coffee with Edmonton (3 games). Puck moving defenseman who is challenged without the puck for several reasons, including size. I think he’s at the very end of the show business rung for Edmonton’s blue, but his arrows are pointed in a good direction.
- D Brandon Davidson, 22. 68GP, 5-8-13. Slow start to the season, but pulled away mid-year and had an effective second half. Regarded as a two-way defender at the time of his draft, as with most defensive prospects the lack of pro power-play time has turned him into a one dimensional type.
- R Andrew Miller, 24. 52GP, 8-26-34. Two-way winger had a nice second half of the season. I would guess he is among the least likely prospects to succeed on either list, but he is headed in a good direction.
- L Curtis Hamilton, 22. 43GP, 8-8-16. As with Landon Ferraro, I’m including Hamilton due to draft pedigree. His scouting report via The Hockey News (“Displays good size (6-2, 206 pounds) and solid two-way capabilities. Proved capable of producing good offensive totals in the junior ranks, but he’s also a very responsible winger”) makes his lack of progress in pro hockey even more frustrating.
- C Travis Ewanyk, 20. 68GP, 7-5-12. Checking center makes the list because (according to reports) of improved play during the season. I’m not bullish on his long term potential to stay in pro hockey with these kinds of boxcars, but the Oilers like him plenty.
The Oilers have two outstanding prospects in Marincin and Klefbom, followed by Mark Arcobello who we can rank as bona fide. After that, there’s a group of several who are going to get a chance, and we’ll see.
The Oilers are not in Detroit’s league in terms of development, but they are improving. This isn’t a MacT versus Tambellini issue, both men had the task of crawling from the wreckage of the team put to sleep a decade ago. That kind of shortsighted move by ownership (EIG) cost Edmonton a generation of talent, and impacted kids from 2002 to 2007. Not having structure, having to rebuild what other teams had established and cultivated for decades, had a tremendous impact on the prospects and the NHL team.
How many times did Edmonton make the call to the farm and receive dust and tumbleweeds in return? How surprised were the Oilers and their fans to see Martin Marincin’s electric performance after recall? It had been so long, so very long.
There’s no secret here. Draft and develop. The Oilers could make a trade this year, a “dealing from strength” trade that addresses need. When that day arrives, when a Colin McDonald is sent away for value instead of signing elsewhere and beginning his NHL career, another corner will have been turned.
The actions of the EIG effectively turned the Oilers into an expansion team, and the work done by Steve Tambellini, Todd Nelson and Craig MacTavish is only now beginning to turn things around. I remember Guy Flaming ripping the EIG’s decision to put the AHL team to sleep when it happened, and the cost has been tremendous, in young people and in competitive balance.
If shooting yourself in the foot was a skill, the EIG Oilers would have been Gretzky.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we hit the air on TSN 1260. Dennis King begins the proceeedings at 10:05, followed by Jeff Krushell who is back from Europe and ready to talk pennant race and training camp. At 11, Kady Hobbins from Puck Rant and Hockey’s Future will be by to discuss Oilers prospects (and which ones may make the Oilers) and Dave Jamieson previews the NFL games tonight at around 11:40. I’m attempting to get Rider Prophet on at 11:25 to talk about the Dressler, we’ll see if we can get that rolling. See you on the radio!