When the Edmonton Oilers drafted Jujhar Khaira, they were on the ‘draft for need’ plan and had just chosen Mitchell Moroz in the previous round. They were (and are) looking for big men who can also play the hockey. It sounds pretty damned easy, but there are very few of them available to the 30 NHL teams in any season. The number of true power forwards in the NHL, who can score at a rate we would associate with real offensive talent, is very low. Teams likes the Oilers have passed on great talent in the chase, and I believe it is folly to do so.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER TWELVE ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: L Brad Winchester (390) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2005: C Kyle Brodziak (567) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2006: L Dragan Umicevic (0) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2007: D Alex Plante (10) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2008: G Jeff Deslauriers (62) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2009: G Devan Dubnyk (254) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2010: D Jeff Petry (342) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2011: G Olivier Roy (0) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2012: L Mitchell Moroz (0) (GM: Craig MacTavish)
- December 2013: C Mark Arcobello (126) (FA, signed during Tambellini era)
- December 2014: R Jackson Houcke (0) (GM: Craig MacTavish)
It’s funny, that Brad Winchester pick in 2000 was pretty much the same as the Moroz and Khaira picks in 2012, Oilers looking for that elusive big man who could play with skill. When that player does arrive, we will count up all of the picks inside the top 100 that were an attempt to get him. I count a baker’s dozen in the first decade of this century alone.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Red Line Report: We believe this kid could be the biggest/best sleeper of the entire draft. Prince George is so far off the beaten path teams don’t even travel there for WHL games, much less BCHL contests, so he gets zero exposure. But this kid is big, mean, aggressive, nasty, and guess what… he can score too. Does the dirty work in the corners, bangs bodies and wins battles, and loves to initiate heavy contact. Powerful stride with great balance and gets leverage on his hits. Has surprisingly soft hands and puck skills with playmaking ability. Creates lots of space for smaller teammates and makes everyone braver. Very raw defensively.
- Summer 2012: 15
- Winter 2012: 7
- Summer 2013: 6
- Winter 2013: 5
- Summer 2014: 10
- Winter 2014: 7
- Summer 2015: 18
- Winter 2015: 12
- Todd Nelson: “He thinks the game really well on the ice and when you couple that with the size and skill he has, it’s going to be a very bright future for him. He’s an intelligent guy. He knows what he has to do to get better and he works hard at it. With his size and maturity and the way he approaches the game, who knows where his top level is, but I think the future is looking really positive for him.”
- Todd Nelson: “We’ve seen flashes of what JJ can be. He just needs time to mature. We’re trying to mould JJ into a two-way centreman, somebody who can kill penalties, late in games trying to preserve a game. He has the size. He just needs experience.” Source
- Lowetide, April 2015: Another big man, the sense I got out of training camp is that Khaira (and Bogdan Yakimov) had stepped ahead of some others in the organization based on management’s estimation. Khaira didn’t deliver much offense in OKC (51GP, 4-6-10) and his boxcars are a comparable for Moroz and Travis Ewanyk—the job Khaira will be applying for in the NHL (should be make it) will need a far better bat than the one he’s showing so far in his pro career. Source
Entering this season, the big question for me about Khaira had to do with the offense. Before his recall, there were signs of progress:
- Jujhar Khaira 2014-15 AHL: 51GP 4-6-10 .196 points-per-game
- Jujhar Khaira 2015-16 AHL: 16GP, 3-3-6 .375 points-per-game
That may not appear to be a monster step, but we don’t have TOI totals and we are talking about a complementary offensive player who will bring some other elements to the game. If you see Khaira as a future 30-point NHL player, does that give him enough value to project him onto the roster as a full-time contributor? His NHLE this season (using the Vollman) is 82GP, 9-10-19 and this is his second year pro. There are going to be more talented big men available to Edmonton via free agency, but he has some offensive ability and seems a more attractive package than Bogdan Yakimov (more speed) and Iiro Pakarinen (more physical) who are/will be applying for the same jobs. Seems to me he has a chance here.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 26, 2015
- Lowetide: No one questions his size or edge, but the offense has always been on the down low. At 2.03/60 estimate, we may be seeing an emerging prospect. Definite bottom six F I’d guess, you know the Habs always found a way for these guys to score enough goals. Wish we knew their secret. Source
- Neal Livingston, Tend The Farm: “I see him as a Hartikainen 2.0. If you were concerned about Hartikainen’s foot speed, Khaira has no problems. He’s a quick skater, he’s very fast and good on faceoffs.”
- Joanne Ireland, Edmonton Journal: Khaira’s parents, Sukhjinder and Komal, were at Rexall Place on Wednesday to take in his game against the Boston Bruins. It was their first chance to sit in the stands and watch him play in two years. It was also Komal’s first NHL game. She had always said if she went to an NHL game, she’d go when he was playing. Source
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey: Had some nice moments in the first period especially, when his line was heading north. Had 4 shot attempts, 2 on goal, banged hard along the walls (though 0 official hits), had a staredown with one Bruin, and also displayed some nice confidence with a lovely diagonal backhand pass out of his own end which powered a good line rush. Source
- Darcy McLeod, Cult of Hockey: A large man who doesn’t stop until he gets the puck, he also shows an ability to pass it well to others who will create scoring chances from his board work, including a great sequence along the end wall that led almost directly to the Eberle goal. A welcome addition to a RNH-Eberle line that sometimes struggles to come out of the corner with the puck. Was on his toes all night and skated miles. Source
- Jonathan Willis, Cult of Hockey: He was physical, landing big hits on Vernon Fiddler and Valeri Nichushkin. He contributed to the offence; though he didn’t get a point on the play it was his pass that teed up Hall’s 1-0 goal. He drove the net, fired the puck and generally meshed well with the skill players on the first line. Source
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) December 1, 2015
The worst time to project a prospect is when he is playing really well over very poorly. Edmonton’s picks outside the first round have not flourished after callups in the recent past, although Brandon Davidson, Tobias Rieder and Anton Slepyshev have recently bucked the trend. Khaira is a big man, he plays with an edge and does appear to play an intelligent game. Honestly, and I hate like hell referring to the Habs in a positive light, but they always found a way for their checkers to score enough to play in the lineup.
One of their tricks involved playing offensively shy forwards with high-end skill types. Jean Beliveau helped John Ferguson with the goals while Ferguson policed the 1960s. Bob Gainey would line up with Jacques Lemaire and Yvan Cournoyer. Maybe that will be Khaira’s role, or the role for a player similar to him. There is going to be room for big, rugged wingers on this Oilers team. Starting now.
— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) December 5, 2015
THE 2012 DRAFT
- Nail Yakupov, No. 1 overall. The 2015-16 season is the most encouraging we’ve seen from him since his rookie year. Injured now, he was flourishing with McDavid. Graduated to the NHL.
- Griffin Reinhart, No. 4 overall. The Oilers always liked his size and defensive acumen. Fighting for an NHL job this season, has a future in the league but there are a wide range of views on what that future might look like. No. 5 prospect, Winter 2015. (acquired summer 2015).
- Mitch Moroz, No. 32 overall. Finally getting some AHL time and showing a pulse. A candidate for the Winter Top 20.
- Jujhar Khaira, No. 63 overall. Stepped up offensively in his second AHL season, playing so well he received his first NHL callup. Has played very well in early games, earning substantial minutes on a skill line. No. 12 prospect, Winter 2015.
- Daniil Zharkov, No. 91 overall. Injured during a tryout with the AHL team. Not officially in the organization.
- Erik Gustafsson, No. 93 overall. Productive defender in Europe, Oilers passed on opportunity to sign him. Signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and is productive as a member of their team. Of course. No longer in the organization.
- Joey Laleggia, No. 123 overall. Undersized puck mover turned pro and is finding his way in the AHL. A candidate for the Winter Top 20.
- John McCarron, No. 153 overall. Didn’t sign after college, now in the ECHL. No longer part of the organization.