There are (again) 40 prospects worthy of mention this Christmas and we are halfway through. Today, in two posts, we will finish the list. Among the top 20, there were two goalies, eight forwards and 10 defensemen! The blue keep on coming in this 10 as well, beginning with a second-round pick who may have been born in the wrong era—but he is working like a bugger to make it anyway.
The Oilers system right now has about five tiers (imo):
- Connor McDavid
- The strong contenders for NHL complementary roles (Slepyshev-Reinhart-Brossoit-Nilsson-Davidson)
- The promising group with some flaws (Bear-Pakarinen-Yakimov-Khaira-Jones-Platzer) who will be trying to become strong contenders for NHL complementary roles
- The rest
If you post in the comments that David Musil should have been No. 16, you are not going to get a massive argument from me. I make the call based on ceiling, skill, speed and numbers, with a great deal of respect for positive arrows over the last six months. Here is 21-30 for the winter top 20.
- No. 21 (27) D David Musil. Musil was already facing a tough climb before the summer activity, but with the additions of Griffin Reinhart and several impressive draft picks, he ranks No. 11 among defensemen this year. That should not reduce the value of what he has accomplished during his pro career so far, and it is likely he will have an NHL career as a 5-6D because of his intelligence and effective play in the defensive zone. Musil does not have good foot speed and lacks much offense, so his options under a coach like Todd McLellan may be limited. He has played in four NHL games, showing flashes of his ability while also proving more development time is needed. I would guess he is behind only Griffin Reinhart among Condors in terms of defensive ability.
— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) November 15, 2015
- No. 22 (14) G Eetu Laurikainen. Finnish goalie who had some good moments in camp, played one AHL game and was loaned to HPK Hameenlinna of the SM-Liiga. He is playing well (.920) and could return next season to partner with Laurent Brossoit in Bakersfield. His performances in Finland suggest he remains a quality goaltender, but the question marks about his future (and Peter Chiarelli’s plans) are enough to move him down the list this winter.
- No. 23 (16) D Jordan Oesterle. Oesterle always impresses me with his foot speed, and offensively I think he brings enough to be considered a solid puck-moving option. Oesterle has two main issues: coverage ability and size. Among the LH players who will be available to Edmonton over the next several years, there are too many who have his skills plus—they are more complete. Rock, meet hard place. Like Musil, who he does not resemble as a player, Oesterle may well have an NHL career worth mentioning, but it is unlikely to be in Edmonton (unless we see a massive trade and the coach really likes him).
— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) October 25, 2015
- No. 24 (26) L Kale Kessy. Big man appears to be heading in a good direction (24GP, 5-3-8 in Bakersfield) and a trip to the majors is possible this year. In his last 41 AHL games, Kessy has scored eight goals—not exactly NHL calibre but progress from his two-goal debut in the league in 2013-14. He is 6.03, 212 and is coming off knee surgery a year ago. If he does make the NHL, he will be applying for the same job Luke Gazdic currently owns.
- No. 25 (19) R Tyler Pitlick. I will be the last to give up on him, but this young man has a terrible time staying healthy long enough to be counted on. He was drafted by Steve Tambellini and I think both Craig MacTavish and Peter Chiarelli would see his potential (as God as my witness, he looks like a hockey player) but you have to find a way to stay in the lineup and he cannot do it. Curio: The four men chosen right after Pitlick was selected have a total of zero NHL games. The man chosen seven picks after him? Justin Faulk.
- No. 26 (15) C Andrew Miller. Miller drops for two reasons: Edmonton’s new regime is going to run far fewer small forwards, and his NHL audition for Todd McLellan was very short—Miller didn’t deliver what was expected of him. That doesn’t mean he won’t get another chance, but second chances are less likely next season when Peter Chiarelli will put his touch on the team in a more pronounced way. I have to think his best bullet is spent, and most NHL teams have an undersized scorer in the AHL wishing and hoping.
- No. 27 (32) L Mitchell Moroz. Reports this season from the minors are far more positive, but for me the fact the young man is actually getting more playing time is the main thing. Moroz is halfway through his entry-level deal and needs to show some offensive potential. I think Peter Chiarelli has his pro scouts scouring the minors looking for big, physical forwards who can help in a complementary offensive role—Moroz needs to show he can be that guy. 20GP, 2-3-5 so far this season.
- No. 28 (31) C Tyler Vesel. The young college center makes the list here because of a nice range of skills. He has offensive ability, and has a growing reputation for being a two-way forward—the is the kind of thing that will help him at every level. Edmonton is going to need that kind of forward on an inexpensive contract and they badly lack depth in this area. A strong finish to the 2015-16 college season could earn him a pro contract with the team. 18GP, 2-10-12 so far this year, 1-4-5 in his last two games before the Christmas break.
- No. 29 (34) L Josh Winquist. He is not signed to an Oilers contract, but this is a very good bet for a minor league contract. Like all of the prospects in the system with speed as an issue, I have nicked him a little more than in previous rankings. He is 54gp, 11-15-26 in the AHL over the last two seasons—not groundbreaking but better than most in the organization. I think he may have a future.
- No. 30 (30) C Alexis Loiseau. Highly-skilled junior player has been dominant in the ECHL this season, only average in the AHL (12GP, 1-2-3). You never know, but I think he has enough offensive talent to emerge as a solid minor-league contributor. Whether that gets him a contract with the Oilers is a mystery at this time.