AND we’re back. The Top Prospects game has more prominence for Oilers fans than any other NHL team. Why? Unlike the other 29 clubs, Edmonton has been guaranteed a player from the game since the 2010 contest, and the player drafted immediately becomes the No. 1 prospect in the system on draft day. Embellishment? Not really.
We are not certain where the Oilers will draft this summer, and three of the top five players available this year are in Europe. That said, there is exceptional talent here, and if you are going to watch the game, here is a guide to viewing.
- Mike Morreale of NHL.com has five things to look for here.
- The rosters, sans revisions, was published January 7 and is here.
- Steve Kournianos of the Draft Analyst has a stellar preview here. He was my guest on the Lowdown today and gave a terrific overview here.
Here is what I will be looking for.
- R Vitalii Abramov, Gatineau Olympiques. NHLE of 32 points, that is a strong number. He is 5.09 and so the story is known. How good is he? We get a glimpse tonight.
- D Jake Bean, Calgary Hitmen. I think the Oilers might like this guy, he has substantial offense and seems to be taking a step forward for the second year in a row.
- D Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia Sting. He can wheel, that is what I want to see.
- D Sean Day, Mississauga Steelheads. Highly-touted defenseman isn’t impressing in league play, I am curious to see what he is as a player.
- F Dillon Dube, Kelowna Rockets. He has an NHLE of 25 points, I have him at No. 20 on my list. The Draft Analyst suggests he is more than a scorer, and of course one game proves nothing. Still, I would like to see a 5.10 two-way forward have an impact.
- C Noah Gregor, Moose Jaw Warriors. NHLE is 20 points, Kournianos has him emerging as a genuine offensive option, with real power-play ability.
- D Libor Hajek, Saskatoon Blades. I want to see what he looks like, have read much about him and the numbers don’t line up with the verbal.
- G Carter Hart, Everett Silvertips. What I know about goalies couldn’t fill a junk drawer, but Hart arrives at the game with a .927 SP in a damned good league. I think he might be an outstanding goalie.
- L Max Jones, London Knights. NHLE is 24 points, young power forward who can skate. There is a range of opinion, would like to see for myself.
- L Boris Katchouk, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. NHLE is 21 points, he is exactly the kind of player I prefer. The Montreal Canadiens used to develop these two-way types by the dozen and if he can deliver enough offense, Katchouk might be a gem.
- C Michael McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads. NHLE is 29 points, I am more intrigued about him than probably any other player. Craig Button describes a pretty impressive range of skills, he could emerge as a top 10 talent—I have him at No. 16 currently.
- C Sam Steel, Regina Pats. NHLE is 21 points, that is shy for a prospect who is being talked about as a first rounder. I want to see him in the offensive zone.
- R Taylor Raddysh, Erie Otters. NHLE is 31 points, that is a strong total and I think he is probably more offensively able than some of the players I currently have ranked ahead of him at this time (I have him No. 30).
- L Simon Stransky, Prince Albert Raiders. NHLE is 23 points, Kournianos considers him a first-round talent.
- L Matt Tkachuk, London Knights. NHLE is 50 points, he towers over the others in this game in terms of offense delivered—and the OHL is the best junior league on the planet. I am pretty sure he will go top five in this year’s draft, but where? I loved his WJ performance.
I spoke to Kournianos today about Ziyat Paigin and he was bullish on the young man’s future. Kournianos said he was surprised the big Russian went so late and that he is playing well in the KHL. The Oilers weakness at the NHL level is defense, but there are some hopeful things on the horizon. Paigin appears to be one of them.