The 2016 entry draft is over, the Edmonton Oilers delivered several quality prospects to a list that badly needed an infusion of real talent. When a team drafts high every summer—and graduates that prospect every fall—there isn’t much bubbling under year to year. This weekend went a long way to shoring up the system. Edmonton entered the spring with a real need for forwards—specifically wingers—and as you can see below there are several new recruits of varying quality.
TOP 20, SUMMER 2015
- C Connor McDavid
- C Leon Draisaitl—graduated
- D Darnell Nurse—graduated
- D Griffin Reinhart
- C Bogdan Yakimov
- W Iiro Pakarinen—graduated
- C Kyle Platzer
- C-R Greg Chase
- L Anton Slepyshev
- D Ethan Bear
- G Laurent Brossoit
- D Joey Laleggia
- D Dillon Simpson
- G Eetu Laurikainen
- R Andrew Miller—gone via free agency July 1
- D Jordan Oesterle
- D Caleb Jones
- C Jujhar Khaira
- R Tyler Pitlick
- D William Lagesson
Now on to this year’s list. A few rules that may answer some questions for you:
- Players over 50 games graduate (a long list, including Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson, others—but not McDavid, who has not played 50 NHL games).
- Players who have been traded no longer appear (Anders Nilsson).
- List is based on potential and gives zero weight to being close to NHL-ready.
- Previous ranking in brackets (previous ranking is from Winter 2015)
- This list likes offense.
- This list also likes prospects who can make the NHL in more than one way.
- This list punishes lack of speed.
TOP 20 PROSPECTS, SUMMER 2016
- (1) C Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (45, 16-32-48). Makes the list on a technicality, he is a blur. It is rare in sports to see a player this unique to all who have come before him. Generational talent.
- (NR) R Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (50, 13-15-28). Red Line Report: Big horse looks and plays like a Mats Sundin clone. What pleases me most about this selection is that he is truly unique when placed beside the other gifted forwards on this team. Size, speed, skill—and at least some two-way acumen. This is more than any of us could have hoped for. Two-way power forward.
- (15) LD Ziyat Paigin, Kazan Ak Bars and Sochi HC (45, 9-19-28). One giant leap from the winter rankings, but he earned it. Upon his arrival in Sochi, he was placed in a feature role and blossomed. He is not coming over this fall, and it will be good to see if he can repeat last year’s spike. NHL equivalency is 41 points Big man, big talent?
- (NR) L Tyler Benson, Vancouver Giants (30, 9-19-28). This blog loves two-way talent and Benson brings that and an agitating style. I am trusting that the organization has poked and prodded and are sure of him—this ranking is based on good health moving forward. I am fairly confident he will bring enough offense to the NHL to make it as a complementary offensive player. You want to see that potential in the coming season. Smart, aggressive two-way player.
- (NR) L Drake Cagguila, North Dakota (39, 25-26-51). He is a fascinating prospect, bringing speed and skill to a team that needs complementary wingers. Has a real chance here in Edmonton. Flyers GM Ron Hextall: “He’s got speed, he plays hard, he has a lot of good attributes. He’s got a shot at being a top six (player) based on his ability. He’s not the biggest player, but he plays hard.” Opportunity knocks.
- (9) RD Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds (69, 19-46-65). Delivered a terrific season offensively, reports have him improving defensively. Long road to go, but he does seem to have some imagination with the puck (and a great shot). One of the few D on this list who may in fact see some NHL power-play time should he continue to develop. Promising two-way prospect.
- (13) LD Caleb Jones, Portland Winterhawks (72, 10-45-55). Speed and size are his calling card, and if this offense is real Jones could be an absolute steal. Better skater than Bear, less creativity with the puck and less defensive acumen. Still a long road for both but this was an encouraging season on many levels. WheatnOil wrote a fabulous item on Jones and Bear recently. Impressive across the board skills.
- (12) C Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton Oilers (15, 0-2-2) and Bakersfield Condors (49, 10-17-27). A very encouraging season from the big forward (he is 6.03, 214), very impressive in both cities. Khaira has good speed, meaning he is somewhat unique on this list (among big forwards)—or was, until this weekend. (0.347 primary points per game, Nikita Soshnikov and Ryan Hartman are similar in age and performance. Those two men should have NHL futures, a good sign for Khaira). Emerging big forward.
- (NR) RD Filip Berglund, Skelleftea AIK (43, 19-22-41) (SuperElite). This is a very nice player. Berglund passed through last year’s draft and then spiked with the totals you see here. A mobile defender with size, puck passing ability and a fine shot. Scouting reports describe him as an effective, responsible defender. A lot to like about this player. Another blue with a range of skills.
- (5) LD Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oilers (29, 0-1-1) and Bakersfield Condors (30, 2-8-10). He continued his development in both pro leagues, and may do the same thing next season. The big part of his value is likely to be defensive, he looked more comfortable at the NHL level during his last recall of the year. Developing shutdown defenseman.
- (NR) RC Aapeli Rasanen, Tappara U20 (50, 19-19-38) (Jr. Sm-Liiga). RH center with a wide range of skills, right there in the sixth round where they all hang out! Pronman had him well inside his top 100 overall and called him a smart center. Fantastic late pick. Perfect fit pivot.
- (6) G Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton Oilers (5, 3.61 .873) and Bakersfield Condors (31, 2.66 .920). Had another strong AHL season and should be close to NHL-ready. Internal solutions (although he was a trade acquisition) are rare for Edmonton at this position. Emerging goaltender.
- (23) LD Jordan Oesterle, Edmonton Oilers (17, 0-5-5) and Bakersfield Condors (44, 4-21-25). He impressed the hell out of me with his speed in year one, and with his speed and progress in year two. I think he might make it, has a new contract that makes him a more attractive NHL option if money becomes too tight to mention. Speed works on offense and defense.
- (NR) LD Markus Niemelainen, Saginaw Spirit (65, 1-26-27). Big man with good speed, he is able to make plays with the puck if you believe Corey Pronman (I do). Expect he will be better offensively next season (one goal in 89 shots is impressive but not in the good way). I think it fair to suggest there was great value on the board when he was taken, but absolutely believe this player has value. Mobile, modern defensive defenseman?
- (4) R Anton Slepyshev, Edmonton Oilers (11, 0-1-1) and Bakersfield Condors (49, 13-8-21). His path to the NHL got more complicated this weekend—although it is possible for Puljujarvi and Slepyshev to have roles on the future Oilers. You can see why scouts like him, the combination of size and skill are compelling. He needs another strong TC and some luck. (0.271 primary points per game, Emile Poirier is similar in age and performance). Offensive winger needs to be more offensive.
- (NR) L Graham McPhee, U.S. National Development Team (20, 5-0-5). This is another two-way forward (three in this draft) and a more substantial prospect than his fifth-round selection may imply. Pronman believes he is underrated as a scorer and he was buried on the deepest amateur team on the planet (narrowly beating out the London Knights). Two-way winger with real promise.
- (29) L Josh Winquist, Bakersfield Condors (35, 8-22-30). He appears to be a legit pro scorer who is being framed as a tweener due to size. You keep working, young man. His even strength primary points-per-game in the AHL (0.343) is in the range with Dan Catenacci (11 NHL games) and Tanner Richard (0 NHL games)—both men about his age. He has a better chance (imo) than a bushel of Oilers draft picks who are signed. All he does is point crooked numbers.
- (18) LD Dillon Simpson, Bakersfield Condors (57, 4-16-20). Went 18, 2-6-8 to end the season, suggesting a more prominent offensive role. Coach Gerry Fleming mentioned his fine, consistent play at the end of the year. No idea if he makes it, but there is no lack of effort or attention to detail. Stealth development, but it is working.
- (NR) LD Matthew Cairns, Georgetown Raiders (46, 9-24-33) (OJHL). Big defender (6.02, 202) is a two-way type based on the scouting reports I have read. Good speed, can make a solid first pass and has a plus shot. He is mobile enough to defend. Now, the level he is playing currently is the reason he ranks here—despite having offensive promise. Intriguing two-way defender.
- (17) LD Joey Laleggia, Bakersfield Condors (63, 8-19-27). Posted the best offensive numbers among Condors rookies this season. Laleggia can move the puck and has creativity, the defensive game is going to be his issue. He can scoot, and with Brad Hunt likely gone (and Oesterle possibly in Edmonton) he might spike with the PP push. Impressive puck-moving defenseman.
- (20) RD John Marino, Tri-City Storm (56, 5-25-30). A smooth skater with a range of skills, we are years away from knowing him as a player. Indicator lights look good, and he is a rare righty. Marino has promising offense but we will know far more about him this time next season (he is off to Harvard in the fall). Two-way defender building intriguing resume.
- (25) R Tyler Pitlick, Bakersfield Condors (37, 7-14-21). I will be the last to give up on him, this young man has a terrible time staying healthy long enough to be counted on. Even strength primary points-per-game in the AHL (0.361) is in the range with Ty Rattie and all of the other wingers having a hard time catching on with an NHL team. At some level, it is a lot about luck for players like Pitlick. Always looked like a player to me.
- (16) LD William Lagesson, UMass-Amherst (27, 2-5-7). Mobile defender impressed Oilers fans at the world juniors, and looks like his defensive skills are the greatest part of his game. Edmonton has so many of these guys it is impossible to estimate who will and who will not emerge. A solid young defender lost in the Leftorium.
- (NR) R Patrick Russell, St. Cloud State (41, 20-21-41). College free-agent signing has size (6.01, 205) and skill. He is an older prospect (23) so his time is now, but there are opportunities on this roster. Skating appears to be the item on the resume that is concerning. The man can score.
- (11) C Bogdan Yakimov, Bakersfield Condors (36, 5-10-15) and Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik (11, 3-1-4). A giant (6.05, 232) center, he would seem to be a useful player when he develops, but the offense didn’t spike in year two and speed is a concern (both items separating him from the other Russian prospect). (0.257 primary points per game, Zach Nastasiuk is similar in age and performance). Disappointing season from big man.
- (14) RC Kyle Platzer, Bakersfield Condors (48, 6-11-17). Two-way C entered pro hockey after a strong final season in junior, and then didn’t play a whole bunch based on estimates (13+ minutes according to Prospect-Stats). He should get a bigger shot this season and hopefully takes advantage. (0.128 primary points per game). The man needs at-bats.
- (19) R Greg Chase, Bakersfield Condors (19, 1-6-7) and Norfolk Admirals (43, 18-19-37). I think he was fortunate last season. Edmonton sent him to Double-A and played him, meaning he got plenty of work. If he can push his way onto the AHL roster and have offensive success, Chase could move up this ranking in a big way by next summer. Played less than (estimated) 12 minutes a night in the AHL this year. (0.222 primary points per game). Agitating winger still has a chance.
- (NR) L Jere Salinen, Jokerit (50, 8-11-19). NHLE is 10-15-25, plays throwback style. Energy player, checker, unlikely to do something crazy like score 20 goals, has gumption. Finn flood began with this guy.
- (NR) G Nick Ellis, Providence (36, 1.80 .936). Edmonton’s college goalie signing this spring posted some nice numbers, and may have contributed to the drafting of Desharnais. Too soon to know.
- (21) D David Musil, Bakersfield Condors (67, 3-11-14). Big man is an shutdown defender in the AHL, looking for his NHL chance. The Oilers added three guys like him this weekend—two of whom appear to be better skaters—so judgement cometh and we wait for that day. Oilers sure like giving him competition.
- (32) G Miroslav Svoboda, Havirov (8, 4.51 .867) and HC Sumperk (21, 3.05 .924). He was struggling with one Czech team—got traded to another—and then had a strong run through the end of the season and through the playoffs. Early days, but good arrows in draft+1 season. Should not be overlooked—this was a solid year.
- (40) C Marco Roy, Bakersfield Condors (42, 8-12-20). He is a good checker but the offense is going to be a problem. His even strength primary points-per-game in the AHL (0.244) is equal to Laurent Dauphin and Michael Bunting. Effective checker, needs more O.
- (NR) G Dylan Wells, Peterborough Petes (27, 4.59 .871) (OHL). I would like to believe he is going to be a fine pro goalie and I respect Brock Otten a great deal. Future Considerations calls him a project goalie, and I am afraid I agree. Cheering like mad, Dylan Wells! Curio.
- (35) G Zach Nagelvoort, Michigan (11, 2.99 .893). The most disappointing pick from the 2014 draft because his draft day totals looked good, Nagelvoort still has time to turn things around. Big season ahead.
- (NR) RD Vincent DeSharnais, Providence College (19, 1-1-2) (Hockey East). Steve Kournianos: Very big, skates awkward but makes good first pass. Not physical, no way on the PP. Best thing he does is stand people up, use long stick to jar puck loose during board play. Doesn’t have Paigin’s shot/skill. They must have seen something.
- (NR) W Joey Benik, St. Cloud State (41, 23-25-48). He is 5.10, 175 and a pretty solid college scorer. AHL contract, long row to hoe but you never know. He can post offense.
- (27) L Mitch Moroz, Bakersfield Condors (40, 5-5-10). His even strength primary points-per-game in the AHL (0.231) is about equal to Taylor Leier and Marko Dano—who are about his age. Leier has an NHL cup of coffee, Dano continues to climb the NHL ladder (34 NHL games and a trade last year). Moroz needs to establish himself as a reliable, physical winger and is two-thirds of the way through entry-level deal. Big year ahead.
- (22) G Eetu Laurikainen, Bakersfield Condors (18, 3.42 .907). He struggled at times with AHL-level opposition, but survived and may hang around in North America again this year. May see ECHL action if Brossoit fails to win NHL job. End of the pro depth chart in goal.
- (28) F Tyler Vesel, Nebraska-Omaha (35, 6-12-18). The offensive spike in his final USHL season has not resulted in college success—but icetime may be a factor. College forward needs to turn north as a prospect.
- (24) L Kale Kessy, Bakersfield Condors (56, 7-5-12). Kessy had an even strength primary points-per-game in the AHL (0.182) that put him in the company of Stefan Noesen who is about the same age. It is not a good area to be in at this age, and he is RFA. Injuries have no doubt impacted his career, the promise of 2014-15 (early season) is a distant bell. Crossroads.
- (30) C Alexis Loiseau, Bakersfield Condors (12, 1-2-3) and Norfolk Admirals (54, 14-26-40). A big scorer in the Q, he had a good year in the ECHL and had a cup of coffee in the AHL. As is the case with several players on this list, he is not signed to an Oilers contract. Intriguing offense, may have a productive AHL career. Long climb.
- (31) D Ben Betker, Bakersfield Condors (14, 0-2-2) and Norfolk Admirals (49, 3-14-17). Massive defender with giant wingspan, Betker has the mobility issues we associate with this player-type. Might get a break if PC culls the LHD herd this summer. A solid first year.
- (39) L Evan Campbell, U Mass-Lowell (28, 5-7-12). He posted a strong sophomore season in 2014-15 but could not build on it last season. At 23, his senior season ahead, Campbell needs to kick out the jams in 2015-16. Distant bell.
- (34) L Braden Christoffer, Bakersfield Condors (33, 1-4-5) and Norfolk Admirals (24, 13-5-18). He had an even strength primary points-per-game in the AHL of 0.152, and that won’t get it done. There were 21-year old forwards who were in that range or worse, and I think it proves that a Double-A league is a good idea (at least your kids are getting at-bats). Difficult leap from junior to pro.
- (37) L Aidan Muir, Western Michigan (35, 2-6-8). He is 20, so there is time, but his sophomore season saw him deliver exactly half of his freshman offense. The 2014 draft was not good. He will need a strong season to re-establish himself as a prospect.
- (NR) LD Colton Waltz, Brandon Wheat Kings (34, 2-14-16) and Saskatoon Blades (31, 3-11-14). Signed to an AHL deal, the young man represents the basement of the Leftorium. There are eleven lefty prospects ahead of him, and that does not include young men like Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson.
I like the list. The Oilers had a good draft yesterday, and it is reflected in the rankings above. I understand some of you will not like the idea of a sixth-round selection being ahead of the third rounder, but this is first blush and miles to go.
I think the Oilers have tightened their list. It seems there is an insistence on:
- Players who can skate
- Players who can make plays with the puck
- Players who can deliver at least some offense
There is not a pick in this draft that feels like a Hesketh or an Abney or even a Musil or a Moroz. There are observers of the Oilers who will tell you this was a poor draft—do not believe them. There are observers of the draft who will tell you the Oilers left value on the board—this is true.
Here is the lowdown: The Edmonton Oilers delivered a strong, effective and lucky draft. They took advantage of value picks in the first round and beyond. Their draft list did not match mine or yours, but if we all leave our ego and rage aside, this was a solid draft by an organization that has had real issues in this area. I am prepared for your slings, arrows and dragons.
There is supreme talent here, and there are useful pieces below. Some of these men will rip through NHL competition beginning October, others will take years to find their way. We wait.