We have reached the point in summer where most (or all) of the winter roster is known to us and we can begin projecting players into their future roles. One of the things I like to do is slot in the team’s prospects in the most reasonable position on depth charts for the coming year. In 2015 summer I called this post Destination Unknown, last year (in honor of JP) Oulu Speedway. Since Kailer Yamamoto is from Spokane, and the city has an old kickass hotel downtown, I thought this title fit best of all. Summer Top 20 ranking in brackets, if it changed someone was traded, lost to expansion or signed elsewhere as a free agent.
(Summer 2017 ranking in brackets)
- (1) R Jesse Puljujarvi. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 28gp, 1-7-8; Bakersfield (AHL) 39gp, 12-16-28. Destination 2017-18: NHL from the start, if he scores well he’ll be here until 2030 and beyond. Peter Chiarelli wants Jesse Puljujarvi in the everyday lineup and inside the top 9F. No doubt in my mind based on Edmonton’s moves this week. If Puljujarvi can score 20 goals this coming season, the Oilers will have made the right bet all down the line.
- (2) R Kailer Yamamoto. Spokane (WHL) 65gp, 42-57-99. Destination 2017-18: Impact WHL winger, he could spend some time in the NHL at the start of the year. Numbers were fantastic. He was 28-20-48 at 5×5 this year, behind only Cody Glass among WHL players. Top skill, fantastic speed, good scorer but a better playmaker. Size the only issue and he’s a lock for pro hockey fall 2018.
- (3) RD Ethan Bear. Seattle (WHL) 67gp, 28-42-70. Destination 2017-18: A full season in Bakersfield, possible NHL cup of coffee. I think he’ll call Bakersfield home this season, for the same reason JP didn’t get a call after demotion last winter. Edmonton will be in a full playoff race and the days of coaching them up at the NHL level should be over. That may not happen on the wing, but should be the case for defensemen.
- (4) LD Caleb Jones. Portland (WHL) 63gp, 9-53-62. Destination 2017-18: A full season in Bakersfield, maybe NHL look-see. He may be the best skater among defenders in the system and that’s a big advantage when hitting pro. I’ll be watching to see where he plays on the depth chart, as his defensive acumen appears to be the only stumbling block. He can skate with NHL players right now.
- (5) L Tyler Benson. Vancouver (WHL) 33gp, 11-31-42. Destination 2017-18: A healthy and productive WHL season. The fourth WHL prospect in a row on this list, Benson would be higher save for injury. He is skating, appears to be on the right track and we can hope for a full season’s work of results in the WHL. His 1.27 points-per-game trails Yamamoto (1.52) but shows how much skill Benson brings. A promising young player.
- (6) L-R Ostap Safin. Sparta Praha (CZECH) 8gp, 1-1-2. Destination 2017-18: Big minutes and strong boxcars in highest Czech league. Simon Boisvert had him No. 25, saying “Safin is enigmatic, but his talent is obvious”. High risk-reward player he has size, speed and skill and clear blacktop on this prospect list. He is listed as a RW but shoots left, so may end up port side in pro.
- (7) LC Jujhar Khaira. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 10gp, 1-0-1; Bakersfield (AHL) 27gp, 8-12-20. Destination 2017-18: Full season in the NHL, this is the time to establish an NHL career. A lock for the roster this fall, he is the top ranked center in the system at this time. I expect he’ll replace Matt Hendricks on the Oilers roster, possibly getting penalty-killing minutes as the season grows. He’ll need to chip in 7-10 goals on offense, that’s the only real question. Oilers love his size and speed combination.
- (8) LD Ziyat Paigin. Ak Bars Kazan (KHL) 17gp, 1-3-4; Bakersfield (AHL) 5gp, 0-0-0. Destination 2017-18: AHL to start, but his pro resume should mean some NHL time in 2017-18. It’s important to remember a lot of his offense comes from power-play time (he has a terrific shot) so the boxcars will be mediocre without the 5×4. His scouting report suggests shutdown capabilities, massive wingspan, big shot without being an expert passer or transporter. This suggests third pairing and defensive work. If he is mobile, Edmonton may fast track him if injuries occur.
- (9) G Stuart Skinner. Lethbridge (WHL) 60gp, 3.26 .905. Destination 2017-18: Strong year in the WHL, possible WJ’s appearance. Regarded as one of the best goalies of his draft year for at least two years, Skinner has a chance to establish himself as the Oilers goalie of the future with a strong campaign. When it comes to goalies, an organization’s belief can count for a lot. Edmonton believes in Skinner, the verbal is akin to the days of Dubnyk as a prospect.
- (10) L Kirill Maksimov. Niagara (OHL) 66gp, 21-17-38. Destination 2017-18: Big step forward and a prominent role in OHL. One of the real wildcards in the system, the verbal from Brock Otten and others is extremely positive. Based on that and his skills, we may see him emerge as one of the top prospects in the system over this winter.
- (11) G Dylan Wells. Peterborough (OHL) 52gp, 3.07 .916. Destination 2017-18: Impact final OHL season, good chance to play at WJ’s. Year over year save percentage progress (.871 to .916) was amazing and his playoff performance (.930) added to the strength of his season. Wells and Skinner appear to be setting up for a DD vs. JDD battle for the NHL net into the future. Both men have solid resumes.
- (12) LD Dmitri Samorukov. Guelph (OHL) 67gp, 4-16-20. Destination 2017-18: A strong OHL season and emergence as a top NHL prospect. Showed well at the Hlinka and U18’s, but his OHL report card was mixed. That’s normal, a lot of adjustment in game and lifestyle. Edmonton got him in a great spot and if he can play on the smaller ice the way he does in international tournaments, the Oilers will have another quality defenseman.
- (13) LC Joe Gambardella. UMass-Lowell (NCAA) 41gp, 18-34-52; Bakersfield (AHL) 6gp, 1-2-3. Destination 2017-18: Rookie pro should have offensive success inthe AHL, could get NHL cup of coffee. With an NHLE of 82, 13-25-38, he might be the most NHL-ready of the forwards who have yet to play a big league game. Gambardella’s AHL games were like the college years, aggressive forecheck, offense from turnovers, tremendous motor. He could arrive in the NHL sooner than any of us are thinking right now.
- (14) G Laurent Brossoit. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 8gp, 1.99 .928; Bakersfield (AHL) 21gp, 2.67 .908. Destination 2017-18: NHL backup! It is his job now. My line in the sand for goalies to graduate is 25 games, and LB is at 15. He should get the final 10 and then another 10 (or so) more in his first full NHL season. Brossoit, along with Jujhar Khaira and Anton Slepyshev, are likely to the first graduating Condors who should emerge as NHL players.
- (15) RD Filip Berglund. Skelleftea (SHL) 47gp, 0-9-9. Destination 2017-18: One more SHL season before coming to North America. One of my favorite prospects, mostly because he has two-way skills and played at a high level early. Berglund averaged less than 10 minutes a night in the SHL this past season, you want to see that stretched out in 2017-18.
- (16) L Joey Laleggia. Bakersfield (AHL) 67gp, 20-18-38. Destination 2017-18: More goals in the AHL, and an NHL callup to see if he can help in the NHL. From Boxing Day forward, he went 43gp, 18-13-31. That works out to 16 goals NHLE for 82 games. He is undersized and fell through the bottom as a defenseman, but this is an itch the organization needs to scratch. He can score goals! RFA.
- (17) G Nick Ellis. Bakersfield (AHL) 34gp, 2.69 .918. Destination 2017-18: Effective AHL starter, his first NHL action. He posted superior numbers to Brossoit in Bakersfield, so at some level he has forced himself into the conversation. If Brossoit solidifies his backup role in the NHL, Ellis would have to play extremely well to get a look. His first year suggests the Oilers have a bona fide prospect.
- (18) RC Aapeli Rasanen. Sioux City (USHL) 38gp, 7-18-25. Destination 2017-18: Depth minutes at Boston College. He is progressing as a checking center with skill, speed being the one nervous item. Suffered some injury issues last season but played well at the WJ’s. I like him plenty. One downside: He won’t play a lot as a college freshman in 2017-18.
- (19) RD John Marino. Harvard (NCAA) 35gp, 2-13-15. Destination 2017-18: Another quality season in the NCAA, possibly in a more prominent role. A strong freshman season for Harvard has Marino’s stock on the rise. He could move into a more offensive role this winter and that could mean a spike in boxcars. He looks like a player.
- (20) RD Ryan Mantha. Niagara (OHL) 65, 17-41-58; Bakersfield (AHL) 2gp, 0-0-0. Destination 2017-18: Top 6D in the AHL, a slight chance of some ECHL time. The 6.05, 225 defender is going to get a chance, which may include power-play time. His issue (NY Rangers didn’t sign him) is foot speed, so we’ll know where he is compared to Bear and Jones early in the year. A solid bet but he was passed over by an NHL team and arrives in pro hockey at 21.
- (21) LD William Lagesson. UMass-Amherst (NCAA) 36gp, 2-6-8. Destination 2017-18: Establishing himself in pro hockey as a regular with Djugardens (SHL). He was loaned the Swede to Djurgardens IF in Sweden. That may be code for “we liked other guys more and can’t develop five defensemen in one year” but the compromise may be beneficial. Lagesson is a rugged rearguard with speed and mobility, Chiarelli has all kinds of time for that skill set.
- (23) LD Dillon Simpson. Edmonton Oilers (NHL) 3gp, 0-0-0; Bakersfield (AHL) 53gp, 3-8-11. Destination 2017-18: Mentoring the new kids in Bakersfield, waiting for an NHL recall. Played in his first three NHL games this season and was quietly effective. The signing over the weekend of Ryan Stanton may put Simpson No. 9 on the depth chart, but those guys play during the season. He is in a pretty good spot. RFA.
- (24) L Graham McPhee. Boston College 39gp, 2-8-10. Destination 2017-18: Increased minutes and offense in NCAA. We should begin to see what kind of offense he can deliver this season, as McPhee will be a sophomore with the BC program. He’ll need to deliver significantly more in that area, but he appears to be a capable player elsewhere. A big season for him.
- (25) G Shane Starrett. Air Force (NCAA) 37gp, 1.99 .925. Destination 2017-18: Will battle for starting AHL job, he has an excellent resume. In his two NCAA seasons, he posted .924 and .925 save percentages, suggesting this is in fact his quality of play. At 22, he is a solid pro prospect. He’s tall and thin (6.05, 180), getting mighty crowded at his position. All of this is good news, looks like a battle for the net in Bakersfield.
- (26) RC Tyler Vesel. Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA) 39gp, 14-21-35. Destination 2017-18: Another strong season in Omaha. Blossomed in his junior college season with Omaha. The numbers say he is emerging,but beware older college forwards who begin to post big numbers later in their career. I am completely unsure about him.
- (27) LD Markus Niemelainen. Saginaw (OHL). 59gp, 3-6-9. Destination 2017-18: Regular shifts with HPK in the Sm-Liiga. His point total went from 27 to nine, but the reports I got about Niemelainen had him playing well. He was a third-round pick in a summer that had three of them, all devoted to defensemen. Needs a recovery season.
- (28) LC Skyler Brind’Amour. USNDTP (USHL) 8gp, 1-0-1. Destination 2017-18: Big numbers for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL. Draft and follow meets NHL bloodlines and there’s a lot of information missing. I am looking forward to seeing what he brings and based on size (6.02, 170) and Dad (Rod) he could be a far bigger man by the time he starts college with Michigan State in 2019.
- (29) L Aidan Muir. Western Michigan (NCAA) 20gp, 2-9-11. Destination 2017-18: Healthy and good numbers in final college season. He is 6.04, 212 and has one more year of college eligibility. His NHLE (18.5) suggests he may have pro-level offense, we may see him in Bakersfield come spring. As is the case with Vesel, very hard to project how things go in terms of signing. My guess is Oilers like his size.
- (30) RD Phil Kemp. USNDTP (USHL) 25gp, 2-2-4. Destination 2017-18: Yale University, where he’ll fight for playing time. I’ve been reading about him a lot over this week, he is somewhat similar to William Lagesson. Good size, a fine skater, but his skill set fits a shutdown player. Shot blocking and defensive positioning among his bullet points. He is 6.03, 201 and a 1999.
- (31) LD Ben Betker. Bakersfield (AHL) 30gp, 1-5-6; Stockton (ECHL) 5gp, 3-2-5). Destination 2017-18: He should emerge as an AHL regular and could mentor one of the younger defenders. Gigantic human (6.06, 228) turns 23 in the fall, so his time is now. He has good mobility for a player his size, but is getting overrun by the oncoming defensemen. Had a good EV GF-GA ratio, will be interesting to see what role he plays this coming season. My guess is 6-7D in Bakersfield.
- (32) R Greg Chase. Bakersfield (AHL) 48gp, 3-11-14. Destination 2017-18: Will attempt to push through a very crowded depth chart to play regularly in the AHL. He has now played 76 games for Bakersfield, posting 5-18-23. The Oilers signings this week are going to make playing regularly a challenge. You always hope a player uses challenges as a motivation but he needs to play in order to show what he can do at the AHL level.
- (33) R Patrick Russell. Bakersfield (AHL) 68gp, 8-9-17. Destination 2017-18: Finding the range offensively. There is urgency here. He shoots the puck a lot (150 shots, 2.21 a game) and should be good for 20+ goals in the AHL as a feature player. That’s based on his USHL and NCAA resume, but he’s 24 now and the time is now.
- (34) RC Kyle Platzer. Bakersfield (AHL) 51gp, 1-7-8. Destination 2017-18: A strong showing in Bakersfield is a must for Platzer. As mentioned in the Chase piece above, the signings by Edmonton this week have to be seen as a clear indication that this organization doesn’t see a lot of F prospects in Bakersfield. There will be room for Gambardella and Laleggia, but after that it could be a veteran crew. Platzer needs to bust a move this fall.
- (35) LD Matthew Cairns. Fargo (USHL) 17gp, 0-4-4; Powell River (BCHL) 18gp, 2-14-16. Destination 2017-18: Slated for Cornell, he may play sparingly. I’m concerned that he didn’t play enough in Fargo. That’s a junior league and a drafted player should have no problems. Powell River numbers were better, but I’d rather see him in junior than not playing in college.
- (36) RD Vincent Desharnais. Providence (NCAA) 32gp, 2-1-3. Destination 2017-18: His junior season in the NCAA is straight ahead. The reports were receive on college men are rare and defensive defensemen don’t tell us much with their numbers. He is playing well enough to get positive mentions and RHD are worth a lot.
- (38) L Evan Polei. Red Deer (WHL) 69gp, 33-29-62; Bakersfield (AHL) 1gp, 0-0-0. Destination 2017-18: ECHL and AHL time, trying to earn an NHL contract. An AHL-only contract, his size and skill (6.02, 227 and 33 goals) are intriguing. Good hands, speed the issue and we’ll see in a year. He was a quality junior.
- (39) R Dave Gust. Ohio State (NCAA). 39gp, 18-23-41. Destination 2017-18: Finding a role on an offensive line in Bakersfield. He is 23, 5.10, 174 and arrives on an AHL deal. I like his skills, he is small and that is a challenge. Somewhere in the distance is the next Mark Arcobello or Frank St. Marseille, we cheer for each of these men.
- (40) R Chad Butcher. Medicine Hat (WHL) 68gp, 27-76-103. Destination 2017-18: ECHL likely, needs to thrive. Small winger with range of skills, good offense. Speed main weapon, hire 10 of these at a time if they have speed.
- (41) L Braden Christoffer. Bakersfield (AHL) 49gp, 5-3-8. Destination 2017-18: Living on the edge, hanging by a thread. Signed in a training camp fever, Christoffer has been unable to score enough or get enough playing time. This is a big season for him.
The Oilers signed Brad Malone today, it’s a two-year deal and he has a chance to make the NHL team. If you think of Malone as “New Lander” then the signing makes sense. A career 52.9 percent in the NHL faceoff dot, he can also penalty kill. Throw him on the 14F pile with Ty Rattie and Joey Laleggia, only this guy probably has a big edge based on current roster makeup. He is a fine AHL player.
I count Mitch Callahan as a prospect. He is 25, about three months older than Tyler Pitlick. If he plays well in Bakersfield, expect to see him on my Top 20 Prospects list at Christmas. Same goes for Grayson Downing, Ty Rattie, Brian Ferlin, Keegan Lowe and Edward Pasquale.