My list didn’t love the Oilers 2017 draft, but the selections of Kailer Yamamoto and Ostap Safin were home runs on my list. Stuart Skinner? Dmitri Samorukov? Kirill Maksimov? Didn’t make my list.
Two years later, up is down and both Yamamoto and Safin are injury worries. On the other hand, Samorukov has emerged as a legit NHL prospect and Maksimov scored 74 goals in his final two junior seasons. Prospects: You never know.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group, here’s an incredible Offer!
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Dave Tippett on rounding out his coaching staff, fixing Oilers’ special teams and using Connor McDavid
- New Lowetide: Handicapping the Oilers’ young defencemen and their chances of replacing Andrej Sekera
- Lowetide: Is Kirill Maksimov progressing as the Edmonton Oilers’ next great hope for a true homegrown sniper?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers ease pressure on crowded defensive pipeline by trading John Marino to the Penguins
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2021-22 Oilers might look like after their steady build toward contender status
- Lowetide: Joel Persson is ideally situated to win an opening night roster spot with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2019-20 Oilers might look like without trade missteps.
- Lowetide: Finding the best candidates for the final two spots on the Oilers skill lines in 2019-20.
- Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ opening night lineup, line combinations and more.
- Lowetide: Does the James Neal acquisition impact Oilers’ prospects in 2019-20?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ acquisition of James Neal could add badly needed scoring to the top two lines.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland puts his stamp on the Oilers with first big move in Lucic-Neal trade
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland ends an ugly situation for the Oilers by trading Milan Lucic for James Neal
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Potential free-agent options for the Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers defencemen can make an outlet pass?
- Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- Jonathan Willis: Josh Archibald won’t fix the Oilers’ biggest problems, but he’ll help with some key issues.
- Lowetide: Will the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors be the Oilers’ best minor-league team ever?
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
Harvest Moon 2017
I ranked 150 names for the 2017 draft, and the Oilers drafted just three of them. Here are my rankings:
No. 11 R Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs (WHL). Smart, elusive, offensive. NHLE (36.2).
No. 52 L Ostap Safin, Sparta Praha (Cze). Big forward, good skater, has plus skills. Nice range.
No. 133 LD Dmitri Samorukov, Guelph Storm (OHL). Giant defenseman, two-way type.
It’s been a wild two years for pretty much every prospects drafted by Edmonton in 2017. The changes in fortune have been drastic, good and bad.
Kailer Yamamoto averaged 37 goals per 82 games in the WHL and is averaging 30 AHL goals per 82 games—or he would be if he could stay healthy and score at his 2018-19 minor league pace (10 goals in 27 games). His skills (great hands, passer, can score goals) are a perfect match for Edmonton, but after two years of rushing him it looks like the team will slow play Yamamoto in 2019-20. He scored 5-3-8 in his final 10 games, but was shut down before the playoffs because of a lingering wrist issue. He had his surgery and should be ready this fall. I remain convinced of his ability, but he has to stay healthy and produce offense at five-on-five in the NHL. I’ll be writing about him later this week. I worry about anything to do with the hands for skill players and Yamamoto has only one avenue to the NHL.
Stuart Skinner finished up his junior career with a tremendous run in the regular season and playoffs with the Swift Current Broncos in 2017-18. In his first pro season Skinner was the No. 1 goalie in Wichita (41, 3.16 .903) and was clearly No. 3 in the minors behind Shane Starrett and Dylan Wells. His four playoff games for Bakersfield were eye openers and we’ll see where he lands this coming season. Oilers before Holland were very high on him, the verbal post-draft from Edmonton management was almost at Devan Dubnyk levels.
Dmitri Samorukov has been on the rise pretty much since his draft day. He is big, fast, strong and tough, with shutdown ability. He also delivered impressive offense in his final 83 junior games (20-53-73) that suggests there’s a more complete defender here. I can’t wait to see his progress in Bakersfield. If he proves to be NHL ready, Samorukov is going to pass about one dozen prospects in the next 12 months. Brock Otten told me the day Samorukov was drafted that he had second-round talent.
Ostap Safin was a solid draft prospect, I had him second round and Edmonton landed him in the fourth round. He had a solid draft plus one (26 goals) in the QMJHL but had all kinds of injury issues last season. He was a shell by the playoffs and we’ll see what this season brings. Safin lost an important development year, could the Oilers play him in Wichita in 2019-20? He looked good in his AHL time in 2018.
Kirill Maksimov didn’t make my list and I favor the OHL in a big way. Sometimes these kids surprise you, and Maksimov offered a clue in his draft year with 19 goals in his final 33 games (2016-17). He has since blossomed and should be able to earn work on a skill line in Bakersfield this season. Can he score 20 goals in Bakersfield?
Skyler Brind’Amour was chosen in the sixth round and would fit both my definition of ‘draft and follow’ and ‘draft and college’ for late picks. He’s big and he can skate, but in two BCHL seasons he did not dominate offensively. His college career (Quinnipiac) begins this fall.
Philip Kemp is a big, strong shutdown defenseman with enough skill to play internationally for the USA in feature tournaments. That’s a difficult team to make and likely the top bullet point for this young player. He just completed his sophomore season and has two more Yale winters to go before turning pro. He is a promising prospect.
This draft was the first one featuring Keith Gretzky working in tandem with Bob Green and his group. On draft weekend I loved the Yamamoto pick (I had him just outside the top 10) and Safin, and was curious about the rest. Now, two years later, Samorukov has more momentum than anyone drafted by Edmonton that weekend, and Maksimov enters pro hockey with a clear path to a Bakersfield skill line. Skinner had a good pro debut, Kemp is a quality shutdown prospect. Only Brind’Amour remains in about the same spot as he was on draft day, with several years in college ahead.
Yamamoto and Safin were bitten by injuries and we’ll have to see how things go this winter. If both are healthy, and Yamamoto’s hands remain magic, then we’re going to be talking about this draft a lot between now and spring.
Sean Tierney is pretty amazing with his charts and graphs, and here he brings alive Manny’s (Emmanuel Perry) chances of prospects making the NHL (here). So, Evan Bouchard has a 99 percent chance, Marody 88 and Yamamoto 80. Tyler Benson just 64 percent. Caleb Jones 80 percent, Samorukov 74 percent, Lagesson (45) and Bear (44) less of a chance. You can disregard, but these are two of the brightest minds I know, so the graph is worth pondering.
Another giant brain, Sunil is a friend who just so happens to have a combination of great insight, clarity and the ability to make strong points in 2,000 words or less. Have a read on James Neal.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning, we get started at 10, TSN1260. Jonathan Willis from The Athletic pops in as we’ll discuss all things Oilers, including Jesse Puljujarvi and reasonable expectations for Edmonton this winter. Jonah Birenbaum, senior baseball writer for The Score will chat trade deadline deals, and Corey Masisak from The Athletic NYC will chat about the big Devils-Vegas trade. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter, see you on the radio!