A Rational Look at Prospect ETA’s

I don’t mention it, which is bad manners, but am indebted to readers for following me down rabbit holes and mine shafts of prospect evaluation and progress measurement over many years. I’ve never asked you once if you’re interested, nor poured you a drink, just got right into the weeds. And we’re back.

THE ATHLETIC!

Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. I am proud to be part of The Athletic. Here are the most recent Oilers stories.

THE 2015 SPRING LIST

On April 10, 2015, I posted the following list of players who were either ready, close to ready, or had some travelling to do. Here are the words, with an update on how accurate my predictions were.

NHL READY NOW

D Oscar Klefbom. It seems silly to list him here but there were questions about development time at the beginning of the year and Klefbom did in fact spend time in OKC this season. He won’t see the minors again. Update: This is correct. Klefbom has been in the NHL since and delivered quality play.

C Anton Lander. The new contract signals arrival and if that wasn’t enough watching the games shows his growth as a player. My oh my, what a wonderful thing to see: An actual NHL player developed via the minor league system. Now that the club has done it, the trick is to repeat it. Update: Lander stayed in the NHL, and would last two more years in the organization, Todd Nelson the only coach who saw him as a top-9 solution. Foot speed was the issue.

R Tyler Pitlick. If the young man could stay healthy I’d be willing to bet Pitlick is on the opening night roster in the fall. This week’s games had value despite the standings, as the young winger has shown a range of skills (and scored a goal) to put his name front and center for next year. Update: Oh Pitlick! In 2015-16, he would spend the year (injury riddled) in Bakersfield before finally emerging as an NHL player in 2016-17. He might still be an Oilers winger but yet another injury meant he qualified as a UFA in the summer of 2017. He is now a productive NHL role player.

D Martin Marincin. There are gaps in his game (awareness, strength) but it’s my guess he’ll settle in as a solid top 6 defenseman for many NHL seasons—hopefully with the Oilers. Update: I missed by a little, he is more a No. 8 NHL defenseman. He has played in every NHL season since 2013-14 and continues to have the wingspan of a massive jet airliner.

D Brandon Davidson. I think he’s ready for the 7D role, but that job is likely to be gifted to a veteran like Nikitin or Ference next season. Davidson has impressed me with his mobility, grit and passing. Far better player than I thought he’d be, Davidson has a chance to have a career. Update: It happened just this way, Davidson emerged as the best defenseman Edmonton drafted in 2010. Injuries kept him from staying in the lineup but there was a time when this player looked capable of a career as a top-4 NHL defenseman.

ANY DAY NOW

D Darnell Nurse. I think it makes worlds of sense to place him in Bakersfield, but if Nurse arrives in training camp and is clearly among the six best defensemen? Keep him, even if it mean placing a veteran on waivers—up to and including Niki Nikitin and Andrew Ference. Update: Nurse played nine games in Bakersfield and 69 in Edmonton. Seems I had this covered.

C Leon Draisaitl. I have a feeling the big man is going to make it very difficult to send him back this fall. Leon’s performance this season showed he wasn’t ready but there were exceptional elements to his game. He’s not THAT far way. Update: He played just six games in Bakersfield and has blossomed into one of the best players in the NHL.

A YEAR OR LESS

  • R Andrew Miller. His NHL audition recently suggests we’re looking at an NHL-ready player. Update: Played six NHL games in 2015-16, got himself dealt to the Charlotte Checkers and is currently in the KHL. He played 15 NHL games, all with Edmonton.
  • G Laurent Brossoit. He has showed a lot this winter and spring but caution is always a good idea with goaltenders. Update: I think the Oilers were too careful, Todd McLellan rarely played him and the young man struggled when he did get in. Now a Winnipeg Jets backup and has posted one quality and one suspect season in the prairie city.
  • R Iiro Pakarinen. Brings a unique phyical element married to some skill. I wouldn’t be shocked if he won a job in TC. Update: He did in fact play for the Oilers in 2015-16, and for parts of the two seasons that followed. He was a little shy of grabbing a job and holding it but he found a way into 135 NHL games, one in the playoffs..
  • L Curtis Hamilton. One healthy season has him heading in a good direction and another should get him closer to his goal. Update: He played one NHL game in 2014-15 and that was it. By the time I wrote this, his NHL career was done.
  • D David Musil. Getting his first cup of coffee and looking good as an NHL player. Update: He spent two more years in the minors but the four games in 2014-15 were it.
  • D Jordan Oesterle. He’s in the range with Musil in terms of being NHL-ready. Update: Oesterle continued to play very well in the minor while getting cups of coffee with the Oilers in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He has been an NHL regular with the Chicago Blackhawks and then Arizona Coyotes since.

SUMMER 2020 LIST

I think the estimates were close for the most part, Curtis Hamilton’s NHL career was done and David Musil got passed by too many defenseman to get another shot. Other than that, the predictions are in the range. Now, let’s try the current group.

NHL READY NOW

RD Evan Bouchard. His on-ice splits in the first and second half (First 27 AHL games: 18-29, Final 27 AHL games: 23-22) are proof of progress in the minors. It’s especially impressive considering the Condors were a trainwreck in the second half. He’s NHL ready.

LW Tyler Benson. I’m less convinced he’ll play on a scoring line but it’s clear now Benson has an NHL future that can start anytime. He wins battles, his passing is exceptional and he’s always been capable as a two-way forward. The concern I have surrounds how he’ll score goals. Per 82 games in the AHL, he is averaging 197 shots and 16 goals (8 percent). Magnus Paajarvi didn’t have a long NHL career, partly because he didn’t score enough. Per 82 games in the AHL he averaged 201 shots and 19 goals (9.45 percent).

LD William Lagesson. He really is a good NHL defensive prospect but it’s hard to get anyone’s attention with the current LH depth chart in Edmonton. How ready is he? In 92 AHL games, Lagesson’s on-ice even strength goal differential is 82-58, +24. In the same two year period, Ethan Bear (43-29, +14 playing just 2018-19) and Caleb Jones (59-46, +13 in a year and 14 games 2019-20) flourished and found NHL employment. Lagesson is NHL-ready and NHL-calibre.

RC Cooper Marody. This is all about injury. If Marody is healthy then we’re going to see him play some NHL hockey based on his outstanding rookie season in the AHL 2018-19 (58 games, 19-45-64 and an on-ice even strength goal differential of 60-36).

RW Jesse Puljujarvi. I can’t imagine any push back on this claim. NHLE from his Liiga season (35.1) lands him No. 202 among NHL forwards (30 or more games) in 2019-20 points-per-game. That’s a third-line winger. He’s beyond ready for that role.

A YEAR OR LESS

LC Ryan McLeod. I mentioned it all during the spring, McLeod’s rookie AHL season was very impressive. His on ice even strength goal differential (27-27) was slightly superior to other rookie forwards on the team (Kirill Maksimov 26-30; Jakob Stukel 14-16) and his estimated NHLE (all of this via our friend Eric Rodgers) was 15.83. That number is also superior to Maksimov (12.85) and Stukel (10.71). Note: This could flip a year from now. What won’t flip is that McLeod is a center, and he does have some things to recommend him at the position. In just under 80 preseason minutes over two seasons, McLeod’s five on five offense (0-3-3, 2.26 points per 60) and shot differential (52 percent) are rock solid. His faceoff percentage (46 percent) is lagging, and he’ll need more time, but man this looks like a good second round pick. Like Benson, I now believe McLeod will have an NHL career. His speed is the most compelling bullet point on the resume.

G Ilya Konovalov. I’m convinced of this guy. Honestly. In the last two seasons in the KHL, a very good league, he has stopped 92.1 percent of the shots headed his way. That’s 167 goals against in 2120 shots. He just turned 22, I don’t think Ken Holland is wondering what to do. Konovalov is free to sign in Edmonton 2021 offseason.

LD Theodor Lennstrom. A solid resume but he may not receive a recall even when he’s ready. Based on success and experience it’s difficult for me to imagine he’s less NHL-ready than Joel Persson but there are minor league games in Lennstrom’s future.

THE REST

The organization badly needs these young prospects to play and the Covid-19 impact will decide how much and how long we see leagues operate across the hockey world. I think the club’s loaning of Dmitri Samorukov to the KHL reflects the uncertainty of North American hockey.

The goaltending depth chart is in a real state of flux. Konovalov and Olivier Rodrigue are the top prospects but the organization clearly still believes in Stuart Skinner. For me, goalies are a lot like pitchers in a baseball farm system: Whether it’s a kid with a 95 MPH fastball or a youngster who can paint the edges of the plate with his pitches, staying healthy and remaining in the league (AHL) increases chances of success. Skinner’s numbers aren’t grand, but Laurent Brossoit and others had some struggles before settling in. I think it’s safe to say that Skinner’s first two pro seasons have him on a career path that will see him finish shy of the NHL. Either way, the only goaltender I can project into the queue is the Russian at this time.

Defense also has a vague quality to it. Philip Broberg is currently impressing at training camp and is the highest ranked blue outside of Bouchard among prospects. However, I think he’s likely more than a year away and getting excited over small sample sizes is unwise. Thrilled at his speed, see you at 2021-22 training camp. Samorukov and Filip Berglund are more than a year away.

The forwards who didn’t make the list include some promising youngsters (Raphael Lavoie, Kirill Maksimov) but it’s hard to project them as flying through the AHL in a year or less. The two players I did wonder about are Ryan Kuffner and Joe Gambardella. The fact neither man received a camp invite is perhaps a tell.

We’ll have a look at this list in five years and I thank you for reading.

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226 Responses to "A Rational Look at Prospect ETA’s"

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  1. JimmyV1965 says:

    Harpers Hair: Will you be just as pleased if Bouchard is eating popcorn?

    Of course I will be happy if Bouchard doesn’t suit up in the playoffs. That means our defence has somehow managed to stay healthy. I’m sure Bouchard would be playing if he was on the Hawks. And there’s no way Boqvist would be playing if he was in Edmonton. Bouchard was much better than Boqvist when they both played their final junior season in London. But I’m sure you will keep pounding your weak narrative. Meh.

  2. Munny says:

    defmn: Cuthbert will do West games (Oilers)
    Hughson will do East games (Leafs)

    As I predicted back when Cuthbert was signed… to some pushback.

    #vindication

  3. Munny says:

    Harpers Hair: No Garrett, no Principe, no Remenda are just a few of the things we can be thankful for.

    Pretty sure there’s a good chance we will still be seeing Remenda between periods.

  4. Munny says:

    Lowetide: Jon did in fact cover this area in the comments section.

    That seems a strange place to cover something so fundamental to his argument.

  5. Harpers Hair says:

    Munny: Pretty sure there’s a good chance we will still be seeing Remenda between periods.

    Guess I’ll be going for a leak then.

  6. Harpers Hair says:

    JimmyV1965: Of course I will be happy if Bouchard doesn’t suit up in the playoffs. That means our defence has somehow managed to stay healthy. I’m sure Bouchard would be playing if he was on the Hawks. And there’s no way Boqvist would be playing if he was in Edmonton. Bouchard was much better than Boqvist when they both played their final junior season in London. But I’m sure you will keep pounding your weak narrative. Meh.

    If you can’t beat Matt Benning out of a job….

  7. Munny says:

    Harpers Hair: Those 95 PIM he accrued in his second season must be a mirage then.

    lol.

    That year the League leader had 409 penalty minutes, and that 95 was Larry’s biggest year.

    He fought 11 times in 16 seasons during an era when fighting was much more common.

    The mirage is you trying to use stats from a different era, completely out of context.

    Larry Murphy was never a mean SOB and in fact had the opposite reputation. Skill guy who was solid in his own end, boasted an excellent shot, good skater, decent size, but not BIG.

  8. hunter1909 says:

    Why does everyone feel like they’re obligated to compare every single bloody defensive prospect with Norris Trophy candidates, generally all based on nothing more than a bunch of half baked stats which then degenerate the blog into another argument lol

  9. €√¥£€^$ says:

    Munny: lol.

    That year the League leader had 409 penalty minutes, and that was Larry’s biggest year.

    He fought 11 times in 16 seasons during an era when fighting was much more common.

    The mirage is you trying to use stats from a different era, completely out of context.

    Larry Murphy was never a mean SOB and in fact had the opposite reputation.Skill guy who was solid in his own end, boasted an excellent shot, good skater, decent size, but not BIG.

    Brogan Harper-Rathbone: Making shit up since 2007; he’s the Donny O’Rangeman of this blog.

  10. hunter1909 says:

    For what little its worth Bouchard looked like he was extremely talented at carrying the puck when I last saw him way back when what seems like a long time ago. Outstanding skill level, Bouchard can slow a game down to suit his speed. This is what will set him apart in the NHL.

    As for comparing to this and that other defenceman, he might or not might be as good but he’s sure as hell going to improve the Oilers defence.

  11. Munny says:

    Harpers Hair:
    Interesting that Willis used only comparables from 2005 to 2011 without explaining why.

    Not only has the role of defensemen changed since then but he also doesn’t account for the defensemen who have thrived in that environment.

    So, let’s take a look at the defensemen who were drafted in the top ten in the last 10 years and see how many games they played in the AHL.

    2019
    Bowen Byram…zero and will likely be an NHL player next season.
    Moritz Seider 49
    Philip Broberg zero

    2018
    Rasmus Dahlin zero
    Quinn Hughes zero
    Adam Boqvist zero
    Evan Bouchard 54

    2017
    Miro Heiskanen zero
    Cale Makar zero

    2016
    Olli Juolevi 63
    Mikael Sergachev zero

    2015
    Noah Hanifin zero
    Ivan Provorov zero
    Zack Werenski zero

    2014
    Aaron Ekblad zero
    Haydyn Fleury 100

    2013
    Seth Jones zero
    Darnell Nurse 13
    Rasmus Ristolainen 34

    2012
    Ryan Murray 1
    Morgan Reilly 14
    Hampus Lindholm 44
    Matt Dumba 23
    Derek Pouliot 162
    Jacob Trouba zero

    2011
    Adam Larsson 66
    Dougie Hamilton zero
    Jonas Brodin 9

    2010
    Erik Gudbranson 2
    Dylan McIrath hundreds (bust)

    2009
    Victor Hedman zero
    OEL 35
    Jared Cowen 3

    So, here are the players (2019 aside) who have played zero games in the AHL before starting their NHL careers.

    Dahlin
    Hughes
    Boqvist
    Heiskanen
    Makar
    Sergachev
    Hanifin
    Provorov
    Werenski
    Ekblad
    Fleury
    Jones
    Trouba
    Hamilton
    Hedman

    That’s 15 who I would posit ALL are more likely to be “Norris candidates” ahead of Bouchard.

    Think I’ll file Jon’s story under “yeah, right”.

    You’ve listed 33 players, and only one of them has actually won a Norris. Shouldn’t you be listing players who have actually won the Norris Trophy to make your point?

    The player who has won the most Norris Trophies in recent memory took 3 years after his 18th birthday to play a game in the NHL. Oh look, and he played for Holland.

  12. JimmyV1965 says:

    Harpers Hair: If you can’t beat Matt Benning out of a job….

    Not sure if it’s worth responding, but why not. Matt Benning would also be playing ahead of Adam Bosqvist if he was in Edmonton. Evan Bouchard was a much better player than Bosqvist last year in London and Bosqvist has done absolutely nothing this year to move ahead of him. The Hawks are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, giving up the most shots against and the most high danger chances, because they have dmen like Bosqvist in the lineup.

  13. Munny says:

    Norris winners this decade:

    1. Lidstrom — drafted as an overager, so didn’t reveal himself early. And it took another two years after that before he would play a single game in the NHL.

    2. Karlsson — drafted at 18, spent 12 games in the A, struggled his first season, did okay his 2nd, but wasn’t Karlsson till his 3rd year out of the draft. Give you this one.

    3. Subban — drafted at 18, spent two more years in Junior, then a full season in the A, so did not reveal himself early

    4. Keith — drafted as an overager, played part season in NCAA, quit, went to WHL, then played two full seasons in the A. Did not reveal himself early

    5. Doughty — drafted at 18, although drafted top 3 to a lot of criticism and naysayers. Dropped straight into Kings line-up and struggled mightily but did well in his 2nd year. Revealed himself early

    6. Burns — drafted at 18, and played one game in the A and then used occasionally in the line up by the Wild, but struggled badly. Sent back to the A for 72 games in his 2nd season, but wouldn’t get offensively unwrapped till his 3rd year after that. Had another couple of lacklustre years and his drafting team eventually traded him. Did not reveal himself early.

    7. Hedman — drafted at 18 and dropped straight into the line up, in part because he was 6’6″ and 230 lbs. Didn’t find his offensive stride till his 5th year. Debatable on whether this is revealing yourself early.

    8. Giordano – our most recent Norris winner went completely undrafted.and wasn’t an NHL regular till he was 26. Definitely did not reveal himself early.

    ______

    Looks like “revealing yourself early” is actually an impediment to being a Norris winner. Point is there are many paths, even in this day and age, for an 18 year old defenseman to rise to the top of the NHL heap.

    And HH’s Reveal Theory looks like a heap of baloney, as we all probably suspected.

    The primary reason for the youth movement, whether it be F or D, is The Cap. Not “reveal yourself early”.

  14. JimmyV1965 says:

    Munny:
    Norris winners this decade:

    1. Lidstrom — drafted as an overager, so didn’t reveal himself early.And took another two years after that to make the NHL squad

    2. Karlsson — drafted at 18, spent 12 games in the A, struggled his first season, did okay his 2nd, but wasn’t Karlsson till his 3rd year out of the draft.Give you this one.

    3. Subban —drafted at 18, spent two more years in Junior, then a full season in the A, so did not reveal himself early

    4. Keith — drafted as an overager, played part season in NCAA, quit, went to WHL, then played two full seasons in the A.Did not reveal himself early

    5. Doughty — drafted at 18, although drafted top 3 to a lot of criticism and naysayers. Dropped straight into Kings line-up and struggled mightily but did well in his 2nd year.Revealed himself early

    6. Burns —drafted at 18, and dropped straight into the line up by the Wild, but struggled badly.Sent back to the A for his 2nd season, but wouldn’t get offensively unwrapped till his 3rd year after that. Had another couple of lacklustre years and his drafting team eventually traded him.Did not reveal himself early.

    7. Hedman — drafted at 18 and dropped straight into the line up, in part because he was 6’6″ and 230 lbs.Didn’t find his offensive stride till his 5th year.Debatable on whether this is revealing yourself early.

    8. Giordano – our most recent Norris winner went completely undrafted.and wasn’t an NHL regular till he was 26.Definitely did not reveal himself early.

    ______

    Looks like “revealing yourself early” is actually an impediment to being a Norris winner.Point is there are many paths, even in this day and age, for an 18 year old defenseman to rise to the top of the NHL heap.

    And HH’s Reveal Theory looks like a heap of baloney, as we all probably suspected.

    The primary reason for the youth movement, whether it be F or D, is The Cap. Not “reveal yourself early”.

    This team spent a decade rushing young kids to the NHL with disastrous results and HH comes up with the bold theory that good dmen reveal themselves early. While this may be true for maybe a handful of dmen, the vast majority of all players need development time somewhere outside the NHL. The Oilers finally appear to be doing this, thank goodness, but for some people this is a sign of failure.

  15. Munny says:

    JimmyV1965: This team spent a decade rushing young kids to the NHL with disastrous results and HH comes up with the bold theory that good dmen reveal themselves early. While this may be true for maybe a handful of dmen, the vast majority of all players need development time somewhere outside the NHL. The Oilers finally appear to be doing this, thank goodness, but for some people this is a sign of failure.

    Not a word out of place.

    When HH has been drinking—which isn’t rare—he’s just looking for personal entertainment value. For him that means being a contrarian to what everyone else is saying, frequently contradicting positions he himself has advocated in the past.

    I’m a former debate champ (not that that actually means much) so I understand the value of being able to argue both sides of a coin. But at some point you have to be real, be yourself, give your honest opinion. Because if you don’t, who are you?

    Wish he would see that.

  16. Ryan says:

    Munny,

    You forget.

    Burns played RW not Defense in the OHL prior to being drafted.

    Lemaire converted him to a defenseman.

  17. Munny says:

    Ryan:
    Munny,

    You forget.

    Burns played RW not Defense in the OHL prior to being drafted.

    Lemaire converted him to a defenseman.

    When did I forget that?

  18. Ryan says:

    Munny: When did I forget that?

    Or forgot to mention…

    One would expect a guy drafted as a winger to struggle in his draft plus one year when deployed as a defenseman in the NHL.

    Burns took a fairly inimitable path to playing d in the NHL.

    Looks like you get about as much sleep as Original Pouzar.l

    Are you at the gym already?

  19. Ryan says:

    hunter1909,

    Well, he’s sort of using a rubric that’s applied more for forwards than defensemen.

    Even then, it matters less when you arrive in the NHL, but how you’ve developed.

    Which two of the four would you select: Nuge , Landeskog, Scheifele or Kucherov?

  20. ArmchairGM says:

    Ryan:
    hunter1909,

    Well, he’s sort of using a rubric that’s applied more for forwards than defensemen.

    Even then, it matters less when you arrive in the NHL, but how you’ve developed.

    Which two of the four would you select:Nuge , Landeskog, Scheifele or Kucherov?

    Depends on what I needed, I guess. Scheifele and Nugent-Hopkins are the only centers listed, while Kucherov and Nugent-Hopkins are the best wingers here.

  21. jp says:

    defmn: Not a subscriber so I didn’t read it but I thought it would be of interest to those who come here on a day when the site is having problems.

    BTW – thank you to our host for what I am sure has been a long day trying to figure out what went wrong here.

    It definitely was of interest, I’d read Willis’ article earlier in the day (largely due to LT being down). I thought it was a solid piece of work though it seems like there were some (one?) dissenters. 🙂

    Agreed on the 2nd point too, must have been a tough day for LT. A lot of folks missed this blog when it was down and that’s a testament. Thank you LT.

  22. OriginalPouzar says:

    Harpers Hair: Went back and looked at that but it certainly doesn’t support his conclusion in his tweet that those (old) numbers would engender a conversation about a Norris candidate.

    The bottom line is, in the contemporary NHL, the best defensemen spend zero time in the AHL and generally are star quality almost out of the box.

    There are certainly outliers from time to time (Giordano comes to mind) but Bouchard would have to climb an enormous mountain to be even a top ten defenseman in the league never mind being a Norris candidate.

    2 of the 3 Norris trophy candidates for this season spent time in the AHL and are on the list Bouchard is being compared to…..

  23. OriginalPouzar says:

    JimmyV1965: Of course I will be happy if Bouchard doesn’t suit up in the playoffs. That means our defence has somehow managed to stay healthy. I’m sure Bouchard would be playing if he was on the Hawks. And there’s no way Boqvist would be playing if he was in Edmonton. Bouchard was much better than Boqvist when they both played their final junior season in London. But I’m sure you will keep pounding your weak narrative. Meh.

    This is correct – putting Boquist ahead of Bouchard is like putting Dobson ahead of Bouchard due to no AHL games. Dobson was a healthy scratch for most of the year and, when he did play, was the most sheltered d-man in the NHL (I believe – looking at the numbers, I can’t imagine a d-man more sheltered).

    Games played this early is largely a function of management and organizational depth at the position.

  24. OriginalPouzar says:

    Harpers Hair: If you can’t beat Matt Benning out of a job….

    If you can’t beat Jordie Benn, Oscar Fantenberg and Ashton Sauntner out of a job – at 24 years old…..

  25. Reja says:

    OriginalPouzar: 2 of the 3 Norris trophy candidates for this season spent time in the AHL and are on the list Bouchard is being compared to…..

    Anyone that mentions Larry Murphy was a mean SOB could not possibly say it with a straight face.

  26. Munny says:

    Ryan: Or forgot to mention…

    I re-iterate, when did I forget to do so?

    Your desire to have this information included does not imply fault on my behalf. I didn’t include it because it didn’t fit the format nor did it change the evaluation.

    But thank you for the putdown. Twice. Dink.

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