Over the last three decades, the Oilers have had many forward prospects arrive at the pro level (age 20) and get sent to the AHL. The successes come from two categories: Those who have enough offensive talent to deliver goals at a high rate (Tim Barnes identified a point-per-game at 20 as a tipping point for top-six forwards) and the quality role players, like Fernando Pisani, Daniel Cleary and Jason Chimera. They can mind the store and chip in offensively. Over the years, Edmonton has produced one or two skill forwards, and several role players.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here’s the latest!
- Lowetide: Oilers enter free agency as a major buyer. Is third time the charm?
- DNB: Oilers could look quite different next season after departure of several players
- Lowetide: It won’t be easy, but the Oilers need to re-sign Darnell Nurse soon
- DNB: Ideal Oilers free-agent targets
- New Lowetide: An early look at the Oilers’ options for the 2021 draft
- New DNB: The pressure is on Oilers GM Ken Holland
- New Lowetide: What now for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
- New DNB: Connor McDavid shows his frustration as another year of his prime is lost: ‘We’re a group that expects more’
- New Jonathan Willis: The NHL gifted the Oilers Connor McDavid; six years later, they have yet to adequately support him
AHL FORWARDS AT 20, BY PTS-GAME
1 Miro Satan 1994-95 Cape Breton Oilers 25gp, 24-16-40 1.60 Satan was exceptional out of the box, an absolute steal of a draft pick by Barry Fraser and his scouts (fifth round, 1993 draft). He scored in every league he played in, including the NHL where the brilliant Slovak scored 18 goals for Edmonton as a rookie. Glen Sather traded him to Buffalo, where he scored eight goals in his first 12 games. The best entry minor leaguer (forwards) in the Oilers system in the last 30 years and it isn’t close.
2 Ralph Intranuovo 1994-95 Cape Breton Oilers 70gp, 46-47-93 1.33 Undersized and brilliant, he would have been a major piece to any team these years later. He was a pleasure to watch play and did make it into 22 NHL games, but back then NHL teams rarely placed small players in feature roles. A quick hat tip to Peter Mahovlich, who coached in the AHL just one season and helped develop a pile of NHL players.
3 Steven Rice, 1991-92 Cape Breton Oilers 45gp, 32-20-52 1.16. He was part of the return for Mark Messier, so Oilers fans viewed him with a jaundiced eye. He was effective when healthy, but the Oilers lost him to free agency and the Whalers (compensation: Bryan Marchment) in 1994 so fans didn’t get to warm up to his style of play. He was an excellent prospect and had offensive ability, but was in a tough spot having been acquired in exchange for a local God.
4 Tyler Benson (18-19 Bakersfield Condors) 68gp, 15-51-66 .97 An exceptional rookie season, Benson’s passing ability and vision reflected in his assist total. He is as close to the Tim Barnes line as we’ve seen among Edmonton’s forward prospects in recent times, and he’s still trying to establish himself in the NHL. Took on penalty-killing duties this past season, suggesting the young winger has checked down from “skill winger” to “possible role player” in hopes of finding NHL employment.
5 Michel Riesen (99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs). 73gp, 29-31-60 .822 Riesen’s quality AHL season at 20 is somewhat misleading in that it was his second year in the league. His 99-00 AHL season and the pre-season in fall 2000 represent the highlight of his NHL career (plus the 12 games he actually got into 00-01). As has been the case many times with college defensemen, the Oilers drafting Riesen was a waste of a prospect, as there was no chance he was going to play for the team. LW’s blocking him included Ryan Smyth, Daniel Cleary, Shawn Horcoff and Ethan Moreau, all more rugged and most more defensively aware.
6 Steve Kelly (96-97 Hamilton Bulldogs). 48gp, 9-29-38 .792 Kelly was a speed demon who the Oilers liked a “hair” more than Shane Doan at the draft in 1995. Glen Sather traded him just before New Year’s 1998 and he bounced around with the Tampa Bay Lightning before winning a Stanley with the New Jersey Devils. I think he would have had more of an NHL career if Edmonton kept him. He could fly, MacT would have found some way to make him useful.
7 Rob Schremp (06-07 SWB Penguins) 69gp, 17-36-53 .768 Schremp had a tough first year pro, getting benched a few times and was a healthy scratch a few times too. His coach did have some nice things to say about him but he was always dogged by skating and coverage issues. MacT was the NHL coach and Schremp’s skill set was opposite the coach’s mission statement, which involved five on five checking and scoring goals the required real effort. He was blocked by a bunch of kids at center, from Shawn Horcoff to Jarret Stoll to Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner.
8 Magnus Paajarvi (11-12 Oklahoma City Barons) 34gp, 7-18-25 .735 Paajarvi played in the NHL at 19, so this is kind of cheating (so is Riesen, the Euro’s have different rules). Another burner, and he had a fine NHL season in 2010-11 (15 goals) but never got close again. He just turned 30 and has been in the KHL for two seasons. A truly unusual career.
9 Jarret Stoll(02-03 Hamilton Bulldogs) 76gp, 21-33-54 .711 The two things I remember about Stoll in the AHL are a goal he scored maybe 5 seconds after the faceoff at center-ice and that the “shared” Habs/Oil team that year was a beauty. Stoll played with really good players and had an excellent season, which he built upon to become a solid NHL player. That shared team is worth looking at if you have time, it does suggest that running several good prospects together in the minors can mean NHL success (Michael Ryder, Tomas Plekanec, Stoll, Fernando Pisani).
10 Kailer Yamamoto 18-19 Bakersfield Condors 23gp, 8-8-16 .70 High-end talent didn’t get a push during his AHL time but showed his fearlessness and created mountains of offense. Has a good chance to be one of the very best names on this list when all is said and done, although KY did struggle mightily to score goals down the stretch in the NHL this season. His selection by the organization was a major turning point and suggests math is a factor in Edmonton’s drafting.
11 Marc Pouliot (05-06 Hamilton Bulldogs) 65gp, 15-30-45 .692 He had a solid two-way skill set, and some slick moves that got him several NHL looks. It never happened for him, some evidence he balked at the checking role and injury contributed to his lack of NHL success. I’ve taken miles of crap for calling Pouliot as a future NHL, really thought he’d make it.
12 Jason Bonsignore (96-97 Hamilton Bulldogs). 78gp, 21-33-54 .692 Bonsignore’s career has been well documented and his 20-year old AHL season might have been his pro career highlight. These are reasonable scoring numbers for a player with a two-way game and the desire to work every shift. Bonsignore was not that player.
13 Peter Sarno (99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs). 67gp 10-36-46 .687 Sarno was an interesting prospect who ended up with 7 career NHL games for two different teams (Oilers and Columbus). He gained a solid reputation as a powerplay specialist and got a couple of long looks from the Oilers.
14 Jean Francois Jacques (05-06 Hamilton Bulldogs) 65gp, 24-20-44 .677 Jacques had a helluva pro debut and his size and speed made him a promising prospect. He lost a lot of momentum due to back injuries and lacked ‘hockey sense’. One of the truly incredible moments on this blog came with his breathtaking inability to post even a single point at the beginning of his NHL career. He played 53 games in his first three seasons, zero points. Incredible.
15 Teemu Hartikainen (10-11 Oklahoma City Barons) 66gp, 17-25-42 .636 The big Finn was a pure delight and the first 20-year old AHL forward in a couple of years to show up on the radar in the Oilers system. He was a little shy on speed but could have had an NHL career with a little luck. He built a fine career in the KHL, finishing second in league scoring this season.
16 Tyler Wright 1993-94 Cape Breton Oilers 65gp, 14-27-41 .631 Wright was a determined player who didn’t bring a lot of offense to the game and had to learn where goals are scored. Lots of players on this list had the same problem, never figured it out. Wright did, despite once playing 61 games in an NHL season without registering a point. He scored 12 goals the following year. You have to respect that kind of determination.
17 Kirk Maltby 1992-93 Cape Breton Oilers 73gp, 22-23-45 .616 He was a rugged winger, a little shy on the offense but the poster player for the AHL development style. Tough as nails, never scored more than 14 goals in an NHL season, won a bunch with the Detroit Red Wings. Slats got Dan McGillis for him, that was a good trade.
18 Kyle Brodziak (04-05 Edmonton Roadrunners) 56gp, 6-26-32 .571 Brodziak had a nice combination of size and skill. His AHL debut at 20 came on a very poor offensive team, and he built on that season (that team couldn’t score a lick), finally emerging as a legit NHL player about the time Edmonton traded him. He was an NHL regular for a long time, the next in line after Cleary, Pisani and Chimera on the list of successes. Came home to the Oilers and finished his career, I’m glad he did. Among all the players drafted by Edmonton this century, Brodziak is behind only Andrew Cogliano in NHL games played (917).
19 Raphael Lavoie, Bakersfield Condors 25, 6-8-14 .560. Lavoie didn’t get a full season (I added his playoff numbers to the total) but showed enough for fans to be excited about his future. He is streaky (goal scorers are famously so) and spends a large percentage of his shifts not moving his feet, but Lavoie is improving and has shown some real ability as a stealth back checker.
20 Jani Rita (01-02 Hamilton Bulldogs) 76gp, 25-17-42 .553 I thought Jani Rita would make it, swear to God, he was Pouliot before Pouliot. I remember at WJC goal he scored (it was real, and it was spectacular) and also saw a few AHL games in which he always looked like he was having an impact (plus he could score goals, 63 in 204 AHL games). He never made it, he had the same issue with MacT as all the other forwards who didn’t check hard every shift. He also had a long European career.
21 Slava Trukhno (07-08 Springfield Falcons) 64GP, 14-21-35 .547 I loved his passing, Trukhno could really find the lane. He had a nice debut but was a bit of wide body skater and I don’t think Edmonton had a tremendous need for a slower skill LW at the time.
22 Bogdan Yakimov (14-15 Oklahoma City Barons) 57gp, 12-16-28 .491 This is a more impressive season than it looks here, Yakimov’s offense comes in a more defensive era than some of the numbers above him. Big man has a range of skills, bolted for Russia but he had ability. His KHL career never caught fire.
23 Marco Roy (15-16 Bakersfield Condors) 42gp, 8-12-20 .480 He didn’t play on a feature line (lots of fourth line minutes and PK) and still managed to land near .5 points per game. Edmonton drafted talented players and then handled them poorly during the decade of darkness, Roy (and Hartikainen) are two of them.
24 Georges Laraque (96-97 Hamilton Bulldogs). 73gp, 14-20-34 .466 Laraque is the only one of the three 20-year old AHL prospects in 96-97 to become an NHL player and contribute to his team’s wins. The other two were Steve Kelly and Jason Bonsignore, both drafted early and with high expectations. BG was a world class enforcer and an effective shot suppression winger. When the big man held the puck down low in the opposition end, you could be sure nothing bad was going to happen. One of my favourites on this list, he was part of some legendary fourth lines.
25 Ryan McLeod 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors. 56gp, 5-18-23 .411. One of the fastest skaters on this list, he was midway through his entry deal when receiving an NHL recall. He has some issues (scoring, high traffic venturing) but his second AHL season saw him deliver a point-per-game and McLeod may land high on the NHL GP list from this group.
26 Phil Cornet (10-11 Oklahoma City Barons) 60gp, 7-16-23 .383 He looked like a tweener from the start, I always liked his spirit. Made it to the NHL for two games and at 30 he’s productive in Germany a dozen years later.
27 Tyler Pitlick 11-12 Oklahoma City Barons 62gp, 7-16-23 .371 Highly thought of on draft day 2010, a decade later he isn’t so much a failed pick as a slow developing one. He has played 286 games, and because of a free-agent loophole (he was on his way to playing enough games to become an RFA instead of UFA but got hurt), most of those games have been played elsewhere.
28 RW Greg Chase 15-16 Bakersfield Condors 19gp, 1-6-7 .370 Chase didn’t make it but he was a talented prospect and fantastic value for where they drafted him. There’s much we don’t know about player development but his junior career warranted a longer AHL look before he was traded.
29 Jason Chimera (99-00 Hamilton Bulldogs) 78gp, 15-13-28 .359 Chimera was a speed demon who had offensive talent but often approached the defensive game like Zack Kassian does in the modern era. He wasn’t happy when the Oilers traded him and played well against Edmonton for his entire career. I respect that.
30 Kyle Platzer 15-16 Bakersfield Condors 48 gp, 6-11-17 .350 I always thought the pick was innovative, as Platzer was buried on a deep London Knights team in junior. He didn’t score enough in the AHL to earn NHL time, but has found the range in the Liiga over the past two seasons.
31 Ryan Martindale 12-13 Oklahoma City Barons. 41gp, 6-8-14 .341 He showed well in a couple training camps, you could see the size being an advantage and he could pass the puck. It never found its way to the regular season, not enough anyway.
32 Dan Lacouture (97-98 Hamilton Bulldogs). 77gp, 15-10-25 .325 Lacouture was a big kid with speed when he arrived in pro hockey. I remember him scoring a goal scorers goal against Boston (probably fall 2000) as he came in over the blueline and ripped a beauty by the goalie. Lacouture learned how to stay in the NHL after a time as a role player and played at least as long as his talent merited. The first discussion about the Oilers I ever had online was with Kim Gernack (redtwilight) in regard to Lacouture’s future. Miss that guy.
33 Curtis Hamilton 11-12 Oklahoma City Barons. 41gp, 5-6-11 .268 A wildly disappointing pro debut based on his final junior season, Hamilton never did get untracked during his entry level deal. Improved in year four and made it to the NHL for one game, but more was expected. He did not play pro hockey in 2020-21.
34 Kirill Maksimov (19-20 Bakersfield Condors) 53gp, 5-8-13 .250 A disappointing season but far from a confirmation he won’t have an NHL career. He can score goals, has utility and had an interesting year in Russia 2020-21. His final entry year should be in Bakersfield on a feature line.
35 Jujhar Khaira (14-15 Oklahoma City Barons) 51gp, 4-6-10 .196 He is 240 games into his NHL career despite a distinct lack of offense (per 82 NHL games he has scored 8-12-20). Khaira has less offensive talent than pretty much everyone on this list, but there are only eight men ranked above him with more NHL GP in their careers.
36 Travis Ewanyk (13-14 Oklahoma City Barons) 68gp, 7-5-12 .176 Ewanyk had a lot of nice things but the offense in junior suggested this would happen. What is the difference between Khaira and Ewanyk? Don’t know but both were shy offensively. Ewanyk was highly regarded in his draft year, he made Bob McKenzie’s list. That was the period (2011) where you could identify teams who were using math to set their draft lists, and those teams that did not use math to set their draft lists.
37 Zack Stortini (05-06 Iowa/Milwaukee) 64gp, 2-8-10 .156 Low event offensive player also slowed down the other side a little, but not on BG’s level. Got all he could out of his career and should be remembered as a guy MacT played over many more talented kids. Stortini earned every shift with hard work.
38 Mitch Moroz (14-15 Oklahoma City Barons) 66gp, 5-4-9 .136 Big man came off injury at the end of the Memorial Cup and then had some issues in the AHL, among them ice time. Moroz should have been drafted in the fourth round, don’t think he could overcome expectations. That’s not his fault, and the Oilers learned from the exercise.
39 Kale Kessy (13-14 Oklahoma City Barons) 54gp, 2-4-6 .111 Now universally hated for his hit on Cooper Marody, Kessy was never wildly popular with Oilers fans (return on the Rieder trade) but most of that wasn’t his fault. Never played in the NHL, still active.