The Edmonton Oiler prospect depth has been suspect for more than a few years, and it’s safe to say that their inability to draft and develop beyond the first round contributed to their failures over the past decade. Between 2006 – 2014, the Oilers made a total of 56 post-first round selections, with only 20 of those players having played NHL game, and of those 20, only five have played more than 100 NHL games. Of the 56 players selected, only two are currently active on the Oilers roster (Davidson and Slepyshev), and 14 of the 56 selected remain under Oilers control. The most notable misses over that eight year window include the selection of Mitchell Moroz with the 32nd overall pick, a selection Oilers management took flack for after missing out on Ville Pokka who went only two picks later.
With a new management crew in charge we’ve seen a much different approach to the drafting and development of prospects, seeing many more college prospects added at the draft, as well as a focus on adding proven junior players instead of taking big risks on projects. The shift in philosophy came to light in the 2015 draft when the Oilers were able to add both Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones outside of the first round. The addition of college players looks good long term as they will then be afforded additional years to sign ELC’s.
There are many ways different services rank players and project potential, but the criteria for this list is fairly simple. Level of play and production given level of league. For example, a player who spent half of a season in SuperElit and was then promoted and able to produce at the SHL level is likely going to be ranked higher than a player in the OHL who was just under a point per game in their draft year, and a hair over a point per game this year. Now I understand many will say “you can’t just look at stats and say this guy is going to be better than another” which I fully agree with, however, given the inability to get a look at all of the prospects, the list is more so based on the way their career path is trending. So take a look, and let me know your thoughts.
Edmonton Oilers Prospect Grades (U-21)
A – Projected to be a top 6 forward, top 3 defenceman, or NHL 1A or 1B goalie. Very little uncertainty regarding these prospects, and their trade value would be a first round pick or a first round pick plus.
Jesse Puljujarvi (RW) – Bakersfield Condors
Expect him to be a full time top six NHL player next season. Has been able to produce at just under a point per game at the AHL level, and may earn a call up before the end of the season. Going to be a point producer in the top six, just have to be patient.
B – May not be a big time player, or even a top six forward/top three guy, but they are the most likely to carve out full time role in the NHL. Trade value is fairly high, likely a second rounder, or a second round plus.
Caleb Jones (LD) – Portland Winterhawks
Gained a lot of attention at the World Juniors when he logged over 30 minutes in the gold medal game. Has been stellar for the Hawks this season, and is on pace to pass his point total from last season. High on him given his ability to be a sound defensive zone player as well as jump in on offense.
Tyler Benson (LW) – Vancouver Giants
He’ll be an NHL’er if he can get past the injury problems. The positive on that is the lack of repeating injuries. Good nose for the net and is likely a bottom six forward. The real test for Benson will come next year on what will be a Giants team that should be able to score, so we’ll see how big of a factor he is.
Ethan Bear (RD) – Seattle Thunderbirds
Hasn’t had the most consistent year, but is on pace to blow past 70 points from the blue line. Reminds me a lot of Duncan Keith, could be a big time player. Good skater, good hockey sense, will see him in the AHL next year, with the hope being his game transitions easily.
Filip Berglund (RD) – Skelleftea AIK
Taken in the third round and was able to jump up to log full time SHL minutes this season. Has a contract through 17/18, and will hopefully make the jump to North America in two years, but the Oilers are able to be patient and hope he’s able to continue to develop.
C – Projected to be a fringe NHL player, and there’s quite a bit of optimism with these players. Unlikely to ever be a top six forward or top three defenceman, but could carve out a role at the NHL level.
Dylan Wells (G) – Peterborough Petes
Strong year with Peterborough, maintaining above a .910 save percentage throughout most of the season. Has performed well internationally and has sound fundamentals. Have to be patient with goalies, but he’s proving to be a good pickup.
Kyle Platzer (C) – Bakersfield Condors
Hasn’t had the best season in terms of offensive production, but has been held to a fourth line role for the majority of the season. He has a good offensive toolset, and may be a bottom six forward down the road. Would like to see what he could do in a more prominent role.
Aapeli Rasanen (C) – Sioux City Musketeers
Strong first year in North America, earning a spot on the Finnish World Junior roster where he was a point per game player. Right handed center who has been very strong in the dot. Heading to Boston College next season.
William Lagesson (LD) – UMass (Amherst)
Was left off the Swedish World Junior roster after playing with them the year before. He’s a mean two way defenceman who can pass the puck. Defends well. Next two years at UMass will be extremely beneficial.
John Marino (RD) – Harvard University
Strong freshman campaign with Harvard. Plays a steady two way game. Strong skater who will see his role with Harvard expand in the coming years. Right handed shot adds value, especially to the Oilers.
D – Unlikely to ever be a full time NHL player, and may be considered a project or labelled as enigmatic. May have some trade value, but would likely be a later pick.
Matthew Cairns (LD) – Powell River Kings
After moving from Fargo to Powell River, Cairns picked up his offensive production logging 16 points in 18 games. He’s heading to Cornell next year where we will get a more accurate idea of what his game really is.
Graham McPhee (LW) – Boston College
Had an average first year at BC, however his two way game seems to be a bright spot. Good bloodlines, likely finds a contract down the road, but hard to read an 18 year old playing a depth role in college. Patience.
Markus Niemelainen (LD) – Saginaw Spirit
A bit of a disastrous year for Niemelainen as his offensive totals dropped tremendously and his inability to find consistency really hurt his game. He’s a project worth investing in, and I wouldn’t doubt we see him return to Europe to find his game.
E – Not likely to sign a pro contract, zero trade value at the moment.
Miroslav Svoboda (G) – HC Dukla Jihlava
Has posted good numbers in the Czech 2 league, but has struggled with conditioning and athleticism. He’s still young, and like I said, you never know with goalies, but he seems like a lifetime European player.
Vincent Desharnais (RD) – Providence College
With the importance of puck moving defenceman at an all time high, not sure the 6’6 defenceman who has only registered 6 assists in the past three years, his chance at the NHL seems doubtful.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to get your feedback to know where you’d make changes or who else you might push up to an A or B rating. To get ahold of me, send a tweet to @york_dg