Part 2 of my summer feature, Prospect Profile, finds us examining a trio of players in the Oilers system that will be playing collegiate hockey this upcoming season. In the past, the Oilers have dipped into the US college system on a fairly regular basis to find players, whether it be via free agency in the case of Justin Schultz or Marc Arcobello, or by using a mid round draft pick, as they did twice in 2012 when they drafted both Joey Leleggia and John McCarron out of college, both of whom we’ll look at on a future date.
Following his draft year in 2013, Aidan Muir joined the Indiana Ice of the USHL for one season, before moving on to Western Michigan University. The Oilers took Muir in the 4th round that year, with the 113th pick, adding more depth to the forward position. Muir looked to have some impressive offensive potential, as the left winger amassed 14 goals and 41 points in his 51 games with the Ice in the 2013-14 season, helping the team capture the USHL championship, the Clark Cup. His offense seemed to dry up a bit though following his jump the NCHC the following year, as Muir only turned in 15 points in his 36 games as a freshman. Perhaps that can be contributed to it being his first year of collegiate hockey, playing against older and stronger opposition.
Unfortunately, Muir was not at the Oilers development camp earlier this year, so I wasn’t able to get a look at him on the ice. I also had a difficult time finding any video of him, aside from a highlight reel goal he scored while with Indiana, which you can find below.
Based solely on his numbers since being drafted, it’s somewhat difficult for me to profess to know what kind of player Muir is, or when Oiler fans can expect to see him have an opportunity to play in the NHL. As it stands now, my personal opinion is the Oilers aren’t going to be in any rush to see Muir leave college to go pro. It would more than likely benefit both sides to allow Muir to finish his hockey career at Western Michigan, and hopefully gain some more size and strength to his 6’0″, 212 lbs. frame. This upcoming year, and likely the season after, are going to be key for Muir to show the Oilers he still has an offensive touch, and is deserving of an ELC from the club.
I can’t really say Tyler Vesel stood out for me too much at the development camp. In all honesty, he was a smaller forward who got lost in the group of smaller forwards in attendance, standing at 5’9″ and weighing in at 182 lbs. Drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 draft, and I don’t mean for this to be a knock against Vesel, but he epitomized everything that was wrong with the Oilers scouting staff at that time. Too often they drafted undersized players who were supposed to have the potential to counter that with skill. With that, there is definitely a skilled player in Vesel, although he could be a project for the Oilers to develop.
The Oilers drafted Vesel out of the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. In the year leading up to his draft, Vesel notched an impressive 33-38-71 in 49 games. Vesel then took a similar path to Aidan Muir, jumping to college hockey the next year with the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. Vesel though, seemed to carry some of his offensive flare with him into his freshman year, going 8-15-23 in 39 games, and gaining some big game experience in the Frozen Four, although the Mavericks lost in the semi-final
For Vesel, drafted as an overage player, he needs a breakout year with the Mavericks this season to really catch the attention of the Oilers. Even so, while I think there is a very good chance the Oilers will sign him to an ECL, Vesel will find himself in tough to stand out in an organization that drafted so many similar players.
Another pick from the 2013 draft class, the Oilers selected Evan Campbell following his last year of Junior ‘A’ hockey with the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen, where he scored 66 points in 51 games, including 20 goals, making him the first NHL draft pick in franchise history. His first year with the UMass-Lowell River Hawks saw him contribute only 9-2-11 in his 33 games. His numbers the next season started to climb however, as Campbell increased his totals to 12-15-27 in 34 games. There’s every reason to believe those numbers will continue to increase as Campbell readies himself for the 2015-16 season, his third at UMass-Lowell.
Like Tyler Vesel, I didn’t see anything overly memorable from Campbell at the development camp. He’s an average sized player, who could stand to add some weight before trying to make the leap to pro. One thing that could very well work against Campbell is the path he’s taking in his hockey career. Not to say there is anything wrong with it. By all accounts, the BCHL is a very tough league to play in, and the opportunity to get a top education from a US school while playing hockey is an excellent opportunity. What I mean when I mention the path Campbell is taking, is that there are players in the Oilers organization who have a higher pedigree, and have faced stiffer competition in their development that Campbell has.
Already at 22 years of age, there’s every reason to believe the Oilers are going to let Campbell play out his college commitment before deciding on him one way or another. If his numbers continue to increase, perhaps he gets noticed enough to get a shot in Bakersfield. My opinion is he’s going to be another prospect who falls just short of expectations, like so many players taken under the Stu MacGregor regime.