For Edmonton Oilers’ fans, the future of this franchise is very bright. For this summer’s top prospects list, we compiled separate lists from three Edmonton contributors and applied a prospect points system. If a player finished first on one writer’s list, he received ten points.
Each writer came to the same argument that Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto separated themselves from the rest of the pack. From there every writer came up with a different list ranking their prospects from #3-10.
Here are each of the contributor’s list.
Oilers Top Prospect Lists – The Panel
|#||Larry Fisher’s List||Kelly Provost’s List||Shane Sander’s List|
|1||Jesse Puljujarvi||Jesse Puljujarvi||Jesse Puljujarvi|
|2||Kailer Yamamoto||Kailer Yamamoto||Kailer Yamamoto|
|3||Ethan Bear||Caleb Jones||Tyler Benson|
|4||Tyler Benson||Ethan Bear||Dylan Wells|
|5||Caleb Jones||Nick Ellis||Ethan Bear|
|6||Laurent Brossoit||Dylan Wells||Laurent Brossoit|
|7||Jujhar Khaira||Tyler Benson||Caleb Jones|
|8||Ziyat Paigin||Ostap Safin||Stuart Skinner|
|9||Markus Niemelainen||Laurent Brossoit||Jujhar Khaira|
|10||Nick Ellis||Stuart Skinner||Nick Ellis|
Oilers Top 10 Prospects
Despite an up and down year, the contributors named Jesse Puljujarvi the Oilers’ top prospect with a total of 30 points according to our system. The Oilers’ fourth overall pick in 2016 finished the year strong with the Bakersfield Condors with 28 points in 39 games. Puljujarvi, 19, will get a chance to win a top-six job with Edmonton next fall.
Kailer Yamamoto, the Oilers’ 22nd overall pick from this year’s draft, finished second with 27 points. Yamamoto exudes confidence and already stated he’s got lofty goals of making Edmonton’s roster right out of training camp. If unsuccessful, Yamamoto might be considered the best player in the WHL by the end of next season. The 18-year-old finished sixth in WHL scoring last season with 99 points in 65 games.
After Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, there’s some separation. Edmonton’s defensive depth has been considered their strong suit over the last few seasons with their drafting, college free-agent signings, and overall development. However, just two blueliners made our top ten list; Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones. Both will be making their pro debuts next season with the Condors.
The biggest surprise is that four goaltenders made our final list. Laurent Brossoit, Dylan Wells, Nick Ellis and Stuart Skinner are the backbone of a fruitful pipeline in net. Since joining the NHL in 1979, just four of Edmonton’s 41 goaltending draft picks have played more than 100 NHL games. Wells and Skinner will look to add their names to that list. Both could be potential starting goalies in the future.
Edmonton Oilers Top 10 Prospects
|1||Jesse Puljujarvi (RW)||30||Bakersfield (AHL)||39||12||28|
|2||Kailer Yamamoto (RW)||27||Spokane (WHL)||65||42||99|
|3||Ethan Bear (D)||21||Seattle (WHL)||67||28||70|
|4||Tyler Benson (LW)||19||Vancouver (WHL)||33||11||42|
|5||Caleb Jones (D)||18||Portland (WHL)||63||9||62|
|6||Laurent Brossoit (G)||12||Edmonton (NHL)||8||1.99||.928|
|7||Dylan Wells (G)||12||Peterborough (OHL)||52||3.07||.916|
|8||Nick Ellis (G)||8||Bakersfield (AHL)||34||2.69||.918|
|9||Jujhar Khaira (LW)||6||Bakersfield (AHL)||27||8||20|
|10||Stuart Skinner (G)||4||Lethbridge (WHL)||60||3.26||.905|
1. Jesse Puljujarvi (RW)
Acquired: Drafted 4th overall in 2016
Much was made about Puljujarvi floundering below expectations after fellow top five picks like Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine excelled. Puljujarvi might’ve played just 28 of 40 games with the Oilers before being sent down to the minors, but he finished the year strong.
There’s not a lot of prospects with Puljujarvi’s combination of size, speed, and skill. Eventually, he could become a top line player for Edmonton. Since joining Bakersfield midway through the year, Puljujarvi started shooting the puck more.
He was tasked with going up against the opposition’s top defensive pairings on most nights and finished the year with 28 points in 36 games.
With the departure of Jordan Eberle, there’s a real opportunity to see Puljujarvi challenge for a top six job with the Oilers next season. Edmonton didn’t go out and sign a significant free agent, so that’s got to be the organization’s way of giving Puljujarvi a vote of confidence.
2. Kailer Yamamoto (RW)
Acquired: Drafted 22nd overall in 2017
There’s the outside possibility Yamamoto could end up starting the season with the Oilers. Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) believes it’s absolutely within the realm of possibility despite what everyone says about his small stature.
At 5’7″ and 146 pounds, Yamamoto is the smallest first round pick since the New Jersey Devils drafted Jean-Francois Damphousse in 1997.
Make no mistake; there is some significant upside to Edmonton’s 2017 first round pick. His style comparables have been notably to Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, and Mats Zuccarello.
The most likelihood is that the Oilers have themselves a version of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson. He’ll likely return to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs this season, and could be a huge piece for Team USA at the 2018 WJC’s.
Yamamoto is a sure fire top six player, and in some circles, there’s a reasonable projection of him eventually being a top line talent.
3. Ethan Bear (RD)
Acquired: Drafted 124th overall (5th round) in 2015
There’s generally not a whole lot of fanfare and buzz around a fifth round pick, but when you are named the WHL’s Top Defenseman, people take notice. You’d be hard tasked to find another prospect in the Oilers’ system that had a better year in 2016-17 than Ethan Bear.
Bear finished the year with 28 goals and 70 points in 67 games and led the Seattle Thunderbirds to a WHL Championship. The Thunderbirds went winless in the Memorial Cup, and a lot of that was because Bear wasn’t at 100%.
He didn’t skate at development camp in earlier July, but he’ll be ready for training camp where he’ll play his first full year as a pro. At 5’11 and 200-pounds, Bear has a cannon of a shot and could one day quarterback the Oilers power play.
He’s not too shabby defensively and could potentially play a top-four role with the Condors in 2017-18. Bear is still about two seasons away from making an actual impact with the Oilers, but don’t count him out from making his NHL debut as a call-up sometime this season.
4. Tyler Benson (LW)
Acquired: Drafted 32nd overall (2nd round) in 2016
If it weren’t for all the injuries Benson has gone through over the last few seasons, you’d likely see him higher on this list. Injuries to his back, groin, and a sports hernia have limited his ability to play. Now Benson is ready to turn the page on his injury woes.
In the past two seasons, he’s been limited to just 63 games. He played sparingly in development camp this month, instead focusing on individual skating sessions with Edmonton’s skating coach David Pelletier.
When healthy, Benson has been a point-per-game player (1.12) in the last two seasons. He plays a power game and has outstanding on-ice awareness. Benson’s the kind of player that elevates those around him.
If he can shake the injury bug and get back on track, the former first overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft could develop into a future top-six winger for Edmonton. He enters the final year of his WHL career and could potentially suit up for Team Canada at the 2018 WJC’s.
5. Caleb Jones (RD)
Acquired: Drafted 117th overall (4th round) in 2015
Bear might be getting a lot of love from Oiler fans, but don’t forget about Caleb Jones. The younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets’ defenseman Seth, Caleb has arguably been Portland Winterhawks best defenseman over the past two seasons.
He capped off an impressive junior career with a gold medal at the 2017 WJC’s with Team USA. In 135 WHL games, Jones put up 117 points and was the Winterhawks’ top scoring defenseman in back-to-back years.
Jones has shown versatility in that he can play in any situation he’s asked to by combining offensive and defensive prowess. He’s as nasty as he is crafty with the puck. Jones could develop into a future top four defenseman for the Oilers with a two-way skill set.
He’ll turn pro this season and play for the Condors, and similar to Bear, don’t be surprised if he makes his NHL debut in 2017-18. He’s still a few years away, but make no bones about it, Jones has a very bright future ahead of him.
6. Laurent Brossoit (G)
Acquired: Trade with Calgary Flames in November 2013
At one point Brossoit was pegged as Edmonton’s goalie of the future after being acquired from the acquired from the Calgary Flames in November 2013. That tag might belong to another Oilers prospect on this list now.
Regardless Brossoit was one of the few shining lights on a very weak Condors team this year that stayed competitive thanks to his goaltending. After Jonas Gustavsson was demoted, Brossoit became the Oilers backup and will likely play his first full season with Edmonton in 2017-18.
In eight appearances in 2017-18, Brossoit recorded a 1.99 goals-against-average, and a .928 save percentage. He’s a big goalie at 6’3″ and 200-pounds, he moves fairly well and is a fairly good athletic skill set.
From a timing perspective and with Cam Talbot looking like the Oilers starter for the next several years, Brossoit might not emerge as a starter in Edmonton. That said he has outstanding upside as a backup goalie and is just 24 years old.
7. Dylan Wells (G)
Acquired: Drafted 123th overall (5th round) in 2016
Wells had given credit to the notion that the Oilers are finally finding value in some of the later rounds of the draft for once. The starting goalie of the Peterborough Petes emerged as one of the best goalies in the OHL last season.
He led the Petes to the OHL Eastern Conference Final and will look to lead his team to the Memorial Cup this year. Among goalies who played a minimal of 30 games in the OHL, Wells had the fifth-best save percentage at .916 in 2016-17.
Wells has stolen the tag of being the Oilers goalie of the future from Brossoit and has the highest upside in Edmonton’s suddenly deep organization crease. Along with Stuart Skinner, Wells could be Canada’s goalie at the 2018 WJC’s.
At 6’2″ and 183 pounds, Wells is still filling out but could be the most underrated pick from the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s a highly competitive goalie and even scored a playoff goal this season. He’s several years away, but there’s a lot to be excited about for Oiler fans.
8. Nick Ellis (G)
Acquired: College Free-Agent signing in April 2016
Nick Ellis exceeded expectations in his first pro season and finished the year as the Condors starting goalie once Brossoit graduated to the Oilers. He finished the year with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 34 games.
Next season he’ll share the crease with the AHL veteran Ed Pasquale. At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Ellis is technically the smallest goalie in the Oilers’ system, but he’s got high praise from Edmonton’s goalie coach Dustin Schwartz.
Schwartz described the 23-year-old as a highly competitive, positionally strong goalie who tracks pucks well. What Ellis lacks in overall size, he makes up with skill. He could be one of the bigger surprises among Edmonton’s prospect bases in a few years.
Realistically Ellis projects as a backup goalie, but don’t be surprised if he surpasses those expectations.
9. Jujhar Khaira (LW)
Acquired: Drafted 63rd overall (3rd round) in 2012
Khaira has slipped over the past few seasons on the Oilers overall top prospect list, namely because he hasn’t been able to take his offensive game to the next level. He’s a 6’3″, 215-pound power forward that’s made drastic improvements in his defensive play.
But in 133 AHL games, Khaira has scored just 57 points after a prolific BCHL career that got the Oilers attention in the 2012 third-round. The now 22-year-old will have a chance to crack Edmonton’s fourth line in 2017-18.
His potential long-term ceiling might be as a third-line forward, but he’ll need to show he can start putting up points and contribute in the Oilers top nine.
In 25 appearances with the Oilers over the past three seasons, Khaira has scored just three points. That said, he scored 20 points in 28 games with the Condors during an injury-plagued season.
Somewhere along the line, Khaira will need to find what once made him a point-per-game player in the BCHL.
10. Stuart Skinner (G)
Acquired: Drafted 78th overall (3rd round) in 2017
Like Benson, Skinner is an Edmonton-area prospect that projects highly for the Oilers. They moved up in the draft four spots to get him, and he ended up being the fifth goaltender off the board at 78th overall.
Skinner might’ve taken a step back during the regular season for the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, but he bounced back in the playoffs. He led the Hurricanes to the WHL Eastern Conference Final with a .916 save percentage and was invited to Team Canada’s 2018 WJC development camp.
Skinner’s a big goalie standing at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, he covers a lot of net and could one day be a starting goalie in the NHL. That said there are holes in Skinner’s game that he’ll need to patch up to live up to those expectations.
Some feel he has poor rebound control, often finds himself out of position, and can be a little overzealous. These are coachable changes that can alter Skinner’s style. If he can continue to progress over the next few seasons, he’ll be a solid pick for the Oilers.
Ziyat Paigin (RD) – The Oilers seventh round pick in 2015 signed a two-year entry-level contract (ELC) in April. Paigin got into five games with the Condors to end the 2017-18 season. At 6’6″ and 205 pounds, there’s a lot to like about Paigin. The 22-year-old played very well against KHL competition in the last three seasons. He’s a big, physical defender, but he’s started to show some offensive abilities and a booming point shot.
Ostap Safin (RW) – Edmonton’s fourth-round pick from 2017 is a big, lanky forward at 6’4″ and 200 pounds. He scored 18 points in 24 games with HC Sparta Praha in the Czech junior league. Safin, 18, was also selected in the first round of the CHL Import Draft by the Saint John Sea Dogs. He skates exceptionally well for a man of his size and has a very accurate shot. Will likely represent the Czech Republic at the 2018 WJC’s.
Markus Niemelainen (LD) – The Oilers third round pick in 2016 regressed in his second year in the OHL. He went from a 27 point season to just nine in 2016-17. At 6’6″ and 205 pounds, there’s potential of him being a decent shutdown defenseman for Edmonton down the road. In the meantime, he’ll be heading back to Finland to play for HPK.
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.