With the 2016 NHL Draft happening in just a few weeks it’s about time we review the Edmonton Oilers prospect pool. The Oilers have seen a tendency to graduate former first round picks to the NHL level rather quickly so over the past several seasons the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom have left the pool. Add in the fact that the Oilers have drafted poorly outside of the first round and you have a recipe for disaster.
To paint a picture since 2010 the Oilers have drafted 42 players outside of the first round and of that crop just 4 have played more than 41 games in the NHL. Three of them are currently playing for other clubs. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson (2012 – 4th round) is in Chicago, forward Tobias Rieder (2011 – 4th round) is in Arizona and Martin Marincin (2010 – 2nd round) is with Toronto. So of that group only one is still playing for the team, Brandon Davidson (2010 – 6th round).
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Chiarelli tried to address the barren cupboards by signing several free agents including; F Patrick Russell, F Jere Sallinen, F Drake Caggiula and G Nick Ellis. Caggiula projects to be the biggest addition of the group and has the best shot at cracking the Oilers opening night roster in 2016-17 in a depth role.
The Oilers have some decent prospects in the cupboard but they also have one theme that most prospects carried through 2015-16, they struggled. There are a few that may not end up getting qualifying offers once their entry-level contracts (ELC) expire and a few that the Oilers completely missed the mark on. Of note Tyler Pitlick, a former second round pick in 2010 may find himself hitting the UFA market this summer if the Oilers don’t qualify his rights.
To be considered for the prospects list it was rather simple; any prospect in the system (whether contracted or not) that played less than 50% (41 games) of the NHL season in 2015-16.
G Zach Nagelvoort, 22 – Since being drafted in the 4th round of 2014 his numbers have nose-dived from a 0.929 to 0.893 SV%. Lost the starting job with NCAA University of Michigan, now the backup finds himself in a probability of not getting signed by the Oilers. Has a decent glove and can handle the puck. Jury is still out otherwise.
G Miroslav Svoboda, 21 – Edmonton’s 2015 7th round pick is currently playing in the Czech 2 and was a tale of two tapes. On one side he had a horrendous 4.51 GAA and 0.867 SV% in 8 games for AZ Havirov, the other he had a decent 0.924 SV% in 21 games with HC Sumperk where he was a positive in an otherwise last place finish for the team. At 6’3 176lbs he’s another project for the Oilers. A year prior he was a backup at the 2015 WJC for the Czech Republic. Natural step is to move up to Czech Extraliga next season where building consistency and adding to his size will be key. Still unknown potential could have a ceiling as high as a backup or floor as low as a depth goaltender i
D William Lagesson, 20 – Oilers 4th round pick in 2014, currently playing in NCAA had an injury-plagued year but projects (like many others in the field) as a No. 5-7 defender. Lagesson is a physical player with good positional sense who asserts himself in the defensive zone.
LW Braden Christoffer, 21 – The darling of Oilers training camp this year he struggled to adjust to the pro game in his first year with just 5 points in 33 games. Played a 24 game portion of the season with the ECHL Norfolk Admirals scoring 13 goals and 18 points. Christoffer is a project forward at a generous 5’10 and 187lbs but plays a gritty offensive game and is a decent forechecker. Needs a solid year in 2016-17 to really cement himself in the teams long-term plan.
RW Tyler Pitlick, 24 – An RFA this summer, it’s entirely possible the 31st overall pick in 2010 is not tendered a qualifying offer. Pitlick has struggled with injuries and consistency issues since turning pro and has played in just 27 games scoring 3 goals over the past five seasons.
|20||D Ben Betker|| Drafted 2013|
|19||C Kyle Platzer|| Drafted 2013|
|18||L Mitch Moroz|| Drafted 2012|
|17||G Eetu Laurikainen|| Signed FA|
|16||LW Jere Sallinen|| Signed FA|
|15||D Joey LaLeggia|| Drafted 2012|
|14||C Greg Chase|| Drafted 2013|
|13||D Dillon Simpson|| Drafted 2011|
|12||D David Musil|| Drafted 2011|
|11||C Bogdan Yakimov||Drafted 2015|
|D Ben Betker, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: Raw project defender with a 6’6 223lbs frame. Due to crowded blueline ended up playing in 49 ECHL games scoring 17 points. Played 14 AHL games and projects as a third-pairing defensive defenseman. The biggest defender in the system right now still years away but physical play and shutdown ability are intriguing. Had a decent prospect camp last year, will enter his second pro season in 2016-17.|
Potential: No. 5-7 Shutdown Defender
|C Kyle Platzer, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: A two-way forward who was coming off a tremendous 81 point season in the OHL, Platzer struggled to find meaningful minutes in the AHL last season scoring just 17 points in 48 games. Has the potential to become a solid bottom-six forward but needs time to adjust to pro game. Versatile can play multiple forward positions|
Potential: Two-Way Depth Forward
|L Mitch Moroz, 22 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: When the Oilers selected him 32nd overall in 2012 they were expecting to get a Milan Lucic-like power forward for their top six. Hasn’t gone as planned. Development has slowed by injuries and has just 19 points in 106 career AHL games. Could still become a fourth line player for Oilers but has one year left on his ELC to warrant a re-signing next summer.|
Potential: Bottom-Six Power Forward
|G Eetu Laurikainen, 23 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: At 6’0 185lbs he isn’t the biggest goalie around and until the Scrivens trade he didn’t get his fair shake in 2015-16 riding shotgun to starter Laurent Brossoit. Still in 18 AHL games he posted a 0.907 SV%. He was loaned at the beginning of the year to HPK in Finland and in 8 games played very well with a 2.16 GAA and 0.921 SV%.|
Projects as an NHL backup but has a very small sample size in North America outside of a solid career playing in WHL for Swift Current. With the possibility of Oilers signing a UFA backup and the signing of Nick Ellis, Laurikainen could find himself as the ECHL starter in 2016-17.
Potential: Depth Goaltender
|L Jere Sallinen, 25 | 2015-16 Main Club: Jokerit (KHL)|
|Player Analysis: A former 6th round pick in 2009 of the Minnesota Wild, he signed a one-year deal this off-season with the Oilers for 2016-17. Speed, hands, energy and a high compete level are used to describe the Finnish forward who put up a modest 19 points in 50 games playing in the KHL.|
Projects as a bottom-six forward with an ability to chip in offensively.
Potential: Bottom-Six Forward
|D Joey LaLeggia, 23 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: A small stature offensive defenseman at 5’9 183lbs, could be compared to a M-A Bergeron type PP specialist, could become a Danny Syvret type minor-pro player. A 5th round pick in 2012, could have the highest offensive upside of any Oilers defender in the system.|
Had a decent year paired with Musil scoring 8 goals 27 points in 63 AHL games.
Potential: No. 5/6 Offensive Defenseman (PP Specialist)
|C Greg Chase, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Norfolk Admirals (ECHL)|
|Player Analysis: A 2013 7th round pick he projects himself as an Andrew Shaw-like agitator with decent offensive upside. Had a great prospect camp last summer but became a victim of the numbers game in the AHL this season playing limited minutes in 19 games.|
Played a bigger role in the ECHL scoring 37 points in 43 games and is quitely moving up the Oilers prospect ranks. A better player than his draft position lets on.
Potential: Bottom-Six Forward
|D Dillon Simpson, 23 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: The son of a former NHLer. Made a name for himself as the captain and No.1 defender for University of North Dakota, now entering his third pro season. Very good positionally, can play both special teams and could find himself playing some games next year in the NHL. Projects as a solid No.5/6 defender.|
Potential: No. 5/6 Two-Way Defenseman
|D David Musil, 23 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: Like Simpson, a son of a former NHLer, he’s also an RFA this summer the jury is still out on him becoming an NHL regular. Musil projects as a No. 6/7 defensive defenseman with the biggest knock being lack of foot speed. Next year will be his fourth year as a pro and he has just 4 NHL games to show for it, disappointing considering he was a 31st overall pick in 2011.|
That said he’s improved his offensive game year after year with 14 points in 67 AHL games last year. Could be a decent complimentary stay-at-home defender in the future.
Potential: No. 6/7 Defensive Defenseman
|C Bogdan Yakimov, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: Outside of the Oilers Top 10 prospects, he’s the best guy with the most intangibles. Projects as a future 3C with an enviable 6’5 230lb frame and good playmaking abilities.|
Struggled in his second season in North America scoring just 15 points in 36 games in the AHL before leaving for the KHL after what might’ve been a minor squabble with his coach over ice-time. Still a long-term project but could become a serviceable depth player in years to come.
Potential: No. 3 Center
Top 10 Prospects
|10||L Anton Slepyshev||Drafted 2013|
|9||D Caleb Jones||Drafted 2015|
|8||D Jordan Oesterle||Signed FA|
|7||R Patrick Russell||Signed FA|
|6||G Nick Ellis||Signed FA|
|5||D Ethan Bear||Drafted 2015|
|4||L Jujhar Khaira||Drafted 2012|
|3||C Drake Caggiula||Signed FA|
|2||G Laurent Brossoit||Trade from CGY|
|1||D Griffin Reinhart||Trade from NYI|
|L Anton Slepyshev, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: A 3rd round pick in 2013, Slepyshev finally came over to North America with the legend of John Henry’s Hammer sort of speak. A decent sized offensively gifted Russian forward with hands and speed.|
He struggled with adjusting to the North American pro game and after making the Oilers out of training camp and playing a limited role in 11 NHL games he was demoted. It took Slepyshev some time but he produced 21 points in 49 AHL games.
Slepyshev enters his second year on his ELC and will likely see time at the NHL level again once injuries rear their ugly head. This time he needs to be more productive than his one assist he had in 2015-16.
Potential: Top 9 Scoring Forward
|D Caleb Jones, 19 | 2015-16 Main Club: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)|
|Player Analysis: Younger brother of Columbus defenseman Seth Jones and NBA legend Popeye Jones, he’s an offensively gifted blueliner who had a solid year playing alongside Nashville prospect Jack Dougherty.|
A puck-moving defender with good mobility and quick shot he could be a nice find for the Oilers in the 2015 4th round. Comparable to Seth, he’s more of a defensive defender than his brother who is more of a solid all-around defender.
Plays a physical game and will return to junior for another season and may find himself challenging for a spot on the WJC team for USA.
Potential: No. 4-6 Two-Way Defender
|D Jordan Oesterle, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: Played a small sample 17 NHL games in 2015-16 and will challenge for a regular spot on the Oilers 2016-17 blueline as a No.5-7 defender. An average sized defender he’s improved his offensive stats year on year.|
This will be his third full-season as a pro in 16-17 and he’s a decent puck-moving defender with great transitional speed which will suit him well at the faster NHL level.
An undrafted free agent signing he’s another Oilers prospect from the NCAA. He’s currently an RFA this summer after ending the year in Edmonton and will have to outplay the likes of Andrew Ference (if not bought out), Griffin Reinhart and Adam Clendening for a final roster spot.
Potential: No. 5-6 Offensive Defenseman
|R Patrick Russell, 23 | 2015-16 Main Club: St. Cloud State Univ. (NCAA)|
|Player Analysis: A decently sized offensive forward with a good shot, Russell projects to be a depth scorer in the NHL. At 6’1 205lbs he|
Signed as a undrafted free agent, Chiarelli described him as a late blooming power forward with strong board skills. He isn’t NHL ready but at 23 he shouldn’t be that far away.
He’s got a good shot and his ability to find space in the slot might make him a dangerous finisher off the rush or forecheck.
Potential: Top 9 Scoring Forward
|G Nick Ellis, 22 | 2015-16 Main Club: Providence College (NCAA)|
|Player Analysis: Up until this season Ellis was a virtually unknown as the backup to Flames top goaltending prospect Jon Gillies. He became the starter and backstopped Providence to the Northeast semifinals.|
Signed as a undrafted free agent this spring, has a decent frame at 6’1 180lbs and outside of Laurent Brossoit, he is the only other goalie in the system that has starter potential.
Positionally sound, doesn’t play an overly flashy game. Although he’s still a bit of an unknown due to a small sample size. Oilers will have better understanding after a full year in AHL.
Will likely battle for starts with Brossoit in the AHL next year and barring injury shouldn’t be expected to play any time with the Oilers in year one.
Potential: 1B Goaltender
|D Ethan Bear, 19 | 2015-16 Main Club: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)|
|Player Analysis: When teams are looking for a defender they want a strong skater, effective use of the body, physical, great shot and two way play.|
What if you now learned this same player is just 5’11 200lbs? The biggest knock against Bear is his lack of size. However his game speaks for itself. His offensive game took off over the past two years in Seattle and he posted 19 goals and 65 points in 69 games.
Many of those points came on the powerplay as Bear has been featured as a powerplay quarterback. However he’s also a decent defender in his own right.
He’ll return for another year of junior and could challenge for a spot on Canada’s blueline at the WJC. He’s already represented Canada twice, last at the 2015 U-18 tournament.
Bear might just end up being the late round steal of the in the McDavid draft year.
Potential: No. 4-6 Two-Way Defender
|C Jujhar Khaira, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: Played a limited role in 15 games with the Oilers in 2015-16 but projects as a decent power forward and will challenge for a regular role in the bottom-six in 2016-17.|
A strong skater, uses his body well to separate from defenders but is still much of a project forward that is starting to come together. At the NHL level he might be more of a checking forward than a scoring threat.
Has struggled to produce at the pro level, however he was one of the leading scorers on an offensively challenged Bakersfield team with 27 points in 49 games.
Potential: Bottom-Six Power Forward
|C Drake Caggiula, 21 | 2015-16 Main Club: Univ. of North Dakota (NCAA)|
|Player Analysis: Undrafted high energy forward who plays bigger than his 5’10 185lbs frame. He can hit, score and play responsibly in his own end. Much like another player in the Oilers system Greg Chase, Caggiula could end up being the Oilers version of an Andrew Shaw, Cal Clutterbuck type of player.|
Has an ability to get to top speed in three steps and strong individual puck skills. Brings to Edmonton an all-around game that might need polishing next season in Bakersfield. Should expect him to play atleast a handful of games in Edmonton if he doesn’t somehow make the team out of camp.
Had a successful career in the NCAA which saw him score 127 points in 162 games, he capped that with a breakout year scoring 51 points in 39 games. Projects as a solid character player with the intangibles to play up and down the line up.
Potential: Top 9 Forward
|G Laurent Brossoit, 23 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: The best goaltender in the Oilers system, he’s the defacto goalie of the future mainly because the Oilers goaltending depth is weak overall. Brossoit could eventually become a decent backup that can challenge for the starting role down the line. He was lights out in the AHL last season and was played in the AHL All-Star game. For all he accomplished in the minors, he struggled once becoming the Oilers backup down the stretch after Anders Nilsson was traded.|
Has ideal size for an NHL netminder at 6’3 203lbs and is an athletic butterfly goalie still looking to add some consistency to his game. Knocked for allowing the odd weak goal but has improved his mental status overall.
Biggest adjustment is proving to the organization that he is indeed NHL ready and can take on the backup position behind Cam Talbot full-time in 2016-17. We’ll understand managements view when the free agency market opens and if they think he needs another year in the AHL. If so he’ll split the starts with newcomer Nick Ellis.
Potential: No. 1B Goaltender
|D Griffin Reinhart, 22 | 2015-16 Main Club: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)|
|Player Analysis: With the graduation of the teams top two prospects in Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse the Oilers top prospect is defenseman Griffin Reinhart. The Oilers paid a heavy price for the now 22-year-old last June for a 1st and 2nd round pick.|
The jury is still out as the New York Islanders used the picks on a talented offensive forward in Mathew Barzal and dealt the other to the Tampa Bay Lightning who selected defenseman Mitch Stephens.
Reinhart had an up and down year after making the Oilers opening night roster. There are some that believe he’ll still live up to his draft year hype of becoming a No. 1 Shea Weber-type all around defender.
He’s had a slow development curve to say the least after being a 4th overall pick in 2012. However a 6’4 220lb physical defender who handled top-pairing minutes all throughout his junior career is an intriguing package.
Expect Reinhart to challenge for a No.5-6 position in 2016-17, the hope is with a big step forward he can be an NHL regular after splitting time evenly between Bakersfield and Edmonton last year.
Reinhart currently has 37 games
Potential: No. 3-4 Shutdown Defender