When it comes to top NHL prospects, the Edmonton Oilers are the first team which comes to mind in a League dominated with incredible young skill.
Over the years, the Oilers, through their well documented incompetency, have collected their border-line unfair share of incredibly valuable draft picks, whether they be first round or first overall selections. As a result, Edmonton is enjoying the spoils of defeat, and currently ice a number of once top prospects and now best young players in the NHL, whether it be Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Taylor Hall or Oscar Klefbom.
However, with all of these players carrying a year or more of NHL experience under their belts, its hard to truly classify them as ‘prospects’ anymore. An NHL prospect typically refers to someone who is drafted and are playing junior or minor pro, or are beginning their rookie season in the League.
With that being said, the Oilers no longer have a true ‘top prospect’ within their organization, at least until the 2016 NHL Draft comes around.
However, what most may not know is that the Oilers do in fact retain a talented young prospect of incredible potential, who, due mainly to injuries, has yet to truly emerge from within Edmonton’s organization.
Meet Josh Winquist
When it comes to Oilers prospects, Josh Winquist is currently at the head of the pack.
If you haven’t heard of the young left winger, don’t fret, it likely because not only has he suffered more than his fair share of injuries as of late, but he also was not drafted by any NHL team.
Signed by the Oilers to an AHL contract in 2014-15, Winquist recorded a decent eight goal, 19 point rookie season in which he played 46 games, adding another two goals and four points in the playoffs. Further, he also spent 18 games in the ECHL, were he raked in five goals and 23 points.
However, offensive prowess was nothing new for Winquist, who spent five seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Everett Silvertips. Over 301 games played, Winquist was a consistent performer, recording 101 goals and 216 points over his junior career.
So, considering how well he had played in his first full season of professional hockey, re-signing Winquist for the 2015-16 season was a simple decision for the Oilers, and one that looks as though it will pay off. In 2015-16, Winquist scored 30 points in just 35 games, eight of which were goals. In doing so, he led all Oilers prospects playing for Bakersfield not only in points, but also in points per game despite missing considerable time due to a knee injury.
What is perhaps most impressive is the fact that Winquist is out-scoring fellow Oilers prospects who, unlike himself, are currently on NHL contracts, typically ranging from two-three years in length. These prospects, the majority of which are drafted players, have been seen as potential Oilers in the near future. Yet, an undrafted, unsigned 22 year-old is out-performing them all, a fact which not only says something about the Oilers current crop of prospects, but also about their scouting staff.
As far as his future with the Oilers goes, it would appear safe to say that Winquist will remain with the team for a considerable period of time.
Yes, his current contract will come to an end at the conclusion of the 2015-16 AHL season, however the Oilers could and should be quick to offer Winquist an NHL deal, similar to how they dealt with Mark Arcobello after he too out-performed a number of Edmonton prospects after arriving from College.
At 6′, 180 lbs, Winquist’s combination of skill and intelligence will make him a quality player for the Oilers in the near, and possibly distant future.
Considering the Oilers may be required to deal one of their premier young forwards in exchange for defensive help, retaining a prospect of great potential, and one which they did not anticipate, will do wonders for Edmonton as they continue their re-build.
Sure, he may not go on to become an Art Ross winner, but based on his play to date, Winquist appears to have all the tools, skills and determination to become a full-time NHL player. If his game continues to progress, and, most importantly, he can remain in good health, chances are Winquist will earn more than just a new contract in the near future.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.