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Monday, April 13, 2009

Oilers Top Young Players and Upcoming Draft

Drafting Suggestion in Order of Need
  • Offensive D-men
  • Goaltending depth players with good technical skills
  • Forward depth (size and skill)
  • Defensive D-men
Names of interest for the upcoming draft:
  • Victor Hedman/Jonathan Tavares/Matt Duchene/Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi (forget about these four, it aint gonna happen)
  • Evander Kane/Braydon Schenn/Jared Cowan/Nazem Kadri (chances are slim)
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson
  • Dmitry Kulikov
  • Zack Kassian
  • Jacob Josefsen
  • Kieran Millan
  • Ryan Ellis
  • Jordan Schroeder

Because some of these guys have surpassed the age where one would normally be considered a "Prospect," I've decided to call them "Top Young Players" instead.

* = has played NHL games

Oilers' Top Young Forward Players

1. Riley Nash
2. Jordan Eberle
3. Linus Omark
4. Chris Vandevelde
5. Rob Schremp*

Jordan Eberle has played a few games in Springfield already. I doubt he will make the team next year even though he is the golden boy from the WJC. I think it would be better for him to be a top player in Springfield than a press box player in Edmonton.

This is the make-or-break off-season for Rob Schremp. Rumour is that he is fed up and headed to Europe. My hope is that a coaching change will see him get some NHL minutes because it's a shame to waste his talents. But if he has to wait until July 1 to sign his new KHL contract, I would suggest moving him for a low draft pick to avoid losing him for nothing. What a waste.

Chris Vandevelde has spoken about not feeling "ready" for the NHL due to lack of progress in the NCAA and has opted for one more year of collegiate hockey. Some have suggested he is doing this to prolong his Oilers' signing rights and waiting it out until he can sign as a UFA (for the rookie max) somewhere else, like Blake Wheeler. I hope this isn't the case.

Linus Omark has already signed elsewhere in Europe so he won't be in the Oilers' plans for another couple of seasons. If he ends up being a UFA at the end of all of this, I think we're starting to see a pattern about how the organization is perceived by players and player agents ...

This is also a make-or-break off-season for JF Jacques, Marc Pouliot, and Ryan O'Marra. Depending on the level of commitment the Oilers make towards the RFA's Gilbert Brule, Ryan Potulny, and Liam Reddox, one or all of those 3 guys could be moved. I know Jacques and Pouliot have one more year remaining but thus far in their careers they have been consistently bottom-dwellers of the Oilers depth chart. I could see the Oilers hanging onto Jacques but not Pouliot. Consider also that in one more year the Oilers will have to resign or move one of Gagner/Cogliano. With the second line depth being pretty full and these guys not filling any of those checking roles, it's hard to say that guys like Pouliot, Potulny and O'Marra will be back in Oiler uniforms. If the Oilers do resign Brule, he will start the year in Springfield. It is also beyond question that the Oilers will resign Kyle Brodziak.

In summary, the Oilers have a lot of good young players and prospects in the forward department. If an phenomenal talent were available I'd suggest drafting a forward but as it stands right now the needs are deeper for D and G in the Oilers farm system.

Oilers' Top Young Defense Players

1. Theo Peckham*
2. Jeff Petry
3. Taylor Chorney*
4. Sebastien Bisaillon*
T5. Alex Plante
T5. Joseph Hrabal
T5. Cody Wild

I have made it clear many times that Theo Peckham is ready for the NHL. Whether the Oilers agree is another thing but I think he's ready to make the jump for full-time work. His potential partners next season could be anyone of Staios, Strudwick, or Smid, depending on who gets moved and who gets resigned. If it was up to me, all of those 3 would find new homes this summer but in hindsight it would be wise to keep Smid because at his age he can still reach that upside he shows flashes of. Too bad Smid requested a trade, though.

The Oilers have high hopes for Chorney and Petry. Chorney has been worked on extensively by the Oilers in hope that he can be the next great puck-moving D-man. I think at worst he could be a Danny Syvret type of player and at best he'd be a John-Michael Liles (without the big slapshot). Unless his skating and defensive game improves by leaps and bounds, I don't see him coming through on what everyone expects him to be, some sort of puck-moving messiah. As for Petry, I'm still undecided.

I believe Bisaillon's comparison to Marc-Andre Bergeron is a fair comparison except I think Bisaillon has shown that he has a lot more to his game than Bergeron. I go to the Golden Bears vs Oilers Prospects game every year and it seems to me Bisaillon has more spunk and better passing. Sure, Bergeron has that nasty hipcheck. But that's quite the limited résumé. I think Bisaillon could be utilized as an older, more experienced alternative to Taylor Chorney in future call-ups.

The reason I've included Wild/Hrabal/Plante together is because of the uncertainty around them due to their season. Hrabal and Wild were both injured and also had to suffer trips to the ECHL and there was talk about a rift between the Springfield former coach and these two players. Before I can assess their usefulness to the organization, it will remain to be seen what they can do for Springfield under a new coach in the brand new season. I think Wild has the most upside. There are rumours of the Oilers not qualifying Plante, who they drafted for his size and offensive upside. How high is his offensive upside? I'm not very optimistic about resigning him and I'd be okay with letting him go.

Besides Bisaillon, Wild and Hrabal, we also have a lot of other guys who have dinstinct skills that are being under-utilized: Bryan Young*, Mathieu Roy*, and Jordan Bendfeld. I believe the days for Roy in the Oilers system are obviously numbered but I think Bryan Young is a cheap alternative to resigning Staios, and should allow the Oilers to keep either Smid or Strudwick.

The Oilers D-core is definitely in need of a few prospects.

Oilers' Top Young Goalie Players

1. Jeff DesLauriers*
2. Dany Sabourin*
3. Devan Dubnyk
4. Bryan Pitton
5. Andrew Perugini

Thickoil has suggsted the Oilers acquire Jaroslav Halak instead of playing Jeff DesLauriers. Though I think Halak is a good goalie in his own right, I'm a firm believer in organizations developing their own goalies. Of the top goalies in the league, only Luongo, Khabibulin, Vokoun, and Kiprusoff didn't come up through their current team's system. Historically too, most of the league's best goalies established themselves in their own farm system first.

Not to say DesLauriers has an inner "Patrick Roy" dying to get out, but I think he's earned his due in the Oilers system. I think the Oilers could probably start the season with the same goalie tandem as now and still be fine. But the point is, I think if the Oilers keep stocking the system with good technical goalies who play with consistency and superb athleticism, there's nothing Pete Peeters can't teach 'em.

However, this is not to say the conditions couldn't be improved. I'm sure Tambellini has already shown that he is willing to go out and make deals to fill holes - though the O'Sullivan acquistion was a bit puzzling considering he's battling Penner and Nilsson for ice time ... now the point is that the Oilers goaltending system is bare. DesLauriers is looking better but both he and Dubnyk have had question marks raised about their consistency. Wouldn't hurt to reinforce the system with some fresh blood. Such as is the case, it's time to cut Glenn Fisher loose, since he's taking up roster room in Stockton and Springfield.

In the upcoming draft, the Oilers need to draft a couple good goalie prospects.

  • 1-2 offensive defenseman: the Oilers have a lot of defensive, gritty d-men to choose from. Whether it is Staios, Smid, Strudwick, Peckham, or eventually Petry or even Young or Motin. There are some great offensive D-man prospects in this draft. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a Niklas Listrom comparable due to his calm decision making and slick passing; Dmitry Kulikov (seen getting hit by Patrice Cormer in above photo) has been described as an all-around defeseman with a mean streak. If that's not enough, remember that Ryan Ellis, a speedy and skilled puck-moving D-man from the Canadian WJC squad is still projected to be available past the top 10 picks. There's a lot of defensive skill available in this draft after Victor Hedman and the Oilers should not let it go to waste. Another thing is I believe that offensive D-men are a lot harder to find than defensive D-men. You can teach defense but you can't teach offense. The Oilers are best to look for defensive help via trade or UFA rather than drafting. The future offensive talent on any blueline should be developed long-term.
  • Good technical goalie(s): Local product Kieran Millan is the freshman phenom carrying powerhouse Boston University to a Frozen Four NCAA championship this year. Not only is he a good technical goalie, he has a mean streak too. When crashing of his crease has occured, he has not been shaken up but rather is not willing to back down to invading forwards, as demonstrated in the past. The Oilers missed out on a potential gold mine in local product Cam Ward. I'm not saying Millan is going to be the next Stanley Cup champion goalie, but his resume so far is among the best. Plus, the Oilers love college prospects.
  • Forward Depth: with the inevitable departure of Rob Schremp, Marc Pouliot, and Ryan O'Marra, it would be wise to fill it with some unheralded offensive talent from either the WHL, OHL, or QMJHL - leagues that have traditionally yielded good picks for the Oilers. It may end up being that neither Ekman-Larsson or Kulikov are still available by the time the Oilers pick. I think Jacob Josefsen and Zack Kassian are just the kind of players the Oilers need: strong wingers with size and skill. Josefsen is a highly-touted prospect from the Swedish hockey system and Zack Kassian has seen a marked improvement this past season playing in Peterborough. With Eberle's new contract it's guaranteed that he'll be playing pro somewhere next season, and coupled with Vandevelde committing another year to college - the time is ripe to add some forward depth into the system.



Blogger R-Gib said...

Yup I like a Ellis or Kassian draft as well. I'm not sold on picking a goalie in the first round tho.

As long as they select the best available player, I'll be happy.

April 14, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Blogger raventalon40 said...

Oh, Kieran Millan would probably still be available later on. He was eligible in 2007 but noone picked him. I think his stock has increased a lot since the NCAA championship but I think we'd still be safer with Kassian, Ellis or Ekman-Larsson. I think they'd be the best guys available at that point in the draft.

April 14, 2009 at 11:48 PM

Blogger raventalon40 said...

I would also like to say I know I set up this post according to what the Oilers need but I would like to make it clear I still believe you take the best player available in any situation and you deal away what you don't need.

April 15, 2009 at 12:30 AM


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