Oilers' Defenseman Justin Schultz
There has been a great deal of speculation about what the Edmonton Oilers might do with their first-round pick in the 2013 draft.
With the Oilers having a number of holes to fill on their NHL roster and a relatively large number of prospects in the current system, it will be surprising if the Oilers use this draft pick.
If GM Craig MacTavish can make a significant deal or two before the draft to improve the team’s defence or add some much-needed size and sandpaper to his group of forwards, he will do it.
While the Oilers have had several rookie standouts in the past two or three seasons, including the addition of Justin Schultz and rookie scoring leader Nail Yakupov in 2013, the team may not add more than two or three rookies next season.
The following three players are the most likely to be rookie standouts in 2014, if there is room on the Oilers NHL roster next season.
Oiler Prospect Toni Rajala
Finnish offensive sparkplug Toni Rajala has really burst onto the scene with his play with the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL this season.
His main limitation is his size as he is just 5’10” and listed at under 170 lbs.
Rajala produced nearly a point per game during the regular season, and as of Monday night he had produced at an even higher rate in the AHL playoffs.
Depending on whom the Oilers deal this summer, there may be some roster spots available on one or more of the Oilers’ top lines. If spots open up, don’t be surprised if Rajala gets an opportunity to play in Edmonton next season.
2012-13 Oklahoma City Barons
While defense prospects Martin Marincin, David Musil and Oscar Klefbom get a lot more ink than Taylor Fedun, don’t be surprised if Fedun ends up in Edmonton next season and has a positive impact.
Fedun has had a solid if not spectacular year in Oklahoma City this year as he continues his amazing recovery from his devastating injury suffered in the 2011 preseason.
In a race for the puck in the Oilers’ zone, Minnesota Wild forward Eric Nystrom upended Fedun and sent him crashing into the boards. The former Princeton star suffered a broken femur as a result.
There was some thought that his playing days might be over, but Fedun has displayed great perseverance in making a full recovery and putting up 27 points in the AHL this season following his rehabilitation.
While Fedun's somewhat undersized, it will not be shocking if the Edmonton native beats the odds once again and is a rookie standout in 2014.
Edmonton's Oscar Klefbom
Swedish product Oscar Klefbom will make his debut with the Oilers in the 2013-14 season barring a setback in his ongoing recovery from shoulder surgery.
Klefbom has size, speed and excellent hockey sense. While he may not bring the same offensive skills as Justin Schultz, it will be very surprising if he does not develop into a top-pairing defenseman in the near future.
In a perfect world, the Oilers would be deeper at the defensive position, and Klefbom could spend at least one season in the AHL for further development. However, unless the Oilers make trades for two or three NHL-ready defensemen before September, the club will not have this luxury.
Klefbom has the kind of elite talent that could make him a Calder candidate next season, and Oilers’ fans should be very excited to have him patrolling the Edmonton blue line in the coming years.