Ranking the Edmonton Oilers' Top 10 Prospects Entering 2016-17
The Edmonton Oilers have not done a good job of building a deep system of prospects over the years. Questionable drafting and development practice, numerous picks being dealt away for immediate help and the practice of rushing players to the NHL have all taken their toll, and the club has paid the price.
This summer represented a definite step in the right direction, though—at least as far as accumulating prospects went.
Edmonton had what appears to have been a solid outing at the most recent draft, and using a number of high picks replenished their stockpile of prospects. Additionally, the club was aggressive in free agency, bringing in players from Europe and the college level.
The result is a radically different top-10 list of Calder Trophy-eligible prospects than might have been expected even a few months ago. Read on to see how we rank the club's prospects.
10. RW Patrick Russell
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, May 9, 2016.
2015-16 Stats: 41 games, 20 goals, 21 assists, 41 points (NCAA).
Projection: Patrick Russell is a late-blooming college player who is almost certainly bound for the AHL next season. His point-per-game performance last year stands in stark contrast to a long track record of mediocre scoring and should be viewed with suspicion until it is repeated. Russell is a right shot and has decent size (6’1”, 205 pounds) and killed penalties at St. Cloud State. His likely upside is as a bottom-six forward.
9. LD David Musil
Acquired: Drafted 31st overall, 2011.
2015-16 Stats: 67 games, three goals, 11 assists, 14 points.
Projection: David Musil’s NHL upside is limited by a lack of speed; he’s just not a good-enough skater to project as a top-four player. That doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy a major league career, however. He has size (6’4”, 203 pounds) and plays an intelligent game; he’s also somewhat underrated with the puck on his stick. Plenty of NHL players have stayed in the league for years thanks to a similar combination of brains and brawn.
8. C Jujhar Khaira
Acquired: Drafted 63rd overall, 2012.
2015-16 Stats: 49 games, 10 goals, 17 assists, 27 points (AHL).
Projection: The trouble with Jujhar Khaira is scoring. He’s never been a particularly big point producer at any level, and while he nearly tripled his AHL point totals in his second year in the league, he still fell well short of the point-per-game mark. He’s listed at 6’3” and 214 pounds and plays a physical game, so he should be able to make it as a fourth-line player even if his scoring doesn’t significantly evolve from here.
7. LD Dillon Simpson
Acquired: Drafted 92nd overall, 2011.
2015-16 Stats: 57 games, four goals, 16 assists, 20 points (AHL).
Projection: Dillon Simpson has progressed steadily since being drafted as a college freshman back in 2011. He has average size (6’1”, 194 pounds) for his position and isn’t known for being overly physical or fast, but his high level of hockey sense and competence with the puck help to compensate for those weaknesses. It’s probably reasonable to expect him to develop into a versatile third-pairing defender.
6. LD Ziyat Paigin
Acquired: Drafted 209th overall, 2015.
2015-16 Stats: 45 games, nine goals, 19 assists, 28 points (KHL).
Projection: The 21-year-old Ziyat Paigin had a breakthrough season after being traded to HK Sochi last season, even playing in the KHL All-Star game. That offence was a welcome addition to a 6’6” 209-pound defenceman better known for his defensive than his offensive play. It’s extremely difficult to project what he’ll be in the NHL until we see whether that scoring was an aberration, but it looks like the Oilers may have found a late-round steal.
5. LW Anton Slepyshev
Acquired: Drafted 88th overall, 2013.
2015-16 Stats: 49 games, 13 goals, eight assists, 21 points (AHL).
Projection: Anton Slepyshev had an uneven North American debut after coming over from the KHL last season. He impressed in training camp and even played 11 games with the Oilers, though generally he was placed in a depth role. His AHL scoring was decidedly underwhelming, but sometimes the adjustment to the game on this side of the Atlantic takes a while. Edmonton certainly has reason for patience; 6’2”, 218-pound wingers with scoring potential don’t come along every day.
4. G Laurent Brossoit
Acquired: Trade with the Flames, November 8, 2013.
2015-16 Stats: 31 games, 18-9-3 record, .920 save percentage (AHL). Five games, 0-4-0 record, .873 save percentage (NHL).
Projection: Laurent Brossoit had an opportunity late last season to push his way into the Oilers’ backup job. He failed badly, going 0-4-0 with a .873 save percentage, thus giving the team cause to pursue a veteran for the No. 2 job. The 23-year-old has two seasons as an AHL starter under his belt and performed well both years, and with a 6’3” frame, he has NHL size. He should be a major league player, but it’s fair to wonder whether he’d be a starter or backup.
3. LW Tyler Benson
Acquired: Drafted 32nd overall in 2016.
2015-16 Stats: 30 games, nine goals, 19 assists, 28 points.
Projection: It wasn’t all that long ago that Tyler Benson was regarded as one of the better prospects for the 2016 draft. Unfortunately, an injury-plagued 2015-16 campaign hurt his perceived value. Assuming that was a one-off, he could be a steal for Edmonton. He plays an intelligent, competitive game that should allow him to play in the NHL, even if his scoring doesn’t develop. If he rebounds offensively, he could be a well-rounded top-six forward.
2. LW Drake Caggiula
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, May 27, 2016.
2015-16 Stats: 39 games, 25 goals, 26 assists, 51 points (NCAA).
Projection: Drake Caggiula is a late bloomer who enjoyed a breakout offensive campaign in 2015-16, playing on a line (the so-called CBS line) with first-round picks Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser. He’s undersized, listed at just 5’9” and 185 pounds, but plays an energetic and responsible two-way game. He could certainly play in the NHL, though he’ll need to prove he can score at the pro level if he is to claim a top-six role. The good news is he should be NHL-ready relatively quickly.
1. RW Jesse Puljujarvi
Acquired: Drafted fourth overall, 2016.
2015-16 Stats: 50 games, 13 goals, 15 assists, 28 points (Liiga).
Projection: Jesse Puljujarvi is a well-rounded prospect, one with no particular weaknesses. At 6’3” and 203 pounds, he already has NHL size. And unlike a lot of bigger prospects, he’s also a gifted skater. His offensive production—he scored 17 points in seven games at the World Juniors in 2016—speaks for itself, but he’s also known for his defensive game. He could evolve into a first-line winger for the Oilers and may be the perfect partner for Connor McDavid.
Statistics courtesy of Elite Prospects.