I’m back! Two months off, still feels like it’s mid summer outside, still not getting paid for this shit, but regardless of all that, I’m back. For most of you, I’m sure it sucks that summer is over (almost). Not in the slightest for me…but maybe for you. For me, I like the fall. I like winter. I don’t hate summer by any means, but I also don’t see a lot of lake time during the summer. So while those maybe six days of the summer that are hot, sunny, little to no wind, and can be out on the water. Golfing? Not if it’s hotter than 22-25 or so. Ball? Same thing. So summer isn’t bad, but the truth is in my experience is that it’s a bit of a myth once you are an adult. The truth is, there are really only a handful of days an adult can really enjoy summer depending on your line of work, and the rest is just hot and dry with zero going on…especially if the Jays suck. I hope I’m not pissing all over how much you love summer, not my intention. My intention is to show you just how terrific fall is! And really, now with football in full swing as of Sunday and Penticton this weekend, and the weather being easier to live with, it’s one of the best times of the year.
I hope you all know what I’m talking about when I say Penticton, but for those of you who are maybe awful people…I’m talking about the rookie tournament which will take place this weekend. And with that being the case, I felt like it was a good time to do another top 10 list looking at the Oilers prospects. I did this list right after the game seven loss to the Ducks, and it seemed to be well received, so with the draft having taken since that time place it’s perhaps a good time to hit the refresh button.
About a month ago, I seen Oilers Nation did a top 20 prospect list. Now, they likely have done their own prospect rankings for a while, I’m not a big Oilers Nation guy (nothing against the guys doing it at all, just find it can hurt my own point of view to read too much “Oilers-centric” stuff). I did read their top 10, and frankly disagree with a lot of what they had, but it’s just a different point of view. From what I could tell, they lean more towards which prospects are the most ready to step in. For me, I put a lot more stock into a players ceiling, and the chances I feel they have of reaching that ceiling.
Just like the last time around, I’ll be adding in some players (this time six) who I felt just narrowly missed getting into the top ten, which I somewhat put into order, but honestly didn’t give it a ton of thought. So please don’t crush me for the order in which the first six are put in. I guess you could be a real asshole and say this is a top 16…but don’t. Nobody likes “that” guy.
I added in videos for most of the kids this time around, and a big thanks to Edmonton Prospect Watch on YouTube for giving me the green light a few months back for using these, and I’d HIGHLY recommend if you’re an Oilers fan and you want to follow the prospects that you subscribe to the account. Great way to see what’s on the way.
Before I begin, let me just say that aside from what I believe will be a impactful error by the organization in failing to address the need for a centre in the system this past June, the Oilers appear to be drafting MUCH better under Peter Chiarelli’s watch. The 2015 draft to this point has been a home run with the picks they had to work with (McDavid aside), 2016 outside of one slip up was the same (and they had many more picks to work with), and last year while I hated not getting a centre until the 6th round, they did do a great job once again of really loading up with quality kids.
Dmitri Samorukov Guelph OHL
Pos: LD Ht: 6’2 Wt: 181 Shot: L
Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft
I wasn’t a huge fan of the pick, mainly given the Oilers depth on the left side of the ice. Had I been running the draft, I would have used the two 3rd rounders to jump up to the last pick of the 2nd if I had to so I could pick one of the projected 2nd round centres that were still on the board (likely Morgan Geekie). But they didn’t, so I have to look at the kids they got and there is a lot to like about Samorukov. He’s raw, he’s got a lot of filling out to do, good skater, and plays aggressive. Just yesterday signed his ELC with the team, so he’s officially in the pipeline and I’d say that speaks to how excited the brass was to land him in the draft.
John Marino Harvard NCAA
Pos: D Ht: 6’2 Wt: 190 Shot: R Age: 20
Acquired: 6th Round, 154th Overall, 2015 Draft
In the 6th round of the draft, I feel like you have to stick to a few rules. If it’s me, I’m looking for kids who have decent size, skates real well, and a high IQ. Marino checks all those boxes. Obviously he’ll go back to Harvard for at least another season in 2018, and likely 2019 as well, so we’re talking about a kid who is still a long ways away. But he took a pretty big step in his development in his freshman season at Harvard and should see an increased role this season, although he does have Calgary 2016 3rd rounder Adam Fox to contend with. Here’s a shift by shift look at Marino from a game vs the Nard-dog’s favourite team from March 18th of last season.
Stuart Skinner Lethbridge WHL
Pos: G Ht: 6’3 Wt: 205 Glove: L Age: 19
Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft
As I touched on with Samorukov, I was against what they did with this pick. I felt they easily could have packaged both third round picks to move up to the end of the second round or the beginning of the third and got a damn good centre that they desperately needed. Had they done this, I would have felt the Oilers absolutely crushed the draft for the third straight year. Instead, they fell in love with Skinner. Having said all this, as much as I didn’t like the decision at all, I won’t ignore Skinner just because I didn’t like the way the Oilers managed their draft. The fact of the matter is that Skinner got red hot for the Hurricanes in the playoffs last spring, and he has all the tools to become a starter in the NHL. However, you can say that about a ton of 18 year old goaltenders with the right size. Intriguing, but it remains to be seen what he does with all his talent.
Filip Berglund Skelleftea SHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’3 Wt: 209 Shot: R Age: 20
Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft
This kid has me personally really intrigued. He was originally set back with a knee injury in his draft year (2015), hence not being taken until the 2016 draft. Seems to get pretty positive reviews at both ends of the ice. His skating isn’t poor at all, but what I will say is that if he can make a subtle improvement with it that it’ll go a very long way. Some really like the skill he will flash on occasion. A long shot, no doubt, but it feels like they might have a diamond in the rough here.
Nick Ellis Bakersfield AHL
Pos: G Ht: 6’1 Wt: 180 Glove: L Age: 23
Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 7th, 2016
Ellis had a Sv% in the AHL last season that was 10 percentage points higher than Laurent Brossoit’s. The size is a concern though, as he is very small by today’s goaltending standards. He plays a very composed style, similar to Cam Talbot. At his size I fear he’ll have to go above and beyond proving himself to earn a shot with the Oilers, but so far he’s off to a good start. It’s highly unlikely but possible with a great camp that he could steal the backup spot away from Brossoit.
Ziyat Paigin Bakersfield AHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’6 Wt: 209 Shot: L Age: 22
Acquired: 7th Round, 209th Overall, 2015 Draft
Paigin is perhaps the biggest wildcard of all the Oilers prospects. The kids biggest attribute is his P.K. Subban like bomb from the point. I’m not saying he can get it off like Subban can at this point, but the potential is there to be that kind of weapon. The rest of the game however is a work in progress. For a seventh round pick, the fact that he’s even in the conversation is a win for the Oilers. You don’t see anyone talking about Vincent Desharnais. But Paigin does have the tools to play in the league, maybe even be a top four guy. But it remains to be seen if he has the toolbox to go with the tools.
10. Kirill Maksimov Niagara OHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’2 Wt: 192 Shot: R Age: 18
Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft
How could I possibly have Maksimov ahead of Skinner and Samorukov with Maksimov going 68 and 62 picks ahead of those guys? You have to remember that the draft is like buying stock. You want the best value, especially after you move out of the first round. I like Skinner, but I’m higher on Maksimov. I could go on and on about Maksimov’s potential. But rather than have me tell you, let’s see what some of the top independent OHL scouts have to say:
There's my guy @OHLIceDogs Kirill Maksimov going to EDM. They are getting a steal. This kid keeps getting better & is a beast on the wall!
— North American Central Scouting Independent Bureau (@MarkSeidel) June 24, 2017
At 146, the Oilers take Kirill Maksimov. One of the highest players I had available. Fantastic pick.
— Brock Otten (@BrockOtten) June 24, 2017
Maksimov was terrific after a trade to Niagara. Terrific goal scoring potential. Size and speed on the wing.
— Brock Otten (@BrockOtten) June 24, 2017
I don’t like to base a prospect comparison on nationality like so many do, but as an Oilers fan, it is really difficult to read up on Maksimov and not think he’s another Anton Slepyshev. I really believe that Maksimov was just in a poor situation early last season and once he went to Niagara we saw the real him and will continue to see that this season.
9. Joe Gambardella Bakersfield AHL
Pos: LW Ht: 5’10 Wt: 200 Shot: L
Acquired: Signed, March 28th, 2017
With what I’ve seen of the kid so far (it’s limited), the Oilers got someone who’ll play. Speed, good hands, and plays with a lot of enthusiasm. Only 5’10, but 200 pounds, so size won’t be an issue. He’s listed as a centre, but I personally see him fitting better on the wing. If he can play the middle, awesome! That would be a huge bonus and something this team really needs in the system. But to me he looks like a winger. Really like what I see though and believe he can be a top nine guy.
8. Ryan Mantha Bakersfield AHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’5 Wt: 225 Shot: R Age: 21
Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017
The more I look into Mantha, the more intrigued I get as an Oilers fan. It’s tough to get really pumped up about a kid looking so good as an overager in junior. Bob Stauffer seems to have been told something good about Mantha, as he’s been hinting at Mantha being a steal for the Oilers for the last few weeks. The size is obviously there. He’s got a real heavy shot with a cautious back swing which allows him to get it away quicker, and a little more accurate too. And he’s a real strong skater for a kid his size. I wonder about the toughness. Not saying he’s not tough, but when you break out as an overager and the team which drafted you (104th overall…not that low for an unsigned kid), it just makes me wonder and could be something to watch for as he begins his pro career.
7. Ostap Safin St. John QMJHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’4 Wt: Shot: L Age: 18
Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft
This will be controversial, but this list is from my perspective. If you have checked out any of my three prospect rankings I put out last spring, you’d know that I had Safin in my top 50 the whole way through. This kids upside is ridiculous. You can see the size he has, he has good wheels for that size, great hands, and when he’s on he loves to put guys on their ass. But that’s when he’s on. It’s the motor that is in question with Safin. So he’s a classic boom or bust prospect, I just can’t see there being any middle ground here. He’ll either be Brad Isbister, or Todd Bertuzzi. He might be slightly less likely to make it then some of the kids lower on the list, but the upside here is just too difficult to ignore.
6. Tyler Benson Vancouver WHL
Pos: LW Ht: 6’0 Wt: 190 Shot: L Age: 19
Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft
This is a BIG season for Benson. I talked about Safin being boom or bust. I don’t see Benson being the same way at all, but this season sure could be that way for him. IF he can stay healthy, he’s likely to be dealt to a WHL contender (maybe Regina, who host the Memorial Cup this season), he’ll get a great look for the World Junior team, and put himself right back in the conversation as a top Oilers prospect and MAYBE even get into consideration to be a replacement for Patty Maroon next season should they lose him to free agency. However…he’s had big injury set backs the last two seasons, and he isn’t playing this weekend, they’re only “hopeful” he’ll play in the regular season opener for the Giants, it’s all getting very discouraging. If he has another year like the last two, then I’m going to guess the organization will lose a lot of faith in Benson.
5. Dylan Wells Peterborough OHL
Pos: G Ht: 6’2 Wt: 182 Glove: L Age: 19
Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft
If Wells had been selected with a top 60 pick in 2016, fans and media would be heaping a lot more praise on the Oilers for this pick. I listen to Sportsnet 960 in Calgary a lot, and the Flames fans and media are over the moon about Tyler Parsons, as they should be. But Wells is a little bigger, a little younger, and was a little better than Parsons last season. It’s such a long road ahead for Wells, as goaltenders take a long time to develop. But so far, this pick has been outstanding. He’ll be in the mix for the World Junior team this year, and with Carter Hart’s poor performance at the Showcase tournament this summer it may have opened the door a bit for the brass to look at other options in goal, despite the fact that Hart was the starter last year. If that’s the case, Wells could get his shot. Of course Canada now has about four or five great options after having nobody for so many years.
4. Ethan Bear Seattle WHL
Pos: D Ht: 5’11 Wt: 205 Shot: R Age: 20
Acquired: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2015 Draft
He falls a spot in my rankings, but I’m certain anyone reading this knows why that is. The big debate, as was last spring with my rankings, is having Bear as the second ranked defenceman and not first. It’s the skating. He had amazing numbers in the WHL, no doubt. Defenceman of the year last season, helped lead the T-Birds to the WHL crown, but the NHL just keeps getting faster and faster. You just can’t lack speed in this league anymore. Look at Jagr. Terrific numbers the last two seasons, yet teams are scared off because away from the puck he’s virtually useless now. A massive if, but IF Bear can gain an extra step or two, he’s going to be a top four kid in the league, guaranteed. Because he’s got everything else in his game. IQ, vision, shot, toughness, good in his own zone, walks the line very well, he’s a stud. He just needs to improve that skating, and it’s too big of an “if” to put him any higher than this.
3. Caleb Jones Portland WHL
Pos: D Ht: 6’1 Wt: 190 Shot: L Age: 20
Acquired: 4th Round, 117th Overall, 2015 Draft
I’m probably the only guy in Alberta who has Jones ahead of Bear. I get it, Bear was named defenceman of the year in the same league. But as a pro, while Bear needs to improve his skating to make the jump someday, Jones skating is already great. You have to consider too that Bear was playing on the much better team. Portland is no joke, but Seattle of course won the league title. Had they switched spots, it’s like Jones who is winning the defenceman of the year award. In no way looking to piss on Ethan Bear as a prospect by the way, just comparing the two. Anyway, Jones has the smarts, skating, and creativity in my opinion to play in the show, and perhaps very soon. I believe he’ll get some games in this season, and could be competing for a spot this time next year.
2. Kailer Yamamoto Spokane WHL
Pos: RW Ht: Wt: Shot: R Age: 19
Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd Overall, 2017 Draft
You’re hearing and reading non stop about how he’s “another Johnny Gaudreau”. Flattering, but he doesn’t play like Gaudreau. He’s much more of a Marty St.Louis type. If you remember, St.Louis was equally a great sniper and playmaker. St.Louis had no issue at all getting his nose dirty and going to the tough area’s on the ice. And he played with a chip on his shoulder. That’s a lot like Yamamoto. This kid is driven and plays with a lot of passion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is going to be a hardcore love affair between Yamamoto and this fan base. He seems like the kind of kid who’ll thrive in this environment, and this fan base adores players of his ilk (passion and personality). He’ll start next season with the team, guaranteed.
1. Jesse Puljujarvi Bakersfield AHL
Pos: RW Ht: 6’3.5 Wt: 208 Shot: R Age: 19
Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft
I laugh at how many people are sleeping on Puljujarvi. We DO remember he went 4th overall, right? And that he only got to the fourth pick because of circumstances of the Blue Jackets being desperate for a centre, right? And that he looked great once sent down to Bakersfield, right? And that the last two high profile teens to be sent down mid season like he was were Ryan Smyth and Leon Draisaitl, right? The people who are bailing on this kid already are just humiliating. There is a chance he starts the season in Bakersfield, but I’m guessing he’ll make the club. Too big, too skilled, deceptively fast, he’s got a chance to be dominant, and I’ll be shocked if he’s anything less than a regular 50 point, top six type of guy.
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