Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – October, 2020

Before I get going, Joey Moss.  I haven’t done a podcast or another blog since the news came down on Monday, and obviously it is a CRUSHING blow to the organization and Oilers fans everywhere.  I admit, I didn’t know just how well Joey was known to hockey fans and media outside of Alberta.  I knew he was KNOWN, but not to the extent he was.  I told this story on Twitter, but I got to meet Joey once.  December 14th, 1998.  I did a job shadow with Rod Phillips for the day.  After going to the Oilers practice, Rod took me down into the room.  Rod was saying hi and talking to everyone as you could imagine, and I was just kind of standing there in awe of the fact that people who were in my life but had never met were all in front of me at once.  All of a sudden I felt a pretty hard shove on my shoulder, and it was Joey Moss.  And I legitimately thought Joey was pissed, and that he thought I had snuck into the room or something!  And so I panicked and was immediately explaining that I was with Rod, and Joey says “No!  What’s your name?”  “Oh, I’m Tyler” and he just smiled and said “I’m Joey.”  And went on with his work.  And as I said on Twitter, I think he was pissed…but he was pissed that Rod didn’t introduce us sooner!  It was just one experience, but you could tell he was such a welcoming guy.  And don’t think he just hung out in the room or that he was some charity case!  The man worked his ass off and did everything he could for the organization.  He really was a legend in Oilers history, and in hockey history.

Rest in peace Joey, you may be gone but your legend will live on forever.

photo courtesy of Global News

 

No easy way to transition from that, so you’ll have to forgive me on that.

This is my most in-depth piece yet on the Oilers system!  10 honourable mentions.  I also do grades for what is in the system.  And simply put, I feel good about the Oilers system.  Look, are they drafting exactly the way that I would?  No.  But when looking at the system do I feel good about this teams ability to pump out plenty of NHL talent in the years to come?  Absolutely.

So let’s get right to it.

 

System Grades

Goaltending: B

I badly wanted Askarov to somehow fall to them in the draft, it would have bumped this grade to an A+.  Having said that, it’s not bad.  I still don’t feel as though we know what Stuart Skinner can or will be, but he’s likely only a big season away.  As much as I didn’t like the Olivier Rodrigue pick, I feel SO much better about him today than I did post World Juniors.  He was terrific in his final two months in the Q, and on top of that we’re seeing more proof that smaller goalies can still perform at a high level in the league.  So that is encouraging, and that actually applies even more to Ilya Konovalov who had a horrible 2020 season, but is off to a good start in the KHL this season.

Left Defencemen: A

The strength of the system is on the left side.  As long as they take their time allowing Broberg to work on his game they possibly have a star on their hands (for sure a top-four guy).  Samorukov also has excellent upside and is trending very well.  Lagesson looks primed to be their number 7 D-man this season, and Niemelainen is now signed and given his tools there is no reason he can’t be a bottom-pairing guy, or better yet an excellent complementary/”safety net” partner for someone who plays a higher risk game in the top-four (think Marc Methot type).

Right Defencemen: B+

I often have to remind myself that Bouchard is still a part of this even though I’m positive he’s going to step in soon and going to be a top four guy.  But he is, and then behind him isn’t much.  Kemp and Berglund, and neither guy looks like they’ll be too exciting for fans, but if they can simply be bottom pair guys that should be perfect for the Oilers long term needs.

Wingers: B

This is tricky with the wingers and centres.  I believe that safely, they have a lot of wingers.  With two of those players (Holloway and McLeod), it remains to be seen whether the organization sees them as centres or wingers.  I believe it’s safe to say that one of them will and the other won’t.

Centres: C+

If they NEED Holloway to be a 3C, I think he’ll be one hell of a 3C, and actually projects perfectly to be a tough minutes 2C on most teams.  The problem is that after that…there isn’t much at all in the system.  Obviously I mentioned McLeod who definitely has 2C ability in his own right.  But he’s much more of a question mark to play the middle long term.  After that, don’t give me Lavoie, he’s a winger in pro hockey.  The wildcard is Marody.  If he can bounce back, I don’t think he has GREAT upside, but can play.  There are a lot of projects in the system down the middle.  Even just one of them popping would be pretty big for the organization.

Speed: B+

This was a tough one to grade.  On one hand, the three best skaters in the system are total burners and are likely to play in the show.  But after that, it’s not too pretty.  Still, I think the fact that the three who are tremendous skaters are going to play goes a long way.  This club is set up to potentially be a BEAST if they can develop the right guys, and I’m going to go more into that in an upcoming blog.

Skill: C+

It’s not as prevalent as I’d like it to be.  This is why I initially had such an issue with the Holloway pick is my mindset for the Oilers entering the draft was that they simply needed to load up on pure skill, and loved the idea of Lucas Reichel in particular by the time they were on the clock.  I’m being generic here by just saying skill, but basically I’m looking at vision and hands.  To my eye, they have four potential snipers up front in the top 20, three pure playmakers, and then just one highly skilled defenceman.

Gamesmanship: D

Only two guys to my eye who will bring actual gamesmanship.  Doesn’t mean there can’t be more, as I do see some guys who might provide it.  Depends how bad some guys want it.  Corey Perry for example wasn’t known for his greasy game when he was drafted, it developed over time as many questioned his toughness…if you can believe that.

Size: A+

It’s not a trait many like to talk about these days, but it’s still something.  A team as a whole being big is more exciting than a player…if that makes sense.  And just because it got badly overrated in the past doesn’t mean it should now be completely ignored.  There are only two guys in my top 20 who anyone would even deem to be “undersized”, and I wouldn’t deem either of those two undersized by today’s standards.  Other than those two “undersized” guys…this is a BIG team.  And again, I will be doing a piece on the size and speed with this organization in the near future so keep an eye out for that.

 

2021 Draft

Initially, I was going to just do a little section here looking at who the Oilers might be interested in for the 2021 draft.  Obviously being THIS far out, a ton of assumptions are made.  But I always feel as though it is better for fans to have a face attached to that pick, rather than just blindly screaming “trade the pick!!!” since they don’t know who that pick is.  Anyway, it ended up becoming a full blog that will be out very soon, so keep an eye out for that.

 

Honourable Mentions

***Note***

All of the stats are from their 2020 seasons.  I realize that a lot of these prospects are playing again, but at this point, I don’t feel like there is enough of a body of work to get too far into it at this point.  I might mention it here or there, but for the most part, I don’t talk much about their early returns for the 20-21 season.

 

Maxim Beryozkin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 216  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 51  G: 25  A: 29  P: 54

DOB: 10/12/01, Chita, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 138th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

As I did post-draft in 2019, I’m going to run down the list of selections the Oilers made that didn’t make my top 20 in my honourable mentions.  I would guess that they noticed Beryozkin initially while watching their 7th rounder from 2019 Maxim Denezhkin, as they were teammates last season.  This season, Beryozkin is playing in the K for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl with fellow Oilers prospect Ilya Konovalov.  You take a look at the size Beryozkin and it’s easy to see why a team would like him.  Great size and from what I’ve read has pretty good skill too.  The question will be whether or not he can improve his skating.  The little I’ve seen of him, he has really heavy feet to my eye.

 

Filip Engarås

Team: New Hampshire  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 8  A: 7  P: 15

DOB: 05/16/99, Stockholm, SWE

Acquired: 6th Round, 169th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

I won’t sugarcoat this: I hope they know what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to Engarås, because this pick has most people scratching their heads.  Most of you likely don’t care about them pissing away a 6th round pick, but to me it would be telling of how well the organization is run in general.  I actually wonder if this is a favour for someone.  Think that’s crazy?  I have it on pretty good authority that’s how the Anaheim Ducks got Josh Manson.  Manson was in his last year of eligibility, didn’t appear to be much of a prospect, and Dave Mason’s old D partner Bob Murray selected Dave’s boy.  It happens often, and this is one of the very rare examples of it working.  Anyway, I have no clue if that’s what happened here, but I just wonder because it is a bizarre pick.  Conflicting reports on how well Engarås can skate, average size, average skill, it just doesn’t make much sense from the outside looking in.  We’ll see though.  Who knows what they might know.

 

Jeremias Lindewall

Team: MODO  League: J20 SuperElit

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  G: 11  A: 17  P: 28

DOB: 01/02/02, Sollefteå, SWE

Acquired: 7th Round, 200th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Again, I’d be lying if I said I knew a lot on there last three 2020 selections at this point.  I’d like to think I do a shit ton of work on the draft, but the fact is that when you get past about the 3rd round/top 100, draft boards look wildly different from each other.  Having said this, I actually really like everything I have found thus far on Lindewall, and perhaps like him best of the last three selections they made.  Good size, good wheels, very good on the boards, very willing to receive and dish out punishment, he’s a very intriguing prospect.

 

Matej Blümel

Team: HC Dynamo Pardubice   League: Czech

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 31  G: 4  A: 1  P: 5

DOB: 05/31/00, Tabor, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 20

As I said last time around though with Blümel, he likely will need to do something to stand out.  I can’t see him becoming a top-six player, so I believe his best bet is going to be that he develop a tremendous 200-foot game.  You can say that with most players, but most prospects have a trait that stands out or that can be seen as their jumping-off point to develop into something.  I don’t see anything like that with Blümel, so a strong defensive game could be that something to set him apart.  Frankly, I don’t see what they saw with Blümel, but he has a lot of time to work with, and the organization has a lot of time before a decision is needed of whether or not to sign him.

 

Skyler Brind’Amour

Team: Quinnipiac  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 4  A: 9  P: 13

DOB: 07/27/99, Raleigh, NC

Acquired: 6th Round, 177th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

This is the first time I’ve written about Brind’Amour, and full disclosure…it’s to get me to 10 prospects for the HM’s.  I do not understand why they liked him with the 177th pick in that draft OTHER than the fact that they were pretty desperate for centres in the system at the time and hadn’t taken one to that point in the draft.  He’s never shown much in my opinion, but he’s only entering his sophomore season at Quinnipac so there is time before they even have to make a decision.  And by then, who knows?

 

Maxim Denezhkin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 52  G: 19  A: 25  P: 44

DOB: 12/10/00, Yaroslavl, RUS

Acquired: 7th Round, 193rd Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Not your typical Russian prospect.  The things that come to mind with Denezhkin are character, hard-working, 200-foot player, he’s a more interesting prospect than perhaps most realize.  It’s not to suggest that he doesn’t have some skill because he does.  The concern I have is foot speed.  I’m not going to pretend I’ve watched a ton of Denezhkin, but enough to have the opinion that the skating needs quite a bit of work.  It has actually been a bit of a trend with Oilers picks in rounds 2-7 with the current regime.  It legitimately makes me wonder if they see skating issues as an easier flaw to overcome now than it was a decade or more ago?  They wouldn’t be wrong to have that opinion as we’re seeing more and more players overcome skating issues after being selected.  Anyway, an interesting project who has a lot of time to develop.

 

Michael Kesselring

Team: Northeastern  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 205  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 2  A: 3  P: 5

DOB: 01/13/00, New Hampton, NH

Acquired: 6th Round, 164th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The Edmonton Journal/Cult of Hockey had him much higher than I do, but it isn’t as if I don’t see what they do.  My claim to fame with Kesselring is that I predicted the Oilers having interest in him pre 2018 draft.  He was the exact prototype that the Chiarelli/Gretzky regime always targeted late in the draft (RHD with size and mobility going the college route).  What I’m unsure on is Kesselring’s skating.  I’ve heard some suggest that they love his skating, but the few times I’ve seen him play, I haven’t felt the same.  Still, he’s a project who has a long runway with this only being his sophomore season at Northeastern.  That means he’ll for sure have this season and next to develop before the Oilers may have to make a decision on him (though they will technically have until the 2023 off-season).

 

Patrik Siikanen

Team: JYP  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 28  G: 0  A: 2  P: 2

DOB: 04/16/00, Espoo, FIN

Acquired: 7th Round, 195th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

I’d love to twist this in a way that makes it sound better than it is, but I can’t.  And trust me, I very badly want to see him become something.  Anytime you can nickname a guy “Siikanen destroy”, you’re pulling for him!  But here is the reality of this pick: he has time.  That’s the big reason for the selection.  Siikanen had good size, skates well, plays with intelligence, and has a lot of time before a decision needs to be made on him.  I could be mistaken, but I believe they still have two seasons to wait and see.  Don’t ever expect that he’s going to explode offensively and be the 2nd coming of Pavel Datsyuk, but he has the tools to potentially be a bottom-six player someday.

 

Aapeli Räsänen

Team: KalPa  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 11  A: 13  P: 24

DOB: 06/01/98, Tampere, FIN

Acquired: 6th Round, 158th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 17

I’m starting to REALLY hate this kid.  Why?  Because it’s getting frustrating trying to figure out what they might do with him!  I have a HUNCH…just in trying to read the tea leaves on him…that they want him, but they want to max out his time before they put him in the AHL.  But that’s me speculating.  I’ve always liked him as a potential 4C. Think Mark Letestu.  A 4C who can do a little bit of everything.  I will say, I was blown away with how much enthusiasm Scott Howson had last spring when speaking of Räsänen.  Howson was excited that Räsänen started producing more while playing the wing on the top line at BC.  It was…bizarre.  It would be crazy at this point to expect Räsänen to become anything more than a very solid 4C who can handle tough minutes, be sound in his own zone, and a good penalty killer.

 

Dylan Wells

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 7  GAA: 3.77  Sv%: .878

DOB: 01/03/98, St. Catharines, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 15

Probably the last time he will be on this list as his days are numbered with this organization.  Anton Forsberg is now in the fold to split time with Stuart Skinner (the right call), and that means Wells is gone.  Maybe dealt, maybe bought out (you might ask why they would buyout someone on his ELC and the reason is to open up a spot as you can only have 50 players under contract), or maybe he spends one more season splitting time with Olivier Rodrigue if there is an ECHL season.  But barring Wells getting that chance in the ECHL and tearing up the league, he’s done with the Oilers.  He’s an HM because as you likely know by now, it’s never sat well with me how this organization treated Wells.  It has never seemed to matter what he’s done, it’s always been about other guys.  If I’m Wells, I use that as MASSIVE motivation once I’ve moved on.  I will add though that it’s fair to have the opinion that if he wilted once things got tough then he was never going to make it.  I just think that when developing prospects (goaltenders in particular) I believe you need to build their confidence as much as anything else.

 

That concludes my longest honourable mention section I’ve ever done.  Don’t tell me I’m not thorough or giving this enough thought!  And the truth is, many of those HM’s could make the back end of the top 20.  But if we’re splitting hairs, they didn’t, and here is who did:

 

20. Ostap Safin

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 16  A: 19  P: 35

DOB: 02/11/99, Praha, CZE

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 18

Yeah, I get it.  You’ve given up on Safin.  I don’t blame you.  He doesn’t have the best motor, he was set back with hip issues the entire 18-19 season, and then he didn’t exactly set the ECHL on it’s ear last season.  But I need to see how this season goes before I give up on him.  And obviously, “this season” remains a pretty big question mark.  The tools are all here though.  The skating ability, the size, the physicality, good skill, he’s potentially a player who can move up and down your lineup.  Not that he plays anything like Zach Hyman, but think of that kind of guy.  No doubt, looking increasingly as though Safin will not reach that level, but he’s still only 21.  Still too early to give up on someone with this much ability.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

19. Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 13  A: 60  P: 73

DOB: 09/23/00, Pardubice, CZE

Acquired: 6th Round, 162nd Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 16

Let’s be honest here…Mazura is in my top 20 (again) mainly for two reasons.  1) the size/skating combination is overly intriguing for me.  2) as I’ve talked about plenty of times now with him, he is an extremely likeable kid.  But that’s really it.  Sure, you can point to his awesome numbers last season, but he was playing at Kimball Union.  Dominating at a prep school at 19 years of age isn’t exactly a reason to get giddy.  But we’re going to see once he starts at Providence.  THEN we’ll have a much better idea of what the Oilers got.  As of writing this he is on loan to the HIFK U20 team where he is a PPG through three games.  But again, the strength of competition isn’t exactly brutal.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

18. Cooper Marody

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 30  G: 5  A: 12  P: 17

DOB: 12/20/96, Brighton, MI

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

Previous Rank: 12

It’s been a nightmare for Marody since Kale Kessy laid a filthy/cheap hit on him in the first round of the 2019 AHL playoffs.  Marody was tracking towards a legitimate opportunity with the Oilers in the fall of 2019 with a good training camp, and that hit derailed not only that opportunity, but his entire 19-20 season.  Is it fair to put it all on that hit/one concussion?  Maybe not.  But it seems very unlikely that it isn’t related.  But here is the good news for Marody: the door is still open.  Thanks to Covid, he has had a lot of time to not only get his head straight, but train in general.  The pandemic could have been a blessing in disguise for a kid like Marody.  He perhaps needed time off more than anyone.  So we’ll see how he bounces back.  The skill is there, the motor is there, the skating is questionable, but I believe it’s passable.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

17. Markus Niemeläinen

Team: Ässät  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 55  G: 1  A: 6  P: 7

DOB: 06/08/98, Kuopio, FIN

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 19

Niemeläinen is one of those guys who just MIGHT still surprise us, simply because the ability is so ridiculous.  Not just the size, but he has always had people intrigued because he can also skate extremely well for that size, and he also moves the puck well.  He has never shown any interest in becoming a two-way defenceman as many desired him to be, but he has always been solid in his own zone.  And the thing with this club is that they are now getting to a point where they will have plenty of offensive production coming from the blueline.  They might need a shutdown guy as Niemeläinen has more than enough potential still to become.  When/if the AHL season starts up, that’ll be when we get to see how far (if at all) Niemeläinen has come since playing in the OHL.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

16. Filip Berglund

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 5  A: 15  P: 20

DOB: 5/10/97, Skellefteå, SWE

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

Previous Rank: 13

Let’s be honest about Berglund: there isn’t much reason to get too hyped about him these days.  His skating is his weakness, and it’s never really progressed over the years to my eye (not that I’ve watched him super closely, but have a fair bit and then a lot last season being Broberg’s partner).  He’s got a safe, stay at home game that can be useful, and the Oilers are thin on the right side moving forward, especially now that they’ve let Matt Benning walk out the door.  But it’s interesting to think of Benning, because Berglund has a lot of the same game Benning brings.  Not as physical of a defender, but a kid who takes pride in his defensive game.  Moving forward, the Oilers look set on the right side in the top four with Bear and Bouchard.  So all they’d really need after that is a guy who can thrive on the bottom pair and perhaps be an effective penalty killer.  That’s something Berglund definitely has the potential to become.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

15. Ty Tullio

Team: Oshawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 180  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 62  G: 27  A: 39  P: 66

DOB: 04/05/02, Lakeshore, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 126th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

These next two prospects were a breath of fresh air for myself and several Oilers fans in this year’s draft.  This new regime seemingly love their projects, and every pick they had made until the 100th and 126th in the 2020 draft (meaning, going back to their first pick of Broberg in 2019) had at least a bit of a “swing for the fences” feel to it.  These two though felt like they were just looking to put the ball in play if we’re keeping with the baseball analogy.  Tullio was the second of those excellent value picks who is very exciting to have in the fold.  Tullio wasn’t in my top 64, but he was very likely 65th.  When it got down around 60, if you look at the list, I felt stronger about having some project types ahead of him as there are elements of his game I’m not a fan of, mainly his skating.  I won’t sugarcoat it: in my opinion, his skating is flat out bad.  But he is such an endearing player.  Non-stop motor, loves getting his nose dirty, has a great shot but possesses very good vision as well.  I love the pick at that spot.  On top of that, I believe he could have some trade value in the next few years because I expect him to obliterate the OHL in that time.  But that skating is going to make it very difficult for him to reach the show.  Obviously though, if he were to get it cleaned up, what a pick this could end up being.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

14. Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 53  A: 46  P: 99

DOB: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Here is the other of those picks.  Savoie is interesting.  First of all, I probably didn’t track another prospect closer than Savoie last season.  I was doing colour for the Lloydminster Bobcats, and I was covering WHL/Western Canadian prospects as well.  Add to those factors that I was blown away that he wasn’t receiving the pre-season hype I believed he should be getting.  For a 16 year old kid to be the leading scorer on an elite AJHL team…that’s pretty damn rare!!  So, I began to look into the issues.  First one was his skating.  People really need to figure out the difference between pace of play and skating ability.  Savoie can skate.  He’s not a burner, but he’s fine.  He just essentially plays a lazy game.  Ok, so that’s not good.  But keep in mind, this kid was playing on a team that was ranked number one in the country, and on a line where he was strictly asked to be the trigger man.  I’ve seen this kid work his balls off when he’s had to, step up when challenged, go to the dirty areas, and then on top of that he has the hands, vision, and shot needed to make it.  Maybe I’m just being a bit of a homer for the league I broadcast games in, but I believe Savoie is going to rise to the challenge as he plays in higher levels of hockey rather than wilt.  If he was backing down when physically challenged last season, then I’d suggest he’ll fail.  But when I saw anyone touch him last season, he had vicious bite back.  You did not want to touch him, because he would be looking to spear you, or elbow you, he’s got a mean streak.  So the effort level is what really needs to be watched with Savoie as he progresses, but I’d assume/hope the Oilers organization know his character and did an insane amount of homework on him.  If that checks out, this is one hell of a pick in my opinion.

ETA: Late 24-25

 

13. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 40  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .912

DOB: 07/13/98, Yaroslavl, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 85th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank:14

So far this season, Konovalov has rebounded nicely from a disappointing 19-20 season.  As of writing this, a .930 Sv% in 7 games played.  It has been very weird with the Edmonton media and Konovalov since he was drafted though.  No doubt, his stats jumped out when they picked him.  But through last season, despite knowing his numbers weren’t there as they had been the previous season, and very likely without having watched him, the Edmonton media were still giddy about him.  There was no way of justifying it, he had a bad season.  One person in the local media tried to claim that it was just a bad start, but failed to mention that Konovalov was lit up in the playoffs.  And you have to remember that the K is a very defensive-minded league so every goaltender has eye-popping numbers.  This season he’s gotten off to a good start, but so has Lokomotiv’s other netminder…former Bakersfield Condor Eddie Pasquale.  Strange, I never heard them crying for Pasquale to get the call-up in 2018, nor do I believe they’ll be clamouring for him to be signed next off-season…Anyway…I do love how technically sound Konovalov is with what I’ve seen of him.  He’s not overly athletic (again, from what I’ve seen) for someone sub 6’0, but he is very quick and probably goes without saying but extremely flexible as well.  Tough not to be reminded of Antti Raanta when you watch him play.  The style, the size, even the number!  But last season’s performance really holds him down in my rankings at this point.  This is the last year he’s under contract in the KHL, but barring him having an out of this world season, I’d guess another two year deal is in the best interest of both Konovalov and the Oilers.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

12. William Lagesson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 3  A: 7  P: 10

DOB: 02/22/96, Göteborg, SWE

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

Previous Rank: 11

It’s tough to imagine that Lagesson can become anything more than he has at this point.  He really has maxed out his ability just getting to the cusp of the NHL as he has.  But having said this, he is still the likely candidate to be the team’s number seven defenceman next season and he is very capable of filling that role.  The skating ability is just average, which is the biggest issue he’s facing, and the way he skates it’ll be very difficult to improve it.  We have yet to see “his game” at the NHL level though.  When he’s right, he can play a nasty/in your face physical game.  And he moves it very well for a stay at home type.  But again, tough to imagine him being more than a 6/7 at this point.  Fun fact here with Lagesson: He is the only prospect who I project to be “early” in a season in terms of his ETA.  Reason?  Because I believe that’s just going to be the way it works with this regime.  If you look at last season, Ethan Bear was a necessity.  Sure, he earned his spot, but they also didn’t have options!  All the other kids were slowly integrated throughout the season.  I believe that will be more so the norm.  But Lagesson at this point looks like the clear cut favourite to be the 7th defenceman.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

11. Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  GAA: 2.32  Sv%: .918

DOB: 07/06/00, Chicoutimi, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 10

Very eager to see if Rodrigue can build off his awesome 2nd half in the Q last season.  The one reason I was actually excited about Rodrigue (I was very pissed they traded up for him in 2018) was that I felt he would perhaps have tremendous value because he could dominate the Q.  And then he didn’t even do that!  He barely made team Canada for the WJC as a 19 year old, and then even with that team being a mess between the pipes he didn’t even get a start!!  But he FINALLY started to show signs of progression once he returned from the WJC with an incredible two-month stretch to end his QMJHL career.  He would start next season in the ECHL if there is a season, pretty typical path for a CHL goaltender.  The raw ability is there.  Very quick, very athletic, needs to clean up his technical game, and we’ll see if he can develop a little more discipline mentally which is always a massive key for any young goaltenders growth.

ETA: Mid 23-24

 

10. Stuart Skinner

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 41  GAA: 3.31  Sv%: .892

DOB: 11/01/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 9

I talked earlier about Dylan Wells and how the organization basically showed him no faith right from the start.  Well Skinner is the opposite.  Skinner appears set to get multiple opportunities to prove himself.  I do understand the draw.  There is a lot of Devan Dubnyk that I see in Stuart Skinner.  Big (not Dubnyk big, but big), moves well, technically sound, Skinner definitely has a chance to play.  And the thing right now with Skinner is it’s very difficult to say what his upside is.  The AHL isn’t kind to goaltenders at the best of times.  When you’re playing behind such a dysfunctional team as Skinner was last season, it’s even more difficult.  So we really won’t know on Skinner until he gets a chance.  One of the positives with the Oilers goaltending right now is that the door is open for kids.  No Oilers fan is pumped with that positive, but the opportunity is there for Skinner to establish himself this season.  And if he does, I would guess he would be the goaltender the Oilers protect for the expansion draft barring an amazing season from Mikko Koskinen.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

9. Philip Kemp

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 32  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/12/99, Greenwich, CT

Acquired: 7th Round, 208th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 9

He’s a forgotten prospect at this point.  But he will be an important one IF he signs with the team.  Straight up, I doubt he will.  American kid, so close to free agency, I bet he is dealt, which sucks.  However, should he stay and sign he would be one of the top prospects on the right side.  Kemp is nothing flashy, but he skates well and is a terrific defender.  Anchoring a pairing, I can’t see him as more than a bottom pairing D-man in the show, similar to what Matt Benning is.  But I could also see him as a very nice complimentary/”safety net” type of defenceman in a team’s top four.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

8. Kirill Maksimov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 5  A: 8  P: 13

DOB: 06/01/99, Moskva, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 4

I still like this kid’s game a lot.  But let’s take off our Oilers googles for a minute and be honest: They don’t like him.  And it appears to me that they’ve already made up their mind with him.  It’s always been very odd with Maksimov.  Despite myself and others seeing this terrific 5th round pick tear up the OHL in both his 18 and 19 year old seasons, while developing his skating, board game, and 200-foot game very well, the Edmonton media has NEVER said a word about Maksimov.  And for most of them, they get their info from people within the organization.  It was the same thing with Dylan Wells.  It looked like a heist of a pick in 2016 (ironically, also in the 5th round, also out of the OHL), yet in the 2017 draft they’re trading up to get Stuart Skinner and all of a sudden “there, they finally got a good young netminder”.  Wells was legitimately one of the best goaltenders, if not THE BEST goaltender in the CHL in 2017.  And I’ve often wondered since if the Skinner pick fucked with Wells confidence.  Fair to say that if he couldn’t handle something like that then he’d never have been able to handle the NHL, but it has still been VERY ODD.  Anyway, I see the same shit with Maksimov.  It doesn’t erase the fact that this kid has all the tools to be a damn good player.  The size and motor really stand out to me.  The skating doesn’t stand out, but it’s ok (I really disagree with those who suggest its a major flaw with him).  But again as I have maintained forever with this kid…the shot is incredible.  No backswing and a total laser just like Joe Sakic had.  And the one-timer is just as good.  A bullet that is incredibly accurate.  I badly want to see him get a legitimate opportunity in Bakersfield.  Last year was…whatever.  I knew he wouldn’t see much ice with what they had and being a rookie.  But those excuses to hold him back evaporated as the year went on, and yet Jay Woodcroft still refused to give him opportunities.  Jay was the right-hand man for Todd McLellan for a very long time, and one thing McLellan became known for was having little-no patience for European players.  I fear it could be the same with Woodcroft.  It would be very foolish for this organization to not give Maksimov the proper opportunities to succeed in my opinion.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

7. Tyler Benson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 9  A: 27  P: 36

DOB: 03/15/98, Edmonton, AB

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 3

This is one mighty big season for Benson.  He got some looks last year, showed some flashes, but he couldn’t secure a spot and now he’s at a crossroads.  The opportunity is sitting there for him much like it was for Ethan Bear last season.  The top-six is not set.  Tyler Ennis is PROBABLY occupying one of the two LW spots in that top-six, and he can be caught by Benson.  This is Benson’s chance.  It’s not that he’s done with the organization if he can’t win that spot, but he might not ever have a better opportunity.  After this upcoming season, the organization has some cap space, and they have some kids coming who will make it even more difficult for Benson to surpass.  He has all the ability to make it.  But the pace of play wasn’t quick enough at last check, the feet are still a little heavy, and the edges need some work.  If he can clean those things up, man…he could be a heck of a player.  And the pace of play should come with time at the top level, I don’t view that as a major flaw.  But the explosiveness and edge work…those are much more difficult.  Far from impossible, and they don’t have too far to go, but he needs to really dedicate himself to get over the hump.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

6. Ryan McLeod

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

DOB: 09/21/99, Mississauga, ON

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 7

I’ve always said this, but McLeod will play.  He has too much speed, size and intelligence not to play in the league.  What they’re trying to do with him is play with more of an edge and assertiveness.  Nobody is expecting McLeod to start putting people on their asses, but he needs to show that he won’t shy away from the tougher areas on the ice.  That’s THE key with this kid.  It isn’t urgent for him like it is for Benson, but don’t think McLeod doesn’t have a shot at that top six gig also.  He has everything needed to step into a spot alongside McDavid or Draisaitl and contribute.  I don’t think they’ll give him that chance this season though.  Reason being is that while I believe they want guys to earn it, they REALLY want to make McLeod earn it given his shortcomings.  It could pay off huge down the line.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

5. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 38  A: 44  P: 82

DOB: 09/25/00, Chambly, QC

Acquired: 2nd Round, 38th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 5

I had a tough time deciding who I liked better between Lavoie and McLeod.  I view McLeod as more of a certainty, but Lavoie has shown so damn much since they drafted him that I had to put him higher.  I keep thinking back to how much weight he dropped from draft day 2019 to WJC camp only a month later.  And then playing for Canada at the WJC last year, I was so impressed with his game.  He embraced that checking role Dale Hunter put him in, he didn’t pout about it.  And in doing so, he was a big asset for that club.  The opportunity MIGHT present itself before next season for Lavoie to step in pretty seamlessly for Alex Chiasson.  Nothing to do with the two being french Canadian, everything to do with them both being big, skilled, and willing to play that role.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

4. Dmitri Samorukov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

DOB: 06/16/99, Volgograd, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: 6

I rarely say this in my prospect write-up’s, but you can’t deny that Samorukov is more likely trade bait for this organization than he is to play for them someday.  Darnell Nurse doesn’t look as though he’s going to go anywhere (despite the fact that he is only on a two-year contract), Phillip Broberg looks like a lock to play, if the media and organization would stop giving Caleb Jones the Jeff Petry treatment they would perhaps realize that he has similar upside to Jeff Petry…So Sammy really doesn’t appear to have a spot at this time.  Still, don’t confuse that as him being chopped liver.  This is a damn good prospect who has rapidly developed at every level he’s been at.  When the Oilers drafted him in 2017, I wasn’t overly high on him.  And to his credit, his game did nothing but grow in the OHL to the point wherein his 19 year old season he might have been the best defenceman in the league.  Then last season in Bakersfield, he did nothing but get better as he adapted to the AHL.  He has all the tools.  Good size, good skating ability, moves the puck well, physical, good positionally in his own zone, good stick, he really has top-four D-man written all over him.  Not saying it’s a slam dunk, but I personally have a tough time imagining him not getting to that level.  What sucks is that he’s an excellent prospect who will likely never have that kind of value, so the organization could be between a rock and a hard place with him.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

3. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C/LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 8  A: 9  P: 17

DOB: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

Acquired: 1st Round, 14th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

First of all, man…I hate saying someone is a centre/winger, because all centres can play the wing!  It still blows my mind that prominent hockey media will say things like “and he can play the wing too” about a centre.  Seriously guys?!?!  It’s literally an easier position to play, so of course a centre can play it!  There are VERY few centres who actually struggle playing the wing.  Anyway, I say it here because I’m not sure where Holloway will end up for this club.  I can argue it either way, but that is part of the charm that comes with this pick.  I have repeatedly admitted it already but will do it one more time for this piece.  I was pissed about the pick initially.  And don’t confuse this, I still would have taken three other players on the board ahead of Holloway.  BUT…the more thought I gave it, the more I loved it for the club and it actually fits tremendously well.  While Holloway wasn’t my top guy or even in my top three, he still should have been in my group of players I wanted for the club.  You might think if you go back and look at my final list of top 64 prospects “what was your issue, you had him 16th?”  Which is fair, but if you look at it, you’ll also see that I had Kaiden Guhle 13th.  Different teams should have different boards.  For the Oilers, I felt that they should have been wanting pure skill as they really lack it up front.  But they even more so lack Holloway’s complete game up front.  You talk about someone who plays a man’s game, Holloway plays a mans game.  This kid has the ability to be one of the best power forwards in the game, and one of the best 200-foot games in the game.  Does he have an overly skilled game?  No, he doesn’t.  But he’s going to produce by doing everything right and doing all the dirty work.  Without a doubt a top-nine winger down the road, but when you start to think of the upside and think about some of the comparables (Shawn Horcoff, Derek Stepan, Brandon Saad, Jakob Silfverberg to name a few), all of a sudden you start to get VERY excited about Holloway.  Add to this, good size, tremendous wheels, and a very high character kid which are pretty clearly the three traits this organization is looking for with their top picks…not a bad gameplan.  A lot of my initial dislike of the pick comes from not trusting this regime after watching the job they did in Detroit the past few seasons, and it remains to be seen with Holloway.  But there is no doubt it was more about me and less about them with this selection.  Holloway has “core piece” written all over him.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 45  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

DOB: 06/25/01, Örebro, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 8th Overall, 2019 Draft

Previous Rank: 2

So far, it looks like I was very wrong and the organization was very right about this selection, and I’m more than happy to say that.  The fear I have now is that they don’t take the time on him that they should be.  I get it.  This is going to be extremely tempting for them to bring in someone this fast and this big, but patience is huge in my opinion because Broberg has ridiculous upside, but he’s still raw in a lot of key areas of the game.  He is the type of player that organization’s constantly rush.  Jay Bouwmeester, Noah Hanifin, Jakub Chychrun, Rasmus Ristolainen, they all have such tremendous size and skating ability that teams just can’t help themselves.  But if you take the proper time, this kid could be a star.  A legitimate number one defenceman.  Someone who wins Norris trophies.  You have a player in Broberg.  At least a number five, probably a number four, and a good chance he can be a three.  But if you give him time and you bring him along slowly, perhaps he is able to really develop the rest of his game.  The D-zone play needs time (positionally he’s still a bit of a mess).  The puck-moving needs time (he won’t be able to skate it out of trouble all the time in the NHL).  He needs to see a lot of time on the PK.  He could really benefit getting some time as the top PP option in Bakersfield when the time comes.  As I wrote about in the summer, there is no need at all to rush this.  Bring him along slowly and the pay off could be enormous.  I know someone, somewhere, is screaming that they will because they do with everyone.  But they don’t.  Michael Rasmussen was a similar prospect for this regime that they didn’t give the proper time to, and now the Red Wings are paying for it.  They weren’t that patient with Dennis Cholowski either.  There is a reason we heard the media get geeked about Broberg this summer.  It isn’t because they’re all just enormous Broberg fans.  The organization wants it out there, and from reading the tea leaves, the organization doesn’t want to wait long.  Trust me…let’s hope they can resist the urge.  The downside to waiting: none.  The upside to waiting: massive.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 7  A: 29  P: 36

DOB: 10/20/99, Oakville, ON

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: 1

This wasn’t as certain as the last few times around.  The upside with Broberg and the hope that they will take their time with him (even if they don’t want to), makes him pretty enticing to put in this spot.  But, I haven’t forgotten what Bouchard is, unlike some.  And the fact remains that Bouchard is ready to step in, and he is the safer bet of the two blueliners at this point.  But let’s also not blindly assume the number one upside isn’t there with Bouchard, it absolutely is.  Someone who has this high of IQ and plays this methodical of a game, he’ll likely get the D-zone figured out.  To what extent, remains to be seen.  But he has the size and IQ to become as good of a defender as he wants to be.  I have been vocal about this already, but I will say it again here: I really dislike the organization buying a roadblock for Bouchard.  Bring in someone to legitimately compete with Bouchard for the 3rd pairing spot?  Awesome.  Bring in someone who prevents him from getting an opportunity?  That doesn’t sit well with me.  I know, injuries happen, he’ll get a chance at some point this season.  But he’s ready to play, especially on the 3rd pair.  Not signing Barrie would have saved over two million in cap space that they perhaps could have used on a free agent still available who fit in their top-six like Mikael Granlund.  Now, you’re looking at pissing away a year of Bouchard’s ELC, and the top-six is still lacking.  I’m all for developing guys properly, but I’m also all for knowing when the time has come for them to step in and the upcoming season was it for Bouchard.  Don’t need to GIVE him the spot, but the opportunity should be there for him to grab it.  Not only is that gone, but rumours are rampant that they’ll sign Madison Bowey to further prevent Bouchard from getting an opportunity.  Don’t get it, don’t like it.

ETA: Late 20-21

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