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July 13, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Edmonton Oilers

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Edmonton Oilers Top 10 Prospects

1. Nail Yakupov, Right Wing
2. Justin Schultz, Defense
3. Oscar Klefbom, Defense
4. Martin Marincin, Defense
5. Martin Gernat, Defense
6. Daniil Zharkov, Left Wing
7. David Musil, Defense
8. Tyler Pitlick, Right Wing
9. Teemu Hartikainen, Left Wing
10. Tobias Rieder, Right Wing

Organizational Ranking: 9th

System Overview: The Oilers have graduated a lot of their top talent in recent years, although with another number one pick they've acquired an elite talent in Nail Yakupov. After Yakupov, this system has talent and depth at the defense position, led by top end D prospect Justin Schultz and a very good one in Oscar Klefbom. There is some offensive talent in the organization as well, but it's in prospects that still need to develop quite a bit rather than legitimate top forward prospects. Aside from their top two prospects and maybe Klefbom, it's hard to see the rest of their system's best prospects making any form of impact in the next few years.

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1. Nail Yakupov, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 10/06/1993
Age: 18
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 191
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 31 G, 69 P (Sarnia-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 1st overall in 2012 by Edmonton

The Good: Yakupov is an off-the-charts skater with arguably elite level ability in that area with a tremendous combination of first step burst, agility, and a good top gear. His puck skills are near that level as well as he has ridiculously quick hands and he is very creative in open ice. He developed high-end vision this past year, and combining that with an elite level shot makes him a franchise level offensive package. Yakupov also plays a high energy game with his physical play and regular on-ice work ethic.

The Bad: Size is the main issue with Yakupov that limits his physical ability and he needs to bulk up. He also could use some attention on his defensive game.

Projection: He has the ability to be one of the best wingers in the league.

2. Justin Schultz, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 07/06/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 37 GP, 16 G, 44 P (Univ. of Wisconsin-WCHA)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: Schultz has high-end puck possession skills and can really dominate the flow of a game. He has plus hockey sense, and shows an innate ability to always make good decisions, start the offense from the back end, control a power play, and show significant playmaking skill. He's a fine skater to my eyes but I've heard several scouts praise that area as a high-end skill. Schultz tends to make good reads on defense, and controls gaps well with his stick.

The Bad: He could use his body a little more and his weakness, if it is one, is that he may only be good in his own end and not at the same level as his offense.

Projection: He has the tools to be a top pairing defender.

3. Oscar Klefbom, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 07/20/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 201
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 33 GP, 2 G, 2 P, 13:41 ATOI (Farjestad-SEL)
Acquired: First round, 15th overall in 2011 by Edmonton

The Good: Klefbom is a gifted athlete who has high-end physical tools. He's an easy plus skater with great acceleration who moves exceptionally well for a player his size. Aside from having good size, he is very physically advanced for his age, never mind the fact most U-20 European players tend to be behind the physical curve whereas he is ahead of it. Klefbom has solid puck skills and flashes slightly above-average vision as well.

The Bad: The issues with Klefbom coming into the draft were that he was a little raw, and how well he would transition faster pace hockey. While people in the industry think he has the making of a great defensive defender due to his size and skating, he had not yet shown a lot of that at a high level outside of his own age group. Klefbom still shows some struggles with his decision making, and the occasional defensive gap, but in the second half of the year he took big strides forward.

Projection: He could be a great #3 defender who logs tough minutes and produces an average amount of offense.

4. Martin Marincin, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 02/18/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 58 GP, 11 G, 40 P (Prince George/Regina-WHL)
Acquired: Second round, 46th overall in 2010 by Edmonton

The Good: Marincin is a big defender with a lot of physical tools with desirable upside. He skates well for his size, is mobile in all directions, and at times flashes true above-average ability in that area. He has good puck skills and puck-moving ability to create offense on his own and is looked to quarterback power plays to create for others as well as manning the top of the umbrella on the power play this year in the WHL.

The Bad: Marincin improved significantly on his consistency issues this year but he'll have odd brain cramp moment and still has some work to do in his defensive game. His physical game isn't an issue, but he could use his body a little more.

Projection: I could see a path where he becomes an above-average second pairing guy, but I'd say it's unlikely.

5. Martin Gernat, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 04/11/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 191
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 9 G, 55 P (Edmonton-WHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 122nd overall in 2011 by Edmonton

The Good: Gernat is a very toolsy big defenseman with a fair amount of upside. He's very rangy for his size, showing good four-way mobility and well above-average skating for his size. Gernat is a creative passer with good puck skills, which like his skating are very good for a man with his frame. He's aggressive offensively and doesn't shy away from joining the rush and is pretty effective at either doing that, or quarterbacking a power play.

The Bad: Despite his massive frame, Gernat doesn't use his body as much as he should and when you combine that with the fact he's not all that developed in his defensive end reads and positioning, his own end value isn't that desirable although he'll show flashes of good play in that aspect.

Projection: He could be a decent second-pairing defender with good offensive numbers who is somewhat sheltered defensively.

6. Daniil Zharkov, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 02/06/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 202
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 50 GP, 23 G, 36 P (Belleville-OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 91st overall in 2012 by Edmonton

The Good: Zharkov is a gifted offensive player. He has high-end puck skills, above-average skating ability, and a plus shot. He's the kind of talent who stands out when you watch him because of his ability to create a scoring chance out of nothing. He shows decent work ethic along the boards and can be a fine cycle game asset. Zharkov can flash solid passing ability too.

The Bad: His effort towards the defensive game could improve. Zharkov can also be victim to trying to do too much. His production this season was also slightly concerning for someone with his talent level.

Projection: He could be an average second line forward.

7. David Musil, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 04/09/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 59 GP, 6 G, 27 P (Vancouver-WHL)
Acquired: Second round, 31st overall in 2011 by Edmonton

The Good: Musil is a tremendous defensive defenseman with high-end hockey sense who is so advanced and effective in the defensive end of the rink. Musil has a good frame which allows him to be effective in the physical game as he's starting to put on a fair amount of strength. He also clogs up lanes well with body and stick. Musil makes a great outlet of his zone, that is crisp and always on the tape of his teammate.

The Bad: Musil is not great with the puck and despite being a smart player he isn't all that creative. His skating looked better than last year especially his mobility, but that aspect of his game is still below-average as well. I doubt he'll get scoring minutes at the top level.

Projection: He could be a number four defenseman.

8. Tyler Pitlick, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 11/01/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 193
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 62 GP, 7 G, 23 P (Oklahoma City-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 31st overall in 2010 by Edmonton

The Good: Tyler Pitlick is a hard-working forward who regularly gets praise for his competitiveness within the industry. He plays a grinder-style game in his work ethic up and down the ice, and in regards to his work along the physical areas where he shows good strength and regularly throws his body at opponents. He's a good skater that accelerates well and pressures defenders quickly. Pitclick is a solid finisher as well who can score from mid-range when he gets his chances.

The Bad: When he was drafted it seemed like Pitlick could potentially be a scorer, but now I'm skeptical about him and would tag his offensive ceiling as below average even though he has decent hockey sense. He had a hard time in his first pro year with the pace, but started to get the feel of things much better in the second half of the year.

Projection: He could be an above-average third line forward.

9. Teemu Hartikainen, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 05/03/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 51 GP, 14 G, 32 P (Oklahoma City-AHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 163rd overall in 2008 by Edmonton

The Good: Hartikainen is an above-average to plus physical player with a very developed frame, who regularly throws his weight around, and is so effective in the cycle game protecting the puck and drawing penalties. He's effective in front of the net on the power play. Hartikainen is also a hard-working two-way player with fine overall hockey sense.

The Bad: Hartikainen has okay offensive ability, but he certainly won't be a top-six point producer at the top level. His skating is below-average as well.

Projection: He could be a decent third line forward.

10. Tobias Rieder, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 01/10/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 179
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 42 G, 95 P (Kitchener-OHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 114th overall in 2011 by Edmonton

The Good: Rieder had a great second OHL season, leading Kitchener in scoring. He has the speed to be able to pressure defense in the transition game and also shows above-average puck skills on top of solid vision with the puck, although I have seen flashes of beyond that from him. He's a gritty, hard-working player who drives the net, works hard every shift, and shows effectiveness as a penalty killer.

The Bad: He's pretty small, and really ineffective in physical battles despite his best efforts. I'm not sure his offensive skills are high-end enough to be a scorer in the NHL for his size.

Projection: If his development goes well, he could be a below-average second line forward but his projection remains uncertain.

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The Next Five

11. Kristians Pelss, Left Wing: He's a plus skater who some skill and plays with a lot of energy.

12. Dillon Simpson, Defense: He's got good puck possession skills and can really pass but he's small and a below-average skater.

13. Colton Teubert, Defense: High-end if not elite physical game and a good skater for his size, but lack of offensive skill and hockey sense makes him project as a number six.

14. Alex Plante, Defense: Improved his puck moving notably and his skating a little bit, but I still don't see enough NHL-level tools. Concussion issues didn't help his development either.

15. Tyler Bunz, Goaltender: Scouts I've talked to say he has all the tools needed in a pro-level goalie and he has developed very well.

The Sleeper: Joey Laleggia, Defense

While a WCHA First Team All-Star can't be that much of a sleeper, with his very desirable offensive skills the young defender has the potential to put up some huge numbers in his sophomore season at Denver.

Edmonton Oilers Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Taylor Hall, Left Wing
2. Nail Yakupov, Right Wing
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Center
4. Jordan Eberle, Right Wing
5. Justin Schultz, Defense
6. Magnus Paajarvi, Left Wing
7. Oscar Klefbom, Defense
8. Anton Lander, Center
9. Martin Marincin, Defense
10. Martin Gernat, Defense

To say it bluntly, that's a heck of a young core right there. Hall is going to be a star and it may happen pretty soon too. Nugent-Hopkins produced with pretty soft minutes this year, but I'm confident he'll be able to play great against tough opponents down the line. Eberle lacks the ceilings of the three top overall picks, but he's very talented although like Nugent-Hopkins he got fed soft minutes this year. Paajarvi was sent down this year and looked very good in the AHL, but when in the NHL with the minutes he did get, he pushed possession the right way against weak competition. He hasn't broken out yet but I still believe a lot in his skill set. Lander clearly wasn't ready for the NHL, and even in the AHL playoffs, he didn't look like his usual self I've been used to seeing. I still think he can be an average pro or better, but he'll need to rebound in a big way next season and his skating still hasn't really improved over the last year.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Top 10 Prospects (07/12)
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Top 10 Prospects (07/16)
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Top 10 Prospects (07/16)

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