A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
The Edmonton Oilers are the very essence of long-term rebuilding in the NHL, and with four first overall selections over six years (including three consecutive number-one picks) this team has attempted to rebuild, quite literally, from the bottom-up. After unexpectedly landing on a generational talent and constructing a world-class management team that includes celebrated executives Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli along with Head Coach Todd McLellan, Edmonton finally has the opportunity to make the championship push they envisioned when drafting Taylor Hall back in 2010. Whether the Oilers continue to tread water remains to be seen, but it appears they have righted the ship at last and expect smooth sailing under the image of Captain McDavid and his motley crew of prospects.
- Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL) 6-1”, 194. 1st overall, 2015
- Leon Draisaitl, C, Kelowna (WHL) 6-2”, 204. 3rd overall, 2014
- Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 6-4”, 185. 7th overall, 2013
- Griffin Reinhart, D, Bridgeport (AHL) 6-4”, 205. Trade: Jun. 26, 2015. Originally: 4th overall, 2012 (NY Islanders)
- Iiro Pakarinen, RW, Oklahoma City (AHL) 6-1”, 205. UFA: Jun. 15, 2014. Originally: 184th overall, 2011 (Florida)
- Joey LaLeggia, D, Denver (NCHC) 5-9”, 182. 123rd overall, 2012
- Anton Slepyshev, LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL) 6-2”, 194. 88th overall, 2013
- Eetu Laurikainen, G, Blues (Liiga) 6-0”, 176. UFA: May 12, 2015
- Bogdan Yakimov, C, Oklahoma City (AHL) 6-5”, 202. 83rd overall, 2013
- Martin Gernat, D, Oklahoma City (AHL) 6-5”, 187. 122nd overall, 2011
Players likely to lose eligibility:
- Kyle Platzer, C, Owen Sound (OHL) 5’11”, 185. 96th overall, 2013
- Greg Chase, C, Victoria (WHL) 6’0” 195. 188th overall, 2013
- Laurent Brossoit, G, Oklahoma City (AHL) 6’3”, 200. Trade: Nov. 8, 2013. Originally: 164th overall, 2011 (Calgary)
Slated as the next-best prospect since Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid had a long and dramatic rise to fame since first exploding onto the scene as a young teenager. The NHL-ready centerman is characterized by his advanced hockey sense, dazzling speed, superior skillset, as well as an innate ability to raise the level of play of whomever he lines up with. In his final year of junior hockey, McDavid posted an incredible 120 points despite sitting for 25 games due to an unfortunate hand injury and the World Juniors – a pace of nearly 2.6 points per game, placing him firmly in the upper-echelon of major junior players throughout history. What else can be said about McDavid that hasn’t been said already? He will undoubtedly be Edmonton’s top center over his career and very likely among the top NHLers going forward.
Second on our list is Leon Draisaitl. The young German was prematurely ushered into the NHL last season, dressing for 37 games where he posted a disappointing nine points as a 19 year old and was eventually sent back to the WHL’s Kelowna. When Draisaitl was selected third overall in 2014 it was with the expectation that he would use his pro-level shot and the combination of his elite first step and north-south speed. This season, the oversized centerman will get another opportunity to crack Edmonton’s lineup and is projected as a third line utility pivot behind McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins where he’s expected to provide depth scoring.
While Edmonton’s offense is quite stable, their defensive corps is still in the midst of development and will revolve around Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart. Joining recent extendee Oscar Klefbom and a mess of NHL veterans, Nurse and Reinhart represent the defensive duo of the future for Edmonton. Nurse is coming off another tremendous season with Sault Ste. Marie (and a solid outing at the World Juniors) where he was recognized for his fluid mobility, elite level puck awareness and excellent recovery skills. Nurse is a defense-first player and will likely be deployed as a shutdown defender in the long run although he has offensive upside. Similarly, Reinhart projects as a prototypical shutdown defenseman with an ability to eat big minutes. Although not as outwardly physical or irritable as Nurse, Reinhart possess equal puck-moving ability and fluidity and has some offensive upside. He projects to be a second or first pairing defender. Nurse, standing at 6’4”, paired with either Reinhart (6’4”) and Klefbom (6’3”) will be a formidable shutdown duo and will certainly stabilize Edmonton’s back-end for years to come.
Next on our list is Iiro Pakarinen. When Edmonton scooped up this unsigned Florida Panthers draft pick, it seemed as though they’d found a diamond in the rough. In his short time in Oklahoma City, the winger impressed with a respectable 28 points in 39 games and was rewarded with 17 games in Edmonton where he posted a stingy 3 points in 17 games. Pakarinen is noted for his above average speed and knack for finding loose pucks and converting them into quality shots – a solid driver of possession. The Finnish forward has proven he can produce in Europe and in the minors but will need to prove the same at the next level to advance. He projects to find middle-six minutes in time.
Back to defensemen, Joey LaLeggia is a solid puck-moving defender with tremendous offensive upside and finishing ability, albeit with a small stature and diminutive physicality. His offensive instincts and mobility allow him to create havoc on the rush and contribute as a fourth forward although he isn’t particularly strong and relies on positioning to defend. Coming off a stellar four-year career at the University of Denver where he was among the highest producing defenseman in the country, LaLeggia is primed to be an offensive defender in Edmonton. However, with minimal professional experience and an undersized figure, Laleggia has much to prove before being a mainstay in Northern Alberta. There’s no denying his upside, however.
Returning to the wings, Anton Slepyshev is an exciting winger who recently signed an ELC with Edmonton after two impressive seasons with the KHL’s Ufa. In his second year with the professional club, he posted a solid 25 points in 58 games as a 20 year old, finishing third in club goals. His stature and speed allow him to generate offence easily, and he has the ability to score using solid hockey sense in the offensive zone. There are concerns whether Slepyshev will want to remain in North America, but his offensive talent suggests he’ll align well with the skilled forwards in Edmonton in time. He will likely start the season in Bakersfield, but may find time in Edmonton if his work ethic and production sustain.
The only goaltender of note in the Oilers’ prospect pool is Finland-native, Eetu Laurikainen, who most recently played for Espoo of the SM-Liiga. As a 21-year-old backstopper, Laurikainen recorded an outstanding .933% save percentage and 2.10 goals against average in his first year of professional hockey after two years of WHL experience. A small goalie by North American standards, the undrafted Finn tends to rely on speed, reflexes and spectacular saves to get the job done. The Oilers signed Laurikainen to a two-year ELC this summer and likely visualize the late-blooming goaltender as a project with a solid amount of upside. Fortunately, his numbers reflect his development.
Another mammoth and powerful player in Edmonton’s vast prospect pool is Russian-born Bodgan Yakimov. Yakimov has some mobility issues but is skilled in essentially every other aspect of the game. He has the strength and energy of a power forward, the hands and shot of a sniper and the hockey sense to manufacture goals. Fortunately, Yakimov is accustomed to the professional game having played a season in the KHL and another with Oklahoma City after signing a three-year ELC last summer. He will likely spend the majority of his time in Bakersfield this year. Although he’s not a remarkable producer, do not be surprised to see Yakimov find playing time alongside Edmonton’s elite forwards given his size, strength and playing-making ability.
The final player on Edmonton’s top ten list is towering defenseman Martin Gernat. Characterized as a talented hybrid defender with offensive upside, Gernat has demonstrated his ability to shut down top talent and contribute on the score sheet. With Oklahoma City, Gernat posted uninspiring numbers as he registered a measly one goal and eight assists in nearly 60 games. It remains to be seen whether he will blossom into a legitimate NHLer, but sitting at 6’5”, pushing 200 pounds and possessing solid skating ability, it seems as though Gernat’s mechanics work in his favor. The Slovakian will likely be relied on as a well-rounded shutdown defender in the long run.
Notable sleeper prospects in Edmonton are Kyle Platzer, Greg Chase and goaltender Laurent Brossoit. Platzer began his OHL career with the London Knights where he was heavily sheltered and played behind a glut of offensive talent. After being traded to the Owen Sound Attack, Plazter had a wonderful opportunity to be his club’s go-to offensive force. He finished last season having recorded well over one point per game, and although slightly undersized, Platzer is just beginning to blossom into a strong scoring talent. Similarly, Greg Chase was a consistent producer in the WHL over his four-year career, finishing his last two seasons around one point per game. Although he had some conditioning and discipline troubles in junior, Chase’s NHL-ready size, strength and offensive upside positions him as a diamond in the rough after being selected in seventh round in 2013. Finally, goaltender Laurent Brossoit is an athletic, mobile goaltender with solid mechanics and an ability to make the spectacular save but has some consistency issues (as is the case with most young goaltenders). Originally selected in the sixth round by Calgary, Brossoit has played in one NHL game with Edmonton and is expected to receive significant playing time in Bakersfield this coming season. He has upside and is considered a potential starting goaltender in the NHL.
Edmonton’s management team has positioned the club to where they can finally make the push to distinction with the combination of elite scoring forwards, big hybrid defensemen, and solid goaltending. Although Edmonton does not have any obvious gaps in talent, their goaltending prospects provide the least depth – however this is no slight to the goaltenders they do possess. There is no time better than the present for Edmonton to make a move considering the depth and potential in their prospects.