The National Hockey League's most northern franchise finally has a promising group of potential prospects that all could play at least in the AHL one day, if not for their parent club.
For most of the late 1990s the Oilers could not manage to draft many prospects that would develop into NHL players. They had three first round picks in a row that did not amount to much at all by NHL standards. With the likes of Michel Riesen, Michael Henrich and Jani Rita turning into busts, it hurt the Oilers' ability to make up ground against the organizations that were able to spend more money. Things did not fair much better over the first few years of the 2000s either, with first round picks Alexei Mikhnov and Jessie Niinimaki being virtual no-shows in the NHL as well.
However the Oilers did make up for those picks from 2000 to 2007 with draft choices like Ales Hemsky, Jarrett Stoll, Matt Greene, Marc Pouliot, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak and Jeff Deslauriers, who looks like he will make the NHL as well. The omissions from this prospects list over the past two years that came by way of trades are Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Denis Grebeshkov, Gilbert Brule and Robert Nilsson, as they have proven to be capable NHL players. A combination of astute trades for young prospects and a better success rate drafting and developing over the past few years has certainly given hope of a Stanley Cup in Edmonton.
Now the Oilers have a few skilled forwards coming down the pipeline with Jordan Eberle, Riley Nash and Rob Schremp, one player who needs to make the jump to the NHL very soon. To compliment those players, the Oil have the feisty Liam Reddox, hard-working Ryan O'Marra and Russian player Slava Trukhno. Overall this is not a position of strength now that Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Pouliot have proven they can play at the NHL level. It certainly would not hurt to add a few more pure offensive forwards to put through development.
On defence the Oilers look to be in good shape in terms of overall talent and depth, especially since three of the five players on this list are already in the American Hockey League. The trio of Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham and Bryan Young all show a variety of talents and the ability to play in the NHL one day in some capacity. The other two blue liners, Jeff Petry - who plays at Michigan State University - and Alex Plante - who plays for Calgary in the Western Hockey League - are a year away from turning pro. By the beginning of next season, the Oilers could have five draft picks under the age of 23 patrolling the blueline on the farm team in Springfield - now that is solid depth.
Between the pipes the Oilers have excellent potential, even with Jeff Deslauriers graduating off this list due to games played as a professional. While Deslauriers has now moved on to become Dwayne Roloson's backup in Edmonton, the towering Devan Dubnyk is not far behind. The patience from the Oilers' brass in developing their netminders could pay tremendous dividends for a decade. In the not so distant future the Oilers could have a very talented young duo.
Oh, how things have changed for the copper and blue now that the farm system has produced six NHL players from 2003 to 2007, and could perhaps produce as many as 12 when all is said and done.
Jordan Eberle - Right Wing, 18 - (1st round 22nd overall 2008)
Currently with Regina (WHL)
Perhaps one of the prospects who was least talked about going into last year's NHL draft, Jordan Eberle deserved to more highly regarded. The last two seasons Eberle has been nothing but clutch, especially considering he had little help offensively on this team on some nights. He shows excellent hockey sense and makes decisions quickly at an NHL tempo and speed. His ability to anticipate and read the developing play allows him to use his linemates well and keep defenders guessing about his actions. Eberle has excellent stickhandling skills and can make defenders back off, and he truly understands that the puck moves faster than players. He's also a quick and agile skater with the acceleration and lateral movement to dart in and out of seams in the defence. He lacks the core strength and power than would give him the extra gear he needs and the required balance to fend off larger opponents.
He is a lethal goal scorer in all situations with a lighting quick release and deadly accuracy. Eberle has a nose for the net and understands which angles to take that allow him to slip into scoring areas unnoticed, with a knack for scoring clutch goals. Eberle possesses exceptional hand-eye coordination and can pick a corner of the net from almost anywhere - he could have the quickest release in his draft class.
Once he gains the offensive zone his smart quick decisions about whether to shoot, pass or stickhandle allow him to play a up-tempo puck possession style. Eberle constantly moves the puck like a pro, judges when to make the right choice and shoots when in doubt.
Away from the puck his defensive game is improving and he is less likely to freelance and stick to the system. He keeps his feet moving and can apply pressure with his quickness, but he might be better suited as a winger in the pros as it calls for less responsibility.
Eberle is beginning to realize that finding the defensive seams is just as important as in the offensive zone. He cuts players off quite well, has a pretty good sense of speed and angles and uses his quickness.
Due to his lack of strength at his current weight he can get knocked around when he is caught. He does not play with a physical edge but to his credit he shows moxie and keeps coming back for more, so that says something. Rarely does he take a full-on hit but once he matures physically this should be less of a concern.
Regardless of the situation on the ice, Eberle is a clutch performer - he finds a way to score first goals and game-winning goals. He sees a lot of ice time, especially on the powerplay. 4 on 4 is where Eberle is an absolute menace, and his penalty killing is improving. He has scored four shorthanded goals over the last two seasons. Eberle is extremely disciplined and does not take bad penalties. He turns the other cheek and just lets the other team take dumb calls against him. He shows the capability to play on the top two lines in the NHL and could be a late first round steal for this organization.
Devan Dubnyk - Goalie, 22 (1st round 14th overall 2004)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
A towering netminder at 6 foot 6 and 215 pounds, Dubnyk could be monstrous once he hits the NHL ice. He is currently in his third year as a pro, his second full season in the AHL and first as a starter, with Jeff Deslauriers moving on to the NHL. He spent the majority of the 2006-2007 in Stockton of the ECHL since the Oilers lacked a farm team of their own. To his credit he took it as a challenge and dominated at times with a .922 save percentage over 43 games. The last two seasons for Dubnyk have been a new challenge adjusting to a higher calibre of play, and he has shown moxie and a solid work ethic. Considering Springfield has not been the strongest team he has managed an above .900 save percentage on a 24-38-1 record which displays his ability to keep his team in any game.
For a 6 foot 6 goalie Dubnyk shows good quickness and flashes the glove hand when shooters try to go high. He has improved on his agility and lateral movement while maintaining his balance to recover quickly from the initial save. His focus and concentration in heavy traffic look to be more consistent and his rebound control is coming along. Like Deslauriers he too was ready for another challenge and should take the next step as a full-time starter in the AHL this season. Do not be too surprised if he earns a roster spot next season in Edmonton as a backup.
Rob Schremp - Centre/Right Wing, 22 (1st round 25th pick overall 2004)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
This player may show every general manager they made they biggest mistake of their careers when they didn't pick him, or he may not play in the NHL at all. He is dynamic on the ice, he has the ability to dangle and make defencemen and goaltenders look silly. Once he steps over the blue line, he is equally dangerous in making a perfect pass or powering a shot past the netminder. The Oilers are looking for him to quarterback the powerplay one day, and his outgoing personality is exactly what the new NHL needs. A knee injury two seasons ago coupled with being stuck on another NHL squad's farm team certainly slowed his development.
Schremp's skating game and defensive game are improving, but they still need work, and Schremp might be better suited to right wing, where he has less responsibility. He needs to show more moxie without the puck and he must be more committed to five on five play. At 5 foot 11 and 200 pounds Schremp certainly has the size to play at the next level and he is currently producing close to a point a game in the AHL.
Riley Nash - Centre, 19 (1st round 21st overall 2007)
Currently with Cornell (NCCA)
Nash could develop into a solid pick for the Oilers if he can translate his hockey sense and his poise with the puck over into the NHL. His puck skills and passing ability at high speeds are very good, and he uses his options well. Nash is good skater overall and can alter his speed to force defenders to make adjustments, which creates time and space for himself. Nash plays a pretty responsible game defensively and hustles on the back check. He has good overall awareness in the defensive zone, making sure his man is tied up.
Like all young prospects he needs to continue to get stronger physically as he can get pushed around, especially at 6 foot 1 and 175 pounds. Nash must also prove he can put up the same numbers against a higher calibre of talent than just the BCHL and ECAC. Due to the talent pool he currently faces compared to other prospects, Nash may take a little longer to adjust to the pro ranks. To his credit he has been consistent offensively, posting 32 points in 36 games as a freshman last season and putting up 18 points in 19 games so far as a sophomore this year. If he does happen to turn pro after this season he will need five months to prepare with a committed effort in off-ice training. If Nash stays another year in college, the Oilers will have to be patient with his development.
Taylor Chorney - Defence, 21 (2nd round 36th overall 2005)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
A smart but slightly undersized defenceman at an even 6 feet and 195 pounds, Chorney uses his hockey sense, skating and puck savvy to thwart the opposition. That is not to say he is not gritty or lacks intangibles - it's just that they sometimes get overshadowed. Chorney's leadership ability and work ethic are strong components to his game and he had been leaned upon to log heavy minutes at North Dakota.
Away from the puck he is diligent in maintaining good habits such as keeping good body position, having his head on a swivel and using an active stick, all while moving his feet. Due to his ability to read and anticipate the developing play, Chorney should become a solid two-way defenceman that can move the puck effectively.
His international experience has served him well and he did not have any major adjustments once he turned professional. He will need another year or two in the AHL to fine tune his game but he is expected to make a fine NHL defenceman. It remains to be seen if he can translate his offensive instincts to the tempo and speed of the NHL. He must get stronger this off-season so he will be able to compete physically in the NHL but Chorney is a promising prospect overall.
Jeff Petry - Defence, 21 (2nd round 45th overall 2006)
Currently with Michigan St. (NCAA)
Petry is beginning to show an ability to take his game to another level. However, he still has some inconsistencies. For a defenceman that stands 6 foot 3 and is over 200 pounds, he skates well and has good lateral movement and recovery speed. He makes pretty decent decisions with the puck and shows hockey sense and vision when making a first pass out of the zone or turning the puck up ice in transition. Petry can shoot the puck a ton and he could be a valuable asset on any powerplay unit with his right-handed shot. He has shown some offensive upside while at Michigan State with 34 points in 68 games so far, but he is not expected to continue at that pace in the professional ranks.
Like all young defencemen he has lapses in his defensive game in terms of losing position, maintaining gap control or taking better angles, but he is developing at a fast rate. Petry can play with an edge and likes to hit - he will smash a guy in the mouth without hesitation when necessary. He will need another year after this in college before turning pro, but Petry has displayed intangibles and leadership that could make him into a top six defenceman in the NHL one day.
Alex Plante - Defence, 19 (1st round 15th overall 2007)
Currently with Calgary (WHL)
A surprising pick for some, but the Oilers felt the big kid had too much upside to pass up, and at 6 foot 5 and 220 pounds, he is hard to miss on the ice. For his size he skates well going forward but he lacks some agility and nimbleness when moving laterally and backwards. Fortunately he has a great wingspan and the hockey sense to judge the angles and maintaining good gap control. Plante has shown a physical edge to his game but he does not go out of his way to punish opponents that linger in front of the net.
He has decent puck skills and makes good passes but whether he can do that at the next level against a higher level of competition in another question. Plante has bounced back from a frustrating season last year in terms of offensive production, and has racked up plenty of penalty minutes with 113 in only 47 games. Plante missed some time last year with injuries and needed another full season in junior to make up for the lost time in development. With so many young defencemen currently on the Oilers' roster and a few older prospects ahead of him, Plante can be afforded the patience to develop. He has the potential to be a solid NHL defenceman in three or four years.
Liam Reddox - Left Wing, 22 (4th round 112th overall 2004)
Currently with Springfield/Edmonton (AHL/NHL)
Reddox could one day be considered the steal of the 2004 draft as most teams had thought he was 5 foot 9 and 175 pounds, therefore passing on him. In reality Reddox was 5 foot 11 and 180 pounds with a host of underrated puck skills and the ability to be an occasional goal-scorer coming off the wing. A nifty skater that displays good two step quickness, Reddox's skills allow him to get on the forecheck or jump on loose pucks. Has a pretty good wrist shot that has some zip and accuracy when it comes off his stick. He's not afraid to play in traffic and he gets his nose dirty, displaying moxie that endears him to his teammates.
A hard worker without the puck, Reddox shows a little tenacity in one-on-one battles. He seems to have a good understanding of the defensive game and just needs the experience and time in a higher-tempo game.
He made good strides last season in the AHL, posting 44 points in 65 games, and has not looked out of place most nights he has played in the NHL this year. If he continues on this developmental path, Reddox could become a valuable role player for the Oilers.
Theo Peckham - Defense, 21 (3rd round 76th overall 2006)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
One tough hombre who goes out and takes care of business all over the ice, Peckham has the size to back it up at 6 foot 2 and 217 pounds. He does not have the puck skills, the offensive instincts or the hockey sense to be anything more than a defensive defenseman.
Peckham does have a hard shot from the point and is sometimes useful on the second unit powerplay. His skating will need to continue to improve, especially his quickness and agility as he will have issues with faster and more talented players at the next level. To his credit Peckham has continued to improve in his second season as a pro in Springfield while making smarter plays and taking fewer penalties. If he can continue to simplify his game he might be able to be developed into a number six or seven defenceman.
Ryan O'Marra - Center, 21 (1st round 15th overall 2005 - Trade NYI)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
A feisty hard working forward who has excellent leadership and intangibles, O'Marra is a player whose skills will help him in the pros. He is a good skater and has decent puck skills, but whether he can put up more than 30 points in the NHL might is a big question mark. His passing ability is okay and he usually makes smart, safe decisions with the puck but he lacks top-end ability.
O'Marra plays good defence for a young player, he hustles and he is contentious in his own zone. He could be molded in a valuable defensive forward. In the past, he has shown the ability to disrupt and shut down the opposition's top lines and is willing to block shots and take hits to make plays. O'Marra has missed some time due to injuries the previous two seasons, which has hampered his development some. He could become a fourth line defensive specialist if the Oilers are patient with him with the potential to wear a letter. The Oilers will need to be patient and expect O'Marra to play at least two if not three more seasons in the AHL before getting a legitimate shot at a roster spot.
Slava Trukhno - Left Wing, 22 (4th round 120th overall 2005)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
Trukhno is not a soft player as he has shown some grit and determination and likes to get his nose dirty. On top of that he has decent puck skills and passing ability with a solid array of shots to throw at the net. He has good size at 6 foot 1 and 203 pounds along with good skating ability, and he tries to make the most of his opportunities offensively. Trukhno is getting better defensively and might develop into a two-way role player at the AHL level, but might not have enough to be a NHL regular. He generally doesn't do anything thing great but he has some tools in his toolbox. The fact that he has not gone back to Russia after three years in the QMJHL and one and half in the AHL says something about his character.
Bryan Young - Defence, 22 (5th round 146th overall 2004)
Currently with Springfield (AHL)
Young is a really basic stay-at-home defenceman with limited puck skills who tries to go out and take care of his own zone. He has decent skating ability and size at 6 foot 1 and 200 pounds and generally makes safe plays with the puck in his zone. Young does a good job of mixing it up physically and makes sure forwards pay a price when they linger around the net. He is not expected to play any more than an emergency number seven role at an NHL level.
Edmonton Oilers - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)
When looking at the drafting and developing record of an NHL organization, one finds an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances, perhaps with some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a team's fortunes at the draft table when, in reality, it is almost never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work: first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent, which may be the most challenging of all. Next, the organization's player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance their talents. Perhaps most important is the prospect's responsibility to pay the price and make the sacrifices, which generally require a tremendous work ethic. If any one of these aspects fails, then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization - and having a NHL career - becomes remote.
The reason for analysis of the years from 1997 to 2003 is to, first, give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly, the players drafted in the years from 1997-2003 are the ones that should be the building blocks of the core of your team, as they will be in the age range of 23-29. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have, as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be really late bloomers and eventually fit the criteria set in this analysis, but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.
Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.
||Forwards - Defenceman
||125-200 NHL Games required
||51-100 NHL Games Played
||100 NHL Games required
||25-50 NHL Games Played
|Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria
Edmonton Prospects 1997-2003
Total: 7 yrs – 75 draft picks – 13 NHL Players = 17.3% success rate
Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)
1st rnd Draft Choices: 7 total picks
, Michael Henrich
, Jani Rita
, Alexi Mikhnov
, Jesse Niinimaki
Total: 7 yrs – 7 draft picks – 2 NHL Players = 28.6% success rate
2nd rnd Draft Choices: 7 total picks
, Tony Salmelainen
, Colin McDonald
, Doug Lynch
, Ed Caron
Total: 7 yrs – 11 draft picks – 4 NHL Players = 36.4% success rate
3rd rnd Choices: 9 total picks
Sergei Yerkovich, Adam Hauser, Alexander Lyubimov,Brock Radunske, Mikhail Zhukov, Kenny Smith
Total: 7 yrs – 9 draft picks – 3 NHL Players = 33.3 % success rate
First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (10) North American, (3) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (9) North American, (8) European
Success in the last six rounds (1997-2003)
4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 50 total picks
7yrs – 50 draft picks – 4 NHL Players = 8.0% success rate
Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.
Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.
This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.