By the OilKnight 01/01/20
With the Oilers drafting Philip Broberg & Evan Bouchard in back to back drafts with their 1st round pick, plus the emergence of prospects like Caleb Jones & Ethan Bear at the NHL level, it’s probably safe to say the Edmonton Oilers won’t be targeting a defenceman with their 1st round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft.
It is possible they could target a goalie like Yaroslav Askarov with this year’s selection, but for the purpose of this exercise I’m going to assume that won’t be the case.
Before I give you a breakdown of the Top 15 Forwards available in this draft, let’s take a look at the pipeline in Edmonton with my personal assessment on each prospect.
On defence, the organization is as deep as it’s ever been with promising prospects playing at all levels. Here’s a complete list including my own grades in terms of NHL impact eventually. ETA being when I expect them to be full-time. Ethan Bear (A-), Caleb Jones (B+) and Joel Persson (C) have all played several games on the Oilers already so they are excluded from this list.
A Evan Bouchard, RD (AHL) – Future top pair RHD and PP quarterback. There will be some growing pains defensively, but he has all the tools to be a high-impact offensive force in the NHL. Smart, poised, excellent puck mover & great offensive instincts. ETA: 2020-2021
B+ Philip Broberg, LD (SWE) – Should be a Top 4 defenceman eventually. Very similar skill-set to Darnell Nurse. Likely not a high-impact offensive force like some hope, but should still be a very effective player. Destined to be future 2nd pair LD. ETA: 2021-2022
B William Lagesson, LD (AHL) – Skates well, defends well, moves the puck well, plays physical. Not a sexy player stylistically but very effective especially in his own zone. ETA: 2019-2020
B- Filip Berglund, RD (SWE) – Having watched several Skelleftea games this season, quite often I came away more impressed with Berglund than Broberg. Now, Berglund is 4 years older & a SHL veteran, but he has nice skills that should translate well. He’s a good skater, strong defensively & makes good decisions. He also moves the puck well & has a big shot. 2nd pair possibility. ETA: 2021-2022
B- Dmitri Samorukov, LD (AHL) – Dima is likely still a couple years away as he transforms into a reliable, stay-at-home, physical defenceman but should be worth the wait. Good puck mover & sneaky good offence but decision making will take time. Bottom 4 D-man. ETA: 2021-2022
C Michael Kesselring, RD (ECAC) – Much like Samorukov, Kesselring is a big, mobile defenceman with some sneaky good offensive ability. Unlike Samorukov, he doesn’t possess that real nastiness or physical presence but he does move the puck well. Could he be a poor man’s Adam Larsson? Perhaps. Still long ways to go but trending up. ETA: 2023-2024
D+ Philip Kemp, RD (ECAC) – RHD that is a physical stay at home type. Doesn’t offer much in terms of offence but very good in his own zone. Basically, he’s another Matt Benning. Possible #6 but no guarantees he even sticks with this organization. ETA: 2021-2022.
The one player missing from the rankings we did earlier in the summer is John Marino. Now, I’m not going to say I knew he was going to be a surefire bonafide NHL defenceman, but I did like him a lot & was higher on him than most as I thought he was a promising prospect.
It’s a shame Edmonton couldn’t get him signed or get more for him but if he didn’t want to play there not a whole lot they could do to change his mind.
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Up front, here is where the lack of depth in the organization shows. The forward lines in Edmonton can’t find a legit 2nd line winger to play with Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins. There is some talent in the pipeline but no one that projects to be a surefire 30+ goal scorer. Yamamoto gets his first crack on New Year’s eve and Benson might not be far behind him. But for now, this group is decent but has a lot to prove.
B+ Kailer Yamamoto, RW (AHL) – Potential impact player who needs to stay healthy if he’s going to live up to his 1st round draft status. Excellent skater, strong work ethic & good playmaking skills but rambunctious style + dimunitive frame = health concerns longterm. Edmonton needs him badly right now to produce offensively. ETA: NOW
B+ Tyler Benson, LW (AHL) – Excellent playmaker with good offensive instincts. Lack of speed & explosiveness are concerns though at NHL level but might be able to overcome that with smarts & good positioning. Is going to get his shot in Edmonton very soon. Has the hockey IQ & passing ability to be a top 6 forward if he can keep up. ETA: Next 2 months.
B+ Kirill Maksimov, W (AHL) – A knee injury in March set him back 5 months. Before that, he had 40 goals in 63 games & 74 goals the past two seasons in the OHL. A pure shooter with an NHL shot & release, Maksimov is a natural PP threat but can also play bottom 6 on the penalty kill. He likes to play physical & is a good 200 ft player. Maksimov started slow in the AHL but has picked it up lately. Will take some time, but once it clicks for him watch out. Top 6 winger potential eventually. ETA: 2021-2022
B– Raphael Lavoie, RW (QMJHL) – Another prospect who can really shoot the puck. Lavoie has a big shot & release but struggles to get it off at times. Work ethic & consistency issues are slight cause for concern. Skates pretty well, good offensive instincts, very strong on stick. Very similar to Maksimov though not as polished in 200 foot game. ETA: 2021-2022
C+ Ryan McLeod, C (AHL) – Terrific skater & penalty killer but limited offense limits his ceiling. Never really had a breakout year offensively in OHL. Still considered a perimeter player who loses too many puck battles easily. Will have a role in NHL thanks to skating & 200 foot game but likely nothing more than a bottom 6 role player in NHL. ETA: 2021-2022
C Matej Blumel, F (CZE) – Pretty good skater with nice hands in tight. Pretty heady player too who is a good 200 foot player. Has a chance to be a solid 3rd liner who can chip in a few goals, play with pace and help on the PK. A workhorse who has been solid for Czechs at World Juniors. ETA: 2022-2023
C- Aapeli Rasanen, C (NCAA) – Crafty center who reads the game well and plays a good 200 foot game. Haven’t seen much of him since his promising showings in previous WJC’s but indications are he’s breaking out offensively for Boston College as their 3rd leading scorer. ETA: 2022-2023
D+ Ostap Safin, W, (ECHL) – Tall, skilled Czech prospect who has battled injuries and inconsistency since coming over to North America in 2017. He’s only 20 yrs old so there’s still time and he has the skill to climb fast, but nothing more than a wildcard at this point. ETA: 2021-2022
D Cooper Marody, F (AHL) – Not convinced he is an NHL’er at this point. Could carve out a bottom 6 role but not much upside here. Speed certainly is an issue and there’s little flash to his game. Battles hard though so still has a chance. ETA: 2020-2021.
Likely career AHL’ers: Joseph Gambardella, Josh Currie, Ryan Malone, Cameron Hebig, Jacob Stukel.
Longshot prospects: Tomas Mazura, Patrik Siikanen, Skyler Brind’Amour, Maxim Denezhkin, Graham McPhee.
Top 15 Forward Prospects
So, let’s assume for a moment that Edmonton doesn’t select a defenceman with their 1st round pick. History tells us that in the last 13 NHL drafts, at least 2 defenceman have been taken in the Top 10 every single year. So if we count at least two there, plus another say six or seven in the next 15 picks that’s nine. Let’s also assume Yaroslav Askarov will be chosen by another team as well. So realistically, we could guess that in the first 25 picks (where Edmonton is likely headed), there’s about 10 players that we could rule out. That leaves 15 forwards. If the Oilers end up drafting 25th, they’ll likely get close to the 15th best forward. If they draft 10th, perhaps they snag the 7th or 8th best. And if they win the lottery…….. don’t even think about that right now.
So here is my own list of the 15 best forward prospects in the NHL draft right and I tried to slot them where I think they will realistically be drafted this time not where I would pick them (so no reaches). Enjoy.
LW Alexis Lafreniere – Dynamic winger who plays with great determination. Elite playmaker, terrific vision, high hockey IQ, quick hands. Likes to throw his weight around. Skating is good not great. Makes up for it with great positioning and feel for the game. Elite puck skills.
C Quinton Byfield – Possesses tantalizing size/speed/skill. Excellent skater for his size, surprising agility. Slick hands & underrated passer. Solid 2 way game. Very good at faceoffs. Big body & good at puck protection but not physical at all. Still a bit raw but highest ceiling of any prospect.
W Lucas Raymond – Highly skilled playmaker who can kind of do it all in the offensive zone similar to Lafreniere. Solid in all areas. A real threat on the PP too. If he was in the QMJHL too he might be pushing for 1st overall. Definitely has Superstar qualities. Lack of ice-time currently might be hurting his stock a bit.
If the Oilers don’t make the playoffs and are fortunate enough to win a Top 3 selection in the lottery again, they will undoubtedly take Lafreniere at 1st overall. If they get the 2nd pick, Byfield seems likely but I could see them trade down a few slots too.
C Marco Rossi – The best all-round center in this draft right now. So dangerous in transition. Defensively sound. Very strong in all 3 zones. So smart with puck rarely makes any major mistakes. Elite vision, hockey IQ & passing ability. Soft hands in tight, very strong on the puck. Underrated shot & release. Will likely win the OHL scoring title in his draft year if he stays healthy. Can do it all. Might be the most pro ready as of today. Late 2001 birthday. Could be #3C in Edmonton opening night next season.
F Tim Stutzle – The German sensation is an dynamic offensive force capable of beating you with his quickness, his puck skills or both. Can stickhandle in a phone booth. Puck control is tantalizing. Also, he is a high energy player with a great work ethic. Does seem to force plays too much at times similar to a guy like Taylor Hall but hustles back hard on defensive end. He & Draisaitl together would be an absolute treat.
RW Alexander Holtz – Big time shooter and scorer. Might have the best shot in the draft. Nasty release. Underrated playmaker too. Great offensive instincts, defensive game needs some work. Not a speed burner but is a good skater. The exact type of player Edmonton badly needs. A natural goal scorer.
Based on the current standings, a lot would have to go wrong for the Oilers to finish Top 7 worst in the standings at the end of the year. But if they did, they would have a shot at one of these three likely with one still available at #7 assuming D Jamie Drysdale was selected Top 6. All 3 of these players would be excellent fits.
C Anton Lundell – He’s one player who might drop due to speed concerns and perceived lower ceiling. Lundell is a smart 2 way center with a big wrist shot. He has great offensive instincts and is sound defensively. Excellent vision and passing ability. He’s not the flashiest player just very smart & efficient. Teams will like him but probably not love him so could be tremendous value if he does in fact drop.
C Dylan Holloway – Haven’t seen a ton of this kid yet but from what I do know they is a lot of tools in his toolbox he just needs to put them altogether. Fast and creative even at high speeds. Similar to Stutzle in that he attacks you with speed & elite stickhandling ability. Aggressive forechecker, good on the cycle. Very good wrist shot & release. Some untapped potential here.
C Connor Zary – late 2001 birthday who has been at or near the top of the scoring standings in the WHL all year long. Productive, hard-working forward with very good offensive instincts. A “better than the sum of his parts” type player who grows on you the more you watch him. Very quick, reliable, and determined.
RW Dawson Mercer – Big time shooter with a terrific release, Mercer is a sexy prospect to watch but also a reliable one. Works hard in all 3 zones and knows how to put the puck in the net. Also very good puck skills and creativity. Underrated passer. Very good skater. Another late 2001 birthday.
LW Cole Perfetti – PP specialist who possesses a terrific wrist shot that is hard & accurate. Very quick hands in tight. Deadly on shootouts. Capable of making some highlight tape to tape passes. Game away from puck needs work. Not physical at all loses a lot of puck battles. Speed is average. Can be invisible at times. Think Jordan Eberle in terms of a comparison. Highly skilled, but some flaws too means he likely drops in the ‘teens.
LW Rodion Amirov – Bit of a wildcard, but Amirov is a hard-working Russian who has stood at in International tournaments by my eye. Seems to be very smart and has great anticipation. Reads plays very well. Great work ethic. Can also really shot the puck and is a very good skater. Quick hands in tight. Skinny, will need to get stronger. Upside here.
C Jan Mysak – Another potential sleeper here who has shown really well in International tournaments. He’s quick, smart & and very creative in offensive zone. Very good hands, great vision and passing ability. Another riser.
F Vasili Ponomaryov – So strong on the puck. Great puck protection, goes hard to the net. High energy type player who doesn’t give up on plays. Exceptional work ethic in all 3 zones. Big shot and release, high hockey IQ. Makes plenty of good decisions. Can dangle. Knows how to score.
RW Noel Gunler – Highly skilled winger with a booming shot but skating & work ethic concerns will inevitably drop him down the list. Could be a big time scorer at next level but consistency issues will cause hesitation from teams thinking of drafting him.
There’s a lot of talent left over if Edmonton just misses out on a playoff spot or bows out before the 2nd round. My two personal favourites out of this group are in the QMJHL – Dawson Mercer & Vasili Ponomaryev. Both possess the speed/skill/smarts & determination that I love in prospects and both would add some much needed scoring help to the Oilers.
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Now if the Oilers get to the 2nd round or further in the playoffs, no one will really care about where we draft till June. In any case, here are some of the names that will likely be available at those 24-31 slots:
LW Carter Savoie, LW Antonio Stranges, LW Jake Neighbours, C Mavrik Bourque, C Hendrix Lapierre, RW Tyson Foerster, RW Zion Nybeck, F Kasper Simontaival and a few others I left out.
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So that’s it for now! I’ll try and add highlights to each of the Top 15 prospects soon so you can put a video to the name and refer back. Stay tuned!
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