Following the graduation of a number of notable prospects either to the minor pro or NHL level, the Edmonton Oilers are currently lighter in numbers when it comes to Junior talent than they have been in recent years.
Top forward prospects Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira both made the jump to professional hockey with the Oklahoma City Barons, while third-overall selection at the 2014 Draft and would-be junior prospect Leon Draisaitl remained with the Oilers beyond the nine-game NHL trial period. This leaves seven prospects playing junior hockey in 2014-15, including QMJHL prospects Keven Bouchard and Marco Roy, OHL prospects Kyle Platzer and Darnell Nurse, WHL prospects Jackson Houck and Ben Betker, followed up by Liam Coughlin, who is spending another season in the BCHL rather than at Boston University.
Keven Bouchard, G, Val D’Or Foreurs
Acquired: 7th round, 183rd overall, 2014
Keven Bouchard has gotten the start in 13 games for the Val D’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL thus far in 2014-15 and despite the team having made a strong Memorial Cup run in 2014, the Foreurs have gotten off to a bit of a shaky start in October. Bouchard currently sits at a 4.58 GAA and .849 save-percentage with a 3-8-0 record, down from last year’s 2.95 GAA and .887 save-percentage through 27 games. As with nearly all goaltenders, development curves are tough to predict, especially at the age of 18. At present, Bouchard has yet to break the .900 save percentage mark in either midget or junior, which is somewhat worrisome, but it’s still too early to count him out completely.
Marco Roy, C, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 2nd round, 56th overall, 2013
Following up a slightly disappointing 2013-14 season, Marco Roy has worked to improve his consistency in his offense as he joins a new team for the 2014-15 season, the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. His hard work appears to be paying off, as he has notched 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 17 outings. Roy is dinged most often for his game-to-game consistency, likely due in part to the fact that he has a high level of natural skill and talent, but that doesn’t always translate to 100 percent effort on every shift. Roy has always had strong offensive output, but he will need to continue to hone his two-way game and responsibility in his own end to take that next step in his development.
Jackson Houck, RW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round, 94th overall, 2013
Jackson Houck has had an impressive start to his 2014-15 season, including a hat trick on Oct. 18 in a 9-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars. Houck is currently second in scoring for Vancouver with six goals, 13 assists, and is producing at a point-per-game pace. Houck has had to work to earn his spot in the lineup under coach Troy Ward, but has managed to keep consistent and be a contributing factor on the ice for his squad, which is in the process of rebuilding and looking to be a competitor in a tough Western Conference and B.C. Division of the Western Hockey League.
Greg Chase, C, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 7th round, 188th overall, 2013
After three full seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, Greg Chase looked poised to lead his club as a legitimate contender in the league’s Eastern Conference. He started the season strong as expected, logging two goals and 13 assists for 15 points in as many games, but in an interesting turn of events, Chase requested a trade after being a healthy scratch in a game against Medicine Hat for what Hitmen staff cited as “on-ice discipline”. While he awaits a trade, he is playing for Team Canada in the Subway Super Series, where he has not put up any points thus far in the two games he has suited up for.
Ben Betker, D, Everett Silvertips
Acquired: 6th round, 158th overall, 2013
At 6’5 and 200 pounds, Ben Betker is a big presence on the blue line for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. A late selection in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, Betker is at the bottom of a deep pool of defensive prospects in the Oilers’ system. His skating and puck movement have markedly improved, and Betker seems more keen to use his size to muscle his opponents off the puck and throw some big hits. While not naturally offensively gifted (his best season of his career was 21 points in 68 games in 2013-14), Betker has been focusing on shooting the puck more frequently and jumping up into the rush when he can. He currently has one goal and five assists through 19 games with the Silvertips.
Kyle Platzer, C, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: 4th round, 96th overall, 2013
After a lackluster first few seasons in Junior, Kyle Platzer is off to a roaring start in 2014-15. A pure playmaker, Platzer has racked up nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points in only 20 games. At press time, the right-winger had registered points in his last nine games, and shows no signs of slowing down as the Owen Sound Attack’s top producer. Platzer is also a key component of their special teams units. This is a drastic improvement from his 2013-14 season in which he logged only 19 points in 27 games and failed to get on the board for the month of October. If nothing else, Platzer has likely moved up a few notches on the Oilers’ radar as he looks to secure an entry-level contract.
Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 1st round, 7th round, 2013
After a strong training camp, the Oilers elected to keep Darnell Nurse up with the big club for the start of the 2014-15 season to have a longer look at the talented young defenseman. Nurse watched the first few games from the press box as the Oilers juggled some defensive pairings and made some roster moves, then dressed for two games before being returned to his OHL squad, the Soo Greyhounds. His performance at the NHL level was not terrible, but the combination of a team that started in a losing rut along with a lack of experience from Nurse made a return to junior the obvious choice. Since then, he has amassed 14 points in 11 games with the Greyhounds. He is also the captain of Team OHL in the Subway Super Series and recently was named player of the game in a meeting with Team Russia. Nurse continues to show his elite-level talent and is certainly knocking on the NHL’s door.
Liam Coughlin, C, Vernon Vipers
Acquired: 5th round, 130th overall, 2014
At the time of the 2014 Draft, Liam Coughlin had committed to Boston University and looked to be a draft-and-follow type that would hopefully receive some quality instruction and valuable ice time at the NCAA level for several years. Unfortunately, Coughlin was required to further upgrade his schooling, so he opted to remain with his BCHL team, the Vernon Vipers, for the 2014-15 season. Already a 20-year-old overager, Coughlin is slipping farther from the radar and a chance at a future with the Edmonton Oilers. Coughlin would be considered a longshot at this point for an NHL career of any sort.
Edmonton Oilers Top Performing Non-Junior Prospects: October
Unlikely standout from training camp Brad Hunt had a short stint at the NHL level after the Oilers lost Nikita Nikitin to an early season injury. His hard, accurate shot made him a valuable commodity on the Oilers’ blueline, but he was ultimately returned to the Oklahoma City Barons. Elite defensive prospects Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin have been battling for a spot in the line up with the big club as well, both shuttling between Oklahoma and Edmonton throughout October.
Edmonton Oilers Prospect of the Month: October
Taking a quick look at other talent in the Oilers system outside of the junior ranks, top prospect Leon Draisaitl has found success early as a member of the Edmonton organization. He has remained with the Edmonton Oilers since fall training camp, where he impressed the Oilers brass with his confidence. While his ice time has waned slightly as the team juggles line combinations, the 18-year-old centerman has acclimated well to the NHL level; the biggest learning curve for Draisaitl thus far appears to be adjusting to the increased speed of the game.
Follow Kady Hobbins on Twitter at @KadyDH