Edmonton Oilers audition several talented rookies

By Kady Hobbins
Photo: The Edmonton Oilers gave Leon Draisaitl half a season at the NHL level (courtesy of Steven Alkok/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: The Edmonton Oilers gave Leon Draisaitl half a season of experience at the NHL level (courtesy of Steven Alkok/Icon Sportswire)

 

The Oilers’ roster has been somewhat of a revolving door when it comes to prospect call-ups, with a number of young talented players earning a cup of coffee at the NHL level.

Most notable in 2014-15 was Leon Draisaitl, who was a topic of hot debate regarding whether or not he should remain with the Oilers beyond the nine-game trial mark, and then whether nor not he should be released to play for Germany at the World Junior Championships (he was not), or returned to his junior squad before hitting the 40 game mark (he was). Also of note is Brandon Davidson’s NHL debut and Darnell Nurse’s impressive WJC performance for Team Canada.

Leon Draisaitl, C, 19

Third overall 2014 draft selection Leon Draisaitl began his 2014-15 season with the Edmonton Oilers, remaining with the big club well beyond the nine-game tryout period. However, the Oilers elected not to keep Draisaitl beyond the 40-game mark, which would activate his free-agent status a year earlier. Draisaitl originally looked like he was adjusting well to the NHL game, even as a 19-year-old, his size and strength often working in his favour. Unfortunately, his play regressed somewhat, and his minutes were cut, often playing less than 10 minutes a night as the Oilers’ record continued to plummet.

The decision to return Draisaitl to his junior club was a sound one, allowing him the opportunity to continue to develop amongst his peers. Draisaitl was traded shortly following from the Prince Albert Raiders to the Kelowna Rockets, who sit atop the Western Conference WHL standings and are in a strong position to contend for the WHL championship this season.

Brandon Davidson, D, 23

Brandon Davidson’s NHL debut was discussed at length in our December update. He earned a four-game stint with the Oilers in mid-December, where he seemed to steadily improve with each shift as he got a feel for the NHL pace. Davidson was returned to his AHL club on December 20th and has since continued to be a regular contributor, notably earning the game-winning goal in Oklahoma City’s victory over the San Antonio Rampage on December 27th.

Oscar Klefbom, D, 21

Spending the majority of the 2013-14 season in Oklahoma City developing at the minor-league level seems to have paid off for defenseman Oscar Klefbom. The Swedish rearguard has been a bright spot on most nights for the Edmonton Oilers, earning time as one-half of the team’s top defensive unit. Strong on the puck, sure of his defensive positioning and noticeably bigger and stronger, this season’s NHL stint has been a stark contrast to his short appearance in 2013-14, which is a true testament to the crucial development time that one additional year in the minors can often afford a young talented player. Klefbom shouldn’t expect to see a return ticket to Oklahoma any time soon, as long as he can keep up this level of play.

Brad Hunt, D, 26

Brad Hunt began the 2014-15 season with the Edmonton Oilers after appearing in a short three-game stint at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. A useful blueliner with a hard shot and a heavy presence on the ice, Hunt has shuttled between Oklahoma City and Edmonton, unable to quite maintain the pace and consistency needed to remain at the NHL level, but often looking a step ahead of his AHL opponents. He was recently selected to play in the AHL all-star game.

Bogdan Yakimov, C, 20

Bogdan Yakimov made his NHL debut in mid-October when the Oilers ran into injury trouble, appearing in only one game before returning to the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL. Yakimov has had a relatively strong rookie professional (and North American) season with the Barons, logging 13 points in 33 games.

Iiro Pakarinen, RW, 23

Although the European free-agent route yielded only limited success in the past (Anton Belov, Lennart Petrell), the Oilers decided to gamble again on Pakarinen, a 2011 draft pick of the Florida Panthers. Pakarinen made his NHL debut in November, scoring a goal in his second game with the team. He stayed around for just five games, although he handled himself well in limited ice time. The 20 goal scorer for HIFK last season has been a very solid addition at the AHL level, putting up 22 points in 33 games.

Darnell Nurse, D, 19

After an impressive fall training camp, Darnell Nurse remained with the Edmonton Oilers at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. Despite early season losses and lineup shuffles, Nurse didn’t see NHL ice until nearly two weeks into the season, and understandably looked a bit in over his head on a team with perennial defensive struggles, Nurse’s performance notwithstanding. He was ultimately returned to his junior squad before reaching the nine-game limit, where he has dominated his competition on a nightly basis and is on track for his best season yet with the Soo Greyhounds, notching 23 points in 22 games.

Darnell Nurse was also part of this year’s powerhouse Canadian squad at the 2015 U20 World Junior Championships. Nurse while he only contributed one assist through seven outings, Nurse shone in his own end and earned player of the game in the final match-up against Russia, after Canada’s gold medal-winning 5-4 victory. After being overlooked for the 2014 team, Nurse looked incredibly impressive in his 2015 appearance, earning praise for his ability to handily shut down both the Russians’ and Americans’ attack on nearly every shift.

The other Oilers prospect to represent his country at the World Juniors was Swedish defenseman William Lagesson. He registered one assist for a somewhat underwhelming squad, and played mainly in a shutdown role.

Prospect of the month

Edmonton Oilers HeadshotsAfter a somewhat disappointing and injury-plagued 2013-14 season, all eyes were on Marc-Olivier Roy to bounce back in 2014-15, and he has managed to do just that. He currently has 33 points in 35 games after being traded from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the Quebec Remparts in May 2014. Roy has earned four points in his last five outings for the Remparts.

Follow Kady Hobbins on Twitter via @kadydh