Darnell Nurse leads off the Edmonton Oilers Top 20

By Kady Hobbins
Photo: Edmonton draft pick Kyle Platzer has more goals this season than the last two combined. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Photo: Edmonton draft pick Kyle Platzer has more goals this season than in the last two combined. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images

 

In this edition of the Edmonton Oilers Top 20, both Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom have graduated from the rankings, both surpassing the NHL game maximum to still be considered a prospect by Hockey’s Future’s standards. Darnell Nurse continues to hold down top spot as he dominates his junior competition with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, and 2014 third-overall draft selection Leon Draisaitl follows closely behind him.

Other players of note include Oklahoma City Barons goaltender Laurent Brossoit who continues to be on the upward climb in terms of prospect development, as well as Kyle Platzer, who is truly having a breakout season with the Owen Sound Attack. Anton Slepyshev also made a big jump in the rankings, earning praise from a number of scouts and hockey experts for his year in the Kontinental Hockey League with Ufa Salavat Yulayev.

1. (1) Darnell Nurse, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 7th Overall, 2013

Defensive prospect Darnell Nurse tops the Edmonton Oilers’ Top 20 ranking list for the second time in a row. With 9 goals and 22 assists in 33 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this season, Nurse has been the full package – he’s an outstanding playmaker, with a knack for making a good first pass out of the zone. Although a leg injury has kept him sidelined for most of February, Nurse is coming off a strong first half of the season as well as an MVP performance in the gold medal game for Canada at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships. The OHL Western Conference top-ranked Greyhounds are in the hunt for a Memorial Cup berth this year, which would be a great way for Nurse to cap off his impressive junior career.

2. (2) Leon Draisaitl, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 3rd Overall, 2014

2014 third-overall draft selection Leon Draisaitl began his 2014-15 season with the Edmonton Oilers and while many assumed he would be returned to his junior squad after nine games, the Oilers elected to keep Draisaitl for 37 NHL games. Playing sheltered minutes, Draisaitl had moments of brilliance, but at times looked lost amidst the speed and intensity of the game at the NHL level. After returning to junior, the 19-year-old center was traded from the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders to the Kelowna Rockets, a move that will likely give Draisaitl a much deeper playoff run on a team that also has a trip to the Memorial Cup in their sights. In only 26 appearances as a Rocket, Draisaitl already has 16 goals and 27 assists.

3. (7) Laurent Brossoit, G, 7.0C
Acquired via trade, 2013

Goaltender Laurent Brossoit has pulled ahead as the clear number one netminding prospect in the Edmonton Oilers’ system. Brossoit has easily made the transition from the ECHL ranks in 2013-14 to sharing a starting spot in the AHL with fellow Oklahoma City Barons goaltender Richard Bachman this season. However, Bachman suffered an injury in mid-December and then was recalled by the Oilers in February, so Brossoit has assumed the starting role and has adjusted well to the increased workload – he recently posted a 31-save shutout on February 28th. Brossoit currently sits at a 2.52 goals against average and .918 save percentage.

4. (5) Juhjar Khaira, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd Overall, 2012

Jujhar Khaira is in his first professional season with the Oklahoma City Barons, after spending the majority of his junior career with the Everett Silvertips. The graduation of both Marincin and Klefbom has boosted his ranking on this edition of the Top 20, but his high position is not without merit. A big, rangy forward with offensive production and speed to match, Khaira has been an intriguing talent since his 2012 draft selection. Khaira has spent most of the season developing his skills as a two-way centerman and was seeing his ice time increase, but an unfortunate injury on March 5th has sidelined him for an undetermined amount of time.

5. (9) Dillon Simpson, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th Round, 92nd Overall, 2011

Like the aforementioned Khaira, rearguard Dillon Simpson is in his first professional season with the Oklahoma City Barons after finishing his collegiate career at the University of North Dakota. Simpson has logged two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in 54 games thus far in 2014-15 and has done reasonably well with the transition to professional hockey. He is playing relatively sheltered minutes, mostly in a shutdown role. A cerebral player who has been praised in past for his consistency and defensive positioning, Simpson has all the skills necessary to continue to progress.

6. (8) Tyler Pitlick, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd Round, 31st Overall, 2010

While still skating with the Oilers during practices, Pitlick currently sits on the injured reserve list for at least the immediate future, if not for the remainder of the 2014-15 season, with an injury to his spleen. It’s yet another unfortunate blow to the young winger’s development, which has been marred by injury. Prior to suffering a lacerated spleen on December 31st, Pitlick had appeared in 14 games for the Oilers, even skating briefly on a line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. While he only scored a single goal, Pitlick was able to keep pace with his NHL opponents, often using his size to his advantage and bringing some energy to the ice.

7. (10) Bogdan Yakimov, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 83rd Overall, 2013

Russian centerman Bogdan Yakimov is in his first North American professional season after spending 2013-14 playing in the Kontinental Hockey League. Yakimov has adjusted well thus far, skating in 54 games for the Oklahoma City Barons and logging ten goals and 15 assists for 25 points. He also appeared in his first NHL game where he failed to record a point, but was able to adequately fill in on the dot as the Oilers suffered from some injury trouble. He was listed by Craig MacTavish during a recent press conference as a potential recall in the near future.

8. (19) Anton Slepyshev, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 88th Overall, 2013

Fellow Russian prospect Anton Slepyshev is now finished his season with Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL. Once his contract expires on April 30th, the Oilers will likely look to sign him to a professional deal so he can make his North American debut in 2015-16. Slepyshev scored 15 goals and 10 assists in 58 games for Ufa, with the majority of his production coming at even strength. Slepyshev is an intriguing talent, and likely one name that will be mentioned with much more frequency once he makes the trip across the pond.

9. (20) Iiro Pakarinen, RW, 6.5C
Signed as Free Agent, 2014

Summer signing Iiro Pakarinen was touted as an underrated talent who could potentially earn some NHL time with the Edmonton Oilers, depending on how the season progressed. The Finnish winger managed 28 points in 39 appearances for the Oklahoma City Barons, and made good on the above noted prediction, logging a goal and two assists through 17 games with the Edmonton Oilers while spending time on both the top line and the power play unit. Pakarinen was looking impressive during his call-up, but was unfortunately sidelined by a sprained right knee and will likely be out of the line-up for a minimum of a few weeks.

10. (NR) Kyle Platzer, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th Round, 96th Overall, 2013

After two underwhelming junior years, Kyle Platzer seems to have found his stride in 2014-15, earning his first top 20 nod. Skating with the Owen Sound Attack, Platzer has skyrocketed his production rate from 17 points in 39 games in 2013-14 to 72 points in 60 games this season for Owen Sound. While a number of his goals have come on the power play, Platzer seems to have added a new gear to his game as he wraps up what is likely to be his final junior season.

11. (5) Mitch Moroz, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2012

After an extremely impressive final junior season with the Edmonton Oil Kings that was capped off with a Memorial Cup victory, Mitch Moroz made the jump to the professional ranks for 2014-15, spending the year with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL. Moroz got off to a slower start than most expected, scoring his first goal on January 31st. He has since scored another, and combined with his three assists has five points in his 47 appearances, along with 92 penalty minutes. Often playing on the third or fourth line, Moroz hasn’t seen a lot of ice time on a nightly basis, but has made the most of what he’s been given, using his size and physicality to bring some energy to every shift. It’s likely that as the season winds down and some prospects are recalled to the big club, Moroz may see an increased level of responsibility with the Barons.

12. (14) Greg Chase, C, 6.5C
Drafted 7th Round, 188th Overall, 2013

After a somewhat controversial trade from the Calgary Hitmen, Greg Chase seems to be fitting in just fine with his new WHL club, the Victoria Royals. Chase is currently producing at a point-per-game rate for the Royals, logging 40 points in as many games with 18 goals and 22 assists and currently sits fourth in the WHL in scoring. Chase already spent some time with the Oklahoma City Barons after his 2013-14 season concluded on an amateur tryout, so expect to see the center make the jump to the AHL next year – if not full time, at least on a regular basis.

13. (11) Marc-Olivier (Marco) Roy, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd Round, 56th Overall, 2013

20-year-old Marc-Olivier Roy joins the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL this year after three seasons with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Often, Roy has been the difference-maker for his team with 46 points in 55 games – a number of which have come from multi-point nights – but he has also suffered from some bouts of inconsistency, spending a bit of time on the fourth line before earning back his spot on a scoring line. Roy will be making the jump to professional hockey following this season.

14. (12) David Musil, D, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd Round, 31st Overall, 2011

Defenseman David Musil is in his second professional season, again suiting up for the Oklahoma City Barons. Often paired with fellow prospect Dillon Simpson, Musil has had an increased level of responsibility this season, and seems to have responded well. While his offensive production has remained similar to his rookie season, Musil has never been the flashy type, and has quietly progressed as a reliable shutdown defenseman. He has one goal and eight assists for nine points in 51 games.

15. (15) Joey LaLeggia, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2012

Likely a front-runner for the Hobey Baker Award and one of 62 nominees in 2014-15, Denver University senior Joey LaLeggia continues to be on the upward climb in terms of his development. Logging 35 points in 32 games, he leads the NCHC conference in defense scoring. LaLeggia was also recently named NCHC Player of the Month for February. Though slightly undersized, LaLeggia’s talent and consistency is unquestionable and he will likely be vying for a professional contract at the end of his collegiate career.

16. (16) Brandon Davidson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 6th Round, 162nd Overall, 2010

Defenseman Brandon Davidson is in the midst of another impressive season, spending the majority of his year with the Oklahoma City Barons, but also earning an NHL call-up in December 2014. His game is simple, yet effective, and his workmanlike style pairs well with fellow prospect Brad Hunt and his notably heavy shot. Davidson has appeared in a total of four games for the Edmonton Oilers this season and with the way he was able to seamlessly integrate, he will likely continue to be slotted into the lineup when injuries require or as the big club is able.

17. (13) Martin Gernat, D, 7.0D
Drafted 5th, 122nd Overall, 2011

Martin Gernat has gotten off to a slow start in his sophomore professional effort, only scoring his first goal on March 4th. While naturally quite talented, Gernat has been underwhelming amongst a number of strong defensive candidates in the Oilers’ pipeline. His strength is most often called into question, notably by former Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins early in the 2014-15 season. He’s certainly worked to be more consistent on the blue line, but it appears that the Oilers would like to see more physicality from the Slovak rearguard.

18. (NR) Brad Hunt, D, 6.0C
Signed as Free Agent, 2013

After a strong performance at fall training camp, Brad Hunt made his debut with the Edmonton Oilers on opening night where he remained until the beginning of November, subsequently returning to the Oklahoma City Barons. Hunt’s trademark shot from the point has served him well this season and since his AHL return, he’s been producing at a near point-per-game rate, racking up 14 goals and 27 assists in 45 games. Hunt has been a pleasant surprise for both teams, and will likely be a crucial component of the Barons’ playoff effort this year.

19. (NR) Andrew Miller, C, 6.0C
Signed as Free Agent, 2013

Oklahoma City Barons leading scorer Andrew Miller is having an impressive season, earning 50 points in 54 games so far in the 2014-15 season. The Yale star earned praise from Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish, who mentioned his name during a press conference as a potential recall during the remainder of the regular season. While Miller’s size is sometimes called into question when discussing his viability as a regular NHLer, he is certainly making a case for himself to be considered in those conversations.

20. (NR) Curtis Hamilton, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 2nd Round, 48th Overall, 2010

Curtis Hamilton is in the final months of his one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers and is having easily the best season of his professional career thus far, earning 27 points in 53 games for the Oklahoma City Barons (his previous career high was 16 points in 43 games in 2013-14). Hamilton’s skillset fits some of the holes in the Oilers’ current roster, touting a strong two-way game combined with good skating and size. Hamilton has been spending time on the top line in Oklahoma City, and his increased offensive output may be enough to keep him in consideration for another contract with the Oilers.