Taylor Hall leads skilled young group for Edmonton Oilers

By HF Staff
Photo: Taylor Hall, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, will be expected to make an impact in the NHL right away. (Photo courtesy of www.ontariohockeyleague.com

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There should be no surprise Taylor Hall is the Edmonton Oilers top prospect. He’s not alone at the top though, as fellow prospects Magnus Paajarvi (he’s dropped the Svensson) and Jordan Eberle will look to make their presences felt in the NHL this coming season. All three should be considered early favorites for the 2011 Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s rookie of the year.

Also making their debut in the top 20 are 2010 draft picks Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale, and Jeremie Blain.

Top 20 at a glance:

1. (NR)Taylor Hall, LW, 9.0C
2. (2)Magnus Paajarvi, LW, 8.0C
3. (1)Jordan Eberle, RW, 8.0C
4. (4)Jeff Petry, D, 7.5C
5. (NR)Tyler Pitlick, C, 7.5C
6. (14)Chris Vande Velde, C, 6.5B
7. (8)Theo Peckham, D, 6.5B
8. (5)Linus Omark, LW, 7.0C
9. (6)Alex Plante, D, 7.0C
10. (11)Anton Lander, C, 6.5C
11. (NR)Martin Marincin, D, 7.5D
12. (13)Devan Dubnyk, G, 7.0D
13. (NR)Curtis Hamilton, LW, 7.0D
14. (9)Teemu Hartikainen, LW, 6.0C
15. (7)Olivier Roy, G, 7.0D
16. (10)Taylor Chorney, D, 7.0D
17. (19)Johan Motin, D, 6.0C
18. (NR)Ryan Martindale, C, 7.5F
19. (NR) Ryan O’Marra
, C, 6.5D
20. (NR)Jeremie Blain, D, 6.5D

1. (NR) Taylor Hall, LW, 18
Drafted 1st round, 1st overall, 2010

Hall has dominated at each and every level he’s played and the rabid Oilers nation is banking on that dominance continuing in the NHL. The silver lining to the team’s worst season in its storied history, Hall brings elite speed, an all world shot, and an uncanny knack to score often as well as when it matters most. Fresh off his second consecutive Memorial Cup MVP and a 106 point OHL season (in only 57 games), he has nothing left to prove at the junior level. He recently declined an invite to Canada’s World Junior Identification camp this summer, showing his expectation he’ll be on the Oilers roster for opening night—and there is no reason for anyone to think otherwise.

Hall is the cornerstone of Edmonton’s youth movement. While he’s not in the same stratosphere as generational talents like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, it’s not a stretch to expect him to make an impact along the lines of recent top picks such as Patrick Kane.

2. (2) Magnus Paajarvi, LW, 19
Drafted 1st round, 10th overall, 2009

Paajarvi was a bit of a surprise slider in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and now, one year removed, the Oilers’ brass is even more enthused about him falling into their laps than they were on draft day. The speedy Swedish winger stepped up his performance as an 18 year old in the tough Swedish Elite League, posting 12 goals, 17 assists in 49 games and generally taking a bigger role for Timra.

Adding to the impressive performance in one of Europe’s top leagues were a pair of dominant performances internationally, first at the WJCs (tied for 7th in the tournament with 10 points) and then at the World Championships (3rd in tournament scoring with 9 points in as many games). Coming off two seasons playing against men, and with his performances continually improving, Paajarvi has a real chance to contribute in a number of different areas for a young Oilers squad in 2010-11.

3. (1) Jordan Eberle, RW, 20
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2008

Much like Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle was dominant at each and every stop this season. He tore up the WHL with 106 points in 57 games (identical numbers to Hall), he was among the scoring leaders at both the World Juniors and the World Championships, and he delivered 14 points in 11 games at the end of the season for the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. On top of this, he is already famous among Canadians for his last second heroics, an amazing feat considering he just celebrated his 20th birthday in May.

He is undersized at 5’10” and is older than the two men ahead of him on this list, but Eberle has made a career of delivering beyond expectations and proving people wrong. He’ll have every chance to bring his cerebral game and unparalleled work ethic to the NHL full time this year. Though due to the numerous young and skilled forwards the Oilers are bringing to camp, Eberle could just as easily play a starring role for Oklahoma City in the AHL.

4. (4) Jeff Petry, D, 22
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2006

Following a successful junior season with MSU, where he posted 29 points in 38 games, Jeff Petry opted to forgo his college eligibility and sign a two
-year entry-level deal with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers assigned him to the Springfield Falcons where he posted three assists in eight games and a woeful minus-10.

He is a gifted blueliner with a great offensive resume, good size and mobility, and college numbers that are in line with current Oilers Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney. It’s likely he’ll need at least a season in the AHL to get comfortable with the speed and strength of the pro game however, as it is a difficult transition historically for college defenders. With little high end competition in front of him, he is in control of his own destiny and in the right organization if he wants to blaze a quick path to a regular NHL job.

5. (NR) Tyler Pitlick, C, 18
Drafted 2nd round, 31st overall, 2010

Seen by many as a likely first round pick, the Oilers were happy to scoop him with the 31st pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. Pitlick is a well-rounded center with good size and a strong shot, and while he doesn’t project to be an elite pivot, a career as a top six NHL forward is a real possibility.

He played in the NCAA for Minnesota State University, Mankato (WCHA) and showed well for a 17-year-old in one of college hockey’s strongest conferences. He will be playing for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers this season where he will have the opportunity to play a more rigorous schedule and where the Oilers brass will be able to see him more frequently. His performance for the Tigers will go a long way to revealing what kind of offensive upside he possesses. With his wide range of skills, he’s a solid bet to contribute at the NHL level in some capacity.

6. (14) Chris Vande Velde, C, 23
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2005

It is highly unlikely you’ll see Vande Velde in a top six role or dominating power play time at any point in his career. However no one should be surprised to see him develop into an effective shutdown player and penalty killer down the road. His skill set—big, physical, hard working, dominant in the faceoff circle, with passable offense—doesn’t translate into big numbers in terms of goals and assists, but it’s players like Vande Velde that form the backbone of championship teams.
The 2010-11 season will be his first as a pro after a strong four-year career at the University of North Dakota, and while he’ll almost certainly start it in the AHL, he may close it out in copper and blue.

7. (8) Theo Peckham, D, 22
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2006
 
A big, mean, classic defensive defenseman who can punish you with his gloves on or off, over the past several seasons, Peckham’s conditioning has come into question. While he has experienced some injury issues over the past couple seasons, the defenseman fills an area of need for the Oilers and has a wonderful opportunity to seize a spot in the top six this season.

While he’ll never be relied on to create offense, he does boast a heavy shot and has 31 games of NHL experience under his belt already. He’ll almost certainly be on the NHL roster, though whether he’s in the press box or on the ice to open the season will depend on whether he shows up to camp healthy, fit, and ready to compete.

8. (5) Linus Omark, LW, 23
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2007

Omark is certainly among the more famous Oilers prospects, and is likely more dynamic and talented than a number of players ahead of him on this list. He has a lot of positive indicators including back-to-back impressive offensive seasons in the SEL and KHL respectively. That said, he has a top six skill set and is getting to Oilers camp at the same time as a trio of whiz kids with more pedigree, more size, and more invested in them by the organization, so he’s facing an uphill climb. He isn’t a player who is likely to excel in a bottom six role, so barring an injury or poor training camp from one or two of the top three on this list, Omark will likely need to force his way onto the NHL roster by tearing it up in the AHL.

Maybe things break right for him to get a shot in the fall, or maybe he finds himself in another organization with fewer hills to climb, but his opportunity is limited as it stands.

9. (6) Alex Plante, D, 21
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2007

Plante’s is one of the feel good stories among the Oilers prospects. He was drafted as a project blueliner in 2007 and lost almost all of his first year post-draft to injury—an incredibly important season for development. He persevered however, and followed a bounce back 2008-09 campaign with an impressive debut as a professional last year—including a four-game stint with the Oilers where he held his own quite nicely. He is still a project, and is likely a couple years away from a regular role with the Oilers, but he’s back on track as a solid defensive D-man with second pairing upside.

10. (11) Anton Lander, C, 19
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2009

While not as experienced, as big, or as physical as a player like Vande Velde, Lander brings many of the same qualities and talents to the rink game in and game out. He played in key situations for Timra in the SEL last season despite being such a young player.

Like many others on this list he is lauded for his work ethic, his hockey IQ, and his ability to play his best when it matters most.

He is back with Timra for the coming season, however he’s someone who could well be a regular in the Oilers bottom six and on the penalty kill within then next two to three years.


11. (NR) Martin Marincin, D, 18

Drafted 2nd round, 46th overall, 2010

The third of the Oilers 2010 draft choices on the list, Marincin boasts a number of attributes that have both the Oilers and their fans excited about his potential. He is a big man, standing 6’4, has good foot speed, and a great mind for the game. He has a great deal of international experience for Slovakia and is likely to add to it this year and next at the World Juniors.

He is also making the move to North America where he will be a member of the Prince George Cougars this season, playing in a physical league with a lengthy schedule.

There was some talk of him making the jump directly to the AHL, and while that isn’t the case for 2010-11, the option will likely be revisited next offseason especially if he shows well in the WHL.

12. (13) Devan Dubnyk, G, 24
Drafted 1st round, 14th overall, 2004

This will be
the 24-year-old Dubnyk’s last year on the list one way or the other, as he will be graduated based on age at this time next season. While it’s not likely ideal for a first round pick of six years to be outside the top ten, goalies do historically develop later, especially big goalies. This is a key year for the lanky netminder, as he will likely get a chance to play as either a co-starter (if Khabibulin’s legal troubles keep him from playing) or as a clear cut backup. He showed well late last season, and if he can build on that in 2010-11, he would do a lot to solidify the view held by some that he can be an NHL starting goalie. If he continues to battle inconsistency and fails to take that next step forward, he might find himself running out of chances to prove he has what it takes.

13. (NR) Curtis Hamilton, LW, 18
Drafted 2nd round, 48th overall, 2010

Injury is the one thing that can derail a promising young career before it even has a chance to get on track. In the case of Hamilton, the Oilers are banking on his draft year being the exception and not the rule. When healthy, he plays a hard working and physical yet skilled style reminiscent of former Oiler stalwart Ryan Smyth. He turned heads at this summer’s WJC identification camp and performed well on the international stage in the past. A healthy season this year for Saskatoon of the WHL will help to answer a lot of questions about what Hamilton can become, but too many serious injuries could spell the end regardless of his heart or talent.

14. (9) Teemu Hartikainen, LW, 20
Drafted 6th round, 163rd overall, 2008

Hartikainen is coming off a season where he improved across the board, a feat made all the more impressive considering he was named rookie of the year in Finland a year earlier.

He is a big, physical winger who makes his bones in the dirty parts of the ice. He is also a gym rat and has a top notch work ethic—which he has put to use working on his subpar skating the past couple years.

He is signed to an entry-level deal for the coming season, and will likely ply his trade in Oklahoma City barring a glut of injuries. However, with such a diverse package of skills, Hartikainen could be taking a regular NHL shift sooner than many may think.

15. (7) Olivier Roy, G, 19
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2009

Roy has steadily improved each year in the QMJHL and played well in a brief three-game AHL stint with Springfield at the end of last season. He’s a smaller goalie with a slight build, though many see him as the odds on favorite to be starting between the pipes for Canada’s entry at this year’s World Juniors. All that said, he still has a lot of development ahead of him.

Assuming his development continues, expect the Oilers to sign Roy to an entry-level towards the end of the coming season.

16. (10) Taylor Chorney, D, 23
Drafted 2nd round, 36th overall, 2005

An argument could be made the undersized rearguard was not put on a proper position to succeed but regardless, he was an atrocious minus-21 in 42 NHL games last season and a minus-49 in 100 career AHL games.

Chorney has some NHL quality skills, his skating is sublime, but he is one-dimensional player right now and his development appears to have stalled. A new coaching staff for both the Oilers and the upcoming OKC Barons could be the right tonic for a defenseman who obviously needs more guidance than he has received in the past.

With one more year left on his entry-level contract, expect Chorney to start the season in the AHL and be given another look in the NHL before the season is over.
      

17. (19) Johan Motin, D, 20
Drafted 4th round, 103rd overall, 2008

While players like Peckham and Plante bring a hulking physicality to the shut down style of blueliner, Motin projects much more as a cerebral and positional defender. That said, he has proven quite effective in that role and style thus far, and at just 20 years old, has time to continue to hone his skills at the AHL level.

As it stands, he’s not likely to threaten for an NHL spot any time soon, but with a couple more years of seasoning against top competition in the minor leagues he could well become a useful, safe, and effective bottom pairing option for years to come.

18. (NR) Ryan Martindale, C, 18
Drafted 3rd round, 61st overall, 2010

Martindale is a skilled forward who would have been drafted much higher than the third round if not for a knock on his work ethic and lack of competitive nature. Nonetheless the forward is seen as a potential top-six forward, averaging just under a point per game in his past two years of junior play. At 6’3 and over 180 pounds, he also has great size.

If Martindale devotes himself to honing his game, the Oilers could end up with a steal. If he doesn’t, he certainly would not be the first player with high-end talent who fades into obscurity because of work ethic.

19. (NR) Ryan O’Marra, C, 23
Acquired via trade with NY Islanders, February 27, 2007

Once a highly touted prospect (he was the 15th pick in the 2005 Entry Draft), O’Marra worked his way back from the ECHL, re-inventing his game in the process. Felt to have offensive upside in his draft year, his best shot at an NHL roster now looks to be as a bottom-six utility forward. The Oilers seem willing to give him a chance to prove he has what it takes, though he’s getting a little long in the tooth to be a prospect much longer. The next 12 months should go a long way to show whether he is destined to be a career minor leaguer or whether he can stick in the show, a feat which looks like a steep uphill climb at this time.

20. (NR) Jeremie Blain, D, 18
Drafted 4th round, 91st overall, 2010

Drafted because of a strong second-half of 2009-10 with Arcadie-Bathhurst, where he finished with 38 points in 64 games, expectations for Blain should be tempered. At 6’2, 190 pounds, and possessing good offensive talents, there is no question the young defenseman has some assets which make him an appealing talent. One thing he will have to work on no matter what is his defensive play. While his minus-22 was by far not the worst on the team, it is nonetheless very high. However, he was playing on a team that was fifth worst in both goals for and against, meaning his numbers could be skewed in one direction or another.

Lawrence Bailey contributed to this article.