Edmonton Oilers boast impressive depth and skill at CHL level

By HF Staff
Photo: Goaltender Oliver Roy is among the most winning goaltenders in QMJHL history. (Photo Courtesy of www.capebretoneagles.com

)

The Edmonton Oilers retooled from top to bottom in the past twelve months, and the three Canadian Major Junior leagues played a big role in that overhaul. While players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle made the jump to the pro ranks, the Copper and Gold added eight new draft picks to their three holdover CHL players—and most of them are off to terrific starts.

WHL

Tyler Pitlick, C, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: 2nd round (31st overall) in 2010
Nov. 1, 1991. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 194 lbs.

Pitlick wasn’t a CHL player when he was drafted, but he chose to leave the University of Minnesota-Mankato for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers in the offseason. Thus far the move has paid off fairly well, with Pitlick posting 12 points through 13 games early in the season.

Tyler brings a diverse skill set to the table—he’s big, physical and offensively gifted, while still pulling his own weight at the defensive end as well. Pitlick can play on the edge, or over it as his suspension for kneeing earlier this season demonstrates, and that combination of size, skill, and grit bode well for his future as an NHL player.

Martin Marincin, D, Prince George Cougars
Acquired: 2nd round (46th overall) in 2010
Feb. 18, 1992. Ht: 6’4, Wt: 187 lbs.

There was a heated debate at the Oilers draft table over whether to grab Tyler Pitlick or Martin Marincin 31st overall. As it turns out they were able to get both (dealing Riley Nash to the Carolina Hurricanes for the 46th pick in the draft), and the entire organization has to be ecstatic they didn’t let this one get away.

Marincin came over to the WHL’s Prince George Cougars following the draft and has been an absolute beast through the first quarter of the season. The lanky rearguard is tied for the league lead in scoring among defensemen with 21 points in 19 games and is drawing rave reviews from scouts and fans alike for his composed and well rounded game. If he’s able to continue this level of play for a full WHL season, he could give the Oilers something they are lacking currently—a true top pairing defensive prospect.

Curtis Hamilton, LW, Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 2nd round (48th overall) in 2010
Dec. 4, 1991. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 211 lbs.

Taken two picks after the aforementioned Marincin, Hamilton is the third of the Oilers 2010 second round picks, a trio that look to be a masterstroke of player procurement for Stu MacGregor and his scouting team. The knock on Hamilton was an inability to stay healthy, however few questioned his skill. He’s healthy this year, and thus far he has been spectacular.

Curtis has notched 24 points through 19 games, though perhaps more impressive is his plus-17 rating on a Blades team that is only plus-3 in goal differential. He is a player who likes to use his size and power to his offensive advantage, though once he makes space for himself there’s still plenty of skill to work with. Staying healthy all season will be a big accomplishment for the power winger, and there’s a real chance he will be sporting the maple leaf in Buffalo at this year’s World Junior Championships.

Tyler Bunz, G, Medicine Hat Tigers
Acquired: 5th round (121st overall) in 2010
Feb. 11, 1992. Ht: 6’1, Wt: 198 lbs.

Bunz has been splitting time a bit more than many expected this season, though when he’s between the pipes he’s been solid. He boasts a .907 save percentage through 10 games, as well as a 2.59 goals against average which is good enough for 6th in the WHL. Both numbers also represent a substantial improvement on the 2.91 and .898 figures he put up in his draft year. He’s a battler and a goalie who never gives up, though he is still working on refining his technique. Being pushed this season by a strong back up could very well be an excellent thing for him, as he isn’t one to back down when challenged.

Brandon Davidson, D, Regina Pats
Acquired: 6th round (162nd overall) in 2010
Aug. 21, 1991. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 194 lbs.

A “feel good story,” a “late bloomer,” there are a number of hockey clichés to describe Brandon Davidson, but the blueliner from Taber is simply focused on establishing himself as a quality WHL defenseman. After joining Regina as an undrafted free agent last season, he has become a key cog on their blue line. He brings a solid, cerebral defensive game, and shows excellent puck moving skills. After posting 34 points in 59 games last season, he’s off to another solid campaign with 14 points in 19 games thus far in 2010-11. Likely a longer term project on the back end, he’s made all the right strides thus far in his career and the Oilers are hoping that trend continues.

Drew Czerwonka, LW, Kootenay Ice
Acquired: 6th round (166th overall) in 2010
July 1, 1992. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 189 lbs.

A late pick getting off to a quick start always puts a smile on the face of management, and Czerwonka is no exception. After posting just four goals and 13 points in 54 games in his draft year, the Ice winger has already tallied six goals and 11 points through 18 WHL games this season. He is still a secondary scorer on his junior team and has a long way to go before he’s viewed as a soild NHL prospect, but a big, physical winger with a bit of a scoring touch and a tendency to dole out big hits and enjoy the rough stuff is welcome in any organization.

Kristians Pelss, RW, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 7th round (181st overall) in 2010
Sept. 9, 1992. Ht: 5’10, Wt: 175 lbs.

Expectations are never high for seventh round picks, especially in their draft year, however you can forgive Oiler fans some disappointment with Pelss considering the incredible starts his fellow 2010 draftees have had. The diminutive Latvian winger has had an incredibly slow start since crossing the pond to play for the Oil Kings, posting just four points through 18 games. That said, his willingness to come to North America to play at a young age offers a window into his determination to s
ucceed as a pro. He is the definition of a “work in progress.”

Cameron Abney, RW, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 3rd round (82nd overall) in 2009
May 23, 1991. Ht: 6’4, Wt: 192 lbs.

The Abney selection was one that left many fans scratching their heads at the time, while some others were downright angry about it. He was, by all appearances, nothing more than a big body and willing combatant on draft day in 2009, and he’s done little to dispel that perception since. The hulking winger has just four points through 19 games for Edmonton so far this season (three of those in an October 1st meeting with the Regina Pats). More perplexing are his 24 penalty minutes with just two fighting majors. A year removed from his top 90 selection, he hasn’t displayed a proclivity to score or fight, and really shows no real reason to believe he’ll be a successful pro when the time comes.


OHL

Ryan Martindale, C, Ottawa 67s
Acquired: 3rd round (61st overall) in 2010
Oct. 27, 1991. Ht: 6’3, Wt: 182 lbs.

It is incredibly rare to see a big, talented, point-per-game center slide to the third round in his draft year. In the case of Ryan Martindale, serious questions about his work ethic and commitment had a real impact on his stock, as did concerns about his foot speed. Nineteen games into the 2010-11 campaign, the Edmonton Oilers are extremely happy it did.

Martindale is tearing up the OHL, centering a line of 2011 draft eligible Shane Prince and Los Angeles Kings prospect Tyler Toffoli. The trio are all in the top 12 of OHL scoring, having combined for 30 goals through 19 games. Martindale’s numbers (11 goals and 26 points) are a big jump up from last year and have really taken off in recent weeks. He seems to be playing with passion and energy of late, and if he has in fact turned a corner in that regard, the Oilers have themselves a steal because his skill level is top notch. That said, it will take more than a quarter season to prove his work ethic has changed, and he will be a player worth watching in that regard all year long.

QMJHL

Olivier Roy, G, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Acquired: 5th round (133rd overall) in 2009
July 12, 1991. Ht: 6’0, Wt: 167 lbs.

The top goalie in the Oilers system with Devan Dubnyk now on the pro roster, Roy has taken a big step forward this season. He showed flashes of brilliance in his past two season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles but struggled with consistency. Early in this campaign he’s had a few clunkers, but hasn’t had any prolonged slumps. He’s been among the best players for his new club in Acadie-Bathurst, and is viewed by many as a strong contender for the starting job with Canada’s World Junior team.

Olivier recently posted his 103rd career QMJHL victory, moving him into fifth on the all time list. Provided he wins nine more games this season he will be second to only Jacques Cloutier who tops them all with 142. With a new consistency to his game and a strong team in front of him, Roy will look to take the next step this season and be ready for a rookie pro campaign next season.

Jeremie Blain, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Acquired: 4th round (91st overall) in 2010
Mar. 19, 1992. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 189 lbs.

Blain was coming off an excellent campaign in his first full QMJHL season with the Titan when the Oilers selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 Entry Draft. He posted 38 points in 64 games, his 72 penalty minutes were evidence he was no pushover, and his blend of size, skill and a balanced game provided optimism for the future. However an injury early in the 2010-11 season (a broken foot) limited him to just two games and he has yet to rejoin the active roster. It will be interesting to see if he can build on his breakout campaign in his draft year, and to see how well he bounces back from injury, but until then it’s wait and see.

Article was written by Lawrence Bailey.  lawrence.m.bailey@gmail.com