Plenty of character among Edmonton Oilers European and collegiate players

By Lawrence Bailey
Photo: There is hope that undersized but immensely skilled forward Toni Rajala comes to North America next season. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)


While the Oilers have shown a tendency of late to shy away from the NCAA and some parts of Europe (namely Russia) in the draft, recent success with Scandinavian picks look to figure prominently into the team’s future. Current pros Magnus Paajarvi (Sweden) and Teemu Hartikainen (Finland) are enjoying success in their first North American seasons after being picked from overseas. Similarly, WHL rookies Martin Marincin and Tyler Pitlick (drafted out of Slovakia and the WCHA’s University of Minnesota-Mankato respectively) are enjoying tremendous campaigns. Of those players still plying their trade across the pond, both Swede Anton Lander and Finn Toni Rajala are good bets to be pros in North America next season.

The NCAA contingent on Edmonton’s prospect list are best described as depth picks and longshots, though the recent signing of Taylor Fedun may be an indication that the scouting staff will be looking for NCAA veterans who can be signed as free agents going forward, especially if Fedun progresses well in his rookie pro campaign next season.


Europe

Anton Lander, 19
Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2009

An incredibly intelligent player with a keen eye for and attention to detail and willing to accept any role he’s given, Anton Lander is a coach’s dream. At 19 years of age, Lander has just completed his fourth season in the Swedish Elite League and is among the fan favorites for his club team Timra. He’s a proven leader as well, captaining the Swedish entry at this year’s World Junior Championships, and is considered a shoe-in for a spot on the World Championship squad.

There is some disagreement on Lander’s upside however. Most view him as a prototypical third line center-strong on draws, excellent defensively, a skilled penalty killer and enough offense to contribute when needed. Others, especially those in Sweden, see him as having all the tools to play a top six role in the NHL. He has progressed offensively year over year in the SEL, and his 26 points in 49 games on a poor team this season show that there is definitely something there. Regardless of what his high end winds up being, he’s the kind of player coaches will feel eminently comfortable sending over the boards-next year and for many years to come.


Toni Rajala, 19
Acquired: 4th Round, 101st Overall, 2009

After a point-per-game season in the WHL as an 18-year-old, Rajala returned to Finland this season to fulfill his military obligations and turned in another quality campaign, this time with Ilves Tampere of the SM-Liiga. Scoring at just over a .5 point per game clip (22 points in 43 games) Rajala held his own playing against men, despite his diminutive stature. It’s unclear whether he will stay in Finland next season, though he has always expressed a desire to make it in North America and make it to the NHL, so the smart money would be on him coming back across the pond for the 2011-12 campaign. That said, with numerous players eligible to play in the AHL for the Oilers next year, those plans could change over the summer.


Alexander Bumagin, 24
Acquired: 6th Round, 170th Overall, 2006

While Bumagin excited Oiler fans as a potential sleeper when he was drafted in 2006, he has yet to match his 23 point season from that year. Alex is now a seven-year veteran of the Russian leagues and is unlikely to make his mark anywhere else. His geographical preferences aside, Bumagin’s game does not have the skill level nor does he play with the ambition to rise higher than he currently is.

William Quist, 21
Acquired: 6th Round, 157th Overall, 2007

A 6’5, 203 lbs winger from Sweden, Quist’s game does not meet the sum of it’s parts. His measurements look good on paper but the fact he never left his hometown team, (the Nybro Vikings) even as they play in the Swedish third division, does not bode well for his future in North America.

NCAA

Kyle Bigos, 21
Acquired: 4th Round, 99th Overall, 2009

Kyle Bigos is a beast of a hockey player. Not to be mistaken as someone who will fill up the scoresheet, he makes sure he shows up a couple columns over under penalty minutes on a regular basis. After 94 penalty minutes in 36 games last season, he’s at 123 in 30 games so far in 2010-11. A ferocious and willing combatant, Bigos has been terrorizing Hockey East again this season and is exactly the kind of player teammates love having on their side. While his upside is likely limited to a supporting role if he makes the NHL, the organizational emphasis on getting bigger, meaner and tougher to play against bodes well for Bigos’ future with the club as he continues his college career.


Taylor Fedun, 22
Acquired: Free Agent Signing, March 8, 2011

The most recent addition to the Oiler stable of prospects, Fedun is the kind of free asset many who follow the team have been hoping the organization would target. Signed following a quality four-year career with the ECAC’s Princeton Tigers, Fedun put up solid offensive numbers as a senior tallying 22 points in 29 games from the back end. Lauded for his intelligent style of play and his leadership, Fedun is a no risk gamble for the organization, one that could pay off nicely given his stats compare well to current Oilers Jeff Petry and Taylor Chorney at the same age, albeit in a different conference.

Kellen Jones, 20
Acquired: 7th Round, 202nd Overall, 2010

The undersized skill forward is enjoying a quality freshman year with the Quninnipiac Bobcats of the ECAC. His 22 points in 38 games are solid for a seventh round selection, and while he is older at 20 years of age, he will likely have a few more years in college to improve his game and continue his development.


Robby Dee, 23
Acquired: 3rd Round, 86th Overall, 2005

Drafted after a pair of eye-popping seasons in high school, expectations were high for the Plymouth, Minnesota product. Unfortunately shoulder injuries seemed to negatively impact his offensive ability and there is a real question whether the Oilers will sign him once he completes his senior season with the Maine Black Bears this year. Having never topped a point per game in his NCAA career, it is unlikely even if signed that he will be much more than a minor leaguer.

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