10. (8) Anton Slepyshev, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 88th Overall, 2013
All eyes are on Russian winger Anton Slepyshev as he makes his North American debut after four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. He is an intriguing talent who plays a physical game but has a knack for goal-scoring as well – though it should be mentioned his 15 goals last season were his most at any level. He seems likely to be a late cut at training camp, spending some time in Bakersfield to get accustomed to the North American ice surface and style of play, but he certainly isn’t one to count out entirely. A strong performance at training camp could earn him a top spot on the injury call-up list or even an NHL preview when the season begins in early October.
9. (7) Bogdan Yakimov, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 83rd Overall, 2013
Bogdan Yakimov, the 6’5, 225-pound Russian centerman, is entering his second professional season on North American soil, after a successful year in Oklahoma City in 2014-15. The Oilers currently have a logjam of young talent at center, so Yakimov may be looking at another season in the minor leagues. He will certainly be near the top of the list for call-ups to the big club, should the opportunity arise. His tough, physical style of play would translate well to the NHL level and at this point, it appears that it’s just a matter of getting more minutes under his belt in a lower-risk environment (read: big minutes at the AHL level) before he makes the jump.
8. (6) Tyler Pitlick, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd Round, 31st Overall, 2010
Although plagued by injury troubles, Tyler Pitlick continues to hang on as an Oilers prospect, earning another contract year after a strong showing at both the AHL and NHL level in 2014-15. It was, unfortunately, cut short when the winger suffered an injury to his spleen, but Pitlick is looking to remain healthy and continue to show why he deserves a place on the Oilers roster in 2015-16. The big, physical forward clearly has the tools to carve out an NHL career – it’s evident every time he suits up for Edmonton that his skating, on-ice vision, and puck-movement skills are of a high enough caliber. Whether he can stay off the injured-reserve list remains to be seen.
7. (5) Dillon Simpson, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th Round, 92nd Overall, 2011
NCAA success turned AHL defenseman Dillon Simpson is entering his second professional year. He played relatively sheltered minutes in Oklahoma City last season, but impressed on a nightly basis with his consistent, simple style of game. His true strength is his play in his own end, where he’s defensively responsible and works extremely hard on every shift. He makes himself tough to play against not by being physical, but by out-positioning his opponent and always remaining one step ahead. He appeared more comfortable chipping in offensively as the 2014-15 season wound down, seemingly gaining more confidence and finding his footing at the professional level, though he ultimately was held without a point in the playoffs. Simpson is undoubtedly talented and thinks the game extremely well. He will spend this season with the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, where he will likely gain more playing time and minutes on special teams efforts than he did in his first season with OKC.
6. (4) Jujhar Khaira, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2012
After losing part of his 2014-15 season to an elbow injury, Jujhar Khaira is likely looking to impress in 2015-16 and, if things go his way, improve his offensive numbers. While being a true goal-scorer has never been his calling card – he is more truly a great energy player or power-forward type – he is in tough with some talented players for a spot on the wing with the big club. As he continues to progress along his development curve, his raw talent is always evident, but he needs to be wary of losing out to young, impressive talent with better boxcar numbers. His size and physical nature combined with his solid skating and passing ability certainly make him a valuable asset, but he needs to do something in his sophomore professional effort to set himself apart.
5. (3) Laurent Brossoit, G, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Calgary Flames, November 2013
Continuing with the former Oil Kings trend, goaltender Laurent Brossoit takes the number five slot in this season’s preliminary top 20. Brossoit is coming off a strong sophomore professional effort, spending the majority of his time in the AHL, putting up consistent performances and helping the Oklahoma City Barons secure a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season. Brossoit also made a late season appearance for the Edmonton Oilers, where he stood on his head in what would be an eventual loss – a performance that earned him great praise. Far and away the Oilers’ strongest goaltending prospect at the current time, Brossoit will likely begin his year in the AHL in a starting role, but will be closely watched and could see more ice time at the NHL level in 2015-16.
4. (NR) Griffin Reinhart, D, 8.0C
Acquired via trade with New York Islanders, June 2015
Former Edmonton Oil King Griffin Reinhart was acquired by the Oilers this summer in exchange for two draft selections (Mathew Barzal and Mitchell Stephens were eventually selected with those picks). Reinhart enjoyed a successful junior career in the city and after spending his initial professional seasons as property of the New York Islanders, the Oilers are hopeful that the rangy rearguard can step up and one day fill a role at the NHL level for a club that has struggled on the back end for a number of years. Reinhart is strong, physical and plays a solid, shut-down game. The jump to the NHL level will likely be a bit of a curve for Reinhart, who had a cup of coffee with the Islanders in early 2013-14 and struggled to remain in the NHL lineup, but his raw skill-set seems to indicate that he has all the tools to fill that role – it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
3. (2) Leon Draisaitl, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 3rd Overall, 2014
With the Edmonton Oilers solving some of their woes at center during the off-season, Leon Draisaitl has something of a weight lifted off his back. Last year, the young centerman was relied upon quite heavily (some would believe too heavily) to fill a gap on the dot for the first two months of the season, far surpassing his expected nine-game preview.
This season, it looks likely that Draisaitl will at least begin the season in the AHL, and possibly play the majority of the year there, where he can log some big minutes and continue to hone his craft as a valuable future piece of this organization’s long-term plan. Should he surprise and make the squad out of training camp, that wouldn’t be entirely terrible for the young centerman, who gained valuable experience in 2014-15 and now stands more poised to make the jump and keep his consistency level up. The German centerman is undoubtedly talented, and will certainly be a legitimate NHL player in the near future, with the potential to be a star.
2. (1) Darnell Nurse, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 7th Overall, 2013
Darnell Nurse has always been a talented, mobile defenseman with good puck-movement and a fun-to-watch, north-south style of game. Add in some time in the weight room, a strong season in the OHL and another year of maturity, and he’s now a big, physical, puck-moving defenseman whose on-ice vision and hockey sense seem to have improved exponentially. Nurse was talented enough to make the 2014-15 Oilers squad out of training camp, but was returned to his junior team shortly after. This season, Nurse will be a strong consideration to remain with the big club in October, depending on how he fares at camp.
1. (NR) Connor McDavid, C, 10.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 1st Overall, 2015
Connor McDavid is a no-brainer to head up the fall 2015 list of top 20 Oilers prospects. As the 2015-16 NHL season looms, the young talent is making headlines and garnering attention from fans, players, and NHL officials alike, the majority of whom have declared him to be the best talent to come along in recent years. The 18-year-old phenom is expected to start his career with the Edmonton Oilers at the conclusion of training camp and it seems as though all of Edmonton and perhaps much of the hockey world is waiting with bated breath to see what becomes of the highly-touted center. In his limited appearances in Oilers silks thus far, he certainly looks to be living up to his extremely lofty expectations. Foregoing any extenuating circumstances, Edmonton should have another franchise player on their hands.