Oilers junior prospects season review

By Guy Flaming

At the beginning of the 2006-07 schedule, the Edmonton Oilers had six players playing junior in Canada with two more playing stateside in the USHL.  That number actually fluctuated a few times over the course of the last few months due to one season-ending injury, a major trade in the organization and a NHL squad decimated by concussions and various other disasters.

QMJHL

Slava Trukhno, LW – Gatineau Olympiques

Big things were expected from Trukhno this year, in fact some from inside the Oilers organization suggested the now 20-year-old could have and should have ended the season in the top 5 in league scoring.  Early on in the year it certainly appeared that wouldn’t be a problem as the Moscow native set the Q loop on fire.  Trukhno was named Player of the Month for October after posting 32 points in just nine games after previously being given the same weekly honor for a three-game stint where he scored eight points.

This was Trukhno’s only year in Gatineau after ending two with a trade request from the P.E.I. Rocket last summer.  Ironically, the Rocket made it to the second round of the QMJHL playoffs this year while the Olympiques were upset in their opening series by Rouyn-Noranda.  Trukhno had no goals but did manage six assists in the five games against the Wolves.  

“He’s an offensive player, he needs to get stronger still but he’s become better without the puck this year, defensively,” described one Oiler scout.

It was another year where Trukhno had his share of injuries and off ice distractions as well.  A concussion highlighted the health issues and an extended Christmas holiday stay in Denmark due to visa red tape complicated matters further.  Still, Trukhno surpassed the 100-point plateau for the first time and scored 25 goals for the third consecutive season.

Trukhno is expected to play with the AHL Springfield Falcons next year assuming he doesn’t force his way onto the NHL roster by having a sensational training camp. 
 
Sebastien Bisaillon, D – Val d’Or Foreurs

The season began on an extreme high for 20-year-old Sebastien Bisaillon who started September as a free agent invite to Oiler camp and returned to Val d’Or, not only late for the regular season in October but also with a pro contract in his back pocket.

Bisaillon finished well off his career marks for both points and goals, much like teammate Kristopher Letang but unlike the Pittsburgh prospect, the Mont-Laurier product played as many games as the year previous.  The reason for the drop n scoring was two-fold: Brad Marchand and Mathieu Roy.  Both newcomers to the team played ahead of Bisaillon on the power play and both played the point with the man advantage as well. 

One scout also insists that the previously one-dimensional Bisaillon was told by the Oilers back in training camp that he would have to concentrate on his defensive play if he wanted much of a pro future.  ‘Baz’ took the advice to heart and dedicated himself to playing better defense and this year the blueliner took strides in that department.

Massive injuries to the Oilers lineup made it necessary for Edmonton to exercise emergency procedures to recall Bisaillon straight from Val d’Or to the NHL.  He played a pair of games for the Oilers, the first better than the second.  Against Vancouver, Bisaillon saw nearly 20 minutes in ice time but two nights later coach Craig MacTavish limited him to just under 10 minutes.

In the postseason with the Foreurs, Bisaillon has 10 points in 11 games helping lead Val d’Or to the semi-finals.   

OHL

Bryan Pitton, G – Brampton Battalion

It was a tough year for Pitton who ascended to the starting position for the first time in his major junior career.  To make matters worse, the Brampton Battalion were clearly a team in a retooling if not rebuilding phase and therefore they struggled for much of the season.  Pitton won just 26 of the 61 games that he started. 

Pitton’s bloated 3.57 goals against average was somehow still 14th best in the OHL but his .879 save percentage was one of the worst in the league amongst starters.  Only Steve Mason and Trevor Cann played more games than Pitton did but both only appeared in one contest more so it was definitely a year where the former fifth-round pick gained a ton of experience.

“We [had] a young team this year but the coach [gave] me a lot of opportunity to play a lot of games,” Pitton said. “It’s been an up and down year but I think there have been more ups than downs — definitely a developing year for myself.”
 

Theo Peckham, D – Owen Sound Attack

Known more for his bruising style of play and willingness to serve up knuckle sandwiches, an early-season offensive streak turned a lot of heads towards Owen Sound.  Establishing a new career high in every offensive category began early on when Peckham notched 11 points in his first seven games.  However, by the end of the schedule, the torrid pace had trickled off and through February and March combined Peckham produced just 10 points.

All in all the beefy rearguard totaled 10 goals, 25 assists and 35 points, all personal bests but at the same time his penalty minutes dropped significantly from 236 minutes to 173. It should be noted, however, that Peckham played in 14 fewer games this year due to injuries and suspensions.  Despite the increase in scoring the Richmond Hill native saw his plus/minus rating drop to minus-12, another new record but in the wrong direction. 

Peckham and the Attack were bounced early in the playoffs by the powerful London Knights and the rugged defenseman contributed just a single assist and was a minus-1 through the four-game sweep.

Ryan O’Marra, C/RW – Saginaw Spirit

An injury to start the year, one in the middle and another to end the playoffs made 2006-07 a tough one for Ryan O’Marra.  Aside from the health issues, O’Marra saw his rights switch hands between four teams this year as well, first from Erie to Saginaw and then from the New York Islanders to the Oilers.

While active, O’Marra was a little better than a point per game player with his final stats showing 51 points in 46 games, slightly off his pace a season ago but understandable considering he played hurt for much of the campaign.

At the time of the NHL trade deadline swap that saw his big-league rights transferred to Edmonton from the New York Islanders, O’Marra was finally rounding back into his normal form.  O’Marra recorded 12 points in the seven regular season OHL games after the trade but unfortunately his postseason ended even more abruptly than the rest of the Spirit players.

A serious knee injury ended O’Marra’s postseason and the Spirit were upset by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds shortly thereafter.  It is unclear at this point if the Tokyo-born forward will be able to attend Edmonton’s prospect camp which is expected to occur from June 4-9th, but he should be back to 100 percent in time for training camp in the fall.   

WHL

Fredrik Pettersson, LW – Calgary Hitmen

The Calgary Hitmen had a very good year in the toughest division in the WHL, finishing third behind Medicine Hat and Kootenay.  Freddie Pettersson’s 50 points were seven better than his first year with Calgary last year when he actually played in seven more games.  Fifty points in 52 games is a solid improvement in productivity over his rookie year and even more impressive given that Pettersson began the year recovering from a knee injury sustained during the NHL exhibition schedule.

“Freddie’s game is Darcy Tucker-ish; he’s a pain in the ass, he’s gritty, and he’s tough to play against plus he offers some offensive ability," Oiler scout Chris McCarthy said. "He’s in that mold, Tyson Nash, guys like that who are just pains in the ass.  My game reports on Freddie have been the same all year and I’ve probably seen him play five times: ‘Another Freddie game’.  He just goes and works his ass off, has one or two assists and he ends up being a plus.  He competes.”

Unfortunately, the playoffs haven’t been nearly as productive for Pettersson who has just a single goal and a measly six points after 16 games, outside the top ten on his own team plus he’s also a minus player. 

USHL

Robby Dee, C – Omaha Lancers

It was another disappointing year for Robby Dee who missed half the year because of another shoulder injury.  The 20-year-old played just 32 games in his rookie USHL campaign and appeared in 34 this season.  In such limited action it is tough to evaluate the player’s development but statistically speaking, the Minnesota native more than doubled his goal scoring and total point production from 2005-06.

Unfortunately, at the time he was injured, Dee was a minus player and at the conclusion of the regular season his minus-3 rating ranks as second worst on the strong Omaha Lancers team.

Dee is set to join the University of Maine Black Bears next year.  

Jeff Petry, D – Des Moines Buccaneers

Ann Arbor Michigan product Jeff Petry enjoyed a breakout season with the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers in 2006-07 becoming one of the most exciting prospects in the entire league.  An appearance at the All-Star Game, winning the hardest shot competition and tripling his previous season’s offensive output are all some of the accomplishments Petry can boast of this year.

Eighteen goals and 45 points placed Petry fourth in the USHL amongst blueliners, a pleasant development considering he had only managed a single goal in his rookie outing.

“He’s late in developing his maturity and I think when he gets stronger, he only weighs like 185 lbs right now, he’ll be a 200 lb guy who skates really well,” commented one Oiler evaluator. “He’s very smart with the puck, he can lead the rush, he uses his long reach to defend well.  He just needs some teaching and Michigan State is a very defensive team so he’ll definitely learn that aspect of the game next year along with having a great workout regiment to get stronger.

“As far as his rate of development I think he’s on track, he’s progressing the way we think he should be dominating that league and at times he does,” the scouting report concluded. “He’s ready for college because he’s one of the best players in [the USHL].”

That claim was reinforced by the league when the USHL announced Petry as the recipient of the ProGuard USHL Defenseman of the Year Award.  

"Jeff Petry is a very quality defenseman and has set a standard in this league for how a defenseman should play," Waterloo head coach P.K. O’Handley was quoted as saying in the league’s press release.  "He is very talented and will have a nice career ahead of him."

Petry was also recently named to the First-Team All-USHL squad.  The Buccaneers are facing the Omaha Lancers in the first round of the USHL playoffs and hold a 3-0 lead in the series; Petry has two assists thus far.

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