Year after year for the past decade, the Edmonton Oilers have added top talents via the draft. Rather than building an enviable prospect pool, the team has only succeeded in constructing unbalanced rosters that finish near the bottom of the league standings. Still, the 2015 Draft gifted the Oilers one of the world’s best players, and several other young men who have learned the NHL game the hard way are coming into the primes of their careers. Will the supporting cast be enough to change the script in 2016-17? Only time will tell, but the Hockey’s Future prospect awards for 2015-16 serve to highlight some of the more encouraging signs from a mostly disappointing campaign.
The Edmonton Oilers’ NCAA and European prospect pool is not a large one, made even smaller by Finnish goaltender Eetu Laurikainen joining the Bakersfield Condors in 2015-16 and Bogdan Yakimov making his return to North American hockey after a brief hiatus in Europe. The team also added former Minnesota Wild prospect Jere Sallinen out of the Finnish Liiga to its pro ranks. The remaining crop of players consists of mid- to late-round picks, many of whom are longshots for NHL success. Nevertheless, there are some intriguing standouts, such as in the case of Russian defender Ziyat Paygin who has pleasantly surprised many with his 2015-16 season numbers. Tyler Vesel continues to lead the way as the de facto leader of the NCAA prospect group. See the full breakdown below.
The Edmonton Oilers spring Top 20 list sees some major changes from the fall list, mostly due to the graduation of players like Brandon Davidson, Leon Draisaitl and Iiro Pakarinen. Darnell Nurse sits on the cusp of prospect status with regards to number of games played, but is the second name on the list for the time being. Despite his collarbone injury in November, Connor McDavid hasn’t missed a beat in his return and is a prospect in name only. He displays on a consistent basis that he is not only the top prospect in the Oilers system, but on his way to becoming the best player in the NHL.
As the 2015-16 season commences, one cannot help but notice the top-heaviness of the Edmonton Oilers’ prospect talent at the professional level. The team’s new farm club in Bakersfield, California is stacked with noteworthy names like Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, Tyler Pitlick and more, and the number of legitimate prospects fighting for an opportunity to earn a look at the NHL level is much higher than it has been in recent memory. The fact that the Oilers are now deep enough at the top level to afford to let prospects like the ones mentioned earlier spend some time in the minors developing is a sign of systemic improvement, which bodes well for a club that is trying to establish itself as a legitimate playoff contender after years of poor performance.