Photo: David Musil, one of several promising young defensemen for the Edmonton organization, projects to be a physical two-way defenseman in the NHL. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Cupboards that were bare and wanting not too long ago are now bursting at the seams. In the span of three years, the Edmonton Oilers have impressively rebuilt their prospect pipeline, finding success both early and late in the draft, as well as with a handful of shrewd free agent signings. Being among the league's worst teams the past few years has certainly helped with early first round picks, however the depth and breadth of talent currently bubbling under the surface is primarily the result of two things: an organizational commitment to a full and thorough rebuild, and the incredible work done by Head Scout Stu MacGregor and his team at the draft table.
Photo: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a standout for the Oilers in training camp. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Coming off a 40 win and 91 point season, the Oklahoma City Barons were the first Edmonton Oilers farm team in quite a while to have a successful season. Granted, they would have certainly preferred more playoff success, but after years of toiling in futility at the bottom of the standings, the first year in OKC was a positive one for the Oilers minor league affiliate.
While the Barons have lost some of their veteran leaders (and their top three scorers from a season ago), they have the look of a deeper, more talented, more well rounded club and will be looking to improve on last season's success. Winning in the AHL is rarely the result of boasting the most talent, but more about the right mix of veterans, youth, and a balanced roster. Before the puck has dropped on the season, the Barons look like a quality, playoff caliber club yet again.
Nineteen-year-old goalie Frans Tuohimaa was one of two Finnish goalies selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2011 NHL Draft. The Jokerit prospect was selected in the seventh round (182nd overall) while Samu Perhonen, who played for JyP's junior club as well as Finland's U-18 team at the World Junior Championships, was selected in the third (62nd overall). Both recently attended the Oilers' July prospects camp but unfortunately Perhonen was sick for much of the camp. Hockey's Future recently caught up with Tuohimaa to get some feedback on his first experience as an NHL prospect.
Hockey's Future: Did you have a chance to talk to either Teemu Hartikainen or Toni Rajala (two other Finnish players in the Edmonton system) about the Oilers before you came to camp and did they give you any advice?
Photo: Picked 19th overall in the 2011 draft, Oscar Klefbom has the tools to be a solid top-four defenseman for the Oilers for many years to come. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Fans of the Edmonton Oilers have demonstrated their patience over the past number of years, buying into the mantra of a wholesale rebuild. After two seasons in the NHL’s basement however, expectations are rising and that patience is wearing thin. Fortunately for the Oilers faithful, a lot of the team’s future is on or near the NHL roster and there is still a wealth of quality talent coming down the pipe. Unlike years past, much of the current talent in the prospect pool is complementary and demonstrates a wide range of skills. With the exception of the 2011 top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the players who succeed at the NHL level off this list will be likely be playing supporting roles to the top line talents who have already made the jump to the show.
1. (NR) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, 8.5C
Drafted 1st round, 1st overall, 2011
Photo: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the first overall draft pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
Coming into the 2011 NHL Draft with nine picks, the Edmonton Oilers were already the beneficiaries of a string of strong drafts, boasting one of the better groups of prospects and young NHLers in the league. Among their nine picks were two in the first round, including the top pick overall for the second year in a row.
The major needs in the Oilers' system were an elite level center and a defenseman or two with top pairing upside. Beyond that, their existing organizational depth allowed Head Scout Stu MacGregor and his team with the luxury of selecting the player they believed to be the best available at each spot and further stock the system with talent.