Oilers 2008-09 NCAA prospects update

By Lloyd Poast

The Edmonton Oilers have drafted an abundance of college players in the last decade. Players such as Mike Comrie, Matt Greene, and current Oilers Shaun Horcoff and Andrew Cogliano were all part of a large contingent of college-bound selections. The trend has subsided a bit in the last couple of years, with Riley Nash being the only college player selected from the 2008 and 2009 drafts. The Oilers currently have five prospects left in the NCAA.                      

Jeff Petry, D — Michigan State

Acquired: 2006 draft, 45th overall
Petry is the lone defenseman among the handful of Edmonton’s college prospects, and although the rearguard is considered one of the Oilers blue chippers, his game has been hot and cold this season as a sophomore. Like the rest of his Michigan State teammates, Petry struggled in the first half, but has picked it up lately, both defensively and offensively.  Even though he’s off the pace he set last season (now 1 goal, 9 assists in 24 games), the 21-year-old has an intriguing package of skills, and was runner-up in three categories for the CCHA’s annual captain’s poll — best one-on-one defender, hardest slapshot, and best power-play quarterback.

Lately, he’s been using his stick more effectively, but he needs to learn to pick his spots better and be more aware of what’s going on around him, as he tends to get caught up in the rush, putting himself out of position.                           

Riley Nash, C — Cornell

Acquired: 2007 draft, 21st overall

After a stellar rookie season in which he was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year, Nash also started the season slowly, but has been scoring more frequently of late. Cornell has been playing great as a team and Nash, along with linemate Colin Greening, have been the team’s leading offensive weapons. He’s stronger on the puck and is becoming more creative in the offensive zone. The 19-year-old’s defensive game has also improved since last season, and he has been very dangerous on the penalty kill, scoring several shorthanded goals. He was invited to the selection camp for the Canadian junior team, but failed to win a spot on the checking line.

Chris Vande Velde, C — North Dakota

Acquired: 2005 draft, 97th overall

The Oilers may be able to address their need for size up front if Vande Velde can translate his game to the NHL. Although the 21-year-old’s numbers are down from last season, the strong-skating power forward has continued to impress at North Dakota. He’s scored only eight goals and added 10 assists in 26 games, but with the loss of a few key veterans to the pro ranks, he has taken on a much more prominent leadership role as a junior. He has brought a new level of maturity in his approach to the game that has helped the team’s younger players, such as Jason Gregoire and David Toews. He’s also been great on faceoffs, which is something that the big club has been lacking. He’s a nice combination of size and skill.

Robby Dee, C — Maine

Acquired: 2005 draft, 86th overall

Dee was a Mr. Hockey finalist and one of the highest scoring high school players in the country when the Oilers chose him 86th overall in 2005, but he left his offense at home when he entered the college ranks (only one goal last season). Although his stats don’t reflect it (5 points in 16 games), the University of Maine center has actually been much better this season as a sophomore. He has improved his offensive play through hard work and determination, and has also been shooting the puck much more. Even though the 21-year-old has been playing better, it’s unlikely he’s impressed Oilers management enough to earn a contract.

Matt Glasser, C — Denver

Acquired: 2005 draft, 220th overall

Of all the Oilers’ NCAA prospects, Glasser has shown the biggest improvement this season. He’s rounded out his game with Denver as a junior and, as a result, has seen his ice time increase. His speed is his biggest asset and he is using it to create many more offensive opportunities, and has also been driving to the net much more often. The 21-year-old Glasser will also have to continue to improve and put up better numbers if he hopes to earn a camp invite and contract when he leaves college.