Oilers Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By Lloyd Poast

Jordan Eberle has taken over the top spot on the Oilers top 20 prospects list. Two other players from the 2008 draft class, Teemu Hartikainen and Philippe Cornet, have been impressive and make their debut. The only other new addition is Ryan Stone, acquired from Pittsburgh in the Mathieu Garon trade.  The ranking is based primarily on potential, and not proximity to making the roster.

Top 20 at a glance

1. (5) Jordan Eberle, RW         
2. (4) Riley Nash, C                 
3. (1) Jeff Petry, D                 
4. (6) Theo Peckham, D          
5. (2) Taylor Chorney, D            
6. (3) Rob Schremp, C/LW      
7. (15) Linus Omark, LW         
8. (7) Chris Vande Velde, C       
9. (8) Cody Wild, D                   
10. (9) Devan Dubnyk, G           
11. (NR) Teemu Hartikainen, C
12. (12) Alex Plante, D              
13. (10)  Ryan Potulny, C              
14. (14) Slava Trukhno, LW                     
15. (NR) Philippe Cornet, LW      
16. (13)  Jean-Francois Jacques, LW     
17. (19) Johan Motin, D        
18. (15) Liam Reddox, LW
19. (11) Ryan O’Marra, F            
20. (NR) Ryan Stone, C          

1 (5). Jordan Eberle, RW, 18

Acquired: 2008 draft, 22nd overall

The Oilers system has been lacking true scorers for some time, but they may have finally addressed at least part of the problem when they drafted Jordan Eberle in the first round in 2008.

He has been the offensive leader for the low-scoring WHL Regina Pats and was a clutch performer for Team Canada at the World Juniors, with two game-winning goals and finished among the tournament’s scoring leaders with 13 points.

Eberle has great hockey sense, supports the puck well, and can stickhandle at high speed. He has even been creating offense on the penalty kill. His size at 5’10 and his skating are considered drawbacks, but he has been able to produce everywhere he’s been.

2 (4). Riley Nash, C, 19
Acquired: 2007 draft, 21st overall

The Oilers traded up in the first round of the 2007 entry draft to grab Riley Nash from Salmon Arm of the BCHL. He went on to Cornell University where he won the ECAC Rookie of the Year award. Although he was unable to carry the momentum into the early stages of the new season, Nash has become much more creative with the puck and his offensive numbers are back on track.

Nash is a solid two-way center who is dangerous on the penalty kill and has some untapped offensive potential. He was invited to the Canadian World Junior camp, but failed to make the cut.

3 (1). Jeff Petry, D, 21
Acquired: 2006 draft, 45th overall

Petry’s offensive production is down from last season (just 12 points in 34 games this year), but his Michigan State Spartans have been one of the worst teams in college hockey. Even with his struggles, he was still runner up in three categories in the CCHA captain’s poll – best 1-on-1 defender, hardest slapshot, and best power-play quarterback.

Petry has all the attributes teams look for in a top-pairing rearguard — size, skating, a great shot, a quick stick, and physical play. He was even used as a forward in a recent game. There is a chance he could leave college and sign with the Oilers after this college season has ended.

4 (6). Theo Peckham, D, 21

Acquired: 2006 draft, 75th overall

Peckham is the bruiser among the Oilers top defense prospects and a sure-fire fan favorite. The 6’2 223-pound rearguard is the type of punishing hitter that the parent club has been lacking, and with serious injuries to both Denis Grebeshkov and Lubomir Vishnovsky, he was recently recalled from the Springfield Falcons.

Before the recall, he was easily the best defenseman on a bad Falcons team and combines toughness with a growing offensive game (19 points in 44 games). He has high potential.

5 (2). Taylor Chorney, D, 21

Acquired: 2005 draft, 36th overall

Much more was expected from Chorney’s first season of pro hockey this year than a mere 15 points in 52 games and a whopping -20 , but the highly-touted defender has been playing much better lately and has started to rebound back into form.

The former North Dakota captain can play either side and is a great skater who should benefit from the much more freewheeling style of new Falcons coach, Rob Daum (replacing the recently fired Jeff Truitt). He’s still a blue chip prospect.

6 (3). Rob Schremp, C/LW, 22

Acquired: 2004 draft, 25th overall

There isn’t a prospect in the system who draws a more diverse range of opinions than Rob Schremp. Some say he’s a future top-six offensive forward who just needs a chance, while others are ready to label him a bust.

After a summer of intense training, there were high expectations that this would be his breakout year, but his stats in Springfield have been disappointing. He only has six goals and 26 assists in 44 games, but his offense should also improve under the new coach. Another positive is that he’s been playing a more rounded game, which resulted in a brief, but successful stint in the NHL (4 assists in 3 games). 

7 (15). Linus Omark, LW, 22

Acquired: 2007 draft, 97th overall

The biggest mover up the list this year is Omark of Lulea in the SEL. The talented sniper is small, but shifty and is the league’s current scoring leader with 22 goals and 32 points in 51 games. He’s the youngest player to have reached the 20-goal, 30-assist mark. 

Omark is incredibly strong on his skates, kills penalties, and has a knack for scoring goals from odd angles. A few of his goals are highlight reel material. The Oilers are hoping to bring him over to North America for next season.

8 (7). Chris Vande Velde, C, 22

Acquired: 2005 draft, 97th overall

Budding power forward Vande Velde is another player who could fill a need for bigger, more physical players in Edmonton. The 6’2, 204-pound center can be a force — strong on both his skates and the puck and able to skate right through players.

Vande Velde is great on faceoffs and has taken on a much bigger leadership role this year at North Dakota, scoring 10 goals and adding 14 assists in 32 games. He’s another candidate to turn pro after the college season.

9 (8). Cody Wild, D, 21

Acquired: 2006 draft, 140th overall

Wild is yet another solid defense prospect that the Oilers acquired in the 2006 entry draft. His first pro season in Springfield has been a little hot and cold (10 points in 33 games), and he’s been a healthy scratch on a few occasions. When he’s been in the lineup, Wild has showcased the speed and passing skills that made him such an intriguing college player. He’s a great skater and passer and loves to jump into the rush and lead the attack. A real diamond in the rough, Wild has all the tools to eventually make the jump to the NHL.

10 (9). Devan Dubnyk,G, 22

Acquired: 2004 draft, 14th overall

The 6’6 Dubnyk is the lone goaltending prospect in the top 20. His numbers are very similar to last year’s with Springfield, with a .905 save percentage and 2.97 GAA, but has still been a bit inconsistent. Named AHL player of the week earlier in the season, he has struggled at times and has seen his save percentage drop, but the whole Falcons team has struggled. Dubnyk has been a real workhorse, playing in all but 10 of the team’s 58 games.

Dubnyk is a great team guy and very popular among his teammates. Although not slow, he isn’t as mobile as some smaller goaltenders. He will probably spend at least one more season in the minors.

11 (NR). Teemu Hartikainen, C, 18
Acquired: 2008 draft, 163rd overall

Hartikainen is looking like he may be a late-round steal for the organization. His 16 goals broke his team’s (KalPa) rookie goal scoring record previously held by Sami Kapanen and he was also the top scorer for Finland at the world juniors. He finished among the top 15 scoring leaders at the tournament, accounting for 45 percent of his team’s total offense.

The 18-year-old is 6’1 and plays a gritty style of game. His sub-par skating is his only glaring weakness. He has gotten better as the season wears on and his stock is rising.

12 (12). Alex Plante, D, 19
Acquired: 2007 draft, 15th overall

Many were surprised when Plante was chosen in the middle of the first round of the 2007 draft, especially since there were still a few talented forwards available. He went on to have a disastrous, injury-plagued 2007-08 season in which he only finished with two points.

This season has been a much different story, however. Plante is healthy again and his development is back on the right track. He has seven goals and 30 assists (along with 154 PIM) in 59 games for a powerful Calgary Hitmen team. Plante is big (6’5, 220 pounds), solid defensively, and has a great point shot. He still needs to work on his skating and mobility if he’s to make much of an impact as a pro. He’ll have to be signed by June or he will re-enter the draft.

13 (10). Ryan Potulny, C, 24

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, 2008

Potulny has been the Springfield’s most consistent offensive player this season, scoring 22 goals and adding 15 assists in 45 games. His fine play earned him an NHL recall, where he had three assists in eight games. Potulny’s been solid at both ends of the ice and in the faceoff circle. At 24 years old, his time as a prospect is winding down.

14 (14). Slava Trukhno, LW, 21
Acquired: 2005 draft, 120th overall

Trukhno was a high-scoring winger in the QMJHL, but that offense has yet to translate to pro. After a slow start last season in Springfield, he finished with a nice point streak. He carried the momentum into training camp, but has struggled with inconsistency, scoring only five goals and 15 assists. He also missed some time with a broken thumb.

Trukhno shows glimpses of his potential and at 6’1 and 203 pounds, he can play a power forward game. His skating could use some work, however. 

15 (NR). Philippe Cornet, LW, 18
Acquired: 2008 draft, 133rd overall

Cornet has been a pleasant surprise this year with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. The 18-year-old is the team’s leading scorer (61 points in 55 games) and has been used in all situations from penalty killing to the power play.

Cornet fights hard for the puck, isn’t afraid to go into the corners, and has impressed with his overall gritty play. He’s among the top 20 scorers in the league and should only get better.

16 (13). J.F. Jacques, LW, 23
Acquired: 2003 draft, 68th overall

The “Crazy Train” is back after undergoing offseason back surgery and Edmonton is hoping he will provide a physical, energetic presence to the bottom half of the lineup. After a two-week conditioning stint in Springfield, Jacques was recalled by the Oilers and played his first NHL game of the season against Dallas.

Jacques has been a major contributor at both the major junior and minor pro levels, but has yet to enjoy the same success in the NHL. He’s a board-bending hitter and a great skater for such a big player. Jacques will likely finish the year in Edmonton, as he would have to clear waivers to be sent back down.

17 (19). Johan Motin, D, 19
Acquired: 2008 draft, 103rd overall

Motin saw his stock decline drastically during his draft year, dropping from a top-15 ranking at midseason to his fourth-round selection by the Oilers last June. The Swedish rearguard is the epitome of a hard-nosed, stay-at-home defenseman who brings nastiness to every shift.  He rarely ventures into the opposition’s zone and his offensive contribution to Farjestad includes a mere two assists. It will be interesting to see if Motin decides to bring his game to North America in the near future.

18 (15). Liam Reddox, LW, 23
Acquired: 2004 draft, 112th overall

Reddox is the perfect example of a player who adjusts his style to make it as a pro. He was a scorer during his teen years, leading Team Canada in scoring at the U18 tournament and also leading the Peterborough Petes in scoring in both his rookie and sophomore years. However, he seemed to lose his touch in his final year of junior and then went on to have a forgettable first pro season. He rebounded last year and has quickly risen through the ranks, from the ECHL to the AHL and now to a regular shift in the NHL.

Since his recall in November, the 5’11, 180-pound winger has scored five goals and added two assists in 35 games, playing mostly fourth line minutes. He’s been great on the forecheck, fights for pucks, and is a bit of an agitator.  He’ll never put up the numbers he did in junior, but he should continue to grow into his role as a fourth-line energy player who can chip in some offense.

19 (11). Ryan O’Marra, C/RW, 21

Acquired: Trade with Islanders, 2007

The Oilers thought they might be acquiring their future shut-down center when they acquired O’Marra from the New York Islanders as part of the Ryan Smyth trade. But the former 15th overall pick in 2005 has yet to find his groove and has plenty of work to do if he is to become a regular in the NHL.

The 6’2 forward bulked up to 220 pounds over the summer and was looking to improve on a poor rookie year, but he has only scored one goal and four assists in 41 games. O’Marra is great on faceoffs and can be a punishing hitter, but must find his offensive game if he is to avoid being another first-round bust.

20 (NR). Ryan Stone, C, 23
Acquired: Trade with Pittsburgh, 2008

Stone was recently acquired as part of the Mathieu Garon deal and assigned to Springfield. He instantly made an impact and is the team’s leading scorer with 38 points in 54 games (including time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). An intriguing mixture of grit, toughness, and skill, he will challenge for an NHL roster spot next season.

Missing the cut

Bryan Lerg, LW, 23
Acquired: signed as a free agent, 2008

Although they were adding another small forward to the system, the Oilers signed Lerg as a free agent out of college because he has a goal scorer’s touch. He has shown glimpses of talent, but has also been quite streaky.  Lerg had scored nine goals and added eight assists in 41 games with Springfield.  He also spent seven games with Stockton in the ECHL this year.