Oilers Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By Kyle Kujawa

It’s been a disappointing season in Edmonton, as the Oilers have been last in the league for the majority of the season. Many are looking forward to the future — and they have good reason to, as several prospects have greatly exceeded expectations. With a high lottery pick coming their way in June, the future could be bright.

Top 20 at a glance

1 Jordan Eberle, C 8.0C
2. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW 8.0C
3. Riley Nash, C 7.5C
4. Jeff Petry, D 7.0C
5. Linus Omark, LW 7.5D
6. Alex Plante, D 7.0C
7. Olivier Roy, G 7.0C
8. Theo Peckham, D 7.0C
9. Teemu Hartikainen, C 6.5B
10. Taylor Chorney, D 6.5B
11. Anton Lander, LW 7.0C
12. Toni Rajala, RW 7.5D
13. Devan Dubnyk, G 6.5C
14. Chris Vande Velde, C 6.5C
15. Milan Kytnar, C 6.0B
16. Philippe Cornet, LW 6.5C
17. Troy Hesketh, D 6.5D
18. Kyle Bigos, D 6.0 C
19. Johan Motin, D 6.0C
20. Liam Reddox, LW 5.0B

1. (2) Jordan Eberle, C — 8.0C

5’11, 184 pounds
1st round, 22nd overall, 2008
May 15, 1990

Eberle is possibly the only prospect in all of hockey to make a significant impression at three different levels of play. He takes over the top spot in Edmonton after impressive performances at the World Junior Championships, as well as in the WHL and AHL. With the Regina Pats, Eberle put up 50 goals to go along with 106 points, just one point shy of Brandon Kozun (LA), despite Kozun playing in eight more games.

Eberle also matched his totals from last season at the WJC, with 13 points in six games. When most thought that his tying goal with just seconds remaining against Russia in last year’s tournament would be the biggest of his career, Eberle cemented himself as one of the most clutch players in hockey history by scoring several big goals for Canada in this year’s tournament, including two in the waning minutes of the gold medal game to force overtime.

After his WHL season ended, Eberle was assigned to Springfield in the AHL. His scoring abilities were not stifled there either, as he’s picked up eight points in six games so far at that level. Eberle has a chance to represent Canada once again at the World Championships, before likely making the jump right to the NHL next season.

2. (1) Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW — 8.0C
6’1, 198 pounds
1st round, 10th overall, 2009
April 12, 1991

Despite falling out of Edmonton’s top spot, Paajarvi-Svensson has had a productive season that could easily lead to an NHL debut next fall. The 18-year-old represented Sweden for a third time at the World Junior Championships, putting up 10 points in six games. He has 19 points in 18 career games at the tournament, and he’s still eligible for next year — if he isn’t in the NHL.

In Sweden, Paajarvi-Svensson enjoyed a healthy increase in production. After 17 points last year, he put up 29 in 49 games this season, good for third on the team in scoring. He now has played three seasons in the SEL, making the jump to North American pro hockey for him a likely easy one. His speed, creativity, and developed two-way game are his strongest attributes. He will need to add strength to reach his full potential.

3. (3) Riley Nash, C — 7.5C

6’1, 173 pounds
1st round, 21st overall, 2007
May 9, 1989

The Oilers have a decision to make with Nash, who just finished his junior season at Cornell. The former first-round pick looks like he could join the professional ranks, but sounds as though he might choose to stay for his senior season. He equaled his point totals from last season with 35 points in 30 games. He finished the season on a red hot pace, with 21 points in his final 12 games.

Nash is a quick and crafty player who logs big minutes for the Big Red. After three years of college, he still looks skinny and is still listed at 173. Bulking up over the summer would serve him well, no matter what level he finds himself playing at.

4. (6) Jeff Petry, D — 7.0C
6’3, 200 pounds
2nd round, 45th overall, 2006
December 9, 1987

Petry was the highest scoring defenseman for Michigan State in the 2008-09 season, and returned this season to repeat that feat. Known more for his shut down and physical play, Petry more than doubled his offensive output with 29 points in 38 games. Though he was only a junior, Petry served as captain and was viewed as a leader on a team that only played one senior regularly.

It did not take Edmonton long to sign Petry to an entry-level contract after Michigan State’s season ended. He has been assigned to Springfield where he will finish out the year. Michigan State’s resurgence this season can be largely credited to the complete game Petry offered on the blueline.

5. (4) Linus Omark, LW — 7.5D

5’9, 185 pounds
4th round, 97th overall, 2007
February 5, 1987

Four of Edmonton’s top five prospects are gifted offensive players — good news for the team with the fewest goals scored in the Western Conference. Many view Omark as a player who could step in immediately, if he ever comes to North America. Despite his size, Omark is a wizard with the puck and is a threat to score every time he’s on the ice. He’s a regular fixture on YouTube for his creativity and world-class moves.

Omark honed his game in Sweden, but moved to Moscow Dynamo in the KHL for this season. He finished third on the club in scoring with 20 goals and 36 points in 56 games. He is not under contract in the KHL for next season, so the possibility of finally moving to North America is realistic.

6. (7) Alex Plante, D — 7.0C

6’3, 225 pounds
1st round, 15th overall, 2007
May 9, 1989

A first-year pro, Plante’s season has been a rocky one, much like many of his teammates in Springfield. At a glance, his -11 rating seems to indicate he’s had an off year. However, that rating is second best among Springfield’s regular defensemen this season. He’s chipped in nine points as well as 122 penalty minutes. Plante also debuted in the NHL this season, playing in four games with the big club.

Plante has had injury troubles in the past, and has not played a game since February 12 after he suffered a concussion in a pre-game warm-up. Plante is billed as a defense-first player, and he’s strong in his own end, but still needs time to adjust to different challenges in AHL hockey. Working on his mobility as well as his patience with the puck will help him meet these challenges.

7. (16) Olivier Roy, G — 7.0C
6’0, 179 pounds
5th round, 133rd overall, 2009
July 12, 1991

One of the biggest risers on the team’s list, the Oilers are getting some return on Roy. Edmonton took a gamble on Roy with their fifth-round selection. He was slated to go much higher after emerging as Cape Breton’s starting goalie as a 16-year-old. He didn’t have the season many expected in his draft year, leading to a big slip on draft day.

This season has gone much better. Roy is among league leaders in wins (32), GAA (2.62), save percentage (.908), and shutouts (5). Losing out on a spot to back up fellow QMJHL goaltender Jake Allen (STL) for the Canadian World Junior team was a minus, but Roy has a good chance to be the team’s starter next year.

8. (5) Theo Peckham, D — 7.0C
6’2, 223 pounds
3rd round, 75th overall, 2006
November 10, 1987

Peckham appears to be next on the list of Springfield defenders to find themselves a permanent home in the NHL. He’s played in 15 games with the Oilers — totaling 31 over three seasons — as well as 37 in Springfield. He’s notched six assists and 106 penalty minutes in the AHL, with one assist and 43 penalty minutes in the NHL.

Peckham is a physical and punishing force on whatever blueline he plays on. He has improved his skating since joining the AHL, an area that was a weakness for him in juniors. His play in the NHL has been fairly consistent, but continuing to better his all-around game will help him find a permanent job quicker.

9. (8) Teemu Hartikainen, C — 6.5B

6’1, 201 pounds
6th round, 163rd overall
May 3, 1990

A sophomore slump was not in the cards for Hartikainen this year. After winning the SM-Liiga Rookie of the Year award last season, he continued to produce impressive numbers, recording 33 points in 53 games. Hartikainen also reprised his role on the Finnish under-20 team, leading the team with four goals.

Hartikainen is being billed in much of the same role as Tomas Holmstrom or Patric Hornqvist. He has only average size, but he is hard to move around the net and excels at tracking down loose pucks. His work ethic is what turned heads at the World Junior Championships.

10. (13) Taylor Chorney, D — 6.5C
5’11, 182 pounds
2nd round, 36th overall, 2005
April 27, 1987

The former University of North Dakota product is now in his second professional season, still learning to adjust his game to a new level. After getting into two games last year, Chorney has played 37 games in Edmonton this season. He’s also had 32 games in Springfield, where his 13 points in 32 games were well on their way to besting his rookie year totals.

After posting a -29 in the AHL as a rookie, Chorney was a -20 there this season and a -15 in Edmonton. He’s had some trouble dealing with the bigger players at the professional level, but his smart two-way play and skating ability should help him improve these numbers as he continues his professional career.

11. (10) Anton Lander, C — 7.0C
6’0, 185 pounds
2nd round, 40th overall, 2009
April 24, 1991

Edmonton has a solid group of potential scorers in their system right now, but leading the charge in the mold of two-way players is Lander. A teammate of Paajarvi-Svensson in Timra, Lander is also in his third full season in the SEL. In 49 games, he scored seven goals and added nine assists.

Lander also helped Sweden to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships with eight points in six games. His performance at this tournament proved that he has good offensive skills, mainly in his vision and his passing ability. However, he is known better for his play in his own zone.

12. (11) Toni Rajala, RW — 7.5D

5’10, 163 pounds
4th round, 101st overall, 2009
March 29, 1991

One of the most interesting mid-round selections from this past June was one of the highest scoring Finnish junior products in recent memory. He recorded 19 points in six games in the U-18 World Championships last season. The Brandon Wheat Kings took a chance by selecting him in the CHL Import Draft when he could have been on a professional contract in the top Finnish league.

Rajala came to North America for a stacked Brandon team — a team that will be hosting the Memorial Cup this season. He recorded 63 points in 60 games. His performance at the World Junior Championships could have been better, as he only recorded three points in six games. Due to his size, the time in the WHL may be best for him to get used to the more physical North American game.

13. (9) Devan Dubnyk, G — 6.5C

6’6, 194 pounds
1st round, 14th overall, 2004
May 4, 1986

Dubnyk finally got his chance in the NHL this season after a Nikolai Khabibulin injury opened up a spot in the Oilers’ goaltending tandem. Dubnyk struggled out of the gate. It took him until his 14th appearance of the season to earn his first career win. His numbers reflect this, with an .880 save percentage and a 3.79 GAA. His record currently sits at 2-10-2.

He’s also appeared in 33 games in Springfield, with a respectable 13-17-2 record and a .915 save percentage. Despite his slow start in the NHL, Dubnyk’s size makes him an intriguing project going forward. His contract is up this summer and he needs to clear waivers to play in the AHL, so Edmonton will have to make a decision on his future very shortly.

14. (12) Chris Vande Velde, C — 6.5C
6’2, 207 pounds
4th round, 97th overall, 2005
March 15, 1987

Vande Velde was one of just two seniors to play regularly for the University of North Dakota, and he stepped up as one of the team’s leaders. Not known for producing a ton of offense, he led the team in scoring with 41 points in 42 games. Vande Velde plays in all situations but is known best for his all-around two-way game.

He is a lock to get a contract this offseason and take his game to the AHL next season. His work ethic will allow him to get ice time right away, but his challenge will be to continue to be an effective player in every zone.

15. (15) Milan Kytnar, C — 6.0B
6’1, 180 pounds
5th round, 127th overall, 2007
May 19, 1989

Kytnar earned a contract in the summer and was slated for professional hockey, but was sent back to the WHL for his overage season. He played three games in Saskatoon before being traded to Vancouver. On a strong Giants team, he notched 39 points in 42 games. He was among team leaders in plus/minus with a +11 rating.

Reasons for staying an overage season were more for the purposes of additional ice time. Kytnar already plays a very mature game at both ends of the ice, and was likely ready for the AHL. The chance to fill more of an offensive role as well as add some much needed weight will help him make that transition more smoothly next season.

16. (17) Philippe Cornet, LW — 6.5C
6’0, 189 pounds
5th round, 133rd overall, 2008
March 28, 1990

The Oilers have found some interesting projects in the mid-rounds of drafts in recent years, and Cornet is a good example of that. He did not post earth-shattering numbers in his draft year, but he’s responded to his selection with two straight 77-point seasons. He finished second on his team in scoring, cooling off slightly after starting the season among league leaders in scoring.

Cornet projects more as an energy-line player, but he’s showing now that he’s more than capable of producing offense. His work ethic and solid hockey sense allows for him to produce offense, but he will need to get stronger and quicker to do it at the next level.

17. (19) Troy Hesketh, D — 6.5D

6’2, 178 pounds
3rd round, 71st overall, 2009

Hesketh turned down offers to play junior hockey in the USHL to play his senior season of hockey at Minnetonka, perennially one of the top programs in Minnesota. Hesketh recorded 17 points in 24 games along with an impressive +37 rating.

The Oilers will get to know him very well in the coming years. He is not due at Wisconsin until the 2011-12 season, so the team will have potentially five more seasons to watch him develop. He will need to fill out his lanky frame in this time. In the short-term, adjusting next season to his next likely destination, the USHL, will be the goal.

18. (NR) Kyle Bigos, D — 6.0C

6’5, 235 pounds
4th round, 99th overall, 2009
May 12, 1989

The hulking Bigos just completed his freshman season at Merrimack College, putting up 11 points in 36 games. He also led his team in penalty minutes with 98. On a middle-of-the-pack Merrimack team, Bigos was able to play in all situations, but was benched midseason for a game due to poor performance.

Bigos offers the Oilers a nice blend of physical, mean play without a big sacrifice for defensive play. He owns a big shot and the ability to cheap in a little offense. He will need to improve his decision making with the puck going forward.

19. (20) Johan Motin, D — 6.0C

6’2, 202 pounds
4th round, 103rd overall, 2008
October 10, 1989

Coming over to North America after spending most of the last three seasons in the SEL, Motin made an immediate impression for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. Motin’s stay-at-home, disciplined style allowed him to step right in to kill penalties and serve as one of the team’s top shutdown defenders.

His -4 rating was best on the team among defensemen, where every other regular falls between -11 and -20. He is not known for his abilities to produce offense, chipping in only seven points so far this season. He has good size and has made a relatively smooth transition to the AHL, potentially even earning a look at the big club next season.

20. (NR) Liam Reddox, LW — 5.0B

5’11, 190 pounds
4th round, 112th overall, 2004
January 27, 1986

Reddox rounds out the list, having emerged as one of the top offensive threats for a struggling Springfield club. He’s already set a personal bets of 18 goals, and has added 13 assists onto that in 31 games. However, after 46 games in the NHL last season, he’s appeared in just nine this season.

Reddox has proven that he can play in the NHL when needed, serving as a fourth line energy player. He will need a new contract in the offseason, where it will likely become clearer as to where his future in the organization is.