Top Shelf Prospects: Edmonton Oilers
Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects” a team by team look at the top prospects in the NHL. Today, as I continue my alphabetical journey through the NHL I bring you a look at the Edmonton Oilers. As always you can find a complete listing of my previous articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2012 draft, as there have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed. What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2012-13 roster of the NHL team in question. I will also bring you one sleeper pick. A player who was either drafted in the 4th round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those asking the cut off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 45-50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
I also reviewed Justin Schultz while he was still a free agent looking for a team, and his report has not changed, so I will include a link to that as well.
The Oilers have so much of their young talent already on the big squad (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent Hopkins), no longer qualifying as prospects under my criteria (Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Anton Lander), or previously reviewed by me (Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz). That I`m gonna have to treat this team a little bit differently. There will still be two prospects plus a sleeper, but I can`t really call them the Oilers top 2 prospects, because they really aren`t. They are still very good prospects, but merely the top 2 players still left under this criteria as opposed to the most valuable pieces of the Oilers future.
Oscar Klefbom, Defence
Born Jul 20 1993 — Karlstad, Sweden
Height 6.03 — Weight 201 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Edmonton Oilers round 1 #19 overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Oscar Klefbom is a bit of an interesting case for me. When I saw him at the 2011 IIHF Under 18 World Championships just before his draft, I saw a player who was a dynamic offensive force from the blue line, but one who took chances and needed to work on his defensive game. Just about 8 months later when I saw Klefbom at the 2012 World Junior Championships, I saw a player who had made major strides and became a shutdown defender and a tournament all-star for the Gold Medal winning Swedish squad, but a player who seemed to be a bit snake bit at the offensive end of the ice. The improvement in his defensive ability was profound, and I’m sure made the Oilers brass smile as they watched the young protege play in the tournament on Alberta soil. I wouldn’t be too worried aobut the lack of offensive production though, I still believe Klefbom has the offensive skill, I just feel that in this short tourney he was a bit unlucky to only get 2 points in 6 games.
Klefbom’s biggest asset is his skating ability. He has excellent edgework, and is ability to quickly pivot and change direction in all 360 degrees. This skill is extemely valuable in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. He is extremely difficult to beat off the rush as he adjusts to an attackers movements and cuts them off. He closes gaps quickly and efficiently which allows him to line up the attacker for a big hit if given the opportunity. He is also able to quickly recover if something does go wrong. Offensively Klefbom is able to use his mobility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes when he has the puck. He also adds good top end speed and this allows him to both lead and join the rush.
Klefbom has a BOMB of a slap shot. He sets up at the point on the power play and unleashes absolute howitzers at opposing goalies. He also has a very hard, very accurate wrist shot, and an excellent release. Klefbom’s puck control, vision and passing are assets, however they are not at the level of fellow Oiler prospect Justin Schultz. For this reason Klefbom projects as the trigger man, with Schultz as the QB on future Oilers’ powerplays.
Klefbom is quickly developing into an effective two way defenceman. It is assumed however that he needs a bit more time before he is NHL ready. I expect Klefbom to return to the Swedish Elite League and play another season for Farjestad before making his way to North America. When he gets here he may need some AHL time before he is ready for the show. The Oilers should be patient with this kid because he has the talent to be a huge part of their defence in the future.
David Musil, Defence
Born Apr 9 1993 — Delta, BC
Height 6.04 — Weight 203 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Edmonton Oilers in round 2 #31 overall of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
David Musil is the son of former NHL defenceman and current Oilers scout Frantisek Musil. With the first pick of the 2nd round in the 2011 draft, the Oilers kept it all in the family taking the young blueliner. Many have suggested this was a move fueled by nepotism, but the fact is that Musil has the skill to justify such a lofty draft position, and fills a major void on the Oilers blue line.
Musil is a big, rugged, defence first defenceman. He is strong on the boards and overpowers opponents to win battles and come away with the puck. He also works effectively down low and keeps the front of the net clear so his goalie can see the puck. His positioning and footwork are at an advanced level for a 19 year old, and this should come as no surprise as he’s probably had 19 years of teaching from his father. Musil knows how to wait for the opportunity and pick his spots so he doesn’t get caught out of position often, but he does like to throw a big hit if its available.
Unfortunately the hints of offence that Musil showed as a 16 year old WHL rookie have just not developed. He has a decent break out pass and can get the puck moving, but he’s not a defenceman who takes a lot of chances or joins the rush a lot. He’s also got a hard, low and accurate slapshot which can be an effective weapon. But he lacks the offensive instinct to move laterally and open up shooting lanes for himself. In the offensive zone he is a decent enough paasser, but by no means is he going to quarterback a powerplay. While he may not be a total loss at the offensive end, he does not project to put up big numbers and defence will be his strength.
Musil is exactly the type of defenceman the Oilers need going forward, as Ryan Whitney, Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom will handle the offensive duties for the team going forward. He’s still a couple of years away from joining the team though. He probably will spend this season back in the WHL, and then go for some AHL time in 2013-14 before he’s ready to make the leap.
Sleeper Pick: Teemu Hartikainen, Left Wing
Born May 3 1990 — Kuopio, Finland
Height 6.01 — Weight 215 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Edmonton Oilers round 6 #163 overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft
With 29 NHL games under his belt over the last two years, Hartikainen may not be a sleeper to Oilers fans, but he is still a relative unknown commodity around the NHL. He is a hard nosed winger, with decent size, who gives his all every shift. Hartikainen is a strong physical presence who gets involved in and wins his share of board battles. He forechecks well and causes turnovers in the offensive zone. Hartikainen is at his best controlling the puck off the cycle and working down low in the offensive zone. Without the puck he has very good hockey sense and knows when to get open for a pass, and when to cause havoc in front of the opposition’s net. The one thing holding him back is his skating. Hartikainen is not particularly fleet of foot and could use some work on his acceleration and first step quickness.
Defensively Hartikainen uses his body effectively and efficiently. He is a willing backchecker and works hard to provide back pressure when an opponent has the puck. He understands proper positioning and is a willing and able shot blocker. He shows the same dogged grit and determination that make him effective in the offensive zone in the defensive end of the ice.
Hartikainen is close to being NHL ready, and should eventually become a good bottom six checking player who provides a little offence from time to time. I don’t expect him to be a huge scoring threat in the NHL, but his hard work, and good defensive skill will eventually get him a place in the league. Working against him is the great depth the Oilers currently have on the wings, and this will make it tough for a player like Hartikainen to crack the lineup.
When it comes time to assess the youth of the Oilers, they are one of the most intriguing franchises in the NHL. The criteria you use, says so much. If we merely look at all their assets under the age of 25, we clearly see the most talented hockey club in the NHL. There is not much doubt about that, the players this team has in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, plus Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom on the way. It quite simply is a group of young players that is second to none in the NHL. However when we look at prospects only, the amount of talent that is already graduated to the NHL is astounding. While we are left with a good group, it probably falls out of first, but with Yakupov and Schultz leading the way remains in the top 5. However when we assume Yakupov and Schultz will soon be full time NHLers the group falls to the middle of the pack.
Personally, I prefer looking at the first ranking (all assets of a team under the age of 25) as I feel this is a better indication of the true future of the hockey club. A team should not be penalized because their top prospects are so good, at such a young age, that they no longer are called prospects. And when we look at things this way, and assess the future of the Oilers, it is a bright one indeed.
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