Welcome back to Top Shelf Hockey Prospects. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. 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 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 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.
TSP: Edmonton Oilers Prospects
2015-16 was supposed to be the year that the Edmonton Oilers finally took a step forward. After making a number of off-season signings, adding depth on the blue line, getting a new number one goalie, having a number of prospects coming into their own, and last but not least the addition of the game’s next young superstar was supposed to change things for the Oilers.
Of course, it did not quite work out. Sure, there were bright spots. The new face of the franchise, Connor McDavid is everything he was advertised to be. 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl came into his own. Defencemen Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse show real promise on the blue line. New goaltender Cam Talbot had a rough start, before becoming a solid starter. All of this progress didn’t add up to a playoff spot though, and the Oilers have begun the off-season making more moves. Gone is Taylor Hall, and in are Adam Larsson and Milan Lucic. Will these changes finally bring Edmonton back to the playoffs? Only time will tell.
2016 Draft Picks: Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyler Benson, Markus Niemelainen, Matthew Cairns, Filip Berglund, Dylan Wells, Graham McPhee, Aapeli Rasanen, Vincent Desharnais
Graduates: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Iiro Pakarinen, Brandon Davidson,
Edmonton Oilers Prospects Scouting Reports
Top Prospect: Jesse Puljujarvi
Puljujarvi is the Oilers clear top prospect. I won’t be writing a new report on him though as he has played 0 games since the 2016 NHL Draft. Here is his pre-draft scouting report.
#2 Prospect: Laurent Broissoit
Goalie — shoots Left
Born Mar 23 1993 — Surrey, BC
Height 6’03” — Weight 200 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by Calgary Flames, round 6 #164 overall, 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Traded to Edmonton.
Laurent Broissoit had another solid season in the AHL. He put up an 18-9-3 record and .920 save percentage over 31 games with the Bakersfield Condors. His efforts earned him a spot in the AHL all-star game. He also got a five-game cup of coffee playing for the Oilers. While he has not had a lot of success at the NHL level to this point, it is hoped that he can develop into a solid backup goaltender going forward.
Skills and Style
At 6’3″ tall, Brossoit takes up a lot of net. He maximizes his size with his strong work on playing angles. He comes well out of his net to challenge shooters, giving them very little space to shoot at. Brossoit is a strong skater who can move backwards quickly to avoid dekes, and who can get side-to-side quickly to take away the cross crease pass. He has quickly legs which take away the bottom of the net when he drops into the butterfly. Like many young goalies, Brossoit could stand could stand to work on his rebound control. Brossoit takes away the top of the net with a quick glove hand and strong blocker.
Brossoit’s biggest issue is his consistency. He can run red-hot, or he can get cold, allowing a number of bad goals at a time. Every bad goalie will allow a bad goal from time to time, but with Brossoit, it seems that this can sometimes spiral on him. Learning to shake off those goals, and come up with the next big save will allow Brossoit to take the next step in his career.
With the Oilers signing Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year deal on July 1st, it would appear that the plan is to have Broissoit play at least one more season at the AHL level. While he could challenge Gustavsson for the back-up role with an outstanding traing camp, it is still more likely that he finds himself back in Backersfield next year. Another good season should set him up nicely for 2017 training camp though.
#3 Prospect: Tyler Benson
Benson was the Oilers second round pick in this years draft. Here is his pre-draft scouting report.
#4 Prospect: Drake Caggiula
Centre/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Jun 20 1994 — Pickering, ONT
Height 5’10” — Weight 185 lbs [178 cm / 84 kg]
Caggiula finished his final year of college hockey in impressive style. Centring the top line for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, he put up 25 goals and 51 points in 39 games. Caggiula was dominant in the NCAA Frozen Four tournament. He helped lead North Dakota to the National Championship.
Caggiula is an extremely good skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration. Caggiula can beat defenders one-on-one simply by varying speeds and changing his attacks. If he gets a step on a defenceman, he can drop his inside shoulder and blow by them to get to the net and create a scoring chance. Caggiula also has very good agility. He can slide through openings both with and without the puck. The ability to make plays and stickhandle while moving at top speed is also key. This skating ability has made him a real threat at the NCAA level. Despite being undersized, Caggiula has proven to have good balance and is strong on the puck.
Caggiula plays a very physical game, especially for his size. He creates havoc by getting in quickly on the fore check, and causing turnovers. Caggiula finishes his checks, and applies pressure. When his linemates have the puck, he gets to the front of the net and creates traffic. He has the soft hands and good hand eye co-ordination to bury rebounds or tip in shots. Caggiula is also an excellent playmaker. He has the puckhandling to make plays in tight areas, and to beat defenders and open up passing lanes. Once a teammate gets open, he has the vision to find them, and the passing skills to hit them with a quick tape-to-tape pass. Size has always been the biggest concern surrounding Caggiula and the reasons teams were scared off from drafting him. There is no doubting the level of skill he possesses.
Caggiula has a well-developed defensive game. He played against other team’s top lines, and was put in key penalty killing situations for North Dakota throughout his college career. Caggiula is a very smart player. He reads the play extremely well, and his anticipation creates turnovers in the defensive zone. Once he has the puck he is able to transition well to offense as well. The only criticism is that the lack of size can give him issues containing bigger forwards. This could be more pronounced at the pro level.
Expect Caggiula to fight for a spot in training camp, but it is likely that the Oilers will at least start him at the AHL level. With a good start in Bakersfield, he could see himself being an injury call-up or more later in the year. The most likely time he could crack the lineup full time is still the 2017-18 season though.
#5 Prospect: Griffin Reinhart
Defense — shoots Left
Born Jan 24 1994 — North Vancouver, BC
Height 6’04” — Weight 212 lbs [193 cm / 96 kg]
Drafted by New York Islanders in round 1, #4 overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Oilers at the 2015 NHL Draft
After doing all there was to do in junior hockey, leading the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup in 2014; Griffin Reinhart struggled at the pro level. Despite 37 NHL games over two seasons, and with two teams, he’s failed to make the impact expected for a former fourth overall pick. This past season was a bit hit and miss. He showed some offensive contributions with 10 points in 30 games at the AHL level. This did not translate to the big leagues. Moving up a level to face faster, stronger opponents proved challenging for Reinhart. Foot speed could sometimes become an issue in the defensive zone.
Reinhart, already at 6’4″ and over 200 lbs, is a huge presence in the defensive zone. However, while he sometimes throws big hits, he really doesn’t play that physical game as consistently as he could. He isn’t really a physically punishing defender. Despite this, Reinhart is in the mould of a true shut down defenceman. He has excellent positioning in the his own zone. Reinhart’s big frame and long stick allow him to block shots and effectively cut down passing lanes.
He also can use his size and strength to keep the crease clear and win board battles in the corners. He was dominant in these areas as a junior, but facing older, stronger players in the AHL, it became clear that he was susceptible to forwards who showed an element of speed. Its this area that he must work on in order to have an impact at the NHL level.
Its the defensive game that will truly determine if Reinhart has what it takes to be an NHL player. However, he has also displayed some offensive potential. While his offensive game seemed to stagnate a bit in junior, he has been solid as a pro. While he will likely never be a first unit power play player, he could develop into someone who can add some points and play some minutes on the second unit.
Reinhart has a good slap shot and excellent wrist shot which he unleashes from the point when pressured. He also makes quality passes both as part of his team’s breakout, and in the offensive zone. There are flashes of good offensive instincts and hockey sense, as he can exploit gaps in opponents’ defensive coverage and rarely gets caught making a bad pinch. He is very cautious though, and sometimes should pinch but doesn’t take the opportunity. This could be due to the fear of getting caught.
Reinhart could use some work on his stickhandling and puck control, as he is merely average in this area. Overall he looks like more of a powerplay trigger man than a quarterback though, as he just doesn’t have the poise and patience with the pick to set up plays at the blue line. He’s likely to top out as a second unit guy rather than a true offensive catalyst.
Reinhart has made some improvements as a skater over the years but his overall below average agility has been exposed a bit in the AHL and NHL these past two years. He has lengthened his choppy stride and improved his top end speed and acceleration. Reinhart will likely never be elite in this regard, but he has moved himself from average to decent. He will need to keep working to get better edge work and overall agility in order to deal with small and quick forwards though. His positioning helps him a lot in this regard in the defensive end, but he can be beat wide off the rush. This is the biggest issue holding him back from making an NHL impact.
Reinhart will fight for a spot in training camp, and with waiver eligibility becoming an issue, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Oilers keep him in a depth role at the NHL level. I could see him being slowly worked into the lineup. It seems unlikely that Reinhart will reach the top end potential that saw him be drafted so highly, but he could still be a solid NHL contributor. While it is likely that he is a 6th or 7th defenceman this year; there is still a chance he could crack the top four in time. He will need to show some growth and polish around the edges though.
Super Sleeper: Ethan Bear
Defense — shoots Right
Born Jun 26 1997 — Ochapowace, SASK
Height 5’11” — Weight 197 lbs [180 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by Edmonton Oilers in round 5, #124 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Ethan Bear exploded this season after being the Oilers fifth round pick at the 2015 draft. He put up 19 goals and 65 points in 69 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds this season. He was even better in the WHL playoffs, where he scored eight goals and 22 points in just 18 playoff games.
Bear is a great skater, with outstanding speed in both directions, great edge work, quick, crisp pivots, excellent agility, and very good balance. He can lead the rush, or make a pinch at the line and still get back defensively. His passing skills are sublime, as he makes a great first pass out of his own zone, and he can quarterback things on the power play.
Bear’s offensive game really took off this season, going from 38 points in 2014-15 to 65 points in 2015-16. His game is very straightforward. Bear has an absolute cannon of a shot and is not afraid to let it go from the blueline. He has a knack for getting it on net. Bear uses his excellent agility, and ability to walk the line in order to walk the line. Add to this improved puck handling skills and poise, and he terrorized goalies all season long.
Bear is also a very efficient play maker. With the puck on his stick, he is looking to make a quick pass up to the forwards, and then join the rush as a trailer. While he can skate the puck out of danger in his own end, and get the rush started, he does not seem to be the type of defender who will take the puck end to end that often. Instead Bear is more likely to wait to move the puck and then be the trailer. He will wait for a drop pass to get a shot off, or make another pass to a teammate.
He may not be the biggest defender out there but that doesn’t stop Bear from playing a very physical game, as he loves to hit, and is very good along the boards and in clearing the front of the net. He can sometimes get himself out of position looking for those big hits. Going forward, it will be important for Bear to learning when to pick his spots in looking to play the physical game.
Bear is a fearless defender who is not afraid to take a hit to make a play, or to block shots in the defensive zone. He also understands positioning and has a good knack for keeping himself between his opponent and the front of the net, when he isn’t looking to throw that huge hit.
It is likely that Bear will spend another year with Seattle next year. There are still improvements to be made, and he can stand to add more muscle mass to his frame. Bear should be part of an excellent Seattle team, and has a chance to make Canada’s World Junior Team with a strong season.
One year ago, we ranked the Oilers as having the top prospect system in the NHL. With the number of blue chip players who have graduated since then, McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, along with prospects like Davidson and Pakarinen, the Oilers prospect depth took a major hit this year. It shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing though. Those players are still young, but now helping the big club.
Beyond what we have already reviewed some other prospects of note include defenceman David Musil, a former second round pick, who at 23-years-old is soon approaching make or break time with Edmonton. Defenceman Joey Laleggia showed a ton of offensive ability in college, and had a decent first AHL season with Bakersfield. Undersized, he will need to take his offensive game up a notch to make the NHL. Other defenders in the system include Ziyat Paigin, Jordan Oesterle, and Caleb Jones. There are some darkhorse candidates at forward in Daniil Zharkov, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira and Bogdan Yakimov. The Oilers would like to see more from them at the AHL level before they promoted full-time.
BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 24: Jesse Puljujarvi celebrates after being selected fourth overall by the Edmonton Oilers during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)