View From the Other Side

The Young Stars Tournament opens on Friday and while we’re taking a good look at all of this from a Flames perspective, our resident Oilers expert RexLibris has compiled a look at the next most-interesting group of prospects around – the dastardly Edmonton Oilers. Know your enemy, folks.

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As you are all aware, this year’s Young Stars tournament is set to start Friday, Sept 12th.

The schedule looks like this:

GAME                   TEAMS                                            DATE                    TIME

Game 1                Calgary
vs Winnipeg                       Sept. 12                4:00

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Game 2                Vancouver
vs Edmonton                 Sept. 12                7:30 pm

Game 3                Calgary
vs Edmonton                      Sept. 13                7:30

Game 4                Vancouver
vs Winnipeg                   Sept. 14                2:00 pm

Game 5                Penticton
Vees’ Exhibition               Sept. 14                5:30 pm

Game 6                Edmonton
vs Winnipeg                    Sept. 15               11:30 am

Game 7                Vancouver
vs Calgary                      Sept. 15                5:30

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*line brawl scheduled for 5:38pm or immediately following national anthem

There has and will be plenty of information on this site about the many Flames prospects attending this tournament. I can’t really give you any more information on any of them than I already have in my RE series or, more likely, that you are likely to find from some of the many other writers here at Flamesnation

The Canucks roster is here. The Jets here. And for those of you who want some information on the Penticton Vees, you can click here.

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So instead, I thought I would provide some information on some names
likely to appear for the Oilers this year. Some of them will be new while others will have played
in last year’s tournament. Fellow Nations writer Kevin McCartney wrote this about last year’s Oilers’ final game against the Canucks.

Everyone is familiar with the core group of the Oilers, the 1st overalls and such. Likewise are most other fans familiar with Sean Monahan, John Gaudreau, and Sven Baertschii. Most people never really take the time to familiarize themselves with the other names within an organization’s prospect chart. How many Canucks fans do you think are familiar with Michael Ferland? Jon Gillies? Eric Roy? The two fan bases are virtually neighbours but, if we extend the metaphor, couldn’t name the make of each other’s lawnmower.

So here is a breakdown of Oilers prospects named to the Young Stars tournament, along with some brief information on each. 

Centers – An area of growing organizational depth, with a
number of potential complementary players and some promising two-way prospects.
The most notable area of size amongst forwards in the organization.

Leon Draisaitl – Big draft pick this year, 3rd overall.
Has been in Edmonton this off-season working on his skating speed with Steve
Serdachny and is said to be up to 210lbs. Projects as a 1st line
center. A safe bet that he’s on the Oilers’ roster after nine games.

Bogdan Yakimov – Big. 6’5”, 203lbs. Spent last season in the KHL
putting up 12 pts in 33 gp playing around 10 minutes a night. Taken in the 3rd
round in 2013. Was used in a shutdown, hard matchup role at the WJC last year
and has progressed nicely. Comes from the same city as Yakupov, Nizhnekamsk.
Projects to be a 3rd line C with some offense. Came over to North
America this summer and said he’ll do whatever the Oilers ask him in order to make
the NHL.Will play in OKC (AHL) this fall.

Greg Chase – Surprise 7th round pick two years ago. Returning
to the WHL this season. Stands 6’ even and 205lbs. Had a breakout year last
year netting 85 pts (35g-50a) in 70 WHL games for the Hitmen. Spent the
off-season working on skating and has reportedly improved his overall speed.
Little ball of hate that usually has the opposition thinking more about
removing his head from his shoulders than their game plan and can score goals. Nephew of Kelly Chase.

Travis Ewanyk – Drafted in the 3rd round with the
conditional Flames’ pick exchanged in the Steve Staios trade (Max Reinhart was selected with the conditional pick the Flames retained). Ewanyk is a former Oil
King who turned pro last year posting 12 pts in 68 AHL games. Offense is a
challenge, but he is highly thought-of within the organization for his work-ethic
and defensive abilities. Will return to OKC this fall.

Kyle Platzer – Part of the five-for-one draft pick trade-down MacTavish pulled in 2013. 5’11”, 183lbs, two-way center played for the London Knights
and Owen Sound last season. Due to return to junior this year. Offense is an
issue, probably a draft-and-follow. 
Taken in the 4th round in 2013.

Marco Roy – The first publicly acknowledged analytics pick by the Oilers.
Drafted in the 2nd round in 2013 out of the QMJHL. 6’1 and 183lbs, great skill
and ability to play in a variety of situations. Lost a major part of last
season to injury posting 35 pts in 39 games. Had 67 in 65 games in his draft
year. Oilers have a lot invested, ideologically and otherwise, in this
player. Will play with the Remparts in the QMJHL this season and is expected to take a big
step forward.

Left wing – An area of abundant prospects, although some limits in
terms of talent ceilings. Size again evident as the franchise has spent a
decade hunting for a Lucic. A better mix of size and smaller skill players in
recent years and the most heavily stocked area of undrafted junior free agents
courtesy of Bob Green.

Mithcell Moroz – Famous, or infamous, 2nd round pick of
the Oilers in 2012. There was still a lot of talent on the board, but Moroz was
local (Oil Kings) and has size. Was the last in Tambellini’s Lucic-hunt. Listed
today at 6’3”, 214lbs and can play with skill. Hits, fights, scores and is a
beast on the forecheck. Improved markedly in his draft +1 year posting 35-28-63,
+25 in 70gp with the Memorial Cup winning Oil Kings. Turns pro this season and
will be watched intently. First season in OKC this fall.

Connor Jones – Diminutive undrafted twin of Oilers 2010 draft
pick Kellen Jones. Stands 5’9” 165lbs. Spent the last four years in the NCAA,
last season posting 38pts in 40 games. Small skilled player with a head for the
game. Did I mention he was small. Expected to play in either OKC or Bakersfield (ECHL) this fall.

Kellen Jones – Same vital stats as his twin, posted 42 pts in 40
games in the NCAA last season and turns pro this year. 2010 7th
round pick of the Oilers. Expected to play in OKC or Bakersfield this fall. 

Josh Winquist – Undrafted winger who tore apart the WHL this past
season going 47-46-93 over 67 games. 6’, 181lbs and the latest in Bob Green’s
free agent amateur acquisitions. Enters the AHL on a Barons team deep on the
wings, but he scored 47 goals in the dub and that is some kind of thing. Speed listed as an issue. Will play in either OKC or Bakersfield this fall.

Vladimir Tkachev – Another undrafted young winger brought in by Bob
Green. Small at 5’9” and 163lbs, but highly skilled. Scored 10-20-30 in 20
games with the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL last season and is due to return.
1st round talent in a 5th round chassis. Enters a packed
lineup on the wing. You can watch a clip of his QMJHL debut here. Interesting note: his most common points partner in the game is Ivan Barbashev, a prospect taken by the St. Louis Blues this June with the 2nd round pick the Oilers gave up in the Perron/Pajaarvi trade. Returns to junior this season.

Kale Kessy – Acquired in trade with Arizona in exchange for
Tobias Rieder as one of Tambellini’s last moves. Essentially Steve’s way of
flipping the bird on his way out the door, or at least that’s how it feels to
me. I loved Rieder. Kessy is a refrigerator on skates. He spent most of his
time in OKC last year, posting 6pts in 54 games and going -12 with 88 penalty
minutes. Oh, and Rieder? Nothing much. 64 AHL games last year going 28-20-48.
Thanks Steve. Due for OKC or Bakersfield.

Alex Krushelnyski – Mike’s son, which means the kid’s jersey
could be retired in Rexall if he plays even one game. He passed through the
draft this spring and is one of those undrafted juniors the Oilers have loaded
up on recently courtesy of the inimitable Bob Green. He’s spent four seasons in
the NCAA (Colorado College) and has 101 pts in 158 games. He’s nothing like his
father as a player, standing 5’11” and weighing 181lbs. His words: “I’d say I’m
a little more of a finesse guy than dad was. At least he’d like me to be. It’s
funny really — my style of play is totally opposite from the feisty style he played.”
Projects as an energy, bottom six player. Awaiting a pro contract.

Juhjar Khaira – Another big kid at 6’3” 209lbs. 3rd round pick back
in 2011. Spent last year with the Everett Silvertips playing under Coach Kevin
Constantine posting 44 pts in 59 games. Before it went dark, ES had an IPP
(Individual points percentage) for CHL leagues and Khaira was in the top 60
ahead of some surprising names. The offense is lacking, but he can skate, hit,
create plays and appears to have been tutored to play a strong defensive game.
Turned pro this summer. Also listed as a center. Will play in OKC this fall. 

Right wing – Not as much depth as the left wing, although
notable exceptions on this list include Tyler Pitlick (ineligible for
tournament), Iiro Pakarinen (overage European free-agent), and John McCarron (NCAA).

Mitch Holmberg – Undrafted winger brought in by Bob Green last
year. Blew the WHL apart in his overage year going 62-56-118 in 72 games with the
Spokane Chiefs. Will turn pro this season. Smaller winger at 5’10” and 174lbs,
but very skilled. Provides something unique on the right side depth chart in pure
offense. Expected to split between OKC and Bakersfield.

Jackson Houck – Winger drafted in the 4th round in 2013
as part of the aforementioned trade-down. Bigger body at 6’1 and 194lbs who
provides some decent offense going 34-27-61 in 69 games for the Giants last
year. Plays a rough style and projects into the “power forward” category. Returning to the WHL Giants this fall.

Defense – By far the largest surplus of developing talent
within the organization and a credit to the amateur scouting team. Chances are
good that this group will be culled sometime during the season to address other
weaknesses such as NHL center depth. Group possesses a good mix of size, skill,
defensive and offensive ability. Heavily weighted in left-handed players,
although a few (Simpson) can play either side. The hurry-up-and-wait area of organizational
depth at this time.

Darnell Nurse – With all due respect to Leon Draisaitl, Nurse is the
crown jewel in the prospects department. MacTavish’s first pick as GM, taken 7th
overall in 2013, Nurse played for the Greyhounds under Kyle Dubas. The
Greyhounds are a rarity in the CHL as they openly discuss things like matchups,
time on ice, and some shot metrics. Nurse projects as something near and dear
to the hearts of Oilers fans – he is mean, he is big, he can skate, he is mean,
he can defend, he can score, he is mean. 6’4” and 205 lbs in his draft +2 year
and likely to return to the Greyhounds for at least one more year, Nurse is
also likely to play in the WJC this year. Last season he managed 13-37-50 in 64
games with 91 penalty minutes and a +1 rating. When quizzed about the +/-,
Dubas said that that stat had been taken out of context and that Nurse was the
team’s principle shutdown player who played most of the game against the
opposition’s best players. His uncle is Donovan McNabb and his sister, Kia, is
on the Canadian Women’s basketball radar. Probably gets a few NHL games, but almost certainly will be headed back to Sault Ste. Marie this season. 

Jordan Oesterle – College free agent signing this past season, the
22-year old is a college puck-moving blueliner. 6’ even and 185lbs, Oesterle
played three season with Western Michigan going 2-15-17 and +27 in his last
year before signing with the Oilers. Will go to the AHL this season. Will play in OKC this season.

Graeme Craig – Free agent invite, former WHL defender. Stands 6’5”
and 203lbs, big men who can skate well get drafted.  Will play in either OKC or Bakersfield this season.

Ben Betker – Part of the 2013 draft class, 6th round,
Betker is a big man at 6’6” and 216lbs. Played for Everett last season posting
7-14-21 in 68 games and 102 penalty minutes and -3. Coach Kevin Constantine
likes his defense and Betker is a very large frame who plays with an edge
getting tutored in how to play his position. Well thought of as a prospect. Expected to return to the WHL Silvertips for another season.

Dillon Simpson – Craig Simpson’s boy drafted in the 4th
round back in 2011. He has grown considerably since then and is up to 6’2” and
196lbs. Skating issues raised on draft day have improved to the point where he was
the Captain of his North Dakota NCAA team last year going 7-16-23 in 42 games.
Smart young man who can play either side, is cool under pressure and projects
as a strong, smart defender. Will play his first pro season this year. Turned pro and will play in OKC this season.

CJ Ludwig – Craig Ludwig’s son, undrafted invite. 6’ and
194lbs, played four years in the NCAA with Northern Michigan. Missed part of
last season but managed 12 pts in 13 games. AHL contract with OKC this season.

Martin Gernat – Second year pro, drafted in the 5th
round back in 2011. Hails from Kosice, Slovakia and has a “projectable” frame
at 6’5” and is rumoured now to be around 195lbs. Played alongside Griffin
Reinhart with the Oil Kings and has great offensive potential. Plays the game
more like an extra forward, but is learning the finer nuances of the defensive
side. Last year in the AHL he managed 4-17-21 in 57 games playing limited
situations behind some more veteran defenders. Will be expected to take on a
larger role this coming year. Will play in OKC this season.

David Musil – Frank’s boy and another controversial 2nd
round pick of the Oilers back in 2011. Listed at 6’3” and 203lbs, he enters his
second pro season this fall. Defensive defenseman in the Jason Smith tradition,
foot speed has been cited as an issue, although less so now than a year ago.
Offense is non-existent, but makes small, smart plays and engages physically. Will return to OKC this season.

Connor Boland – Undrafted 19-year old from the Petes in the OHL.
6’3”, 201 lbs with a 0.12 ppg average in his four years of junior. Central Scouting said the following (quote courtesy of Lowetide): “Boland is the type of defenseman who contributes and is
effective in both ends of the ice. He has a tall, long and rangy build
with the potential to really fill out and get stronger as he gets older
and develops. His play shows and understanding of the game and a pretty
high level of hockey sense. He just seems to do everything well. Boland
possesses an attractive set of physical tools; he has good size, which
he uses on a consistent basis, and better then average hands. He
displays good skating and overall mobility and can be pretty crafty with
the puck.”

Goal – long considered the weakest area of organizational prospect depth, has been focused on in recent years with free-agent additions and talk of adding an overseas goalie coach. 

Laurent Brossoit – Needs no introduction in these parts. Came over
in the Smid trade along with Horak (who is playing this season overseas).
Played most of last season in the ECHL (it’s what the Oilers do to their
goaltenders). Will be expected to split time with Richard Bachman in OKC this
coming season.

Ty Rimmer – Another junior free agent signed last season.
Performed well in limited time (3 games) in OKC last year and is expected to
push incumbent Richard Bachman and Laurent Brossoit. May be remembered as a
good goalie (.922 sv%) on a bad, bad, bad Lethbridge Hurricanes team back in
2012-2013. Will be pushing for OKC starting position, but may return to Bakersfield. 

Frans Tuohimaa – 7th round pick in 2011, he has played
the majority of his time since then in the Swedish leagues (Liiga, Mestis).
Some impressive numbers and an intriguing prospect, but as before, what we don’t
know about goalies could fill the Grand Canyon and leave room for dinner. Remains to be seen if he sticks with OKC or goes to Bakersfield. 

Keven Bouchard – drafted in the 7th round this past
June, he played half a season with Val d’Or in the QMJHL and will return there
again this coming year. Posted a 2.95 GAA, 0.887 sv% in 27 games. Could be a
decade before he sees the NHL, if ever. Damned goalers. Will return to the QMJHL this season. 

Players notable by exclusion: Tyler Vesel (2014 draft pick), John McCarron (big winger, NCAA, 2012 draft pick), William Lagesson (2014 draft pick, defenseman, playing in Sweden), Anton Slepyshev (playing overseas in Russia), Joey Laleggia (NCAA defender) and Zach Nagelvoort (European goalie). 

How does this group stack up against the Flames’ prospect group?

I think the Flames have greater depth when it comes to likely NHL talent on the Left wing and in goal, they have more dynamic prospects in Gaudreau and Poirier. In net, while the Flames have two good prospects in Gillies and Ortio, outside of that there is surprisingly little. The Right wing is a bit of a mystery as we don’t know which players could switch wings with relative ease, but the Flames have some intriguing prospects at forward with Granlund, Ferland, Arnold and Reinhart. The Oilers only need to fill their bottom six in the NHL roster and have a collection of prospects who could achieve that end well. The Oilers and Flames both have depth at center right now and if we zero out Draistaitl and Bennett, neither side has a whole lot of elite potential. Defensively the Oilers have a significant advantage in both quality and quantity. This may even out in the next two years as Oilers prospects graduate and the Flames continue rebuilding.

Here Endeth the Lesson…

I’ve always felt that this tournament held two principal opportunities
for fans.

The first being to get a glimpse of one’s developing players within
the context of that organization’s other prospects and systems.

The second is a
chance to assess the relative strengths and positional depth of the
developmental systems of one’s opposition.

It can become intoxicating to endlessly review one’s prospect group, searching for hidden strengths or untapped areas of potential in every young player. It is difficult to truly know what potential talent resides within a developmental system until it is measured up against that of its competitors. Even then, we are often given only an imperfect glimpse into what may or may not await. By examining the relative strengths, weaknesses, and even drafting tendencies of other NHL organizations, one can begin to plot their own organization’s standing within a larger context. 

To quote Sun Tzu “it is said that if you know
your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”

To that end, I hope that this has proven useful and

One other note to pass along with regards to this camp and the following
few weeks is the 50-man reserve list. The Oilers currently have 47
contracts, with Nurse’s likely to slide. The Canucks have 52 with four likely to slide giving them perhaps 48. The Jets are at 46 with perhaps two sliding, and the Flames have 48 contracts with as many as three likely to slide. Meaning
the Oilers, Flames and Jets will all have room to add players via
trade, waivers or free-agency in the next few weeks as things shake

    • RexLibris

      Re-reading it I can see why that came across as Poirier as a LW, but what I had meant was that the Flames are deep on the left side, and that Gaudreau and Poirier are two of their more intriguing forward prospects.

      Hey, at least I didn’t list him as a blueliner.

      Baby steps.

    • RexLibris

      Dubas mentioned in an interview a while back that the +/- should be ignored because Nurse spent 25+ minutes a night playing against the toughest competition in the OHL and so his offense was mitigated by that defensive situation.

      He cited TOI, quality of competition and zone time, if I recall correctly, as measures that he and the Greyhounds invest in more heavily.

  • RexLibris

    Rex thanks for giving us a view from the other side. I sometimes take a look at the oilersnation site when ours gets stale to see what is happening up north. After reading the comments there and the comments on our site towards you I wonder how a flames fan writing an article on oilersnation would be received, I suspect with much more hostility than you get here. Keep sharing your thoughts.

    • RexLibris


      The Oilogosphere is filled with voices on the team from various perspectives.

      Lowetide is an obvious, and highly recommended one. But Bruce McCurdy at Cult of Hockey is a good read as well. Over at ON, Jonathan Willis, the aforementioned LT, and Robin Brownlee each provide very different takes on the game and the team.

      The comments section of any blog can become a circus. It is partly the role of the author and partially the responsibility of the commenter to stake out the space for dialogue.

      I think a Flames fan writing objective articles about the Oilers without resorting to “we know better in good old Ourtown” would be fine. I try to avoid any hint of that here while offering what insight I can pass along.

      This article in particular is something of a departure as I don’t wish to fill a Flames blog with Oilers content. And if I had the time I’d do corresponding articles for the Jets and Canucks prospects. But in so far as I can pass along a little context on prospect depth in another organization that has undergone a similar process, I hope this has provided some useful information.

      The next step will be seeing how the teams stack up against each other directly. The end result, meaning the score itself, won’t matter as much as the way in which the teams arrived at that point.

      Team play, adherence to systems, and appropriate responses to the various stages of the game are where we really need to focus our evaluation.

  • RexLibris

    Excellent article, its cool to take a look at the enemy’s youngsters before I truly begin to hate them 🙂

    Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin. As a Flames fan, thats a blueline prospect pipeline that makes me drool.

  • RexLibris

    It confuses me how most NA writes discredit Yakimov.

    The kid had a highly successful 18 yr season. in Russia.

    He had .21 GPG playing men. With limited minutes.

    The last 15 years in Russia. The only players To achieve .21+ GPG at 18 in Russia

    Semin .21 PGG

    Ovechkin .24 GPG

    Malkin .23 GPG

    Kuznetsov .38 GPG 1.63G/60 age 18-20 1.29G/60

    Tarasenko .21 GPG .90G/60

    Slepyshev .27 GPG 1.28G/60 age 18-19 .88G/60

    Yakupov .41 GPG 1.69G/60

    Yakimov .21 GPG 1.28G/60

    He is the prospect that intrigues me the most.

    We measure our prospects against past history from leagues.

    We know who he scored like at 18.

    • RexLibris

      Hi Ricki, thanks for dropping in.

      I have no concerns about Yakimov. I mention that offense might not be forthcoming, but most of that is in the sample size and the possibility of him being put into a shutdown role once he graduates to the NHL.

      If we assume that Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl get the top-six minutes, and wingers to go with it, who does that leave for Yakimov? Moroz and Chase would be a nice line to offer size and scoring, but I’ve been a fan of this team too long to emotionally invest in that unicorn.

      The alternative is something that hasn’t been seen in Edmonton since the 80s – a surplus of offensively gifted centers. Dare we dream?