Who Could Be Next? – Defense
- Updated: August 19, 2013
Yesterday I took a look at some forwards in the Edmonton system that could make a difference and be solid NHL’ers down the line. The forward prospects are solid, but all the special ones are already in the NHL. The real impact players are on the blue-line, and today we take a look at those players.
The Oilers NHL offense is loaded with great young players, but for years now the defense has been a huge black eye for the team. Players like Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker were brought in to play key roles that they couldn’t fill.
Jeff Petry is a solid young player and is home-grown, while Justin Schultz is young and looks to be a total gem of a player. Ladislav Smid is a good defender, and new add Andrew Ference is a legit NHL top-four guy. There’s some depth there too in Denis Grebeshkov, Anton Belov and Nick Schultz. The unit is decent, but still could use that big impact player.
Trading for those big impact players is tough, and most teams need to draft and develop those kinds of talent. Do the Oilers have that kind of player in their system? Let’s take a look….
There are a lot of solid options on the blue-line, but Oscar Klefbom is the cream of the crop. Klefbom was the Oilers second pick in the 2011 NHL draft, going 19th overall. Klefbom has battled injury in recent seasons, but his skill set and talent is tough to deny.
Klefbom is decently sized at 6’3” 201 pounds, and plays a solid defensive game. He’s a great skater and brings some really good speed to combine with his size. He’s got good offensive instincts too, and has put up respectable point totals during his career in Sweden. He won’t be an offensive dynamo, but he should put up decent numbers.
Overall, Klefbom plays a really complete game. He’s got size, speed and skill….In other words he’s got the total tool box that a defender needs. He’s faced injury issues the last two seasons, but is currently 100% healthy and ready to roll.
He’s going to be making his North American debut this season too, and it will be very interesting to watch that. He’ll play in the Oilers rookie tournament and then head to camp where he’ll get every chance to make the team.
My bet? Klefbom ends up as a top-pairing defender for the Barons this season and the first defensive call-up for the Oilers. Klefbom has top-four written all over him, and if things go right, possibly top-two. This kid looks legit.
Big, tough, mobile, physical and reliable, isn’t that everything a team could want on the blue-line?!?! That’s exactly what Darnell Nurse, Edmonton’s first round pick in 2013, is. Nurse is an imposing player on the blue-line and is physically a dominate player. He’s good defensively and is mainly a shut-down guy.
Nurse is a smart player and knows his position quite well. He has the hockey sense that is needed by defenders to succeed at the NHL level. His physical style and defense first approach make him a great long-term option as a top-four shut-down defender, and some scouts will argue that he has top pairing potential.
Nurse makes his money as a shut-down defender, and some say he has some Chris Pronger in him. That’s quite a lofty comparison, and I believe is an unfair one. Nurse has a decent shot, but didn’t produce much offense this season in the OHL. He’ll have more PP time this season to try and produce, but overall he looks like a great shut-down guy with mediocre offense.
Nurse has great potential, and will no doubt be an NHL player down the road. Just how good he will be still remains to be seen. He’ll be on the Oilers rookie tournament roster most likely, and will odds are be in the OHL again this year. Nurse, if developed correctly, looks like a great defender in the making.
Klefbom and Nurse both have top pairing potential, and could help form a great unit down the road. The forgotten prospect in the love-fest with the other two is 2010 second round pick Martin Marincin. The Slovakian defender has a good range of skills and already has a year of pro hockey in North America under his belt.
Marincin was solid in Europe and at the junior level and impressed the Oilers brass enough for them to give him a legit role in his first AHL season last year with the Barons. He started out well playing with Justin Schultz before having a bit of a rough stretch, but Marincin bounced back and was terrific during the second-half and in the playoffs.
Marincin possesses good size and decent speed to go along with it. He has a good shot and has some real offensive instincts. It’s safe to say Marincin is an offensive defender. He can play the point on a power-play, and make a decent first pass. Defensively, he needs a little work physically but showed improvement with his positioning and such throughout the season.
Marincin is another solid prospect and has some second pairing potential moving forward. He could be a real gem long term for the Oilers if they continue to bring him along.
On The Bubble
There are a lot of players we can say are “on the bubble” here. Taylor Fedun looked well on his way to a roster spot in 2010 before he suffered a gruesome leg injury in a pre-season game against the Wild. Fedun returned and had a very good year last season in the AHL, becoming a go to guy for the Barons. He’ll be back there on a one-year deal this year, and long term could slide behind Petry/J. Schultz on the right side, most likely as a third pairing RHD.
Brandon Davidson had a roller coaster of a first pro-season. He was diagnosed with cancer and missed time, but bounced back and was solid at the end of the season. He’ll get a full year and decent role this year, and we should know more about him as a prospect this winter. He’s worth keeping an eye on long-term.
Phil Larsen was acquired in the Horcoff trade, and will most likely make the roster out of training camp. He’s a young puck-mover, and could stick around long-term as a bottom pairing guy. He’s got three pro seasons and a handful of NHL games under his belt already, and he’ll be another guy worth watching during the pre-season.
The Oilers have been weak for years on the blue-line at the NHL level, but things are starting to change. Craig MacTavish added multiple NHL defenders this summer and has a pipeline filled with NHL talent on the blue-line. Things look good in the long run for the Edmonton Oilers defense.