Who Could Be Next? – Forwards
- Updated: August 18, 2013
The Edmonton Oilers have sent some great talents to the NHL from the college and CHL levels. The Oilers took time developing some of these players, and some of these players were thrown right into the NHL for a sink or swim intro to Edmonton (Some have swam….some have not).
First overall picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov were all picked by the Oilers and went straight to the NHL, as did sixth overall pick Sam Gagner out of the 2007 draft class. The Oilers took time and developed 2004 first rounder Devan Dubnyk, 2008 first rounder Jordan Eberle, and 2006 second rounder Jeff Petry.
They’ve brought guys up multiple ways, and most of those players form the core group for Edmonton’s current roster. As constructed, the Oilers should be in or around the playoffs every year for a long time starting this year, and that means the quality top ten draft picks aren’t going to be picked anymore.
So who from the Oilers current prospect system has a legit chance to make an impact at the NHL level? There are a few candidates, but nothing close to a sure thing. Today, we will take a look at the forwards.
The most likely prospect to make an impact at the NHL level is Finnish forward Toni Rajala, a 2009 draft pick by the Oilers. Rajala was okay in the WHL and in Europe, and wasn’t really viewed as a legit NHL prospect for the Oilers up until this past winter. He went to the ECHL to start the year and tore it up scoring 38 points in just 29 games.
He was just as good at the AHL level, scoring 45 points in 46 games as a rookie, very impressive numbers. He had 16 points in 17 playoff games, and was the Barons second most dangerous forward behind Marc Arcobello during their run.
Rajala is another small forward, but has some real skill and is a dynamic offensive player. He’ll get a long look in camp this year, and could get his first taste of NHL games this season when injuries happen.
Rajala will most likely be back in OKC this season, and it will be very interesting to see the numbers this skilled scorer can put up in his second pro season.
At least right now, Rajala looks like a decent bet to make the NHL at some point.
The 19 year old power-forward appears to have the perfect skill set for the Oilers. He’s got decent size, good hands, can put up points, and plays a gritty kind of game. He had a decent freshman season in the WCHA this year with Michigan Tech, and appeared to be trending upwards as a long term project.
Long term-no-more however, as the Oilers signed Jujhar to a contract this off-season, taking him out of school. Khaira will attend Everett Silvertips training camp before heading to the Oilers rookie tournament and Oilers training camp. Best bet for him is the WHL for a year or two in my mind.
Jujhar has the skill set the Oilers need, and he appears to be the perfect mix for a top-nine spot on this roster. He’s at least three years off in my mind, but if the Oilers are smart with him they could have an impact player sitting in their system.
One of the newest Oilers prospects, Yakimov might be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Edmonton Oilers. He’s a big boy clocking in at 6’4” 208 lbs, and he plays the center position, a major area of weakness in Edmonton. Yakimov plays a decent two-way game, and is very good in the faceoff circle, as he was over 50% the last few seasons.
Yakimov plays a power game too, which is something the team is desperate for down the middle. His hands are pretty good, and offensively he is pretty good. His hockey IQ is decent, and he had been trusted as a PK’er in the VHL this past season. Overall, he is a good prospect with a wide variety of skills.
He’ll be in Russia again this season, and most likely in the KHL. If Yakimov can establish himself in Europe’s top league during the 2013-14 season, we could easily see the Oilers hand this big pivot a contract next spring. Yakimov could be a long term answer at center behind RNH.
He’s not the most talented player, but Marco Roy does a lot of things right. The Oilers second round pick this past season has a good combo of skills and could be a very useful top-nine player down the road for the team.
Roy is a guy that can grind it out if need be, and do it effectively. He brings passion and intensity all the time, and has a good additude in the locker room, something the Oilers have been looking for in players recently.
While his defensive and grinding game is solid at age 17, his offensive game isn’t bad either. Roy scored 29 goals this past season, and put up a total of 67 points in 65 games. Those are pretty good numbers, and suggest that there is more than just a grinder in this player. Roy plays a total two-way game.
Marco Roy will be back in the QMJHL this season, and it’s expected that he would take a step forward. If he does, the Oilers might have a very good option moving forward in their arsenal. Roy does a lot of things right, and looks to be that two-way winger that the Oilers have been searching for.
On The Bubble
Winger Curtis Hamilton is in a contract year and most likely in his last chance as an Oiler. The 2010 second round draft choice has been largely unimpressive at the pro level, and has struggled to stay healthy. He’ll be worth watching this season, because he’ll be fighting for his Oilers career.
Forward Tyler Pitlick is another 2010 second round draft choice that has been a disappointment at the pro level. He’s got a decent skill set, but has yet to put it together with the Barons. He had a solid end to the season and playoff run last year, and will no doubt be given more of a chance to succeed this season. Could be another guy facing his last chance in the organization. Pitlick has the skill-set the Oil are looking for too.
Lastly, center Andrew Miller will be interesting to watch this year too. This is his first pro season and he is on a one-year deal with the team. I expect he’ll play a large role with the Barons, and could play himself into a longer term roll depending on his results this season. He reminds me a lot of Marc Arcobello.
Speaking of which, I didn’t put Arco in here because I think he is an Oiler most of this season.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at some defenders that could be impact players within the Oilers system. Follow me on twitter @Alex_Thomas14