The Rejects, Revisited: A Second Look At The Under-25 Under 25

Toni Rajala couldn't quite crack the top-25... and he can't quite get this puck either... but we still have nice things to say about him.

There was a time, not that long ago, when the Edmonton Oilers’ foremost authority on prospects was Kevin Prendergast. During his time in that role, Prendergast developed a reputation for selling sunshine: there was not a player in the system that he was unable to gush about if the mood struck him, and it seemed to strike him often.

For the past while, we at Copper & Blue been putting forth our unvarnished opinions on the players in the Oilers’ system. We plan to continue doing so for the next while. We pore over numbers, scouting reports, comparables, whatever we can find to bare each prospect’s game to our readership. We can be critical. Ben Massey can take "critical" to new levels (when we ask him to).

All of this can become tiresome. So for a change of pace we looked back to Kevin Prendergast for inspiration (and McKeen's for style), and decided to revisit those players not quite good enough to crack the top-25, but this time to focus solely on the positive. 


Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
42 Jordan Bendfeld 2/9/88
193 2008
40 40 42 37 42

6'3", 245lb defenceman brings muscle and pugnacity to the depth chart... has made the jump to Oklahoma City after spending most of last season in the ECHL; if he can hold his own there he will be one step closer to the role of major league pugilist... already has six fights on the season, including takedowns of Ryan Flynn and Pascal Morency... has alternated between forward and defence this season and probably has a better chance at an NHL job up front... twice suspended for hits this season...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
41 Matt Marquardt 7/19/87
194 2006
39 42 38 38 40

At 6'3", 229lbs, Marquardt possesses the kind of frame that gets NHL scouts drooling... twice scored 40 goals in a season during his junior career in the QMJHL... after a rocky transition to the professional ranks, Marquardt became a key participant in Stockton's playoff run last spring (15GP - 6G - 4A - 10PTS, 15 PIM)... plays a surprisingly disciplined game, as evidenced by just three minor penalties in the AHL this season... still just 23 years old, the same age as many college players just beginning their professional careers.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
40 Alexander Bumagin 3/1/87
170 2006
42 41 37 42 33

Bumagin led his Russian Super League (precursor to the KHL) team in scoring as an 18-year old with nine goals and 23 points for ultra-defensive Tolyatti Lada... despite being only 23 years old, is a veteran of seven seasons in Russia's top professional league... on a Novokuznetsk Metallurg team with a 8-30-6 record, sits at a respectable minus-5 rating... his scoring totals, although not especially high this season, are very comparable to those of teammate Vaclav Nedorost, an ex-NHL'er and first round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
39 Cameron Abney 5/23/91
82 2009
38 39 39 41 37

6'5", 205lb fighter has bulked up since being drafted by the Oilers... with 10 points through 36 games is on pace to improve his offensive production for the second straight season... his plus-1 rating is a substantial improvement over previous seasons... statistics don't tell the story here, as Abney's NHL potential is in a 'designated fighter' role, but it is encouraging to see him developing into a more rounded player at the WHL level... 

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
38 Gregory Stewart 5/21/86
n/a n/a
34 36 40 36 41

Stewart has played 26 games over parts of three seasons at the NHL level... leads all Oklahoma City Barons in penalty minutes with 71, 25 of those via fighting majors... has fought at least 12 times in each of the past three seasons... looked OK in Montreal during his longest NHL stint (20 games), posting a -0.2 RelCorsi despite modest ZoneStart numbers (51.9%)... an energy forward who can play a little bit, but doesn't contribute offensively...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
37 Bryan Pitton 1/26/88
133 2006
29 37 41 40 38

At 6'2", 176lbs has decent size for the goaltender position... has impressed in a brief stint in the AHL this season, posting a 0.914 SV% over four games... ECHL Goaltender of the Week back in November... was marvellous in the ECHL playoffs last season, with a 0.943 SV% over four games...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
36 Troy Hesketh 7/5/91
71 2009
41 38 32 39 31

6'2" defenceman was a dominant player in U.S.high school hockey, prompting his selection by the Oilers... currently sidelined with a concussion but should be returning to USHL action soon...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
35 Kristians Pelss 10/9/92
181 2010 37 29 35 35 39

Pelss was a member of Latvia's gold-medal winning teams at both the U-18 and U-20 Division 1 World Junior Championships... most penalized player at the U-20 tournament... drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oil Kings and Dynamo Riga last summer... after a slow start (25GP - 1G - 3A - 4PTS, -2) in the WHL, Pelss has improved dramatically (16GP - 6G - 8A - 14PTS, +11)... was eager to come to North America after being taken in the CHL Import Draft... coached last season by Leonids Beresnevs, Latvia's coach at the 2006 Olympics...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
34 Kellen Jones 5/21/86
n/a n/a
28 33 34 34 36

Described by Stu MacGregor on draft day as a "very competitive" player... 29 PIM's is second on Quinnipiac University... business major... after a slow start (just six points in 17 games), Jones as seen his role on the team and his offence increase (nine points in the last eight games)... just one point back of the team lead for offensively-challenged Quinnipiac...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
33 Drew Czerwonka 7/1/92
166 2010
35 30 31 33 35

Had weak offensive numbers in his draft year, but the scoring has come after a slow start this season... the season's opening quarter was not encouraging (21GP - 6G - 5A - 11PTS, -2) but Czerwonka's numbers have improved in a big way since then (24GP - 5G - 17A - 22PTS, +12)... boasts decent size (6'2", 197lbs) and a willingness to use it, as confirmed by a quick glance at his penalty totals and multiple independent scouting reports... as one of the younger players selected in the '10 draft, the increase in his offence is particularly interesting...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
32 Robby Dee 4/9/87
86 2005
36 31 25 30 32

Has improved offensively every year with the University of Maine... power play scorer has put in two-thirds of his goals with the man advantage this season and his six goals lead the team in that area... finance major has been named to Hockey East's Academic Honor Roll each of the past two seasons... 6'2", 195lb forward is yet another prospect with size as a plus in the Oilers system...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
31 Kyle Bigos 5/12/89
99 2009
32 34 26 32 28

Mammoth defenceman (6'5", 230lbs) has a plus-1 rating along with four assists through 19 games with Merrimack College this season, along with a team-leading 65 PIM's... was MVP and Best Defensive Player for the BCHL's Vernon Vipers in their RBC Cup win in 2008-09... 

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
30 Milan Kytnar 5/19/89
127 2007
31 32 27 29 26

Defensive specialist has responded to increased ice-time tremendously... after a poor start (36GP - 2G - 6A - 8PTS,-7, 29 shots) Kytnar has caught fire (10GP - 4G - 2A - 6PTS, +7, 14 shots)... two for three on shootout attempts in the AHL this season... has spent most of his young career as a shutdown centreman... just needs to contribute enough offensively to get over the Colin McDonald-line, as he boasts a plethora of secondary skills...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
29 Philippe Cornet 3/28/90
133 2008
27 35 28 31 24

One of many Oilers prospects improving as the year goes on... a slow professional debut (26GP - 0G - 4A - 4PTS, -4) has given way to a hot stretch (8GP - 4G - 3A - 7PTS, +6)... has been regarded as a well-rounded player all down the line through his junior career... took a lot of shots in junior, relying more on volume than quality, and has a better playmaking game than a scoring one...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
28 Tyler Bunz 2/11/92
121 2010
35 20 33 24 34

Lacklustre statistics last season had many questioning this selection, but Bunz has taken a major step forward this season... after an indifferent performance in September/October (3-4-0, 0.903 SV%) Bunz has been on fire for three months (18-5-2, 0.922 SV%)... has added an inch since draft day and now stands at 6'2", 199lbs... a hometown boy, from St. Albert...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
27 Ryan O'Marra 6/9/87
15 2005
22 25 36 27 30

2005 first round pick made his NHL debut last season, getting into three games, a number he has tripled at the halfway mark this season... having his best offensive season in the AHL this year, with 18 points in 28 games, matching his output over 74 games in 2009-10... route to the NHL lies in a defensive role, something he seems to have embraced in the minors, where he's a faceoff ace and regular on the PK... at 6'2", 220lbs has good size for a checking role... after some initial difficulties, improved in the faceoff circle over his last few NHL games... regarded as an intelligent person, a fact commented on recently by the HNIC crew and a reputation that has stuck since draft day, as executives with two different organizations have made mention of it...

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
26 Toni Rajala 3/29/91
101 2009
30 28 29 22 27

Rajala has a reputation as a creative scorer, with strong puck and skating skills... has been a staple on Finnish teams at various tournaments, and put in a dominant effort at the U-18 in his draft year with 10 goals, 19 points and a plus-10 rating in six games... had a decent season with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2009-10, posting 63 points in 60 games and adding seven points in five Memorial Cup contests (where he was named the 'Most Sportsmanlike' player)... a knee injury which delayed the start of Rajala's 2009-10 season appears to have healed... returned to Finland this season to complete military service... Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon raved about Rajala's character, calling him "well-liked" and "an excellent person" and had even left an import space open for him in the event he remained in North America...

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