There was a lot of talk when Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano made the Edmonton Oilers in 07-08, that a new era of exciting young players had started. The Oilers were a team with a bright future and other teams were to watch out for their renaissance. However that was not to be and with each subsequent season, the Oilers finished lower and lower in the standings and literally hit rock bottom last season. The 2010 offseason was a very special one for the Oilers organization and it all started with the draft. After much speculation and debate throughout the season, Oilers selected Taylor Hall with their historic first overall selection. As of today, he is one of the main reasons to care about this dismal season. Each and every game, Hall wows us with many scintillating plays, keeping us interested in Oilers and their development. However, we already knew all this would happen. We had all anticipated that the new rookie movement will fill us with HOPE. We all knew that Devan Dubnyk would perform as a solid netminder in the NHL. We knew Peckham would wreck ‘em all and Petry would impress us with his control and poise.
Due to some tremendous drafting and little bit of luck, our prospects pool doesn't look empty despite the huge turnover. Anton Lander is having a tremendous season. His resume already boasting superior defensive skills, he looks to have added some offensive acumen to his game as well. He has surpassed his scoring totals from last season. His only drawback is his skating, but the same could have been said of Jodan Eberle. Of all the prospects turning pro this fall, I think Lander has the best chance at cracking the Oiler's roster. That is not to say that others have been bad. No sir, Curtis Hamilton has continued his strong play and the best news is that he has been healthy. The Saskatoon Blades traded for Brayden Schenn and Hamilton is now playing on a line with him. This only means better things for Hamilton. He is a big kid who is known for his strong 2 way play, making right plays and not putting himself in a position to hurt his team by taking penalties as evidenced by his 10 penalty minutes all season. All three defensive prospects in the CHL are developing well and showing more than capable offensive prowess. At first glance Martin Marincin seems to be leading the trio, but he and Davidson have a similar ES P/G pace and Blaine is ahead of them both in that area. Of course Marincin has the draft pedigree over them, but as of today very little separates the three. They have size, skill and grit. That being said, their defensive skills are said to be raw and it will be a while before they can impact the club at the NHL level. Ryan Martindale continues his offensive season. His scoring is far above his 09-10 numbers and he is a part of the most productive line in the OHL. However, Martindale has scored the least points among the trio, which is odd as he is a center and one would expect the puck to pass through him more often. Kristians Pelss and Drew Czerwonka seem to be keeping their heads above water, but same cannot be said for Cameron Abney.
After the jump we will look at the situational scoring for some players in the CHL. I have included Niklas Jensen from Oshawa, Mark Scheifele from Barrie and Joe Morrow from Portland in the list. These are the year to date totals as of February 6th 2011. The situational scoring between the updates is posted as fan posts for reference purposes.
- After being dropped from the top rankings on many draft lists, Sean Couturier has had a string of impressive performances to show the scouts that he has more offense to his game than he is given credit for. He should easily surpass his scoring totals from last season and make a strong case for being the top pick in the upcoming draft. Not to be outdone by Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also had a killer stretch in the last three weeks. 22 points in 9 games is as good as it gets. He even had a six point night, which is the most any of the players on this list have had this season. However his Achilles heel is his dependence on powerplay production and this stretch was no different. He was close to a point per game at even strength which is a step in the right direction. I know many people talk about him helping our dismal power play, but my question is how much effect can one man have on the power play? Isnt a power play more of a structure-based play rather than individual talent? The Pittsburgh power play has suffered some long stretches of futility even with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the top unit! The best news of the weekend however was the fact that Gabriel Landeskog is back to make the race for the top pick more interesting.
- Speaking of things being interesting, both Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Strome are second overall in scoring in their respective leagues. They also have the distinction of having the least number of ZPG, showing great consistency. Strome scored at a pace higher than 2 P/G since the new year. They are both very young and won't turn 18 until after the draft and are making a big push to be in the consideration as a top 5 pick. However, I don't believe that Oilers will be interested in them. Stu MacGregor has a brief history of picking players who have already established themselves over a period of time. Hence I am inclined to believe that this is more of a three horse race, the same three who were mentioned at the start of the season.
- At the other end of the spectrum are Brandon Saad, David Musil and Michael St Croix. They were all once thought to be very high picks, but their production hasn't helped them at all. I have been expecting Saad to break out offensively for some time now, but that has not happened and now I am finally resigning to him being an average offensive player. David Musil showed a lot of promise with his play last season and was expected to challenge for the top 5 slot. But he too has been disappointing. He has played well, but simply not good enough. St Croix was never mentioned in the same breath as the other two, but was expected to be a high draft selection. He showed a lot of promise too when he scored 36 points in a stretch of 22 games. However since then he has had more ZPG then multi point games.
- The top draft eligible defensemen from the CHL seem to be have one thing in common -- consistency in production. After a dismal start to the new year, Ryan Murphy has gone back to his scoring ways. Doug Hamilton too has continued as the primary offensive weapon from the back end for the Ice Dogs. A mere 2 points separate him from Murphy in even strength scoring. It looks like he is now being given a lot of power play time too and is responding well by putting up pretty good numbers. Nathan Beaulieu is a name I first read in Fred Furlong's reports on the summer training camp last year. He was described a good two-way defenseman and he has continued to develop well. He is not lacking in size or skating either and his scouting report sounds an awful lot like Brandon Gormley. Duncan Siemens was long thought to be a top 10 draft prospect. However, things don't seem to be the same now.
- I think that in terms of sheer star power, no team competes with Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. Already boasting 4th and 5th overall selctions from last season, they also have Ty Rattie who has rebounded well from the average mid season slump, Sven Bartchi- Mr. Consistent and Joe Morrow ( I got nothing for him). If there is any team in the CHL which is as stacked as them, it has has to be the Sea Dogs on the QMJHL- Huberdeau, Jurco, Beaulieu, Simon Despres, Zach Phillips and Stanislav Galiev. It will be great if the two meet in the memorial cup finals. However, we shouldn't count out the Saskatoon Blades who are probably as strong as any team in the CHL with the simple inclusion of Brayden Schenn.
- Amongst the already-drafted prospects, Brett Connolly, Emerson Etem, Brandon Gormley and Jared Cowen are having good seasons. However in a statement game recently Moncton was thrashed by Saint John 11-2 in which they gave up 9 ES goals and Gormley was a -6, but other than that he has been fairly consistent. He is trying to evolve his game into a more offensive one and is becoming a good power play quarterback. I can again talk about the disappointing seasons of Austin Watson, Scott Glennie and McIlrath, but it will be like beating a dead horse, so lets leave it at that. McIlrath has shown some offensive game with 20 points, but he reminds me more of a Steve Staios / Jason Smith type player who are great and everything but not top 10 draft picks.
- Some good readings for the soul - Bruce McCurdy has been writing some fantastic scouting reports on Oiler prospects in the WHL over at the Cult Of Hockey. Lowetide with splits in the Oilers prospects scoring. Jonathan Willis highlighting the risks in drafting RNH. However, I get the feeling that Oilers will end up drafting him anyways, being a hyped WHL kid and all. Kirk Luedeke making a case for Doug Hamilton to be a top 5 pick (well he makes a case for Boston picking him up with the Toronto Maple Leafs pick.