The Copper and Blue Top 25 Under 25 Begins

The 2011 entry draft has come and gone, which means that the Edmonton Oilers have picked up nine new prospects, and the Copper and Blue panel has decided to reconvene in order to rank them. But after seeing the white smoke billowing out of the chimney, we knew it was time to add another member to our panel, which brings us to a total of six panelists. The familiar five are Benjamin Massey, Bruce McCurdy, Derek Zona, Jonathan Willis, and Scott Reynolds (go me!), and this time around we've added the incomparable Jaysen Knight.

For those familiar with our process, you know that I'm talking about the Top 25 Under 25, and we'll start looking at the 25 players that we liked the most on Monday, but as you all know, there are more than just 25 players in the organization under 25 years old. In fact, this time around there are 48 such players, which is where the next three days come in. Over the next three days, I'll introduce you to the guys who, for whatever reason, just didn't make the cut... and one each day who did. That's right, one of these lucky souls made the big time, and in order to get some idea about whether or not you readers think we're on the right track, I thought it might be fun to see whether or not you can identify him. I'll look at today's candidates after the jump.

Gilbert Brule - Last season was a tough one for Gilbert Brule, but he's the only player on this list who has played more than a couple of games in the NHL, which ought to count for something. Players just don't get to 263 career NHL games without a lot of talent, and that talent was on full display in 2009-10 when he scored 37 points in 65 games, which gave him the fifth-best points per game ratio on the team, behind only Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, and Ryan Whitney. He's had some injuries, and he wasn't particularly effective in 2010-11, but surely one bad season isn't enough to leave him on the outside looking in. Last Rank: #18

Alexander Bumagin - Bumagin hasn't gotten much love on these lists in the past, but at just 24 years old, he's already a veteran pro with six full seasons in either the KHL or its predecessor, the Russian Super League. This season, he tallied just seven goals and seven assists in forty-three games, but those modest totals look much better when taken in the context of his team. Bumagin spent most of the year with Novokuznetsk Metallurg whose leading scorer had 26 points in 54 games, so it's not like he had a whole lot to work with. Last Rank: #40

Robby Dee - In our last installment, Derek actually had Dee at #25 because of his ability to work the faceoff dot and a great deal of improvement offensively over the last two seasons. In 2009-10, Dee was a Junior at the University of Maine, and set career highs in goals (13), assists (12), and points (25). He did the same thing in his Senior year, scoring 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points in just 36 games. Dee doesn't yet have a contract with the Oilers, but the two sides have until August 15th to get a deal done. Last Rank: #32

Troy Hesketh - Yes, he lost his scholarship to Wisconsin, and yes, he was practically given away by a USHL team, but that doesn't make his father any shorter than he was last year, which means that you just know that he's going to turn into that 8'6'' defenseman who can skate like Paul Coffey and shoot like Al MacInnis. The Oil Kings own his WHL rights, so if the Oilers are still interested, that may well be his next destination. Last Rank: #36

Johan Motin - Motin has appeared in each installment of the Top 25 since we took up the format, so you know that at least some of the panelists like him plenty (in our winter Top 25, three of the five panelists had him 25th or better). Stats don't generally do the young man justice since he's always projected as a stay-at-home type defender. Spending 14 games in the ECHL last season after a full year in the AHL in 2009-10 isn't exactly an encouraging sign, but it's best that the young man get his reps, and Motin was excellent with the Thunder. He doesn't turn 22 until October, and his player-type usually takes a long time to work out the kinks. Last Rank: #24

Toni Rajala - He was bubble-boy on our winter list, but Jonathan had him at #22 and no one had him lower than #30. He played the first year after his draft year in the WHL, had a strong regular season (63 points in 60 games), tough playoffs (7 points in 15 games), and excellent Memorial Cup (7 points in 5 games). In 2010-11 he went back to Finland to finish his military service and play in the SM-Liiga where he scored 26 points in 50 regular season and playoff games for Ilves. He's likely headed to Oklahoma City next season, and will likely get at least a game or two to show that he can play in an offensive role. Last Rank: #26

Tobias Rieder - At 5'10'' Rieder isn't a huge player, but he does have some offensive talent. He scored 49 points in 65 regular season games with just 16 of those coming on the power play. He didn't play well at the World Junior Championships, and his short fall on draft day (he was projected by most to go sometime in the third round) reminds us that the Tournament of Small Sample Sizes will impact guys in both directions. Scott Campbell of The Scouting Report, had him at #78 right before this year's draft and noted that after a strong start to the season, Rieder fell off some as the year went on. Kirk Leudeke expected him to fall a bit, but also said that "the team that gets him could have themselves a very nice player with upside given his desire and willingness to do what it takes to succeed." Last Rank: NR

Olivier Roy - On the one hand, Olivier Roy didn't last as Team Canada's starter in the World Junior Championships. On the other hand, Olivier Roy bean the World Junior Championships as Team Canada's starter! This is not something that happens with marginal prospects, and speaks to the fact that he's shown tremendous ability over a number of seasons. That said, his performance this past season was decidedly mixed. His .911 save percentage in the regular season was good enough for fourth in the QMJHL among goalies who played thirty games, and yet it still wasn't as good as back-up Robert Steeves (.914), who also had a better GAA (2.79 to 2.67), and ended up starting the last game of Acadie-Bathurst's season because Roy was getting lit up in the playoffs (his save percentage was .729 in parts of three games). Still, the Oilers signed him to a contract in the spring because he's a high-quality goaltending prospect who has shown over several seasons that he has a chance to become an NHL caliber goaltender, a few struggles in 2010-11 notwithstanding. Last Rank: #19

Antti Tyrvainen - With 23 points in 52 SM-Liiga games, Tyrvainen's scoring isn't quite as good as Rajala's, and he's also two years older than his new Barons' teammate, so at first glance it seems like Tyrvainen doesn't have much chance here, but I would say that his path to a sustained role in the NHL is clearer than any other prospect on this list. You and I may not like a guy who's just out there to cause trouble, but those guys seem to find their way onto NHL rosters if they can play the game, and it would seem to me that Tyrvainen can play a bit (23 points doesn't sound like much, but he was the fourth-leading scorer on his team). Add to that the fact that he seems to be an elite-level trouble-maker - he led the SM-Liiga in penalty minutes with 186, which was 39 clear of his nearest competitor - and Antti Tyrvainen looks to me like the best bet on this list to play 200 (more) NHL games. Last Rank: NR

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