The General... Who Became a Slave... The Slave... Who Became a Gladiator... Dramatic Music!
Yesterday, I introduced the Copper and Blue Top 25 Under 25 with a poll involving a great many rejects and one man that stood tall above the rest. Many of you identified that man as Olivier Roy, but there was also significant support for Gilbert Brule, Toni Rajala, Tobias Rieder, and Antti Tyrvainen, which just goes to show that we all have our favorites. Today, it's time to look at eight more rejects and one more future savior. I'll take a look at each of our candidates after the jump.
Cameron Abney - Abney stinks at hockey, but that isn't the skill that will get him to the NHL. If Abney makes it, he'll make it as a nuclear deterrent. His primary skill is fighting, and he should never forget that. The scouting reports on Abney generally mention his decent skating, so he might even be able to hit other players when they're moving at NHL speed (though probably not), and if he can be taught some defense, the complete lack of offense might not be so galling, especially for a man with his role. Thanks to that fancy new contract, we've got three years to find out. Last Rank: #39
Tyler Bunz - When the Oilers picked Tyler Bunz in 2010, I thought that the only saving grace was that they used a late-round pick. Tyler Bunz is in the process of proving me wrong. His .919 save percentage was the second-best in the WHL, and his 2.47 goals against average was good enough for third. Both of those numbers are significantly better than his back-up, Deven Dubyk, who had a .908 save percentage and 2.89 goals against average, which is yet more evidence that Bunz season was quality. The most recent news with Bunz is that he was one of four goaltenders invited to attend the August development camp for Canada's World Junior Championship team. I gave Bunz the lowest ranking of any of the panelists our last time out - I had him 34th - but this is one prospect whose stock has done nothing but rise in the last year. Last Rank: #28
Philippe Cornet - This is one prospect who's had a tough time adjusting to the rigors of pro hockey, but it sure seems like a lot of that has to do with the opportunity he's been given. Cornet was in a situation where a failure to post results meant taking a seat in the press-box, which has got to be hard on a guy's psyche. In fact, there were only two times during this season where Cornet played at least ten games in a row. From Game 38 to Game 55 he played in eighteen consecutive games and scored four goals and four assists. From Game 69 to Game 80 he played in twelve consecutive games and scored two goals and seven assists. In Cornet's other thirty games he scored just one goal and five assists. When the coach gave the young man some consist ice time, he actually performed quite well. Last Rank: #30
Taylor Fedun - Fedun signed with the Oilers in early March and when it happened Ryan said, "Fedun will report to Oklahoma City and will play for the Barons in their stretch run towards the AHL playoffs." He went on to play exactly zero games with Oklahoma City, which is a bit odd given the fact that Martin Marincin got into a game and the recently-kicked-to-the-curb Kevin Montgomery was a regular. But that aside, Fedun has a fine resumé: four solid years with Princeton, enough offense to get by, the team leader among defensemen in +/- in each of the last three years, and a guy who some thought of highly as a free agent (although about half the guys on that list haven't been signed by anybody). Last Rank: NR
Martin Gernat - What an interesting player. When Martin Marincin first came over from Slovakia, it was very hard to tell what kind of player he might be, and Gernat is in the same boat, although like with Marincin, we've got a couple of clues. We know, for example, that Gernat wasn't good enough to make the Slovakian team for the World Junior Championships (although that allowed him to skip out on "Team Orange", which was probably a good thing), but was good enough to play for the Slovakian U-18 team. We also know that he's 6'5'', that he scored well enough in the Slovakian U-20 league - he had 24 points in 40 games - that he's got at least some comfort level with the puck, and that the Oilers were really high on him before the draft. And that's what we know for now, but he's going to play for the Oil Kings in the WHL, so we'll know more soon. Last Rank: NR
Kellen Jones - Jones just finished his rookie season with Quinnipiac University of the NCAA and the 20 year-old forward performed quite well posting eight goals and fourteen assists in thirty-eight games, which was just three points off the team lead. Jones was also one of just six forwards on the team who managed to be a plus player, which is itself quite encouraging. If we're being honest, he remains a long-shot for an NHL career, but that's a quality rookie season. Last Rank: #34
Kristians Pelss - Pelss seems to have started a tradition here of being the obscure European pick that gets drafted late and then comes over to play with the Oil Kings. Pelss only scored 33 points in 63 regular season games, but with 31 of those 33 coming at even strength it's pretty obvious that the kid didn't get a lot of opportunity on the power play. So you can cut him a little bit of slack here, but the fact is that he didn't earn those PP minutes, and even if we wanted to be nice and say that the coach just didn't see his enormous skills, we could mentally hand him an extra 23 power play points (enough to give him the team lead), and he'd still be a 5'10'' forward with less than a point per game in the year after he was drafted playing in the WHL. Last Rank: #35
Dillon Simpson - He was one of the youngest players in the NCAA this year, so the fact that he was a healthy scratch from time to time with North Dakota - one of the very best teams in the country - shouldn't be a major concern. Heck, that he made the team at all is a testament to his talent. But he didn't just make the team, he was also a contributor. His ten points in thirty games shows that he was contributing something offensively and his +11 rating was in a three-way tie for 5th among eight defenders (they were a good team), which puts him solidly in the pack. The numbers aren't overwhelming, but that's an outstanding season for a 17 year-old freshman. Last Rank: NR
Chris VandeVelde - In our last set of rankings, only Jonathan had him outside the Top 25, but VandeVelde had a real Jekyll and Hyde season in 2010-11. In the AHL, he was Mr. Hyde: just 16 points in 67 games to go with a team-worst -17 rating, and not much evidence that he was playing the toughs. Yet somehow that was good enough to earn a call to the big club (I'd have been pissed if I was Brad Moran or Milan Kytnar), and that's where we saw Dr. Jekyll make his appearance, which isn't to say that he looked good, but he didn't look nearly as bad as I was expecting: a 53.6% EV faceoff percentage on 125 draws, a Relative Corsi of -13.5, and two points in twelve games with a -6 rating, which projects out to 14 points and -41 rating over a full 82-game season. Okay, so maybe it was more like Hyde and Hyde. But he can win faceoffs! Last Rank: #23
Which player do you think made it into the Top 25?
Cameron Abney (8 votes)
Tyler Bunz (242 votes)
Philippe Cornet (2 votes)
Taylor Fedun (3 votes)
Martin Gernat (15 votes)
Kellen Jones (0 votes)
Kristians Pelss (8 votes)
Dillon Simpson (28 votes)
Chris VandeVelde (109 votes)
415 total votes