Yesterday, we began the Copper and Blue Top 25 Under 25 for a fifth time. We started with six rejects and one man guaranteed to have an NHL career. The winner of yesterday's vote among readers was AHL shooting percentage god, Philippe Cornet, but Kyle Bigos and Ryan O`Marra also received significant support. Samu Perhonen, the only prospect who made the list last time, was left in the dust. Today, we've got six more rejects and one more future savior. A closer look at each of the candidates after the jump.
Our very artistic Group of Seven is: Benjamin Massey, Bruce McCurdy, Derek Blasutti, Derek Zona, Jonathan Willis, Ryan Batty, and yours truly, Scott Reynolds.
Taylor Chorney - He's the only guy on today's list who has played an NHL game, and he's damn sure the only guy on this list currently playing in the NHL. And while that is a pretty impressive accomplishment, Chorney has yet to establish himself at that level. Given that this is is fourth pro season, that he'll be turning 25 in April, and that he's having this struggle despite the rather putrid offering that is the Oilers' defense, I think it's fair to say that time is running out. He has improved markedly in the AHL over these four years. I know that +/- is a flawed stat, but there's a pretty stark contract: -49 in 100 AHL games in his first two seasons, and +3 in 71 AHL games in his last two. Sadly, that improvement hasn't translated to the NHL. He was terrible in those first two seasons, and he's still terrible today. Not a huge sample, and I know that Corsi is a flawed stat, but Chorney has the worst Relative Corsi in the NHL among defenders with at least five games played. And it's not close. Last Ranking: #24
Travis Ewanyk - Not much has changed for Travis Ewanyk so far this year. He's been rehabbing from shoulder surgery all season, and isn't expected to be back until March. Lisa McRitchie interviewed Ewanyk in October, and at that time, his recovery was going well. He also described what kind of player he hopes to be at the NHL level: "I'm going to be a guy that's going to be a third or fourth line guy, and I will just go out there and work hard." Pro: he's not delusional. Con: he's right not to aim higher. Ewanyk scored 27 points in 72 games last year, so the guy has no offense. And with his latest injury, he's now a guy with no offense who's had a major shoulder surgery. So... something positive... all of the major scouting services still liked him a lot before the draft! Decentralized Scouting had him as the 66th best North American in the draft, Red Line Report ranked him as the 64th best prospect available in 2011, and ISS had him 42nd. This despite the fact that they all know that he brings nothing offensively. Bruce has seen the kid live and seems to think highly of him as a defensive player, and that would seem to be the consensus. Last Ranking: #42
Kellen Jones - After Derek had a chance to see Jones play earlier this year, but I haven't been so lucky, so most of my judgments will be made based on the numbers. Whenever I look at the numbers for Kellen Jones, I like to compare them to the numbers that Mark Arcobello had at the same age. They were born at the same time of the year, similar in size, both played in the ECAC, and both are part of the Oilers' organization. It's a very natural comparison. So, how's Kellen Jones doing? 19 points in 22 games in the NCAA sounds impressive! Mark Arcobello at the same age? 36 points in 34 games. And Mark Arcobello has the added advantage of having established himself somewhat in the AHL. If you're not pretty clearly a better prospect than Mark Arcobello, well, you're probably not going to do so well on this list. Last Ranking: #45
Ryan Martindale - By far the most disappointing season of any Oiler prospect. While watching him in training camp, it was pretty obvious that his skating needed significant work, but the junior numbers were still good enough to keep me hopeful. When he was sent down to the ECHL, I was actually encouraged because it was clear he'd get much more ice time in Stockton than in Oklahoma City. Plus, it's a smaller step up. A dominant run in the ECHL for twenty games and he could arrive in the AHL filled with confidence. Yeah... not so much. 14 points in 30 games is not dominant, especially not when you're being afforded power play time. 1 even strength goal in 30 games is not dominant. The second worst plus/minus rating on the team is not dominant. Ryan Martindale is not dominant. But I'm still not quite ready to write him off. He is generating 3.1 shots per game, which is pretty good. His 5.4% shooting percentage is awful, and probably one of the big reasons he hasn't been more impressive. He's getting lots of ice time; he still has size; he's got the same abilities with the puck that helped to monster seasons in junior. This is clearly not the season anyone was hoping for from him, but I don't think we've quite fallen into lost cause territory yet. Last Ranking: #15
Johan Motin - If Motin hadn't gone back to Sweden, there's some chance that he'd have played his second NHL game by now. The Oilers have had plenty of injuries on the blue-line to go along with suspensions and ineffectiveness, but when Motin was asked to have another stint in the ECHL, he balked and it was off to Sweden, where he's playing the Timra, by far the worst team in the Swedish Elite League. Their -37 goal differential (in 40 games) is 24 worse than the next closest team. But a hopeless team like that does present a certain amount of opportunity. Motin has played in 20 games there, and while he hasn't yet registered a point, he's one of the few players on the team with an even rating (+11 -11) while eating up 16:47 per game (keep in mind that many Swedish clubs use four defense pairings). That's not a huge role, and it's not huge success, but it's not nothing either. Last Ranking: #35
Toni Rajala - The young Finnish prospect was sent back to Finland this year instead of playing out the first year of his entry-level contract in the AHL, and is the second-leading scorer on one of the worst teams in the SM-Liiga. With 22 points in 37 games, he trails only Jesse Niinimaki (!), who has amassed 24 points in 30 games, but Rajala leads the team in goals with 13. So that's not bad. But it's not really good either. Let's compare Rajala with another Finn, Teemu Hartikainen. In his 20-year-old season, Hartikainen was already playing in the AHL, but in his 19-year-old season he had 33 points in 53 games, which is pretty similar to what Rajala has done this year. So offensively, Rajala is putting up similar numbers to Hartikainen, except that he's a year older, much smaller, and not showing as much yearly improvement. Last Ranking: #32
Tobias Rieder - This young man is having a very good season in the OHL. The scouting reports have generally loved his "compete level", and this year the offense is coming. He has 24 goals, which is good enough to tie for 12th in the league, and lead his team. He also leads the Rangers in points with 43, and is among the leaders in +/- at +17. It's an impressive step up. But it's not that good. Philippe Cornet, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale, Slava Trukhno, and Liam Reddox are all picks from recent Oiler history who put up better point totals in their post-draft season in junior and then subsequently struggled after turning pro. Plus, last year Rieder had trouble sustaining a solid early pace, which suggests that he might fall back again this season. But if he can maintain this pace, the one thing that sets him apart from the others mentioned is his goal-scoring. At 0.65 goals per game, Rieder is at least 0.10 goals per game ahead of the five others. Last Ranking: #29