The Oilers' Top 25 Under 25: The Dark Horses

Justin K. Aller

Just as we did after our summer installment of the Top 25 Under 25, we're searching through the "And everybody else..." group of prospects to find a dark horse, a longshot who will make an impact in the NHL. Remember, it's unlikely that anyone outside of the top 10 is going to become an impact player, let alone anyone else on the list. But we soldiered on anyway.

"Out of the group of players including Taylor Fedun, Daniil Zharkov, Brandon Davidson, Erik Gustafsson, Philippe Cornet, Joey Laleggia, Ryan Martindale, Antti Tyrvainen, Mitch Moroz, Samu Perhonen, Frans Tuohimaa, Kristians Pelss, Mark Arcobello, Toni Rajala, Travis Ewanyk, Kellen Jones, John McCarron, Cameron Abney, which player is most likely to play 200 games in the NHL?"

Jonathan Willis: Mitch Moroz. The Oilers spent a second-round pick on him at the last draft, and they apparently weren't the only team that was thinking hard about reaching to take him early. Even if he doesn't work out as a power forward (and let's admit it, the odds are more against him than they are in his favour), he's still a big, mean guy currently playing in the WHL. He also has some ability to both skate and shoot the puck and had 20 fighting majors last year. The Oilers love players exactly like this, and will give him every opportunity.

Ryan Batty: I really want to say Taylor Fedun. What I saw in camp last year before the injury makes me think there's a real player there. And a big part of me likes his story. His route to an NHL contract was hardly traditional and now he has a terrible injury to overcome. I really want to say Fedun but I can't. For my money Mitch Moroz is the most likely I the long shots to play 200 games. I've seen Moroz play a lot of games and I haven't seen anything that makes me think he was a smart pick at #31 but the Oilers clearly did. And whatever it is that they see (or think the see), they're going to give him every chance possible to show everyone else. That will mean roster time long after it's clear he doesn't deserve it. Moroz is the new JF Jacques.

Alan Hull: Taylor Fedun. I personally had him in my top 25 and although he doesn't have any NHL experience and his pro experience is essentially limited to a single training camp where he performed quite well, I consider him to be a bit of an enigma among the prospects and therefore more likely to surprise (either in a positive or negative way). He is a few years older than many of the prospects which could help him adjust quicker to the pro game and I think this coming season will go a long way to determining how much he is valued within the organization over the long term. If last's year's camp was just an anomaly, then he'll likely fade into the background as the Klefbom's and Gernat's start to join the North American pro ranks, but if he can regain that form and sustain it, he might be able to be the first of the group to break through and give himself a head start at establishing himself in the NHL compared to the rest of the defensive cluster coming along.

Scott Reynolds: Cameron Abney. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that this guy is a good player (I ranked him dead last), but the Oilers clearly like him and have a role for him. Even after he didn't develop into anything more than a fighter in the WHL, they signed him to an entry-level contract, so they've now invested quite a lot in him knowing full well that this player's value comes exclusively with his fists (not to be confused with hands). He started the year in Stockton in 2011-12, and had what I would have to assume was an acceptable time there with five points and 132 penalty minutes in 29 games before finishing up with 14 AHL games. I expect he'll have a full year in the AHL this coming season. If he plays 200 NHL games in his career, they won't be effective minutes, but his path to the NHL seems the clearest of anyone on the outside of the top twenty-five.

dawgbone: Ryan Martindale. Though Darcy Hordichuk has over 200 NHL games, so it might be one of the goons.

Ben Massey: My money is on Mitch Moroz who has two things going for him. First, as a high-second round pick, he will tend to get the benefit of the doubt against a later-drafted player. Second, he's a large guy who hits hard and throws punches and very, very occasionally puts the puck in the net; basically, he's the sort of "power forward" NHL coaches still talk themselves into awfully easily. Note that neither of those reasons involved hockey-playing ability, and I still don't think Moroz is exactly likely to get to 200; just the least unlikely.

Derek Zona: Daniil Zharkov. He's a talented winger and has some goal-scoring ability. His numbers faltered down the stretch last season, but if he can recover and post some decent numbers for Belleville, he's going to be back on track. Besides, anyone who is this motivated:

"It’s my goal to be better than Yakupov. I think it makes me more angry and makes me work harder than if it wasn’t for Yakupov."

Should be fun to follow no matter what.

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