We've wrapped the voting on the first Kristians Pelss Award, and if the readers have anything to do with it, the Kristians Pelss Award is going to stay abroad for the semester. The fans chose Daniil Zharkov by the narrowest of margins, the second time in a row someone from the other side of the ocean has taken home the fan vote.
Just as we asked the readers, we asked our panel:
"Out of the group of players including Aidan Muir, Andrew Miller, Antti Tyrvainen, Ben Betker, Brad Hunt, Cameron Abney, Curtis Hamilton, Daniil Zharkov, Evan Campbell, Frans Tuohimaa, Gregory Chase, Jackson Houck, Joey Laleggia, John McCarron, Kale Kessy, Kellen Jones, Kyle Platzer, Lee Moffie, Mitch Moroz, Ryan Martindale, Travis Ewanyk, and Tyler Bunz which player is most likely to play 200 games in the NHL?"
Alan Hull: Andrew Miller. This season will go a long way into determining whether or not he has a realistic shot, but as it stands now, he's one of the few on this list that is a MacTavish guy, and I don't know that MacT will have any loyalty to prospects Tambo invested time and money into developing. Guys like Kessy and Moroz, under the last GM, would likely have been given a multitude of opportunities, but I don't know that this is the case any longer. Miller seems like a guy who could bring enough to carve out a niche as a utility player. My other option would be Joey Laleggia because if you can produce points, you can find a home in the NHL. He could have an MA Bergeron type of career.
Ben Massey: None of the names available are skill players of sufficient calibre to make the NHL on merit. There's not a sneaky-talented late bloomer among them (well, one can maybe see Tyrvainen figuring it out enough to get games as a fourth-line pest but it seems more likely he'll be a "whoa, remember him?" guy in the SM-liiga for fifteen years.) So do we go goalie or do we go facepuncher? I'm going to go goalie. Frans Tuohimaa is young for his position and, unlike most of the rest of that list, has some solid professional games under his belt already. Obviously predicting goalies is difficult but Tuohimaa's off to a decent start, so out of a list of long shots he seems least long.
Bruce McCurdy: I’ll stand by my rankings if not my convictions and name Andrew Miller as the longshot most likely to succeed. The Yale grad captained his squad to the NCAA title last year, scoring a pair key goals in the Frozen Four (including the OT winner in the semi-final) to cap a splendid college career. Up to 15 NHL teams were reportedly in the mix to sign him, but the Oilers won the day. A solid 1.1 point-per-game player throughout his four years in college, Miller stands out in this group for his offensive chops with an annual NHL equivalency well north of 30 points. Undersized (5’10, 180) and overaged (25), one only has to look back a couple of years to find a player of similar size, age, and stats who made the transition from NCAA to NHL right off the hop. While it’s doubtful that Miller will have quite the immediate impact that Matt Read did as a 25-year-old rookie, he nonetheless fits the profile of a potential late bloomer. Whether Miller has sufficient all-around game to cut it in the pros remains to be seen, but Craig MacTavish – who signed him – should know a thing or two about centres.
dawgbone: Mitch Moroz/Travis Ewanyk. I'm giving a combo answer because I think the Oilers are going to burn a bunch of games on one of these guys trying to find the next Lucic. Hell, if Stortini can get 257 NHL games, one of these 2 guys has a chance.
Derek Zona: I was very close to saying John McCarron, but I'm going to go with Jackson Houck. Houck has a bunch of things going for him. First - he's from the WHL and the Oilers love the WHL. Second, he's a very good skater and plays the role of the pest very well when needed, but he's got the skill to put up some offense. He's not a big kid, but he's essentially what the Oilers thought they were drafting when they selected Mitch Moroz 4 rounds too early and Travis Ewanyk 3 rounds too early.
Jonathan Willis: Jackson Houck. His offensive numbers are reasonable if unspectacular, but combine that with scouting reports that indicate both a solid head for defence and a willingness to play rough and tumble hockey, and there's a lot to like there.
Michael Parkatti: I said Travis Ewanyk the last round and I'll pick him again. He's a local kid. His intangomometer (a device which measures intangibles) is apparently off the charts. In limited viewings the kid does have defensive ability and legit skating ability, it's just the lack of offense that's been a consistent issue. There's an NHL career awaiting whomever wins the battle to become the Oilers 4th line centre, and I think it'll go down to Anton Lander and Ewanyk. This year is key for both of those players to make an impression, but it's not like there are a ton of guys knocking on the door behind them. If Ewanyk can show the ability to keep his head above water and provide non-zero offence, he'll have a shot at an NHL career.
Ryan Batty: I'll say Jackson Houck. His numbers aren't going to blow anybody away - 23-34-57 on a terrible Vancouver Giants team - but they're not awful either. He's not Coke machine big, but there is (according to reports) a physical style to his game, and it's that style that I think the see a lot of Oilers value in. Physical is nice, but physical and stupid/undisciplined is not. With 68 penalty minutes in 69 games last season Houck seems to be able to play that type game without spending too much time in the penalty box. Being able to toe that line is the kind of thing that could separate him from his peers and get him a shot at an NHL career.
Scott Reynolds: I'll go with Kale Kessy. Of the available options, he seems to have the clearest path to NHL employment. The Oilers traded for him, which suggests he'll get a long look if he performs reasonably well; he's got good size and toughness, which the Oilers have stated they'd like to add; he's very willing to fight, which the Oilers likely see as a plus; and he's got the best offensive results among the club's prospects who come with a similar skill set.
Check out the complete Top 25 Under 25 List in our