Jujhar Khaira signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers earlier today, and it seems to me that he's likely going to be a pretty good situation to develop so long as the Oilers keep him in the WHL. Of course, as one of two people who have Khaira lowest in our T25U25 rankings, I probably feel that Khaira is less ready for pro hockey than others.
Jujhar Khaira moved from 14 to 12 in this edition of the rankings, but was ranked 25th last summer. That's a pretty massive jump up the rankings, but it seems to me that the main reason wasn't Khaira having an outstanding season, but rather, others in front of him having poor seasons while Khaira's was solid. What it wasn't, was more than solid.
Khaira finished fifth on his team in points per game at 0.65, good enough for eighth in the NCAA among players who turned 19 no earlier than January 1st. That's pretty good. But it comes in the context of receiving quite a bit of time in the offensive zone, both at five-on-five and when the team is on the power play. We know this because when Alan interviewed Khaira in February, he asked him about his role five-on-five:
Five-on-five I think they’ve used me most often in an offensive role... much more offensive-zone time as opposed to the defensive zone right now.
Corey Pronman talked about Khaira's role on the power play in his most recent update on Edmonton's system:
When he fills out, he will be a physical weapon for his team, as Michigan Tech used him in front of the net on the power play.
It's probably the responsible thing for the coaches at Michigan Tech to do while Khaira learned the ropes of the college game. But it makes his offensive performance a bit less impressive, especially with regard to his goal-scoring. In 37 games, Khaira scored just six goals, four of which came on the power play. Perhaps more disconcerting, he registered just 62 shots (1.68 per game) in those 37 games. Of the ten forwards on his team who played in at least 30 games, that shot rate ranks 10th, and while shooting isn't everything, you'd certainly hope to see him higher on that list based on the kind of ice time he was receiving, even if he is a pass-first player.
Some of the other things that Pronman noted as areas of concern also lead me to believe that Khaira would be well-served by a year in the WHL before turning pro:
His skating is average, and while he does not lag, he could use an extra gear to elevate his value. He needs to bulk up a lot and work on his defensive game, although the latter showed improvements towards the end of the season.
Another year to work on his skating, to add some muscle to his frame, and to work with Kevin Constantine on his defensive game (unless he gets traded to the Oil Kings) seems tremendously beneficial. For some players, making the jump to pro hockey at Khaira's age makes sense, but for Khaira, a slower developmental path is probably the wiser one.
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