The Oilers talk about adding grit that can play the game, but often fail at finding a player that fulfills the latter part of that statement. The Oilers 4th round pick (#94 Overall) in the 2013 NHL entry draft, Jackson Houck, just might be that guy.
Houck climbs into the top 25 based on a couple of reasons. The first is that several guys ranked above him in the summer are no longer with the organization, the second is that Scott Reynolds no longer seems to hate him so much! Houck climbed several spots on nearly everyone's individual rankings and sneaks in front of some prospects taken much higher in the draft.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus had Jackson Houck at #91 in his pre-draft rankings and had the following to say:
Houck entered this season known for his intangibles and physical play, and he added a scoring touch to his repertoire, leading the Giants in points. He has just average size, but he still displays notably above-average physical value, delivering big hits and winning a lot of battles through his effort. He has the heart and soul elements desirable in a good penalty killer. His offensive upside, however, draws some divide among scouts. One says he is very average, while another says his puck skills enable him to have potential in that area. He protects the puck well, drives the net, and has solid creativity. Skating will be his main issue. He plays with good energy, but he struggles to get to where he wants to go.
You can kind of get a sense why the Oilers would be interested in a player like this. He's the blue collar type player that the club has been chasing in free agency, the waiver wire and with draft picks for a while. He's got some knocks (skating being mentioned above), but so does everyone else drafted around him. The difference with Houck is that he's at least demonstrated some sort of ability with the puck, which is a positive sign. He lead his WHL team in scoring in his draft year and finished 2nd on his team with 23 goals. One of the things that jumps out at you when you look at Houck's boxcar numbers is his -16 rating. Aside from the fact that +/- is a pretty useless number, take one look at Vancouver's goaltending in his draft year. 4 goaltenders combined to post an .860 save percentage on the year. 2 of the goaltenders played a combined 1382 minutes (approximately 23 games) and combined to post an .833 save percentage. There's a good chance you'll be on the ice for a bunch of goals against with goaltending like that.
Houck has had a rather up and down 2013-2014 season. Over the summer he got into some legal trouble after an altercation at a house party (the case is still in court). He also got hit with a 3 game suspension for a hit on Ryan Chynoweth back in December. His goal scoring is up from 0.33 goals per game to 0.49, but his assist (and consequently point) totals are way down. He started off the year scoreless in his first 5 games, then proceeded to pick up 27 goals and 15 assists in his next 45 games before then going pointless so far in February. He currently sits 4th on the Giants in scoring after leading the team last season.
The Oilers drafted a physical player who has some puck skills and Houck has continued on that path. He needs to work on his skating and you'd like to see a bigger gap between his draft and draft + 1 box cars, but his draft + 1 season has been much better than a lot of other guys the Oilers have picked in this spot. You get the feeling that he'll get some looks at the pro level by this organization simply because of how he plays the game. Whether he materializes into an NHLer or not, this looks like a pretty good gamble by the Oilers at that draft position.