#19 - Roman Horak

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The second prospect acquired in the Ladislav Smid trade lands at number 19.

A couple of days ago in our journey through the bottom end of the Top 25 Under 25 we came the first of the two prospects that the Oilers acquired in exchange for Ladislav Smid, that was of course Laurent Brossoit. Today, at number 19, we find the other piece of that trade, Roman Horak. Trading an established NHL player for two new additions to the Top 25 Under 25, if that doesn't scream Oilers I don't know what does.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan Ben Bruce DB Derek JW Michael Ryan Scott Zsolt
19 Roman Horak 91/05/21 127 2009 (NYR) 21 18 20 19 18 19 19 19 21 19

Previous Rank: N/A

With no rankings higher than 18 and none lower than 21 there seems to be a bit of a consensus among our voters as to where Horak lands. For those not familiar with Horak, the book on him is that he's a very good skater and can make and take a pass, a skill sadly lacking with many of the current Oilers. Listed at 6'0" he isn't a big centre but he's not another dreaded small forward either. In their preseason forecast The Hockey News identified his career potential as a "solid two-way pivot with some upside." Acquiring Horak added some organizational depth at centre and maybe someday he'll be a little more than that.

At 22 years of age, Horak certainly isn't old, but one concern with him so far in his career is that he's had trouble sticking in the NHL. In 2011/12 he played 61 games for Calgary scoring three goals and adding eight assists, but the next year dressed in only 20 (lockout shortened season). This season he's barely even been able to crack an NHL lineup; he played one game with the Flames before the trade and has played one with the Oilers since. (According to hockey-reference.com, if Horak doesn't get recalled he'll become the first player in NHL history to play a single game with two different teams in the same season.)

Admittedly, I haven't seen Horak play much hockey recently though. His number with the Barons are good - 14 goals and 14 assists in 35 games - but because he's new to the Oilers organization I'm not entirely sure where he fits in the overall scheme of things, and that's something that I try to factor into my rankings. Where doses he fit in with respect to Anton Lander for example. For some answers on that front I asked friend of the Copper & Blue, and the man in change of Tend the Farm, Neal Livingston for his take on Horak.

I initially welcomed the trade of Roman Horak to the Oilers and the subsequent placement of him with the Oklahoma City Barons. Straight to the point, the center position on the farm was lacking, and he seemingly had the intangibles to cure the minor league ailments. As he slipped lower on the depth chart for the Calgary Flames, it was apparent that he would position himself nicely at the center position within the Oilers organization. With Mark Arcobello a full-time NHLer, Horak could play second fiddle to Anton Lander. Then something interesting happened. Arcobello was rumored to return to OKC, and did.

Instead of squeezing minutes out of Horak on a third line, Nelson (with some encouragement from Oilers management, no doubt) moved Horak to the left wing. He's flourished in that capacity, and he seemingly is going to stay in that spot.

In the last six games he has posted six goals, and four assists. He also netted a hat trick in Charlotte. Have the Oilers found Horak's sweet spot? For now, yes. Is he benefiting from playing left wing with Arcobello in the center? Yes. But with Mark sitting out a few games for the Olympic break, Horak has continued to contribute. All pointing to his increasing value as a prospect.

Interesting. A winger isn't what the Oilers were likely looking for when they acquired Horak, and it's only a handful of game, but if that's a position where he excels it's not something that should be ignored. I won't be penciling Horak into the 2014/15 Oilers opening night roster just yet, but if he can continue to produce in that role and given that he has the flexibility to play centre as well, then he might push for a spot on the team in training camp next season. Before getting some input from Neal I had Horak clearly behind Lander, now I can see things working out another way. Time will tell.

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