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Channelling Liam Reddox

Liam Reddox had a very interesting season. It’s interesting because in 2006-07, he did everything he possibly could to demolish his rating as a prospect. He spent the entire season in the East Coast Hockey League (more affectionately known as the Jules Verne Hockey League) and he didn’t even look like a player there. When your offensive contributions are being eclipsed by Steve Slonina, your NHL future is bleak.

Reddox, however, changed everything with a year to remember in Springfield. Between Kelly Buchberger comparing him to Ryan Smyth, getting into an NHL game, and doubling his goal total from the ECHL level, it was a season that set Reddox firmly back on track.

While Reddox is now on track, a number of other Oilers prospects are in a similar position to Reddox in 2006-07; there careers are already in jeopardy, and if they don’t have turn-around seasons, they may not get another look. Here are my top-ten choices for prospects most in need of a major recovery.

10. Tyler Spurgeon – 242nd in 2004

Spurgeon would be a really nice prospect, despite being undersized, if he could stay healthy. An under the radar pick in 2004, he emerged as a legitimate scoring threat with Kelowna of the WHL before being injured in 2005-06. With Edmonton having no AHL farm team, he started 2006-07 in Stockton, performed well and then performed well again when recalled to the AHL. 2007-08 should have been something of a breakout year for him, but he only appeared in 12 games, and his career may already be over.

9. Matthew Glasser – 220th overall in 2005

Glasser was drafted after a career year for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the AJHL, and immediately began to regress. In 2005-06, he lost 10 goals and 14 points off of his previous season’s totals in the same league, and over two seasons with the University of Denver he has managed a total of six goals. The only reason that he’s still on the radar screen is that his college eligibility means the Oilers don’t need to decide on him for two more years. He was a long-shot to begin with, but that’s no reason for him to go quietly into the night.

8. Milan Kytnar – 127th overall in 2007

Kytnar took the route the Oilers wanted him to; he jumped to North America, playing for Kelowna of the WHL, and the results weren’t pretty – he scored 22 points in 62 games. Still, he’s been traded to Saskatoon, and he’s being pencilled in as the centre for Derek Hulak and Colton Gillies (a Wild first-rounder in 2007 who may not return to junior). If that is where he winds up, he could surprise.

7. Robby Dee – 86th overall in 2005

Dee has shown little improvement since being drafted. After two seasons in the USHL with little sign of life, Dee joined the University of Maine and managed to look like a worse prospect than Matt Glasser, posting 3 points in 24 games. Now 21, the clock is ticking.

6. Stephane Goulet – 208th overall in 2004

At this point, I think I am the only one holding out hope for the one-time 50-goal scorer. Goulet was drafted after seeing limited minutes in 2003-04 for the Quebec Remparts; he is a lanky winger who has added some weight since turning pro and has natural scoring ability. He has spent parts of the last two seasons in the ECHL, but last year spent most of his time in the AHL, where he showed some offense but not enough to justify any excitement. I cannot imagine the Oilers keeping him unless he explodes this season for Springfield.

5. Ryan O’Marra – 15th overall in 2005

O’Marra has been in a rather ugly nosedive for three seasons now, and despite projections of being a possibility for the Oilers 4th line, he is still a long ways away. He posted all of two goals at the AHL level last season, and while he had some success at the ECHL level, he still failed to hit the 1 PPG mark. If not for his draft pedigree, it would be hard to imagine O’Marra as a legitimate prospect at this point in time.

4. William Quist – 157th overall in 2007

Quist is a player who should be familiar to frequent readers; I earlier quoted a report by Guy Flaming laying out where Quist is at this juncture. Basically, he’s ignoring the organization’s recommendations so that he can stay at home and stagnate in a 2nd tier league in Sweden. Despite his size (6’4) and reputed skating ability, he likely won’t see much ice-time barring a massive breakthrough, and that could make him a write-off in the eyes of the organization.

3. Alex Plante – 15th overall in 2007

The only one of Edmonton’s 2007 first rounders to look like a bad bet so far, Plante battled injuries all season and went from 38 points to 2. He has size and pedigree, but won’t get as many chances as players of his type normally do, because if Edmonton doesn’t sign him, they’ll receive the 45th pick in a future draft. It’s the same thing that happened to Jesse Niinimaki, and the Oilers got a pretty good prospect out of that pick (Jeff Petry), so Plante isn’t working with a huge window here.

2. J-F Jacques – 68th overall in 2003

If Jacques were 5’10" tall, he’d already have been discarded. He’s a player with all the tools, a ton of minor-league success, and an inexplicable inability to make the NHL jump. He’s had some injury issues, but even so, it’s difficult to look at his NHL numbers (53 GP, 0-0-0) and not have trouble ever seeing him as a regular in the league. Right now, he’s on a two-year contract (I have difficulty listening to people criticize Deslaurier’s NHL deal when Jacques has one too) and has a little bit of time, but he’s overdue. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a player, and one would think the Oilers will come to the same conclusion if he doesn’t start showing up this season.

1. Colin McDonald – 51st overall in 2003

Colin McDonald is a big forward who played four seasons at Providence College without producing much of anything. Still, Providence College is a team with less offensive flair than Jacques Lemaire in the playoffs, and the words from Oilers management were encouraging. McDonald was often described as a player who would be a better fit in the professional game. Last season, he wasn’t. He scored 23 points in 73 games in the AHL and had an ugly plus/minus to boot. The Oilers have been patient because of his size and his circumstances, but much like Jacques, time is almost out. Unlike Jacques, he doesn’t have the security of a two-year deal.