clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Edmonton's Top 25 Under 25: The Rejects

New, comments

I know you've been looking forward to this week as much as we have.

Let's face it, all the speculation is nice, but at some point we need to see results. Listening to pundits telling us who should and shouldn't make it, obsessing over every piece of arcane statistical trivia like it were the word of the hockey gods themselves, all of that is fun for a while but ultimately it only whets our appetites for the real thing. The anticipation at Copper & Blue Headquarters has been positively electric, or at least it would have been if there was such a place as "Copper & Blue Headquarters". I can tell you that the e-mails I constantly spam Derek, Scott, Bruce, and Jon with have been even more profane than usual.

So don't worry, friends. The waiting is almost over. The selections have been finalized. We have our team, and there's nothing left to do but wait and see who emerges victorious.

I refer, of course, to the Copper & Blue's annual ranking of the top twenty-five Oiler prospects. I have been told that, in some African countries, this is viewed as a second Christmas, and village elders dress up like Jonathan Willis before distributing small toys to the good boys and girls and one-way bus tickets to those who haven't developed as well.

We're changing things up a little this year, though. Perhaps inspired by an earlier post of mine (for I am, truly, the ideas man of the Oilogosphere), we're not ranking the best rookies, or the best players under twenty-four who have played fewer than fifty-seven and a half NHL games, or whatever other arbitrary criteria you'd care to throw out like a monkey in a cage. No, we're keeping it easy (as well as catchy): over the Olympic break, we're ranking the Oilers top twenty-five under twenty-five.

But, because we're hardcore, we didn't stop there. No, we ranked forty-five Oilers prospects and suspects in all. The top twenty-five will get exciting, detailed, individual writeups from our crack team of hockey experts. The bottom twenty will get made fun of. By me


Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
45 Jordan Bendfeld 2/9/88
193 2008
44 44 43 43 43

It takes a special kind of man to be the worst prospect for the worst team in the National Hockey League. Jordan Bendfeld is a special sort of player, for a particular definition of "special". His numbers with the Stockton Thunder actually aren't dreadful in this, his second ECHL season. On the other hand, when you're looking for a guy to make the show someday, you're not looking for a second-year pro who is the sixth-leading scorer among defensemen on his ECHL team.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
44 William Quist 7/31/89
157 2007
43 45 45 39 44

Johan may correct me on this, but I'm pretty sure "William Quist" is actually Swedish for "Jordan Bendfeld". A big palooka of a winger, Quist was offered a chance in the summer to come over to the ECHL but instead opted to stick with his relegated Allsvenskan team, meaning he's currently playing in the Swedish third division. Also, he's a forward who has less scoring ability than I do and he recently suffered a serious injury. Apart from that, though, he's right on track.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
43 Matt Glasser 7/11/87 220 2005 45 43 37 42 45

It's killing me to see Glasser ranked this low. Not just because he's a former AJHLer, but because he turns twenty-three in April, is shorter than I am, has an unbelievable five points so far in his senior year at the University of Denver, and I was pretty surprised he was still considered a prospect. The good news is that he's majoring in finance, so he's going to be in good shape for his post-hockey career. Keep that GPA up, Matt!

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
42 Bryan Pitton 1/26/88 133 2006 41 41 42 45 40

Forty-second is a little harsh on poor Bryan, since unlike most of these idiots he's actually been on an NHL roster in his life. And he's rallying admirably in his second professional season, posting a no-fooling-pretty-good .921 save percentage this year with Stockton. On the other hand, the year before that he was a .886. He's only managed to play twelve minutes in the AHL. His one junior season as a clear-cut starter, his save percentage was .879. So. Yeah.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
41 Cameron Abney 5/23/91 82 2009 42 33 41 44 41

In his first 110 games in the WHL, Cameron Abney had eleven points. Jesse Boulerice, to pick a name, was a reliable double-digit scorer in junior. Wade Belak notched seventeen points his draft year and he was a defenseman. Also, we picked Abney in the third round and he's not even a particularly intimidating fighter. I think that maybe we could have done better.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
40 Bryan Lerg 1/20/86 n/a n/a 39 38 40 40 42

Hey, remember Bryan Lerg? Came out of Michigan State all gangbusters, looked awesome in training camp, got an entry-level contract, sure he was small but so was Martin St. Louis? Whatever happened to that guy? Well, he's still in Springfield, where in his first 73 AHL games he has twenty-five points. This year in Springfield, he has as many points as Marc Pouliot who, lest we forget, was there for a four-game rehab stint. But it's okay since Lerg is also a massive defensive liability and twenty-three years old.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
39 Matt Nickerson 1/11/85 99 2003 40 42 39 38 33

Matt Nickerson may not be much of a prospect, but he didn't cost us much either. A former third-round pick of the Dallas Stars, Nickerson was rescued out of Malmö of the Swedish Allsvenskan by the Oilers last summer and asked to potter around Springfield and try not to score too many own goals. In the shambolic horror show that is Springfield's defense Nickerson has played fourteen games and only been -2, which isn't bad, really. On the other hand, if you're twenty-four and only the seventh defenseman for the Springfield Falcons, you should maybe re-evaluate things.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
38 Bryan Young 8/6/86 146 2004 37 39 35 41 34

Once, the Oilers seemed to have yanked a pair of blue-chip prospects out of Peterborough late in the draft. Bryan Young was a tremendous standup defenseman in his junior days, a sort of Cory Cross type, a guy who had the offensive ability of a pile of cinder blocks but would make the other team's forwards pay for every inch of ice. His first couple professional years weren't bad, either, and he already has seventeen NHL games under his belt. On the other hand, he's currently the third-best defenseman on the Stockton Thunder.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
37 Geoff Paukovich 4/24/86 57 2004 38 37 34 34 38

When you're the worst Coke machine in the Oilers system, that's seriously saying something. This is Paukovich's third professional season and, with seven points in fifty-four Springfield games, easily his best. There's a lot to be excited about in this former second-round pick. If he can learn to shoot, pass, and skate, he could easily have a career as a poor man's Jean-Francois Jacques.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
36 Josef Hrabal 8/17/85 248 2003 35 35 38 36 36

How the mancrushes have fallen! Not so long ago, after a few great years with Vsetin in the Czech league and some even better performances with Cherepovets in the RSL, we were shaking the tree and shouting for Hrabel to be brought over. Then he came over, played twenty-five games in the minors, got injured so bad they had to scrape him off the ice with the Zamboni, sat in the press box a lot, and is now with something called "Trinec Ocelari HC", which I hadn't even heard of before I started writing this.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
35 Vyacheslav Trukhno 2/22/87 120 2005 29 36 36 37 37

The Monster Truck, one-time golden boy of the Oilogosphere, is the Oilers' thirty-fifth best player under twenty five. We're probably not going to get too many people arguing, either. Right now his bright spots are things like "better than Bryan Lerg". This guy had seasons of 96 and 102 points in the QMJHL! His AHL production has actually decreased year-to-year! What the hell? Is he developing in reverse like if Benjamin Button played hockey? Is he going to turn twenty-nine and somehow be playing bantam in Red Deer? This pisses me off!

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
34 Aleksandr Bumagin 3/1/87 170 2006 36 34 33 35 35

Currently the ninth-leading scorer for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik (bless you). In 2005 - this is absolutely true - he was rated as a possible first-round pick until he was eventually determined not to be eligible for that year's draft. The Oilers eventually stole him with a sixth-rounder the next year, at which point he politely informed the brass that he's rather play in Hell (or at least Siberia) than Springfield. Now he's twenty-two years old, a role player in the KHL, and even if he wanted to come over it's hard to imagine what we'd do with the kid.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
33 Andrew Perugini 7/12/88 n/a n/a 32 32 44 31 32

What Bryan Pitton would have been if he sucked slightly less. His ECHL save percentage is tied with Pitton's .921, except he's played four AHL games (four bad AHL games, mind) and has a history of occasionally being able to keep the puck out of the net. So he's not a dreadful goaltender, but on the other hand when the Oilers need somebody to keep a place on the bench warm they'd rather have Bryan Pitton than Andrew Perugini. That just has to say something insulting.

On the bright side, judging by the ranking, he apparently slept with Derek's wife.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
32 Robby Dee 4/9/87 86 2005 34 40 25 32 39

Gives a great interview. That's about the only flattering thing I can say about a 22-year-old junior at Maine who gets outscored on his team by a guy named Spencer.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
31 Milan Kytnar 5/19/89 127 2007 28 31 32 33 30

Pros: can skate, was once almost a point-per-game player in the WHL. Cons: is no longer a point-per-game player in the WHL, I keep wanting to spell his name "Kyntar" which counts for negative five points right there. "Kytnar" sounds like the robot from a '30s science fiction short.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
30 Kyle Bigos 5/12/89 99 2009 31 30 30 30 29

The only player on this list I've actually seen play in person. Back in his BCHL days, the joke was that his name was actually spelled "Big 0s" because that's what his scoreline usually looked like. He was pretty good in his two BCHL seasons, but since he was a 6'5" overager with the best tier II junior team in the country he bloody well should have been. We all said that he could never possibly make the NHL. Then the Oilers surprisingly drafted him ninety-ninth overall, he went to Merrimack College, and no, it looks like we were all right after all.

Bonus Kyle Bigos fun fact: when he graduates from Merrimack, he'll be twenty-four. He's also a business major. Maybe he and Matt Glasser should go into business together. Not something hockey related, though. God, no.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
29 Troy Hesketh 7/5/91 71 2009 33 29 28 27 27

Any time you can gas a third-round pick on a raw high school defender who won't play in college until 2011 because he "reads plays well" (you know, against American high schoolers), you have to do it.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
28 Toni Rajala 3/29/91 101 2009 27 28 29 23 28

He's actually not bad! Coming over to the Brandon Wheat Kings this year as an import, Rajala has been a point-per-game player and has firmly entrenched himself on the second line of quite a good junior team. Now, he's 5'10" and softer than butter that's been left in the sun for six hours. That is a problem. But that didn't stop Sam Gagner, eh? Eh? I'm excited about Toni Rajala. I'm writing about the twenty worst prospects in the Oilers system, I have to get excited about something.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
27 Ryan O'Marra 6/9/87 15 2005 20 23 31 28 31

What's stunning isn't that a former first-round pick and blue chip piece of the Ryan Smyth trade is ranked as the twenty-seventh best prospect in the system. It's that at the beginning of the year he'd have been a hell of a lot worse than twenty-seventh. He's showing less terribly than usual in Springfield, got a cup of coffee in the NHL this season, and not only looked pretty good but recorded one more assist than you or I have. Plus, he was born in Tokyo. How great is that? He could have made Team Japan for the Olympics if, you know, Team Japan had any hope of qualifying for the Olympics! I think we can all agree that Ryan O'Marra suiting up for the Japanese at the Division I World Championships would be pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Bruce
Derek
Jon Scott
26
(HM)
Jean-Francois Jacques 4/29/85 68 2003 30 22 26 24 24

Twenty-sixth is the perfect place for Jean-Francois Jacques in our Top Twenty-Five Under Twenty-Five. Not terrible, really, but not quite good enough. Jean-Francois Jacques's entire career is not terrible but not good enough. Injury has robed him of whatever chance he may have had. His historically inept 2006-07 NHL season certainly set expectations low. This year, he has eleven points, or one more than Zack Stortini. On the other hand, per minute of ice time, he's probably the worst plus/minus player on the team. He looks dreadful and the numbers back that up. He's in the NHL, which counts for something, and unlike Ryan O'Marra he'd probably be tearing the cover off the ball in the American league.

But he stinks. And he's twenty-four years old, making it harder and harder to pretend he's a prospect anymore. At some point, the Oilers need to cut the line and throw this guy back. Hopefully that point is soon.