Jérémie Blain has been a mainstay in the mediocre middle of our Top 25 for a while, but that mediocrity has generally been on an upward trajectory. Right after being drafted, we slotted him in at #27, but he quickly rose to #25 and then up to #19 this summer. With the winter edition of the Top 25, the list of players available is usually pretty similar to the list that was available in the summer - no new players have been drafted, and there aren't usually many trades before the start of February, so any change in a player's ranking is usually based on his performance over the last half-season. So what's gone wrong for Blain?
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
As you can see, his decline in the rankings hasn't been unanimous. Of the five returning panelists, three moved Blain down the rankings (Derek down four, Bruce down five, and Jon down twelve), while two moved him up (Ben up six, and Scott up two). In that Jon has him ranked lowest and hammered him down so quickly, I asked him for a brief comment:
My big concern with Jeremie Blain is a simple one, and one that's all too familiar for Oilers fans: injury. He hit a career high 64 games played in his draft year, after managing just 49 the year before. He played 40 games last season, and has already missed time this year. There's no question about his ability but injuries at his age tend to do a number on development, and then on top of that it's probably fair to wonder if he'll be able to stand the rigors of the professional game.
I should say off the top that I agree that injuries are a concern, but I don't buy this as a reason for Blain's fall down the list because this season has probably been Blain's healthiest to date. So far as I can tell, Blain has missed a maximum of five games due to injury so far this year (four consecutive games in November, and one at the end of December but I don't know the reason for any of them). Given that, I don't see why injuries are a much bigger concern now than they were in the summer.
Now, Blain also missed some time because of inappropriate racial remarks, and it seems likely that those comments might have something to do with the fall because his on-ice performance has been pretty darn good. In 29 games with Acadie-Bathurst, Blain registered 24 points including 6 goals on 66 shots (2.3 per game). Blain was then traded to Victoriaville, one of the best teams in the QMJHL. He has played 11 games since the trade and has earned 15 points; his shot rate is down (1.4 per game), but his +9 rating is the best on the team (on a per game basis). Overall, his point per game rate is a very healthy 0.98. That's close to the same rate as last season, so I suppose you could argue that he hasn't shown much offensive progression, and his total is made a little bit less impressive because the QMJHL is a higher-scoring league so far this season (7.10 goals per game compared to 6.85 for the OHL and 6.77 for the WHL). Still, nearly a point per game is a solid offensive performance, and the fact that he's just duplicating last year's total isn't necessarily a bad thing because it demonstrates that his current level is sustainable.
From what I can see, there's no reason to think Blain has taken a significant step back in his on-ice performance. As a right-handed defender, he also has a structural advantage in the Oilers' system because so many of other defenders about his age are lefties. I'm not saying that Blain is guaranteed to make it, but I am excited to see him start his professional career in the Oilers' organization.