The first entry in our Top 25 countdown is a new arrival acquired with the 63rd pick in the 2012 draft. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that Jujhar Khaira's presence on this list comes as a bit of a surprise to some readers, especially when they see some of the names that were left off the list. The summer version of the Top 25 Under 25 is more difficult to determine than the winter version of the list because we are incorporating a set of new players, most of whom have not been tracked in detail by anyone beyond the amateur scouting services.
We have certainly learned more about him in the days since the draft, but Khaira is still someone we don't know all that much about, primarily due to where he played last season. In some cases mystery and intrigue can actually help boost the image of a player, while in others, a lack of familiarity and hype can give off the impression that there is no reason to get overly excited.
That said, our panel seems to have come to some form of a consensus about this player because the opinions on his slotting vary much less than many others in the bottom part of our list. After the jump we will take a look at the young man from Surrey, BC.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
Previous Rank: N/A
Though he was off-the-radar for many of us prior to being selected by the Oilers, Jujhar Khaira had a pretty solid season in 2011/12. He posted 29g-50a-79p in 54 games playing for the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL. He also showed tremendous improvement from his "Draft -1" season, where he had just 10 goals and 42 points in 58 games. This is certainly not uncommon given the age of players prior to being drafted and the amount that they can develop both physically and intellectually within the span of a year. That said, seeing that sort of improvement is better than the alternative, and that improvement helped him to earn a final ranking as the 74th best skater among North Americans according to Central Scouting prior to the draft this past June.
I think this player may have gotten a negative stigma attached to him coming out of the draft because of the general sense of displeasure with the Oilers' performance at the draft table this year. The team spent half of their the picks on prospects with similar body types and skill sets in an attempt to find a legitimate power forward. While I don't agree with the approach, I have no problem with the selection of this specific player. He is just the kind of guy that I believe in picking in the later rounds of a draft, a guy who falls into that "Boom or Bust" philosophy of drafting. He certainly has a lot of work to do if he ever hopes to make the NHL, but that scoring profile in the BCHL combined with 6'2.75" and194 lb. suggests that he has the raw physical tools to develop into a very significant player if he reaches his potential.
Here is what Redline Report had to say about him prior to the draft:
At Red Line, we believe this kid could be the biggest/best sleeper of the entire draft. Prince George is so far off the beaten path teams don’t even travel there for WHL games, much less BCHL contests, so he gets zero exposure. But this kid is big, mean, aggressive, nasty, and guess what… he can score too. Does the dirty work in the corners, bangs bodies and wins battles, and loves to initiate heavy contact. Powerful stride with great balance and gets leverage on his hits. Has surprisingly soft hands and puck skills with playmaking ability. Creates lots of space for smaller teammates and makes everyone braver. Very raw defensively.
Khaira is slated to begin his career in the NCAA next season at Michigan Tech. The US College route seems like a smart path for this player as it gives him up to four years to work on his craft before the Oilers have to make a decision on him, which should benefit both the team and the player in this case. At the same time, should he take a quantum leap forward, the ability to turn pro at some point along the road is also possible.
As for why he ranks on our list instead of many of those who didn't, I can't say exactly. You'll notice that only three of our eight panelists had him included in their personal top 25, so it seems that Khaira benefited from the fact that there is at least a measure of consensus around the fact that he shows some potential. No rankings above 20, but also none below 30. The fact that there are a number of other prospects who received a more divergent set of rankings actually helped him slide into the number 25 spot. His "Draft +1" season at Michigan Tech will go a long way in determining whether or not he makes a repeat appearance on this list in the new year.