Jujhar Khaira was a bit of a surprise pick by the Oilers in July. The Oilers typically don't take players from the Junior B ranks early in the draft, but Khaira was such an intriguing talent, the Oilers felt the need to grab him in the third round.
When The Copper & Blue voted this summer, the big unknown was Khaira. We collectively placed him 25th (thanks to some real negative nancies) and Alan Hull called him a later-round pick:
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.
Thus far he's delivered on that potential and more. It's safe to say that Khaira is outpacing his draft slot.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Michael||Ryan||Scott|
Alan moved Khaira up 13 spots and he still had the lowest rank. Ben moved him up 5, Bruce up 16!, DB up 14, Jonathan up 13, Ryan up 13 and Scott up 9. But I've got him ranked higher than the rest at #12 after moving him up from 24th. The average move was +12!
I told Scott for his Tobias Rieder article:
There were 9 players better than Colten Teubert, but essentially equal in my eyes, that formed a gob of players who are interchangeable. I put them together on a list and asked which one I would want if I were drafting from that list of 9 and Tobias kept falling down the list.
Teubert was the lower boundary of that 9, Khaira was the upper boundary. After #12, ranking these guys got a bit confusing, but Khaira has separated himself from the pack in just 30 games at Michigan Tech. How?
To start with, he's in a very tough league for a young player, and he's making hay. His NHLE of 23 is nearly double that of the Oilers' second round pick, Mitch Moroz (#36 on our list). Moroz is 6'2 208, and labeled a tough player a mean-spirited power forward. Khaira is 6'3, 195 and has the same reputation:
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.
Has that aggressiveness and nastiness translated to the NCAA? According to Michigan Tech writer Tim Braun, yes:
Early in the season, he did take some foolish penalties when he let his emotions get the best of him. He’s a younger player and he has to learn how closely things will be called at this level and accept how much more physical his opponents are going to be in the WCHA. I think Red Line Report described him appropriately, but he needs to learn to use that aggression positively and within the rules of the game.
So Khaira has the physical traits and personality necessary for a prototypical power forward role, but unlike Moroz, Kharia has the skill to go along with it. He talked about cleaning up his on-ice play in his conversation with Alan Hull and it sounds like he's learning how to throw his weight around in the NCAA:
"I think that is coming with maturity. At the beginning of the year I wasn’t really, I guess, as composed as I should have been. I was taking a number of stupid penalties pushing with guys after the whistles and just stuff like that that I shouldn’t have been doing. I was costing the team at that point. I was taking sometimes as many as two or three penalties in a game, which is obviously hard on the team and my teammates to have to be killing for that many minutes during a game when we could be playing even strength. Even from the standpoint of my own personal development, I wasn’t getting any better sitting in the box all the time, so I’ve been talking with my coaches and some of the other players and I think it is just coming with a bit of maturity. They’ve been explaining to me how to take care of things without doing it after the whistle and putting myself in obvious positions to take a penalty."
Other things to like about the player include his faceoff ability (he's at 49% as a freshman), and his playmaking ability (Khaira ranks third on the Huskies in assists) and his scoring - .66 p/g. Of concern, however is his ability to create shots for himself. Khaira has just 51 shots on goal through 30 games, just 1.7 per game. If he's going to be a goal-scorer, he's going to have to get more shots off.
Alan Hull was the low man (even after a thirteen spot increase) and though he's only one spot back of two other contributors, he explains his reasoning:
I'm a little surprised to find out that I've ranked Khaira the lowest of anyone on our panel. Frankly, I didn't really think I was that hard on him. In fact, based on my opinion of him following the conversation I had with him a couple of weeks ago, I half expected to be among those who had him ranked highest. I think the bottom line with me for Khaira is that I had him below Lander and Fedun where others have him ahead of one or both of those players. My reasoning there is simply that Khaira has a few more hurdles to cross on his route to the NHL than the other two. I think it's pretty obvious the other two will see some NHL time in the next 18 months and will get ample opportunity to establish themselves as regular NHLers. He also needs to continue developing his game in a number of areas and stay healthy while doing it. Something that can be tough for a big physical player, though I grant there is nothing to indicate him as an injury concern at this point in time.
Obviously Derek had him a little bit higher, and I think I understand his reasoning, but I get the feeling I'm a little slower to pass judgement on players from either a positive or negative perspective than some of my colleagues here at C&B. There is no doubt that Khaira could have a substantially higher ceiling than either Fedun or Lander, but I also think there is a significant chance he stalls out and never plays an NHL game. Basically, I have him trending in the right direction, but need to see more before I have a strong opinion about what the likelihood is that he reaches his potential. I currently have him ranked as the team's top forward that is not currently at least a part-time NHLer, but behind some of the team's top defensive prospects and that feels about right to me at this stage in his development.