When Alan wrote about the trade that sent Tobias Rieder to Phoenix in exchange for Kale Kessy, he gave Steve Tambellini and Co. a less than stellar review. After all, Rieder has a mammoth offensive season in 2011-12, and had recovered somewhat after a slow start in 2012-13. Kale Kessy, by contrast, doesn't quite have the same offensive acumen, which led Alan to describe him as a "low-skill face-puncher".
That characterization no doubt comes from a place of despair at the Oilers again trading for what would seem to be the clearly inferior hockey player (I don't dispute this), but "low-skill face-puncher" probably sells Kessy a little bit short. With 49 points in 64 games so far this season, Kessy has demonstrated that he's got at least some hockey skills. When we place that season alongside Cameron Abney, Travis Ewanyk, and Mitch Moroz (who is, admittedly, a year younger), it's actually the best offensive season that any of them has had to date. That doesn't make it good, of course, but with all of these guys in the system, it's worth noting that Kessy is ahead of the pack in terms of offense.
And if we look for some comparable players, there is a small glimmer of hope. To start, I looked for players who played in the CHL, and were drafted within ten spots of Kessy (between 101 and 121) sometime over the last decade in their first year of eligibility. I then wanted to make sure that the players showed similar offense and notable physical play, and thus was looking for players within 0.15 adjusted points of Kessy's 0.38 (regular season and playoffs adjusted to a league that has 6.86 goals per game) and at least 1.4 penalty minutes per game. It turns out that there were seven players (plus Kessy) who met this criteria:
That's a bunch of guys who didn't amount to much, plus Marcus Foligno who is currently playing in Buffalo's top nine and chipping in offense at a reasonable rate. Kessy is tracking behind Foligno here, and two years down the road, that's still the case (the point per game numbers below are again adjusted to a league that has 6.86 goals per game):
Kessy's season is still in progress, so his "Draft Year +2" number will shift a little. It won't shift enough for him to catch Foligno nor will it fall so far that this season is anything but a giant step forward offensively. Will he be able to hit Foligno's "Draft Year +3" number (0.67 points per game) in the AHL next season? Probably not as that would take another huge leap. We're talking a very low percentage shot here, and while I'd say that Rieder's chances were better, it's not like the young German was a blue chipper. If the Oilers think that Kessy's offense will translate particularly well to pro hockey (and I figure they must), there's reason to believe that they made this deal looking for a guy who can one day play surly top nine minutes in the NHL. So long as that's the goal (as opposed to filling out the fourth line), I can at least understand why this trade was made even if I wouldn't make it myself.