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Oilers December NHLE: It's Darnell Nurse and Overagers

Nurse is putting up offense, but the cupboard is bare save for the overagers.

Bruce Bennett

Let's get this one out of the way right now: if you've come here looking for optimism, this isn't the article for you. As bleak as things are at the NHL level, things have gone bad, very bad, in the pipeline. So if you're looking for sunshine, rainbows and unicorn butts, turn back now.

For a complete look at all of the Oilers' prospects and their NHL numbers, we can use Gabriel Desjardins' NHL Equivalency. Gabe's methodologies are described on his translations page:

One way to evaluate the difficulty of one league relative to another is to examine the relative performance of players who have played in both leagues. Players rarely play significant time in two leagues in the same year, but they often play in one league in one year and in another the next. As long as a player’s skill level is approximately constant over this two year period, the ratio of his performance in each league can be used to estimate the relative difficulty of the two leagues.

Below is the full list of skating prospects with their NHL Equivalency and full season projections.

Forward NHL PPG NHL82 G NHL82 A NHL82 P
Teemu Hartikainen 0.54 21 23 44
Toni Rajala 0.49 20 20 40
Kellen Jones 0.48 16 23 39
John McCarron 0.45 9 28 37
Anton Lander 0.34 17 11 28
Gregory Chase 0.33 14 14 28
Marc Roy 0.33 5 22 27
Mitch Moroz 0.27 13 9 22
Jackson Houck 0.25 12 8 20
Bogdan Yakimov 0.25 10 10 20
Andrew Miller 0.21 5 12 17
Jujhar Khaira 0.19 7 8 15
Aidan Muir 0.19 7 9 16
Anton Slepyshev 0.18 7 7 14
Curtis Hamilton 0.17 8 6 14
Ryan Martindale 0.16 4 9 13
Kyle Platzer 0.13 5 5 10
Daniil Zharkov 0.08 3 3 6
Kale Kessy 0.07 2 4 6
Travis Ewanyk 0.06 3 2 5
Cameron Abney 0.06 2 3 5
Evan Campbell 0.03 3 0 3

The best performances have been turned in by those forwards the organization has chased off. Hartikainen's KHL season has been quite good, and Rajala is the leading scorer for HV71, despite starting 12 games into the season. Combine that with Tobias Rieder's 14 points in 22 games as a 20-year-old in the AHL and the Oilers did a nifty job of chasing off real offense in just 4 months.

With what the organization has lost out of the way, take a look at what's left. Jones, McCarron, Moroz, and even Lander, to an extent are all overaged playing in lesser leagues and their numbers have ballooned this season. I'm a big fan of McCarron and hope that he finds his niche in the corners and in front in the NHL. Their is some hope that Chase and Yakimov will pan out, and Chase's numbers in particular should lend some perspective to the overaged Moroz' "outburst".

As you look at the bottom of the list, remember that Ewanyk and Abney were 3rd round picks and Kessy was acquired in exchange for the aforementioned Rieder. It's certainly not their fault that they were drafted far too soon or acquired by a bad general manager for a good player, but it's incredibly frustrating to see pro contracts wasted on these fellows:

...the NHL is an efficiency contest and the teams that get the most bang for their buck will be the ones most likely to succeed. This applies to everywhere that teams are limited in some way. The salary cap is the most obvious place where efficiency matters, each team can only spend X dollars. But the same thinking should be applied to other aspects of the game like the distribution of contracts.

Oh well, on to the next:

Defender NHL PPG NHL82 G NHL82 A NHL82 P
Joey Laleggia 0.27 10 12 22
Darnell Nurse 0.27 6 16 22
Erik Gustafsson 0.24 0 20 20
Taylor Fedun 0.24 4 15 20
Brad Hunt 0.23 4 15 19
Dillon Simpson 0.22 5 13 18
Martin Gernat 0.17 0 14 14
Martin Marincin 0.12 4 6 10
Ben Betker 0.08 2 4 7
David Musil 0.06 0 5 5
Oscar Klefbom 0.05 0 4 4
Brandon Davidson 0.03 0 2 2

There's a little bit of hope here, but not much more. Darnell Nurse is putting up more offense, as we expected him to, and Dillon Simpson is chugging along as North Dakota's leader on the ice and in the scoring column among defensemen. There is an ever-growing concern amongst the fanbase that Simpson is going to skip out on the Oilers and test free agency, but the Oilers still have 8 months to figure that out.

Other than that, the defensive pipeline is slowly becoming a "stay-at-home" factory and the lack of production from second and third-round picks is a concern.

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