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The Top 25 Under 25 - Luke Gazdic Edition

Chris Austin-USA TODAY Sports

We looked at six players this morning, one of whom will make it through to the Top 25, and we've got another six hopefuls this afternoon. Once again, five of these guys didn't make the cut, but one of them did. Will the fans pick the same player as the panelists? Let's look at each candidate a little bit closer to help sort things out.

Luke Gazdic: Say what you want about Luke Gazdic's ability as an NHL hockey player, the man is currently playing in the best league int he world and the club he's playing for seems pleased with his performance. Granted, he has been one of Edmonton's least effective players in all zones (Edmonton's Fenwick percentage with Gazdic on the ice is an abysmal 36.9%), but the coach has known that for a while and has nevertheless dressed Gazdic in 52 of Edmonton's 58 games this season. If, for you, this vote is about which player is most likely to hit 200 NHL games, Gazdic wins by a mile. Last Ranking: N/A.

Curtis Hamilton: There was a very brief ray of optimism with regard to Hamilton after he had a four-game burst at the end of December and beginning of January that saw him score five goals and an assist on eighteen shots with the Barons. Even the Oilers wrote a positive story about him. Then he got hurt. Again. It was terrible timing, but the reality is that those four games are the outlier on Hamilton's season (he has three points and seventeen shots in the other seventeen games), and we'd need to see that kind of performance for a much longer stretch of time to start getting excited. In that this is the last year of his entry-level deal, he may not have that luxury. Last Ranking: #39.

Jackson Houck: He got off to a very slow start offensively with just three points in his first twelves games, and though Houck has recovered somewhat as the year has gone on, he has now gone eight consecutive games without a point. Houck already has more goals this season than he did all of last year, but his points per game has actually taken a slight dip from 0.83 to 0.76. That's a pretty poor Draft +1 season, but I wonder how much the assault charges stemming from a summer party have impacted his performance. Last Ranking: #26.

Kellen Jones: with 35 points in 30 games, Jones is having his best offensive season with Quinnipiac (one of the best teams in the NCAA) in his senior year. He is currently tied for the team lead in points and is now a candidate for the Hobey Baker award, which is given out each year to the best player in the NCAA. I've kind of assumed that the Oilers would pass on signing Jones for a while, but I'm getting less and less sure. I actually like his brother Connor a little better (he's generally regarded as being grittier; he's got a better shot rate this season (4.0 per game compared to 3.4 per game); and their career point production is about equal), but given that they've both come to Edmonton's summer prospect camps, I could see the Oilers deciding to sign both of them. Last Ranking: #45.

Kale Kessy: His offense definitely hasn't come with him from junior, which means his most likely path to the NHL is to become the next Luke Gazdic. There are several problems with this: Gazdic just got here and isn't looking to be replaced; even if Kessy succeeds, he probably won't be a positive contributor in any measurable categories; this role is slowly fading away from the NHL for guys who can't play a regular shift; and he's not currently an intimidating fighter at the AHL level. That's a lot to overcome. Last Ranking: #41.

Daniil Zharkov: The Russian winger is playing in the KHL with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, which I suppose is a positive, but he hasn't done much to convince me that his poor Draft +1 season in the OHL (he had 0.72 points per game) should be overlooked. Zharkov has just four points in forty-nine games so far this season, playing only 6:44 per night. Every scouting report I've seen says that he's got talent, but that kind of limited ice time sure doesn't seem like a good way to harness it. Last Ranking: #29.

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