With the Young Stars Classic underway in Penticton prospects are on the minds of a lot of Oilers fans right now, and so thought that this would be a great time to kick off another round of the Top 25 Under 25. Well, everyone except Derek. Since we last went through the Oilers prospect pool in February and March of this season we've added some new faces names to the list, mostly via the draft, and had to take others off because they were either traded like Same Gagner, the only player not named Taylor Hall to land at #1 on this list turn 25, or turned 25 and are no longer eligible like Luke Gazdic.
Zsolt will get everything started tomorrow with the player we ranked at 25, but before we get to that I thought I'd take a quick look at the players who just missed out on getting their names included on this illustrious list.
#30 - Iiro Pakarinen
If this 23 year old from Finland ends up making it to the NHL one day he will have taken a very non-standard route. After being passed over in this 18 and 19 year old seasons, the Panthers took a shot on Pakarinen in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, but he went unsigned over the next two years becoming a free agent which is how he landed with the Oilers organization this summer. Hockey's Future described his game like this:
Pakarinen plays like a demon in tight spots, and his stick handling ability and skating agility compares favorably to any of the top young players in Finland. Rather than focus on artistic playmaking, however, Pakarinen prefers the physical elements of the game. Offensively, he does have a hard, accurate shot which suggests he could be a dangerous sniper. While his physical style explains his pedestrian offensive numbers, that abrasiveness has gained him both attention and notoriety from scouts. As coaches and scouts will tell you, it's easier to tone down a player who is too aggressive than it is to try and instill competitiveness.
That's a player I'd be happy to see play for the Oilers, but so far, if you look at his counting numbers, there really hasn't much to get excited about outside of last season. Perhaps he's just finding his stride, or maybe it was a blip, until we know more he stays on the outside looking in.
#29 - Jordan Oesterle
This undrafted defenceman from the Western Michigan Broncos joined the Oilers organization in March, and spent the remainder of the season with the Oklahoma City Barons, playing in four games. Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray (yes, that Andy Murray) talked to Jim Matheson about Oesterle:
I know if Jordan had stayed another year with us, about 20 (NHL) teams would have been interested in signing him…his skating is exceptional, good vision, competes hard defensively, smart player, outstanding student. I’d say he needs to put on a little bit more muscle mass.
More Top 25 Under 25
At 6'0" and 185 pounds there's probably some truth to what Murray has to say. Of course size isn't everything but it certainly helps when transitioning from playing against college kids to grown men in the AHL. If Oesterle can put on some weight and keep the other aspects of his game in check that will help him establish himself as a legitimate AHL defender. And at 22 years old there is still plenty of time for him to climbing in our rankings, and to make it to the NHL.
#28 - Zachary Nagelvoort
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft, at 111 overall, Nagelvoort joins the Oilers from the University of Michigan where he posted a 0.929 save percentage in 24 games last season. We'll be waiting a long time for Nagelvoort to start making his way through the pro ranks, likely after three more years of college, so it wait and see for now. Given how much voodoo is involved in goalie development, and how far away his is from not only the NHL, but pro hockey in general, I was surprised by the agreement among our 12 voters on Nagelvoort, most had him within a couple of spots of his #28 ranking.
#27 - Mitch Moroz
Drafted 32nd overall by the Oilers in 2012, Moroz is a power forward type of player. He's a big body and he's physical, sometimes that translates into good things, other times it does not. In his last season with the Oil Kings, Moroz was a key component of their Memorial Cup winning squad scoring 35 goals and 28 assists in 70 regular season games and another 6 and 13 in 21 playoff games.
Where there was some agreement on Nagelvoort, there was none on Moroz. Seven of the 12 voters had him inside the Top 25 proper, but the real variation was in the actual rankings; 26 spots separated the highest rank from the lowest. Probably safe to say that is the widest gap in Top 25 history. Personally I had him at #20, in large part because of how I feel the organization views him and that I think they'll give him every chance to succeed, that's just my view though. There is certainly an argument to be made that until he does something as a pro that a higher ranking is just wishful thinking at best. Either way, once we've seen him play some games in the AHL we'll have a better idea of exactly where he belongs.
#26 - Ben Betker
Ben Betker is a monster on the ice. At 6'6" he is an very large body on the Everett Silvertips' blue line, and hopefully will be the same for the Oilers one day as well. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by the Oilers and has climbed from very near the bottom of our ranking a year ago to being on the bubble this time around. Why the jump? Well a lot of it has to do with his improved scoring totals. Bruce McCurdy summarized Betker's improvements quite well over at the Cult of Hockey:
One measurable improvement came in the scoring columns, where his 7-14-21 might not ring any loud bells but was a massive improvement on his 1 goal and 6 points in a similar 68 games his freshman campaign. More significant is the fact that every single one of Betker’s points came at even strength; in fact he led the Silvertips blue in even strength scoring even as his boxcars paled in comparison to 20-year-old powerplay specialist Matt Pufahl’s 15 goals and 50 points.
When Betker was draft he was just a big body, now he's starting to look more and more like a big body who can also play the game. He still needs to improve, his skating needs some work, but there's potential there now. There's a player that we can see. Just not quite enough of one to crack the Top 25. Not this time at least.