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David Musil Misses the Cut

The young defenceman finds himself outside of the Top 25 Under 25 list for the first time in his career. What's up with that?

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Just missing the list this year is defenceman David Musil, who will be playing his third professional season this fall after being selected 31st overall in 2011. At one point, Musil was ranked as high as 11th on the C&B list, but has now dropped to 27th. He's often been criticized for lacking NHL skating ability, but has been recognized as being an intelligent player that can make outlet passes (at least at the AHL level).

Here's how the C&B contributors ranked him. Six of the ten contributors, myself included, ranked him in our top 25. I ranked him the highest at 22nd, while Zach ranked him the lowest at 30th.





















Previous Rank: 22

I should note that my own rankings were based on who I thought had the best chance of becoming an NHL regular. And I also looked for how well the players have developed and if there were any signs of regression in the past season. I like Musil as a prospect as he performed reasonably well last year in the AHL and has the type of skill and character that the Oilers value very highly.

Last summer, coach Todd Nelson had this to say about young Musil (Source: Cult of Hockey):

I have to tell you, I like the way he battles in the corners; he's definitely strong enough to play up there. What impressed me about him is that he makes better decisions with the puck than I thought he had in him. He's able to try and make the right play; it's a matter of execution because of skill level, that's a different matter, but if he keeps a simple game... it's his footspeed. With David it's a matter of being able to handle a guy like Phil Kessel coming down the wing. We've seen guys in the NHL in the past that weren't overly quick; for David that's something where hopefully he matures and gets quicker as he gets older, but he's a guy I could see playing some games next year.

It's been comments like this that have kept me optimistic about Musil's chances of making it. He's not going to provide much offensively and skating is something he'll have to work on. But he appears to have the tools and ability to carve a role on the third pairing and penalty kill. I tend to be less critical of defensive prospects since they often take longer to develop, and fully expect Musil to become a regular in his late twenties.

Playing predominantly in a shut-down role in Oklahoma City last season, Musil was second in games played (65) and notched 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists, +2 rating). This is near identical to the production he had in his first professional season when he notched 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists, -2 rating) in 61 games . Points are somewhat irrelevant to assess a player like Musil whose primary role will be to play the tough minutes and suppress shots against. Unfortunately, we don't have detailed AHL stats available. But thanks to Eric Rodgers of Tend the Farm, who tracked goals based on team-strength, we know that Musil had an even-strength goals-for percentage of 51.3 (third among defenceman with more than 10 games played).

Eric also had this to say about Musil:

Most improved defenseman last season, saw a lot of things trending upward in position and play. Don't think it'll be enough to solidify a constant Top 4 spot right away, but if he continues what he was doing, he'll be fighting with Oesterle, Simpson, and Davidson on a full-time basis soon.

Musil did play in four NHL games this past season as an emergency call-up when Nikitin was sidelined and notched two secondary assists (one at even-strength, and the other on an empty-net goal). Obviously a small sample size, but we can see how Musil did game-to-game and how the team utilized him.

David Musil (Even-strength, 5v5)
Date Opponent Result CF% (Rel) CF/CA ZSO% (Rel)
4/4/2015 CGY 4-0 L 46.2% (-11.7) 18/-21 66.7% (+8.6)
4/7/2015 LA 4-2 W 45.2% (+8.4) 14/-17 25.0% (-21.7)
4/9/2015 S.J. 3-1 L 36.0% (+0.6) 18/-32 54.5% (-1.7)
4/11/2015 VAN 6-5 OTL 55.9% (+3.3) 19/-15 50.0% (-5.0)

Outside of the game against San Jose when Nelson rolled him against Joe Thornton, those aren't exactly terrible numbers considering Musil's role. Worth noting that Musil started a lot of shifts in his own zone and was predominantly paired with Martin Marincin over those four games (Source: Hockey Analysis). He played some special teams getting time on the penalty kill and did okay. He didn't make any grand statements in his brief stint with the big club and showed signs of being a rookie, but I don't think he really hurt his stock either.

Musil really was close to making the Top 25 list. The fact is there are a lot of good prospects in the system that play a much more exciting brand of hockey. But if Musil can take another step in his development, improving his skating, limiting the chances against and earning more ice-time in Bakersfield, he'll be back in the top 25 in no time. This is a make or break season for Musil, who will be a restricted free-agent next summer and will need to clear waivers in 2016/17. It'll be up to him to take that next step and earn his next contract based on merit.

Others who missed the cut:

Caleb Jones, selected in the fourth round in 2015, is described as a good two-way defenceman, projecting to be a depth player down the road. He played the past two season for the US National Team Development Program in the USHL scoring 15 points in 58 games. Courtesy of Elite Prospects:

Possesses a tireless motor and is aggressive on the blue-line. Physicality and board battles are the anchors that hold his game together. Works hard in all situations and is a step ahead in problem solving. Exhibits good mobility, a quick, accurate shot from the point, and an active stick. All-in-all, a heads-up defenseman who plays a solid, smart all-around game.

Oiler fans will be able follow his development as he'll be playing for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL this coming season and should be pushing for a spot on the US National team at the upcoming World Junior's.

John Marino, selected in the sixth round in 2015, will likely be playing in the USHL for the Tri-City Storm. The American defenceman was at one point committed to Yale, but appears to have selected the junior league route instead. Marino has received some glowing reviews and was even ranked 63rd by Central Scouting prior to the draft. From SB Nation College Hockey:

He does a nice job bringing the puck out of his own zone and is effective on zone entries into the opposition's end. He's the type of player that can hold on to the puck due to his agility, stick skills and awareness of his surroundings on the ice.

He's played the past two seasons with the South Shore Kings of the 11-team US Premier Hockey League, notching 45 points in 83 games. He'll be worth keeping an eye on over the next 12 months.

Zaiyat Paigin, selected in the final round in 2015, is a 6"6", 209 lb, physical defenceman who played 33 games in the KHL last season for Kazan Ak-Bars, notching a couple of points. He plays  a simple game and has represented Russia at the World Junior's. Most scouting reports describe his size and intensity with International Scouting Services ranking him 112th overall prior to the draft.

Paigin's upside is based around his raw frame and active, intense defensive game. Long active stick and angles well, needs to focus on foot speed and mobility which will benefit when he adds muscle to his massive frame. Thrives in physical play, likes to finish hits and mix it up along the wall. Can be beat wide by quick opposition forwards catching him on the pivot. Decent skill-set on the puck, although at his best when he simplifies his game. Good shot although not much upside in this department at the next level. (Source: Cult of Hockey)

He's set to play his second season in the KHL this fall.