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#22 - Jujhar Khaira

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The big forward takes a tumble, but still makes the list.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in at #22 on the list is 21-year old Jujhar Khaira, who played his first professional season with the Oklahoma City Barons in 2014-15.

Here's how the C&B crew ranked him.

Ben

Curtis

Jeff

Matt

Ryan

Scott

Shona

Sunil

Zsolt

Zach

21

24

19

19

25

35

12

20

19

22

Previous Rank: 15

Since being drafted in the 3rd round, 63rd overall, in the 2012 draft, Khaira has been projected as a physical, bottom-six type power forward who skates well and can chip in offensively. In the two seasons leading up to the draft, he notched 121 points in 112 games in the BCHL. Following the draft, he went on to Michigan Tech of the WCHA getting 6 goals and 19 assists for 25 points and earned a reputation of being a heavy hitter. He then left after one season to join the Everett Silvertips of the WHL in 2013-2014 to adjust to the NHL game.

Season League Team Games G A P PIM +/-
2010/11 BCHL Prince George 58 10 32 42 21 -
2011/12 BCHL Prince George 54 29 50 79 69 -
2012/13 WCHA Michigan Tech 37 6 19 25 49 -
2013/14 WHL Everett 59 16 27 43 59 +5
2013/14 AHL Oklahoma City 6 0 0 0 2 -1
2014/15 AHL Oklahoma CIty 51 4 6 10 62 -7

There was definitely some pressure from the Oilers management to go this route, which indicates how highly they valued Khaira and the urgency to add someone of his size and skill range to the pipeline. There was a lot of optimism surrounding Khaira in the summer of 2014 when he made quite the impression on management at training camp. If you recall, he was one of the last players to be cut, and received high praise from coaches and management.

Said MacTavish that summer:

"The things that do stand out when you're talking about Jujhar is his strength on the puck and his character. He answered the bell physically." Source

What we've learned since then is that training camp is an awfully small sample size to base long-term decisions on.

This past season Khaira played mainly bottom six minutes for the Barons starting on the fourth line behind Anton Lander, Bogdan Yakimov and Jason Williams at the start of the year and moving up to the third line once Lander was sent to Edmonton. In 51 regular season games, he only scored 4 goals and had 6 assists. An elbow injury in early March ended his season, but Khaira was able to come back for the Calder Cup Playoffs, scoring 3 goals and 1 assist in 8 games.

To be fair to Khaira, there was nothing in his past that indicated that he was some sort of offensive juggernaut here. He was below average in college, below average in the WHL, and appears to be trending the same way in the AHL. Jonathan Willis wrote an excellent piece recently really hammering home the point that Khaira has to start chipping in offensively to keep pace with the other forwards and remain a legitimate prospect in the system.

The big concern with Khaira should be how quickly he was rushed out of college and then the WHL. He didn't spend nearly enough time developing, with the Oilers appearing to have a hand in getting him out of programs that they may not have liked (See: Draisaitl, Leon).

So why is he still part of the C&B Top 25 list?

Because he brings an element that is still lacking in the Oilers crop of forwards: size.

It's a trait this organization has long been obsessed with and will be Khaira's ticket into the NHL, especially under the current regime.The good news is there's healthy competition for Khaira as he'll be competing with guys like Leon Draisaitl and Bogdan Yakimov for that "center-with-size" title. Yakimov has the benefit of having played 33 games in the KHL prior to this past season and performed well for the Barons. Draisaitl is coming off an excellent year in the WHL and will be pushing to make the opening night roster. It's hard to envision any free passes for Khaira, but his size will always be front and center when management makes decisions regarding ice time in the AHL and any future callups.

Khaira will have to have a strong training camp and put up a lot more points in the AHL to demonstrate his progression and, more importantly, make it into the next Top 25. This is a big year for him, making his performance in Bakersfield something to track in 2015-2016.