Background and History
Drafted in the 63rd overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Jujhar Khaira is one of relatively few players in the Top 25 Under 25 who spent last season on the NHL. In 2018-2019, Khaira played 69 games for the Oilers. Khaira’s performance for the Oilers in 2017-2018 was one of few high notes for the club. Previous to last season, Khaira spent most of the two previous seasons in the AHL with a few NHL games played.
Last season, Khaira scored 11 goals and added 10 assists playing in a primarily shut down role. Looking like he was out to prove he was an NHL regular, Khaira earned praise from fans, media, and the Oilers. And as expected, in his enhanced role, Kharia tallied career highs in both categories. Unafraid to play physically, the fact Khaira only tallied 47 penalty minutes is a bit surprising… but a pleasant surprise. Khaira plays a smart game where he’s aware of what needs to be done but isn’t looking to build a reputation as an enforcer.
A physically imposing player at 6’4” and 214 lbs, Khaira isn’t afraid to fight when the situation warrants. Another element of his game which endears him to Oilers fans who all too often feel like their star players are being taken advantage of by other teams.
All of these characteristics add up to a reliable bottom six forward for the Oilers… and one they drafted.
We here at Copper and Blue finally seem to agree on the general ranking of a player. With a low rank of 9th and a high rank of 7th, Khaira seems to be one of those players that everyone agrees has potential and we will be seeing more from. Unlike several other players on the list, Khaira is more of a known quantity which might explain why his ranking is fairly stable across the Copper and Blue writers.
Why He Made the List
Well, it would be pretty stupid of us to leave one of the few players the Oilers have developed successfully off the list. Khaira has shown excellent growth over the last season. From being benched early in the season to playing on Connor McDavid’s line at the end of the season, Khaira managed a marked improvement in play while adjusting to the NHL.
As mentioned before, he managed career highs in goals and assists and played himself into a regular position on the Oilers roster. All of these come together in the shape of a reliable bottom six forward who can contribute offensively every once in a while. Khaira is a talented player who seems most suited to be a role player for the Oilers.
Khaira has shown that he makes good decisions with the puck (the majority of the time), has decent speed and size, and kills penalties well. When this is added to Khaira’s work ethic and the mythical quality of grit, his ranking at 7 is more easily understood.
The Oilers, and fans, will most probably be looking for some modest increase to Khaira’s numbers in the 2018-2019 season. If he builds off last season’s success and stays injury free, Khaira should be able to build on last season’s numbers.
Khaira has experience and likely will continue to play in the Oilers bottom six this season. Who exactly Khaira will be playing with remains up in the air, but his assumed inclusion on the Oilers roster shows the step forward he took last season.
Why He Made the List at 7
Many players on the Top 25 Under 25are younger and less proven; they are still adjusting to playing pro or young enough to be in junior. Khaira is not one of those players; he’s a player that has at least one season of NHL experience. The idea of being a proven talent can weigh heavily into calculations.
However, Khaira is in the 7th spot because he’s a bottom six forward who doesn’t have the higher ceiling of some of the Oilers’ other prospects and players. While some recently drafted players are more of a gamble in the rankings, they also could turn out to be top six players.
Khaira’s a known quantity. He’s ranked as high as he is because of his recent successes and the expectation that he will continue to play a bottom six role with the Oilers. This next season with the Oilers should demonstrate if Khaira’s first full NHL season will be the norm for him or if it was a one off. Turing 25 in 2019, Khaira will be exiting the list but may still give Oilers fans reasons to be excited.