Alright, first of all, I want to nip this in the bud. Jujhar Khaira is 25 years old. He turned 25 eight days ago. If you haven’t wished him a happy birthday, the window’s likely closing on wishing him a happy belated. Also, one could argue that because of this, he shouldn’t be on this list. Well, we voted for this list before he turned 25, so you’re going to have to get over it. Though I understand if you want to cancel your nonexistent subscription.
Khaira is awesome, isn’t he? I feel like I interact with a fairly diverse crowd of Oilers fans, and Khaira may be one of the most universally appreciated Oilers. Especially relative to his role on the team and point production.
Old school types love Khaira’s hard-nose’d game. New school folks love Khaira’s ability to bring skill to the bottom of the lineup, or board-play and puck-retrieval to the top of the lineup, when called upon. Also, hockey fans love beards, and Khaira might have the best one in the league. It’s not obnoxiously flashy, it’s just a damn solid display of facial hair growth.
This coming season will be Khaira’s 5th in the league, but he’s only played for a big club for a significant portion of the season in each of the least two years.
Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Khaira has played 129 games in the NHL, scoring 14 goals and adding 25 assists, for 39 points over that span. That equates to a rate of roughly 25 points per 82 games. Obviously that’s nothing special, but it’s also not bad production from the fourth line. And while, Khaira only scored three goals last season, a significant drop from his 11 two years ago, he actually made somewhat of a breakthrough, recording his first positive WAR season. According to Evolving-Hockey, Khaira was worth 0.9 goals above replacement, or 0.2 wins above replacement last season, after drifting around break-even or slightly below replacement over the course of the previous three seasons.
Why’s he on this list?
Because he’s a legitimate NHLer, with a cemented spot on this coming season’s big club. That’s more than the majority of this list can say. There may be one or two guys behind him on the list, with more upside, but there’s also a very real possibility that they’ll never be as useful at the highest level as Khaira is now.
So, why isn’t he higher?
There may be fewer than ten guys under the age of 25 who will have more impact on the 2018-19 Oilers than Khaira. But, the reason he only slots in at number 16, is because of age and upside. At 25, it’s unlikely that Khaira will ever be significantly more valuable than he is right now. It could happen, but I’d be more confortable betting on a 20-year-old who is behind Khaira on a list like this to emerge out of nowhere with unforeseen top-six potential. Khaira’s likely always going to be a bottom-of-the-lineup guy. There are a lot of prospects on this list, but Khaira’s not really one of them. By the time you’re 25 in today’s NHL, you’re probably already in your prime.
So cheers to Jujhar Khaira! He’s not a prospect, he’s an Oiler, who will never again be written about in a top 25 under 25 article. Happy belated, Jujhar!