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The Copper And Blue 2021 Top 25 Under 25: #24 Michael Kesselring

The 6’5’’, 215-lb RHD checks in at #24 in this year’s T25 U25. Have we revealed how few AHL games we watch as a staff?

Edmonton Oilers 2019-2020 Headshots Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Michael Kesselring, a gigantic human who plays the right side of defense, checks in at #24 in this year’s edition of our Top 25 Under 25.

Rankings

2021 C&B Staff Rank 2021 C&B Reader Rank
2021 C&B Staff Rank 2021 C&B Reader Rank
24 20

Full disclosure, until I sat down to write this under deadline this morning, I hadn’t watched but a second of Mike Kesselring playing hockey since at least March of 2020. I’m likely doing myself too much justice there, too, as I can’t really recall the last time I spent meaningful time watching the AHL team. Even when Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear were eating minutes down there.

But, based on about 14 minutes of research, there might just be a player here.

Kesselring, a 2018 sixth round pick, has taken steps forward at every stop. His second season in the USHL saw his points per game soar from 0.16 (0-2-2 in 12 GP) to 0.51 (9-25-34 in 66 GP). He followed a similar trajectory in the NCAA, going from 0.15 (2-3-5 in 34 GP) as a freshman to 0.4 (5-3-8 in 20 GP) as a sophomore before making his professional debut with the Bakersfield Condors last year. There, too, he showed signs of improvement. Kesselring only managed 1-2-3 in 21 AHL games, but backed that up with a solid 0-3-3 in 6 playoff games en route to the Pacific Division title.

He was lining up in a more depth role in his first professional season, so take these numbers and progressions for what they’re worth. He’ll have to command more minutes in Bakersfield before we get too excited, but in the opportunity he has been given, he seems to be acquainting himself well at every stop.

Stylistically, Kesselring is a walking tree, so you might expect some sluggishness out there, and opposing teams to try and target him and exploit it. That was happening in the AHL last season, but he can make plays with his legs at the AHL level:

If you click either of those tweets they’ll take you to a thread about a couple of games in April against the Henderson Silver Knights, Las Vegas’ AHL affiliate. In that thread, you’ll see a couple of smooth Kesselring sequences, and a few replies from Oilers Twitter accounts I know follow the Condors, who have good things to say about Kesselring:

Perhaps we’re wrong about this player. Maybe he deserves to be above names like Philip Berglund based on his potential and the relative dearth of blue-chip talent ahead of him at RD — save Evan Bouchard of course — but maybe not. At this stage he’s still a project, but one who seems to be gaining momentum over the last ~18 months. With his size, he’s an NHL GM’s wet dream, and given his new contract that kicks in this fall and gives the Oilers three more years to develop and evaluate him, he might have an inside track to an NHL future that guys like Berglund don’t.

Time will tell. Until then, expect to see Kesselring trying to really establish himself at the AHL level in 2021-22.