First off I must say that this is by far the best group of prospects that I can recall on the Oilers in my time as an Oilers fan. Besides Hall there are a number of promising kids that could wind up being stars or even superstars. Players that IMO have the potential to be stars are in BLUE. Players that I expect to at least see some NHL action down the line are in ORANGE. The players that aren't in either color are too early to call. 1) Lw/C Taylor Hall Obviously the first overall pick is more often than not seen as a teams top prospect. Hall's speed, skill, and tenacious attitude makes him not only our top prospect but likely the best bet to be our teams best player for many years to come once he adapts to the NHL game. 2) Lw/Rw Magnus Paajarvi A player that could easily be considered the top prospect on a number of teams, at the moment Oilers fans and management should be thanking a number of teams that allowed the big Scandinavian to fall to the 10th overall pick. Teams need more than one star player to succeed in this league, Paajarvi could be that player to compliment Hall for many years to come.
3) C/Rw Tyler Pitlick I'm going against the grain on this one as most people would consider Eberle a shoo in for the third best Oilers prospect. However I see Pitlick as having the size, speed, skill, and his ability to play and excel at the physical side of the game and because of these things I take his upside over the kid with what could be the best set of hands on the team or in the farm. 4) Rw Jordan Eberle Despite selecting Pitlick over him, it is no slight against Eberle at all. Eberle's hands, hockey IQ, and the fact that he always seems to shown well when it matters the most makes him a somewhat unique mixture of skills and traits in this organization. However as with current Oiler Sam Gagner one has to wonder if he can overcome the fact that he isn't an average sized NHL player and that he isn't one of the most fleet of foot players either. I believe that he can, but until he shows us all what he can do at the NHL level consistently as a twenty year old I consider him our fourth best prospect. 5) D Jeff Petry At one point I had Petry ahead of Eberle. Petry is a very good skating and puck moving defenseman with above average height. The biggest reason that I decided to drop him is that he has yet to add the muscle mass needed to become a top pairing defenseman or at least a very good number three d-man. He will be twenty three years old this year so he needs to get a jump on that as unlike guys like Abney and Marincin, he's well out of his teenage years.
6) D Martin Marincin Size, skating ability, a good stick defensively, and offensive upside, there is lots to like about Martin Marincin. Marincin in my eyes really showed well at the rookie tournament in Penticton. He has filling out to do and he needs more experience, but the tools to be a very good defenseman are already in place. This is a kid that could go surging up the rankings once guys like Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle graduate. 7) C/Lw Anton Lander Anton Lander projects to be a solid two way center that could have second line upside. He also has good size, is strong on the puck, and has befriended both ends of the rink unlike some boom/bust offensive talents. At worst he's a solid third line center in the mold of Shawn Horcoff however with a bit more skill and physical play.
8) Lw Linus Omark Yet another puck magician that the Oilers drafted, Omark has a number of positives to his game, he's build like a brick shit house, he has exceptional hands, and he plays a fearless style despite being far below NHL average in terms of height. Omark could end up becoming a solid top six forward for the Oilers, or he could end up moving on to another organization if he doesn't fit well here. Some AHL seasoning could be in the cards, however unlike in the past it would be my hope that if Omark tears it up in OKC that he gets the call to come back up for a stint. 9) D Alex Plante Plante still could use more speed but he is already a big boy that likes to play the physical game and has both a good breakout pass and a booming shot from the point. Plante still needs more AHL seasoning but he looks like he could be a player which is a far cry from where he was the year after he was drafted. 10) Lw/Rw Teemu Hartikainen A bull in a china shop would be a good way to describe Hartikainen, unlike a number of European players this kid likes to play the body and play in traffic. Combine that with a good set of hands and you have a kid that could become a fixture in the Oilers bottom six for many years.
11) C Ryan Martindale A big kid with a lot of skill, the Ryan Martindale project could pay significant dividends if he gets faster and develops a consistent work ethic. The Oilers could really use another big and skilled center to eventually compliment Tyler Pitlick, Martindale will have a lot of opportunity to become that player in 3-4 years.
12) G Olivier Roy The Oilers top goaltending prospect, Roy showed well in the rookie tournament and to end the year in Springfield last season. Roy could be Canada's starter for the WJC's, hopefully he can take that experience and become a big game goaltender, something that the Oilers really lack at this point. 13) C/Lw Chris Vande Velde Another guy with a limited upside but a guy that can fill a number of roles and do so very well eventually. Probably a third line player on a good team, Vande Velde brings a mixture, of size, speed, strength, and offensive ability to go along with his solid faceoff prowess and good two way play. Vande Velde will one day play a part on this team as a depth player, championship caliber clubs need these types of players on top of the Hall's of the world.
14) Lw Curtis Hamilton A bit rough around the edges and a long way from reaching where he needs to be, he was selected just two picks behind Marincin and although defensemen usually take longer to develop, Hamilton is the one that looks like the project. That being said he has size and can skate well for a big man. One has to wonder how much injuries has slowed his development and just how well he'll do this season if he can kick the rust off.
15) D Troy Hesketh Having not seen much of this player this is just a hunch on my part. Hesketh has size and is quite mobile for a bigger defenseman. This season in Fargo of the USHL will be very telling for Hesketh's potential. Will he have Jeff Petry type numbers? It was said that when he was drafted he was projected to grow because of the size of some of the men in his family, at this point he's nineteen and still listed at 6'2" tall. If he does hit a growth spurt and reaches 6'4" or taller it could really benefit him long term especially if he can keep his agility.
16) Rw Toni Rajala A speedy offensive player who lacks in the size department, Rajala has the tools to eventually make it to the NHL. That said it won't be anytime soon. He could be the next Linus Omark for the Oilers. A player that took some additional time in Europe to grow his game and his value before coming to North American ice. The good thing with Rajala is that he played a year in the rough and tumble WHL last year so that should ultimately benefit him when he returns to this side of the pond.
17) Rw Cameron Abney A big kid with a big right hand, Abney skates well for a player in his role. Eventually we'll need a heavyweight that won't cost us on the ice. The Oilers can afford to ice a guy like MacIntyre now in a rebuild, but when they start thinking beyond the first round of the postseason they will need a guy that can go out, crash and bang, and not get caught flat footed. Abney looks like a good bet to become a very effective fourth line enforcer once he fills out his frame.
18) D Theo Peckham Peckham has leveled off of late and the promise that he showed in his rookie and sophomore seasons in Springfield looks to have been flashes of what he could be if he put in the time and work to do so. At this point he looks like a bottom pairing defenseman that's tough as nails. Nothing wrong with that, however if he could've improved his skating and worked on his puck skills he could've been a number four defenseman. With the likes of Plante, Petry, and Marincin coming up the ranks, Peckham needs to make hay now or find himself in the AHL or in another organization.
19) D Taylor Chorney Like Peckham, Taylor Chorney has also leveled off. He has the skill and the speed to be a second or third pairing guy that can also play on the second unit PP, however his defensive side of the game still has glaring weaknesses and the fact that he isn't an overly big guy doesn't help his cause when it comes to the physical side of the game whether separating players from the puck or moving bodies out of the crease. This season will be very telling for Chorney, will he rise to an AHL allstar level while also deleting some of his flaws from his game? Or will he just end up becoming an AHL/NHL tweener?
20) D Kyle Bigos A hulking defenseman that doesn't mind the rough stuff and who also has offensive abilities, Bigos is a real wild card in terms of Oilers prospects. It's quite obvious that the Oilers have been trying to increase the size of the blueliners the last number of years via the draft and none of them come bigger than Bigos. Already twenty one years of age despite being drafted in '09, Bigos looks like a late bloomer that could end up shooting up the rankings if he can continue improving his game at Merrimack.
21) G Tyler Bunz Our second goalie prospect, the hope is that either Olivier Roy or Bunz can eventually be the goalie of the future for the Oilers. Bunz looked solid at rookie camp and played better than fellow Oilers prospect goalie Bryan Pitton. The Oilers are bound to have success with a goalie prospect sooner or later, at least one would hope!
22) C/Rw Ryan O'Marra Trying to salvage a once promising career, Ryan O'Marra has finally embraced the role that the Oilers envisioned for him as a defensive center. O'Marra needs to take another step in the right direction in OKC this year to try to realize his NHL dream. O'Marra still needs to improve on his offensive production as most non enforcer NHL fourth liners were able to have at least modest success at the AHL level. O'Marra's size and draft pedigree gave him more lives than a NCAA or CHL free agent would've gotten, but this could be a case where patience pays off for the big club.
23) D Brandon Davidson Davidson is a good puck mover who like Bigos could be a late bloomer. That said he has to improve his decision making while improving his game this year in Regina. A solid pick as a sixth rounder, at the very least if he can continue progressing he can eventually become solid minor league depth.
24) Rw Kristians Pelss Like Omark and Rajala, Pelss is another diminutive but skilled winger. Pelss has offensive potential but will have quite the mountain to climb to the the NHL level. That said if he can just end up as a solid pro in the AHL that would be covering his draft position. A boom/bust pick, it's nice to see the Oilers gamble on skill. Pelss' speed and skill are his biggest attributes, after he gets acclimatized to the North American game it will be very interesting to see how good he can be at the CHL level.
25) Lw Philippe Cornet Cornet's lack of speed could hamper his pro career like it did to fellow QMJHL alum Slava Trukhno. Cornet has a lot to prove this season and if he starts in Stockton it will show that he has a long way to go. That said it's great to have a proper development system where players aren't rushed and can be put in a position to succeed. If Cornet gets sent down perhaps he could follow the career path of Liam Reddox who the very next season proved to be a solid AHL contributor.
Before people ask "where's Reddox, Jacques, or Dubnyk?" those guys at this point in my mind at least are no longer prospects they are what they are, borderline NHL players. They could in theory improve and become NHL regulars, but they are old enough and have enough pro experience to be considered professional veterans and not prospects in my eyes.