The Edmonton Oilers have won more than their fair share of draft lotteries recently, but in the 2015 draft they won the Power Ball and drafted Connor McDavid. Having McDavid will cover up a lot of warts in their drafting and developing history.
There are plenty of hits in the first round of their recent drafts, but some misses as well such as 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov who was just traded away to St. Louis for nothing.
In the last four years, not including the 2016 draft, outside of the first round the Oilers have only drafted and developed players who have played a combined 69 career games played. The players are Bogdan Yakimov (1), Anton Slepyshev (12), Jujhar Khaira (15), and Erik Gustafsson (41) who is now with the Chicago Blackhawks.
There are some prospects in the system that show promise, and the free agent signing of NCAA star Drake Caggiula also helps, but if the Oilers improve on the ice they will need to improve their drafting and developing skills.
Top 10 Edmonton Oilers Prospects
1. Jesse Puljujarvi, Right Wing
2015-16: Karpat (Liiga)
Drafted: Fourth overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Edmonton
Even when Edmonton loses the lottery, they win. Puljujarvi was the consensus third overall ranked prospect for the 2016 draft, but when Columbus picked Pierre-Luc Dubois third, the Oilers picked the third best player with the fourth pick.
At the draft Oilers GM Pete Chiarelli was all smiles when he was asked if Puljujarvi is the Kurri to McDavids Gretzky? “There are some similarities there” was his response.
Puljujarvi has the luxury of breaking in behind McDavid who will draw the attention and spotlight and is further insulated with players like Leon Draisaitl, RNH, Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic. This will alleviate a lot of pressure and allow Puljujarvi to adjust to the NHL.
Puljujarvi has already played pro hockey in Finland and was dominant at the WJC winning Gold on home soil. He is the complete package with excellent skating ability, speed, size, offensive vision and puck skills. Puljujarvi may not be an early Calder candidate, but his long term upside and value to the Oilers organization can’t be understated.
2. Drake Caggiula, Center/Left Wing
2015-16: North Dakota (NCAA)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2016
After going undrafted, Caggiula concluded his four years of NCAA hockey with North Dakota with a championship title, where his play triggered a sweepstakes for his services as a free agent. The Oilers won this lottery too and signed Caggiula.
Caggiula did well at their summer rookie and prospect camps, carrying that momentum right into training camp and NHL preseason games. He played his way onto the Oilers roster, perhaps allowing the Oilers to part with Yakupov.
Caggiula was able to carry the play in preseason games with his skating, speed and offensive vision. He was often able to push the play and set the pace offensively.
3. Anton Slepyshev, Left/Right Wing
2015-16: Bakersfield (AHL)
Drafted: 88th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Edmonton
Slepyshev has had two strong preseasons for the Oilers. Last year he made the team out of training camp and played 11 regular season games before being sent to the AHL for the balance of the season where he posted 21 points in 49 games.
Again he has made the NHL team to start the season, but will need to produce more than the one assist in the 11 games he played last year to avoid a return trip to the AHL.
4. Tyler Benson, Left Wing
2015-16: Vancouver (WHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Edmonton
Benson saw his draft stock fall in his draft year after he endured two significant injuries which limited him to just 30 regular season games.
The missed time no doubt hurt his development, but his combination of physicality and skill make him an attractive asset with leadership characteristics and top six upside.
Benson will look to make up for lost time this year back in the WHL where if he stays healthy, can see his stock rise significantly.
5. Caleb Jones, Defence
2015-16: Portland (WHL)
Drafted: 117th overall in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by Edmonton
The younger brother of Seth Jones had an impressive season with Portland in the WHL posting 55 points in 72 games. He plays a physical two-way game and while he may not project to have the same upside as his brother, he is a valuable prospect who is responsible defensively, can create transition offence and plays physical.
Jones finished the season playing in the AHL getting some valuable experience, but will return to the WHL for another season with Portland and possibly with Team USA at the WJC.
6. Laurent Brossoit, Goalie
2015-16: Bakersfield (AHL)
Drafted: 164th overall in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by Calgary
Acquired in 2013 from Calgary via trade, Brossoit now has three seasons of development in the AHL to his credit and has performed well in that time.
Brossoit posted an impressive 18-9-5 regular season record with an All-Star performance season, earning himself a five game NHL look last season.
While he failed to record a win in the NHL, he played well and remains in the conversation as the Oilers goalie of the future. For now, more development time is needed in the AHL.
7. Ethan Bear, Defence
2015-16: Seattle (WHL)
Drafted: 124th overall in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by Edmonton
Bear and Jones represent the best potential for the Oilers to have found a player with a late round draft pick. Bear will return for another season of junior where he will play a key role for Seattle playing a physical game.
Bear is an excellent defensive player who thinks the game well, makes good decisions, is sound positionally and in gap control. He also possesses a heavy shot and can make outlet passes.
Bear requires more development and will need some time in the AHL before he is ready to contribute in the NHL, but is a prospect trending in the right direction.
8. Jordan Oesterle, Defence
2015-16: Bakersfield (AHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2014
Oesterle is an unheralded free agent signing from Western Michigan who has quietly been playing his way into contention. Oesterle is a smooth skating offensive defenceman who excels at the modern NHL model of transitional defenceman.
Oesterle was called up to the NHL last season where he played in 17 games, playing some pretty big minutes in that time and was noticeable in his puck moving skills.
Oesterle failed to crack the opening roster and needs some more AHL time to develop his defensive game, but will be back in the NHL at some point this season and could stick given the opportunity.
9. Tyler Pitlick, Right Wing
2015-16: Bakersfiled (AHL)
Drafted: 31st overall in the second round of the 2010 draft by Edmonton
Pitlick has become the forgotten prospect in Edmonton after enduring injury plagued seasons over the past three years. After a healthy summer and training camp, Pitlick was able to crack the Oilers opening roster and has a goal early in the season.
Don’t expect Pitlick to play in a top six role, but his bottom six ability to contribute physically and bring some energy and offensive upside is considerable. Pitlick would have to pass through waivers to return to the AHL, so if he continues to play well and stay healthy, he could play the entire year in the NHL.
10. Matt Benning, Defence
2015-16: Northeastern University (HE)
Drafted: 175th overall in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by Boston
The Oilers signed Benning as a free agent this summer and he had a strong training camp and showing in NHL preseason games. The Edmonton native made the opening night roster as a healthy scratch and still waits to make his NHL debut. Benning is a puck moving defenceman with good size and skating ability and is also reliable defensively. Unless injuries strike the Oilers backend, expect Benning to be sent to the AHL where he will get plenty of playing time and adjust to the pro game.