I search Twitter every morning to see what the world is saying about the Edmonton Oilers. Oh, and also check to see if they've signed Leon Draisaitl to a contract extension yet. It's still a world of no, Oilers fans. So frustrating. You know what's really frustrating about the Draisaitl situation? Neither side is saying anything. Where are Leakers when you need them, Jeff Sessions? The Draisaitl side is saying nothing. The Oilers are saying nothing. It's a nothingfest.
I saw this morning someone from a different website not as good as Hockeybuzz wrote a blog listing the Oilers Top 10 prospects. I had a chuckle when I saw Tyler Benson was #4. Benson can't stay healthy for 10 minutes and because of it, there's no way he ever factors into an Oilers roster.
Here's the sad truth about Oilers prospect prediction lists: The people writing the blogs haven't seen most of these players play, so therefore, they are guessing if any of these guys will do anything at the NHL-level. Bloggers make guesses around analytics and scoring sheets, and we all know what nonsense those things are.
Benson might become an NHL player if he ever gets healthy. I suppose the Oilers have 40 or 50 prospects that could have NHL careers if they turn out just right. Most won't.
It's fair to assume the players the Oilers drafted higher have a better chance of making the NHL than the players they drafted lower. But if you've been following the Oilers the last 10 or 15 years you'll realize the team has been awful at the draft, so it's really a fluke who makes it and who doesn't.
As someone who has seen some of, but not all of, these guys play... here's my thoughts on who has a better chance than others to make it.
Ziyat Paigin - Why? He's a big, mobile defenseman who could hold his own in the KHL. Oilers management seem to love this guy. It's possible Paigin makes it so Darnell Nurse can be traded in the near future in order to bring in an offensive weapon (think the Hall-for-Larsson trade, only backwards). If Nurse has a breakout season he might price himself right off of the Oilers roster. Paigin is more ready for the NHL than Caleb Jones or Ethan Bear, and the way he plays makes sense on a bottom pairing.
Caleb Jones - Why? He's a poor man's Seth Jones, and that means he could become a 3/4 pairing defenseman in the NHL. Has some size, some skating, some offense, some defense... he's all-around okay.
Ethan Bear - I think Bear being right-shot is his biggest advantage in the race for a roster spot in Edmonton, but Bear has something significantly working against him: He's not big. Sometimes players who look brilliant at the Junior hockey level don't pan out in the NHL where the bodies are bigger. See Gilbert Brule for an example. I would rank Bear below Paigin and Jones for this reason.
Ryan Mantha - If the point of this is to make the Oilers roster, I might have Ryan Mantha ranked ahead of Jones and Bear. Why? He's right-shooting, 6'5" and 225lbs. When you think about the left-side D in Edmonton, there are Klefbom, Sekera, Russell and Nurse all who can play it. Three of those have a minimum of four years left on their contracts, and the one who doesn't is young and will be an RFA next summer. On the right side, the Oilers have Larsson and Benning. If there's a roster hole to be filled, it's a bottom pairing right-shooting player. A shutdown guy. Mantha is a better bet than Bear in that role.
Goalies x 5 - Laurent Brossoit is higher up on the food chain than Nick Ellis, who is higher up than Shane Starrett, who is higher up than Dylan Wells, who is higher up than Stuart Skinner. But in truth, we have no idea if any of these guys can play at an NHL-level, so people going crazy talking about our great goalie depth need to calm down. Brossoit will start with Oilers this season; Ellis and Starrett will be in the AHL. Wells and Skinner will be in Junior. None of it matters that much because Cam Talbot will be the starter in Edmonton for about the next eight seasons.
Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto - Both of these guys shouldn't likely be in the NHL yet. Puljujarvi blew no one away last season, as he was a young draft pick, he needed to learn to speak English, and he needed to adjust to North America. He's still very young and still learning. The only real knocks on Yamamoto are a lack of experience and the fact he might be the smallest player in history taken in the first round of the NHL entry draft. Yamamoto, sadly, isn't going to get much bigger in his lifetime. What he is? The Oilers version of Johnny Hockey, and that's terrific.
With both of these guys, management takes risks bringing them into the NHL now. Puljujarvi is learning, and I question whether rushing his learning is what is best. With Yamamoto, the question is if you think he physically can handle being in the NHL. If I'm GM, Puljujarvi plays this season in the AHL and Yamamoto in junior. Considering there's four or five completely decent UFA forwards no one seems to want to sign, and the Oilers have cap space to work with, there's no reason for the team to be rushing anyone. Both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto will have huge NHL careers provided Oilers management don't screw them up.
After these two - Bogdan Yakimov could be a future fourth line center, and a big, mean fourth line center at that. The trick is to convince him to come back from the KHL. The Oilers haven't released him fully yet, so that should tell you they have interest. If Mark Letestu is not re-signed for next season, maybe that's when Yakimov is an Oilers center again.
Ty Rattie and Jujhar Khaira could both still be considered prospects. I have no hope for Khaira accomplishing anything in Edmonton; I've seen him play and there isn't much there. Rattie I have more hope for, but we're talking about, at best, third line guy. Aapeli Rasanen might be a center in Edmonton a few seasons from now. He's two-way and right-shooting. Once again, this is a Bottom 6 forward and nothing more.
And that's about it. In saying this, I am not bashing the Oilers. Let's say one of the goalies I've listed actually turns into an NHL-quality goaltender. I've listed five forwards, four defensemen, and a goalie who could all play on the Oilers as regulars at some point. That's pretty damn good as far as prospects go. Maybe Puljujarvi and Yamamoto are the only two impact guys, but the Oilers are desperate for right wingers, so the timing is great.
People following, especially writing about the Oilers need to realize the core of the team is there, and will continue to be there for the next four or five seasons. Young players will be added as opportunities present themselves. For a change, people will need to prove they are good enough before being rewarded with a full-time roster gig. After Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, there are no guarantees.