Welcome to the August 2019 edition of the DobberProspects 31-in-31 Series! This month, we will be diving into the depth of each organization, looking at their Top 20 prospects, risers, fallers, and recent graduates. Let’s dive in!
Last season was much of the same for the Oilers, that is, finishing in the bottom 10 and having more questions than answers. Edmonton has the star power but the depth and role players left a lot to desired all season long.
In the July segment we went through the Oilers’ 2019 draft results, free agency moves and Ken Holland’s relatively quiet first Summer as the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers.
What was not in our July installment was the events of July 19th. On that day Ken Holland did what most thought was impossible… he traded Milan Lucic. Lucic was sent to Calgary at 12.5% retained plus a conditional third round pick for James Neal. The conditions on the deal are that Neal has to score at least 21 goals and Lucic has to score at least 10 fewer goals than Neal. If both these things happen, which is very possible, the Oilers will happily hand over a third round pick. Neal had a bad season no question about it but he was also playing in the bottom six, a role that a player like Neal will not succeed in. His skating is not the best but his ability to shoot the puck and score goals still remains. Last season was Neal’s one and only season in the NHL with less than 20 goals. He is almost guaranteed to play in the top six with Edmonton desperately needing a pure sniper. In terms of team chemistry well Neal is friends and training partners with Mcdavid, he is friends with newly signed goalie Mike Smith and he has been coached by Dave Tippett in the past. He sounds like a great fit for the team and will be given every opportunity to succeed in Edmonton. An added bonus? Unlike Lucic, Neal does not need to be protected for the Seattle expansion draft.
The Oilers’ pipeline will see an influx of talent take the road from junior hockey to the professional level this season. Defense prospects Evan Bouchard and Dmitri Samorukov, both from the OHL, are the two big names that will lead the way but Kirill Maksimov and Ryan McLeod will also make the transition from the OHL.
Evan Bouchard simply dominated the competition for the London Knights last season. The former Knights captain recorded an impressive 53 points in 45 games which placed him second in the OHL for defenseman points per game. He also played for team Canada at the World Junior Championship and then recorded a ridiculous 21 points in 11 playoff games for London. He followed up his junior success by suiting up for eight playoff games for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL where he continued to display his offensive prowess with three goals and eight point in eight games. Bouchard will never be the best skater and his defensive game definitely needs some polish but his ability to produce offensively cannot be ignored. Watch for the young defender to be one of the offensive leaders on the Condors’ back end as a rookie this season. He’ll be hard pressed to beat our more seasoned prospects like Caleb Jones for a spot on the big club but if injuries occur don’t be surprised if he gets a call up sometime this year.
No player in the Oilers’ system raised their stock as much as Dmitri Samorukov did last season. After a disappointing start to the campaign where he recorded just six points in the first 20 games for the Guelph Storm, Samorukov really found a groove in late November and then absolutely took off offensively once the team traded away Ryan Merkley in the middle of December. After those first 20 games the young defender recorded 39 points in 39 games and then recorded an eye catching 28 points in 24 playoff games. On top of league play, Samorukov recorded four points in seven games for Russia and one point in four Memorial Cup games. Samorukov’s offensive progression is a nice addition to his grit and defensive play and has Oilers’ fans excited about his upside. While expectations are high, everyone must remember that the transition to pro hockey is a tough one and there is usually a learning curve.
While Bouchard and Samorukov get most of the attention for soon to be pro prospects, Kirill Maksimov deserves some recognition too. Although the Russian winger has warts to his game that will need to fine tuned at the pro level, his shot and ability to score goals cannot be ignored. Arguably the best finisher in the Oilers’ system, Maksimov recorded 40 goals and 79 points in 63 games