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!
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 last year. His 118 penalty minutes speaks for both his improved tenacity as well as his lack of discipline at times. Edmonton lacks a pure sniper to compliment players like Mcdavid so Maksimov will likely be given a chance to fill that role in the future. Expect him to play the entire season for the Condors in the AHL.
Ryan McLeod is one of the tougher prospects to project as he makes the jump to the pro level. His above average size and excellent skating make him an intriguing player but consistency and reliability continue to be concerns. Last season, McLeod recorded 62 points in 63 games for a 0.98 points per game between Mississauga and Saginaw which was actually a decrease from the 1.03 that he recorded in his draft year the season prior. In the playoffs he struggled to be an offensive difference maker as he recorded just 12 points in 17 games. The young speedster made his AHL last year and showed well in a limited role as he recorded three assists in five playoff games. Mcleod’s upside probably isn’t as high as some of the other Oiler prospects turning pro and there will need to be patience with him going forward. Expect him to play in the bottom six, hopefully on the third line, and provide some secondary scoring for the Condors this season.
Ostap Safin has seemingly fallen off the map after being drafted in in the fourth round in 2017 and then having a near point per game rookie season in the QMJHL in the following season. Last year, Safin suited up in just 15 game regular season games for Halifax where he recorded 11 points and then managed just two points in 23 playoff games. He was also pointless in four Memorial Cup games. Safin is an intriguing combination of size, mobility and soft hands but almost an entire season lost likely hurt his development and has absolutely hurt his stock. The ECHL is a real possibility for him this season and expectations should be kept low until we see if he can bounce back.
2016 seventh round pick Vincent Desharnais signed an AHL contract with the Bakersfield Condors in July after four seasons at Providence College. Technically he’s not under contract with the Oilers but he’s still a part of the Condors so I’ll include him on this list. Last year, Desharnais had his best statistical season at Providence as he recorded 13 points in 42 games. His numbers say a lot about what type of player the 6’6 defender is. His upside is realistically limited at the pro level and with Jones, Bear, Lagesson, Day, Bouchard, Samorukov as well as veterans Lowe (the Condors’ captain last season) and likely Manning all ahead of him on the Condors depth chart, he’ll be hard pressed to get minutes in the AHL. One of the mentioned prospects could make the Oilers this fall which would move Desharnais up the Condors’ depth chart but the point still stands and that isn’t accounting for Swedish rearguard Joel Persson coming over from Sweden for this season.
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