Sunday, July 24, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Edmonton Oilers

For my pal Allan Mitchell (aka Lowetide), the Oilers are up next. While many of Edmonton's top young players have graduated from the OHL, right now, they've only got a few recent draft picks playing in the league.

1. Markus Niemelainen - Saginaw Spirit
I didn't like him as a top two round prospect as some scouting services were pushing, but I do like the value that Edmonton got by selecting him in the 3rd round. He's a long term project, but there is potential there as a solid two-way defender. The size and skating combination is very good. But once you get past that, it's a work in progress. He was very turnover prone in Saginaw this year (although pretty much every defender on that team had a tough time starting the breakout) and he needs to be more composed with the puck. At times, it looked like he really struggled with the smaller rink and having less time. He also needs to use his size to be more aggressive defensively. For a big guy, he loses too many battles in the corners and in front of the net. So what's the next step? He was on loan to Saginaw this year from HIFK, so there are some rumours that he'll be returning to Finland this year. I don't think that would be best for his development, and I see Edmonton having a lot of say in where he plays, despite the rumours. Being back in the OHL on an improved Saginaw team (they only took one player in the Import draft, so it's obvious that they still want him back), continuing to improve his decision making and play on the smaller ice, would be best for him moving forward IMO. I wouldn't necessarily be focused on his statistical output. He could very well put up around 30 points again next year, but if he cuts down on the turnovers and improves in his own end, that would be a successful season.

2. Dylan Wells - Peterborough Petes
This past year got off to a strong start for Wells as he backstopped Canada to Ivan Hlinka gold in the summer. But it went downhill from there. In Peterborough, he struggled all year long. He consistently fought the puck and had some problems with weak goals and being able to bounce back from that. His confidence really seemed to be shaken. But, there could still be light at the end of the tunnel. Wells has all the pieces you look for in a netminder. He has size. He is extremely athletic. And he has proven to be a quality netminder in the past (he had some fantastic performances as a 16 year old and looked great at the top prospect's game). Getting his confidence back, and refining his positional approach will be key. First order of business is earning the starter's job. Peterborough currently still has Wells and Matthew Mancina (last year's starter). If Wells can prove that he's ready to be a starter, Peterborough would likely deal Mancina. But if he continues to struggle, they'll likely ride Mancina again and give Wells the reigns the year after (as Peterborough intends to be a contender for the Eastern Conference title this year). Be patient Oilers fans, he could be a good one, but it may take time.

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