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Future Watch – Edmonton Oilers: Blueline gushing

With a half-dozen hopefuls, help is on the way for the Oilers’ unsteady defense corps. Question is: when?

C+ / 24th overall

The Oilers have been drafting defensemen by the bushel in recent years, and the results are showing in the prospect pool. Six of their top 10 prospects are blueliners, and although none of them are banging down Edmonton’s door, there is a definite hope that some of them can soon help make a difference on the big team. There are a few scoring wingers in the system as well, which addresses another major need in Edmonton. The Oilers have a long and troubled history of rushing prospects into hard minutes in the NHL before they are ready, but a recent organizational shift suggests these prospects will be given time to ripen.

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1. Evan Bouchard (13th overall)
D, 19, 6-2, 198 – London (OHL)
40–12–37–49–34
2018 draft, 10th overall
Bouchard played seven games with Edmonton to start the season, turning heads with his heavy shot and instinct for offense. He’s exactly what the organization has been searching for: a puck-moving, right-shot defenseman. He’ll need time to develop, though. He struggled with his defensive play in the NHL, and he can have sluggish feet at times, a byproduct of having to conserve energy because he logs big minutes in junior. He has some holes to fix, but the potential is high.
FW18| n/a – NHL | 2020-21

2. Kailer Yamamoto (43rd overall)
RW, 20, 5-8, 155 – Bakersfield (AHL)
24–9–6–15–16
2017 draft, 22nd overall
He was rushed to the NHL to compensate for Edmonton’s lack of skilled depth on the wings. He played 26 NHL games over the past two years, putting up five points, before the Oilers hit the reset button and sent him to Bakersfield in January. He doesn’t have the flash and blazing speed you would expect from a smaller player, but he has quick hands and a knack for finding soft spots around the net. He has learned how to compensate for his size, but the NHL will be another big adjustment.
FW18| No. 1 – NHL | 2019-20

3. Caleb Jones
D, 21, 6-1, 194 – Bakersfield (AHL)
35–5–16–21–18
2015 draft, 117th overall
Jones had a nice look in the NHL earlier this season, which wasn’t easy given the state of the Oilers at the time. He showed promise offensively. He’s a good skater, makes a nice outlet pass and walks the offensive blueline well for a player with his limited experience. Where he struggled at times was with defensive awareness, as did many of his teammates. There were some glaring mistakes he had to fish out of his own net, but he showed a strong ability to learn from them and move on instead of losing confidence.
FW18| No. 2 – NHL | 2019-20

4. Kirill Maksimov
RW, 19, 6-3, 194 – Niagara (OHL)
59–38–38–76–110
2017 draft, 146th overall
He doesn’t get a lot of headlines because he’s a fifth-round sleeper, but he’s working hard to change that. He’s the best pure scorer in the system. Maksimov comes with a shoot-first mentality, which is sorely needed on an Oilers team that loves to over-pass. As the NHL gets faster, deficiencies in his skating will be a hurdle, but not everyone needs elite speed. A player who knows how to get open and has a quick, hard and accurate release will have a home. He’s also aggressive and likes to get in on the forecheck.
FW18| No. 5 – NHL | 2021-22

5. Joel Persson
D, 24, 5-9, 170 – Vaxjo (Swe.)
47–6–23–29–8
Free agent, May 18, 2018
He’s a smart and determined right-shot defenseman. He battled his way from third-division player working a regular job during the day to power-play quarterback on a first-division Swedish League team. He’s a project – the Oilers signed him last year, left him in Sweden, then re-upped him in January and will invite him to camp – but he sees the ice well. He leads Vaxjo in scoring among defensemen, maintaining his pace from last year even though the team sagged badly after Elias Pettersson left for the NHL.
FW18| nr – NHL | 2020-21

6. Ryan McLeod
C, 19, 6-3, 205 – Saginaw (OHL)
57–17–42–59–12
2018 draft, 40th overall
Point-per-game skill in the OHL. Could still get more out of himself.

7. Dmitri Samorukov
D, 19, 6-2, 179 – Guelph (OHL)
54–7–34–41–16
2017 draft, 84th overall
Very productive offensively, but still committed to defensive side of the game.

8. John Marino
D, 21, 6-2, 181 – Harvard (ECAC)
29–3–8–11–14
2015 draft, 154th overall
Rangy, right-shooting defenseman developing in a good program.

9. Cooper Marody
C, 22, 6-0, 184 – Bakersfield (AHL)
43–13–30–43–22
Trade (Phi), March 21, 2018
Puts up points in AHL, but it hasn’t translated in his brief NHL appearances.

10. Ethan Bear
D, 21, 5-11, 195 – Bakersfield (AHL)
40–2–20–22–30
2015 draft, 124th overall
Another right shot. Excellent skills, but needs to round out his overall game.

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