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30 in 30: Oilers see prospect talent shift to defense

by Brian Compton

For three straight years the Edmonton Oilers were the first team to the podium at the NHL Draft. Losing seasons allowed them to rebuild with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.

Those losing seasons have led to a new regime in Edmonton. Craig MacTavish replaced Steve Tambellini as general manager in April and Dallas Eakins was named coach in June, replacing Ralph Krueger.

And though the Oilers aren't pleased with where they've finished in the standings in recent years, they can take solace in the fact they've been able to rebuild their system via the draft.

Here's a look at Edmonton's top 10 prospects, according to

1. Darnell Nurse, D: The Oilers didn't pick first for the first time since 2009, but they still landed a very talented defenseman with the seventh pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. Nurse (6-foot-4, 185 pounds), a nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, is a tremendous skater who was projected by some scouts to be the best stay-at-home blueliner in this year's draft. But he can provide offense too: In 68 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League last season, Nurse had 12 goals and 29 assists. He also had 116 penalty minutes, which means he doesn't shy away from physical play.

Defensemen can take longer to develop, so it's likely Nurse, 18, will return to the OHL when the Oilers conclude training camp. But nothing is being ruled out at this point.

"This is my first experience at going through anything like this so I'm not going to make any assumptions or try to guess," Nurse told the Edmonton Journal during Oilers development camp. "I'm just going to try to work as hard as I can to be prepared."

2. Oscar Klefbom, D: All eyes were on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when the Oilers selected the gifted forward with the No. 1 pick at the 2011 NHL Draft, but Edmonton had another first-round pick that year, which it used on this 6-3, 204-pound defenseman. Klefbom, 20, seemed primed to make huge strides last season, but a shoulder injury in October limited him to 11 games for Farjestad in the Swedish Hockey League.

How that impacts his chances of making the Oilers roster out of training camp remains to be seen, but Klefbom, who was playing 25 minutes per game prior to the injury, is eager to turn some heads.

3. Martin Marincin, D: A second-round pick (No. 46) in 2010, the 6-5, 196-pound player is coming off his first full season in the American Hockey League, where he put up 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 69 games before totaling seven points in 17 AHL playoff games for the Oklahoma City Barons.

An offensive-minded defenseman who can quarterback the power play, Marincin, 21, likely will receive some more seasoning with the Barons in 2013-14.

4. David Musil, D: This 2011 second-round pick (No. 31) is the son of former NHL defenseman Frantisek Musil and the nephew of former NHL center Bobby Holik. The 6-3, 196-pound blueliner completed his fourth season in the Western Hockey League, splitting time between the Vancouver Giants and Edmonton Oil Kings. He had 23 points in 48 regular-season games for Edmonton before compiling six assists in 22 postseason games. Musil, 20, plays a stay-at-home style and likely will play for Oklahoma City this season.

5. Marco Roy, C: Edmonton's 2013 second-round pick (No. 56), Roy is coming off his second full season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In 65 games for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the speedy 6-foot, 175-pound center had 29 goals, 38 assists and 68 penalty minutes, and six goals and 13 assists in 15 playoff games. It was a great sign for the 18-year-old, who already was a solid defensive player before improving on his offensive game last season.

Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb congratulates his nephew Darnell Nurse after being selected 7th overall by the Oilers in the 2013 NHL Draft. WATCH NOW ›

6. Daniil Zharkov, LW: The final pick of the third round (No. 91) in 2012, Zharkov also improved offensively in his second season of junior hockey. After totaling 36 points in 50 OHL games with the Belleville Bulls in 2011-12, the 6-4, 208-pound forward had 25 goals and 18 assists in 59 regular-season games before getting four goals and eight assists in 17 OHL playoff games. The 19-year-old recently signed a two-year deal with Torpedo Nizhny Novogorod in the Kontinental Hockey League, but the Oilers retain his rights.

7. Martin Gernat, D: The Slovakian defenseman was taken in the fifth round (No. 122) in 2011 and is growing into his 6-5, 187-pound frame. A shoulder injury limited him to 23 WHL games last season for the Edmonton Oil Kings, but he was in terrific form by the time the playoffs rolled around; in 22 postseason games, the 20-year-old had 17 points (six goals, 11 assists). He likely will make the jump to the AHL this season.

8. Toni Rajala, RW: Edmonton's fourth-round selection (No. 101) in 2009, Rajala split last season between Oklahoma City and the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. It was a successful jump to the AHL for the 5-10, 163-pound Finnish forward; he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 46 regular-season games and four goals and 12 assists in 17 playoff games. Rajala, 22, likely will start this season in Oklahoma City and could make his NHL debut if he continues to produce.

9. Olivier Roy, G: The 22-year-old received a long look with Oklahoma City last season and put up respectable numbers: In 22 games he went 9-9-1 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. It's likely he'll receive more playing time in the AHL after a successful run with Stockton (2.25 GAA in 49 career games). Roy (6-foot, 180) was Edmonton's fifth-round selection (No. 133) at the 2009 NHL Draft.

10. Jujhar Khaira, LW: A third-round pick (No. 63) in 2012, Khaira has the makings of a power forward (6-3, 198 pounds) and is coming off a solid freshman season at Michigan Tech. In 37 games he had six goals, 19 assists and 49 penalty minutes. The Oilers signed Khaira, 18, to an entry-level contract in August.


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