There are a few Edmonton Oilers prospects in the mix. Some will ultimately play a huge role in their team’s success.
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DARNELL NURSE, SAULT STE. MARIE - OHL
We start with the number seven overall draft pick in 2013, Darnell Nurse. He Captains the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and has 33 points (10 goals) in 36 games this year. Ranking 32nd for all defenceman in the OHL, even after having missed some time due to injury and the World Junior Championships.
The Greyhounds had a very successful year, winning the West Division, Western Conference and finishing as the OHL regular season champs. It’s the first time since the 1984-85 season that Soo has claimed the Hamilton Spectator Trophy.
Sault Ste. Marie is facing the Saginaw Spirit in the first round this year. The two saw each other eight times during the regular season. Although the Spirit had success early on, winning the first four contests, after a 7-2 romping on December 30, by the Greyhounds, it seems as though they’ve figured out Saginaw - winning the final four games and scoring 31 goals.
Joining Nurse in the playoff run is Brandon Halverson, whose 40th win gave him the most wins in a single season. Additionally, Blake Speers, the 44th ranked skater on the current Central Scouting list, bolsters the offence. The winger has 67 points through 57 games.
Last year the Greyhounds were eliminated in the second round after losing to the Erie Otters in four. Through 15 playoff games, Nurse has a combined total of four goals and eight assists over two years.
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KYLE PLATZER, OWEN SOUND - OHL
Joining Nurse in the OHL post season is Kyle Platzer, who plays for the Owen Sound Attack. Platzer and the Attack will play the Guelph Storm in the opening round. It’s the first meeting between the teams since 2004.
The Attack finished the regular season with a record of 35-24-2-7 and 79 points. The Storm ended with a record of 38-26-2-2 for 80 points.
During the regular season, the Midwest Division rivals faced off eight times in the regular season with Owen Sound earning eight of a possible 16 points and a 3-3-0-2 head-to-head record.
For Platzer, he’s already played in 26 post-season games, the majority coming with the London Knights in 2013. Last year with the Attack, Platzer had three points (1-2-3) in five games, eventually falling to Nurse, of all people, and the Hounds in the first round. They’ll look to avoid that same fate this year.
As far as prospects go in the Edmonton pipeline, Nurse and Platzer account for those in the OHL, but the WHL is a bit more saturated.
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LEON DRAISAITL, KELOWNA - WHL
Leon Draisaitl is the most well-known name. After spending 37 games with the Oilers and recording nine points, the forward was assigned to the WHL and his rights were traded from the Prince Albert Raiders (who eventually finished 10th in the East and out of playoff contention) to the Kelowna Rockets.
A rejuvenated Draisaitl now has 19 goals and 53 points in 32 games since joining the team January 6.
The Rockets are a Memorial Cup favourite as the Western Conference champions and also the second best team in the league with a point total of 112, just behind the Brandon Wheat Kings (114).
Eliminated in the third round last season, the Rockets will look to advance past the Tri-City Americans once again. Last year they did it in five games.
Kelowna nearly swept the 2014-15 season series with the Tri’s winning three of four games while outscoring them 17-7. While Tri-City finished seven games below .500, the Rockets shot to the top with a league leading 305 goals and the most efficient power play.
Although heavily favoured, due to the likes of Draisaitl and Nicholas Merkley (who’s ranked 13th on the Mid-term Central Scouting List), the West’s best needs to get past Winnipeg Jets prospect Eric Comrie (who helped backstop Canada to World Junior supremacy this year), Brandon Carlo and Parker Wotherspoon. All are named on the Top 50 prospects list released earlier this year.
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BEN BETKER, EVERETT - WHL
Speaking of championship teams, the Everett Silvertips claimed the 2015 U.S. Division title this year with 95 points to their name. They enter as the second seed in the Western Conference, behind the aforementioned Rockets.
Protecting the blueline for the Mem Cup hopefuls is Ben Betker. The Oilers 2013 draft choice has played 64 games this year and amassed 31 points, including six goals.
The Silvertips have been in the post-season conversation for the last five years, but have failed to advance past the first round, winning a combined three games.
March 27, they look to change all that against the Spokane Chiefs, whom they’ve played eight times during the regular season and won five times against. Betker accumulated six assists in those games.
Joining Betker in the journey for first-round supremecy is Noah Juulsen, who is top 40 on the Central Scouting List. The biggest threat for Spokane is Adam Helewka (87 points, 44 goals in 69 games for the Chiefs).
GREG CHASE, VICTORIA - WHL
Finally, the final prospect that will be competing for the west coast cup (not actual name of trophy that the WHL teamS compete for) is Greg Chase. For a while, Chase wasn’t sure where he would land after his days with the Calgary Hitmen, where he spent four full seasons. The winger ended up with Victoria, where him as well as the team has been successful. Chase nearly hit the point-per-game mark with 44 through 46 games with the Royals.
Victoria landed smack in the middle of the West playoff picture in the fifth seed, and are going head to head with the Prince George Cougars (seventh seed). The Royals finished the 2014-15 WHL regular season as the second seed in the Western Conference’s BC Division, and will have home ice advantage versus the BC Division’s third place Cougars in the first round.
The Royals have matched up well throughout the regular season with the Cougars, winning five of eight and splitting the final two games with a mirrored score of 4-3.
Chase has three goals and six assists throughout six of the eight games, since joining the team.
MARCO ROY, QUEBEC - QMJHL
On the east coast, the QMJHL is also beginning their post season and a duo of prospects representing La Belle Province are also on the Oilers prospect list.
Beginning with Marco Roy of the Quebec Remparts, who finished their year just two points ahead of Shawinigan, snagging the second spot in the East Division (fourth seed overall in the QMJHL playoffs), with a record of 40-25-1-2.
The Remparts begin their Memorial Cup quest by battling the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (31-31-3-3). Quebec endured a so-so end to their season and will face a lot of pressure with the playoffs finally here. The clubs spit their two meetings this season, but the Remparts are favoured over the 13th seed Eagles.
Personally, Roy is a seasoned vet when it comes to playoffs. Over the past three seasons when he was with the Blainville-Boisbriand played in 46 post-season contests, and nearly went a point-per-game with 45.
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KEVEN BOUCHARD, VAL-D’OR - QMJHL
Although there are a bunch of AHL or NCAA goalies in the Oilers system, Keven Bouchard is the only one representing the Edmonton prospect pool in the CHL.
His team, Val-d’Or, Foreurs (sixth seed) matches up against Rouyn-Noranda, Huskies (11th seed). It will be a grudge match of sorts, as the teams have seen each other 10 times this year and are very familiar with the other’s style, strengths and weaknesses.
However Val-d’Or has the upper hand, collecting a regular season record of 6-2-1-1 over the Huskies. Over the last five years, the Foreurs hold a large advantage with a 26-13-2-5 head-to-head record over Rouyn-Naranda.
As for Bouchard, in his second QMJHL campaign went 15-18 this season compared to 17-7 over 27 games played last year. It’s a slight drop in production from his 2.95 GAA and 0.887 SV%, but not that surprising since he added an additional nine games to his schedule. Bouchard ranks 5th all time in the QMJHL in consecutive starts by a rookie goalie.
Now, although his team isn’t in the playoff picture, Jackson Houck deserves some recognition for his season. He’s a recipient of one of the Vancouver Giants Three Stars of the Year Award (also Tyler Benson and Payton Lee) and additionally, the forward also had the best production on the Giants and was awarded the Gordie Howe Top Scorer Award as well. And although the Giants didn’t advance to the post season (record was 27-41-2-2),Houck still managed his third straight twenty goal season and ended up with 54 points. He has been signed to an ATO by the Oklahoma City Barons.