EDMONTON, AB - As the 2014 NHL Draft approaches (June 27-28), edmontonoilers.com will be looking back at some of the Edmonton Oilers recent selections and how they are developing. The 2012 draft saw seven players be selected by the Oilers. A few of those prospects will be looking to make the jump to professional hockey in North America next season.
Oilers Senior Director of Player Development Rick Carriere provides his thoughts on each of those prospects in an exclusive interview with edmontonoilers.com.
RW - Nail Yakupov (Round 1 - 1st overall)
|Photo by Getty Images. |
Nail Yakupov was the third-straight first overall pick by the Oilers, after they selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Taylor Hall in 2010. Yakupov made an immediate impact with the team in his rookie season. The winger led the team in goals with 17 in 48 games. He finished the season with 31 points (17-14-31).
In his sophomore year, Yakupov regressed in his production by posting just 24 points (11-13-24) in 63 games. He was -33 for the season and suffered head and ankle injuries which shortened his season.
“From what I’ve seen over the last year with some of his struggles, his first year was an abbreviated season,” Carriere said. “Everybody was excited. He started the year in Russia, he came over here, he was in good shape, he had played some games already and he comes in, jumps in the NHL and he’s ready to play. This season, start to finish, was probably a long year for a guy in his first full season in North America and the National Hockey League. It’s a long year for a good league that doesn’t forgive mistakes. There’s some things I think he’s working at and he’s improving in.”
Yakupov is a highly skilled player with the talent to make an impact on the Oilers in the very near future. Carriere said the coaching staff is currently in the process of helping the 20-year-old become more of a two-way, complete player.
“I think the coaches are working very hard with Nail to try and get him to understand his play without the puck defensively, with his position, how to support the puck, how to utilize his speed and skills more effectively in more of a team setting.”
LW - Mitch Moroz (Round 2 - 32nd overall)
Mitch Moroz is coming off an impressive season with the Memorial Cup Champion Edmonton Oil Kings. The prototypical power forward flexed his muscles a bit more and played with a physical edge in his third full season in the WHL.
Moroz tallied 63 points (35-28-63) in 70 games during the regular season for Edmonton, finishing third on the team in scoring. He recorded 19 points (6-13-19) in 21 games during the WHL playoffs and chipped in four points (2-2-4) in five games during the Memorial Cup run.
|Photo by Andy Devlin. |
“I think he had a more productive season this year all around,” Carriere said. “He was better with the puck and better without. We saw him as more of a physical presence this year and I think that’s important for a power forward. You have to have a physical presence both with the puck and without the puck. He’s showed that he’s able to go to the front of the net against the other teams and be a presence there. He doesn’t get pushed out of the way and he can be very productive when he gets his stick on the puck.”
Moroz also showed character this season, not only in a leadership role as player but also with how he carried himself as a person. The 20-year-old Calgary, AB native honoured the late Kristians Pelss, a former teammate, friend and Oilers prospect, all season by wearing his number ’26’ on his taped wrists and equipment.
The Oilers prospect also chose to pay respect to Ryan Smyth following his retirement announcement at the end of this season. Moroz flashed the number '94' following a goal in the playoffs. Throughout the year, Moroz has shown great maturity and character. It is something the Oilers player development department has observed with pride.
“We’ve certainly watched it and admired it from our standpoint in player development,” Carriere said. “It’s something that Mitch picked up and just took off on his own with.”
The 6-foot-2, 211 pound Moroz is expected to try and make an impact in the American Hockey League this coming season in Oklahoma City.
C - Jujhar Khaira (Round 3 - 63rd overall)
Jujhar Khaira just finished his first season in the WHL after leaving Michigan Tech. With the Everett Silvertips, Khaira posted 43 points (16-27-43) in 59 games. He also chipped in four points (3-1-4) in five playoff games as Everett was knocked off by Seattle in the first round.
|Photo by Steven Christy/OKC Barons |
Following his season in the WHL, Khaira got a taste of professional hockey by joining the Oklahoma City Barons during their late-season playoff push. He played a total of nine games, including three playoff games in which he scored one goal.
Carriere says his stay in the AHL was very beneficial to his development as a prospect.
“Just to see what the pro schedule was like and see what the grind is all about, I thought he did really well. His skating improved, he became more of an explosive skater, he developed some acceleration. He’s strong on the puck, he’s got an excellent shot and he plays his position really well. As a centreman, I thought he did a really good job in major junior and you could see the confidence his coaches in Oklahoma City had playing him at centre ice in some pretty critical games as well going down the stretch in the end of the year.”
Khaira is a bigger forward at 6-foot-3 and over 210 pounds. Carriere says the 19-year-old Surrey, BC native had no issues asserting himself against the more experienced competition.
“I thought he jumped in right away. I thought he did a good job at following up what we saw here at rookie camp. What we saw in rookie camp was that he was strong with the puck below the goal line in the offensive zone. He can build a wall and take the puck out above the goal line and create a scoring chance, just using his size and strength. He was doing some of the same things at the AHL level. That’s hard to do because you’re playing against some seasoned professional defencemen there. It was good to see him work at those same things that are going to be a big part of his game.”
LW - Daniil Zharkov (Round 3 - 91st overall)
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After two seasons in the OHL with the Belleville Bulls, Danill Zharkov chose to take his talents to Russia and the KHL where he played 49 games this season for the Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo. After scoring 79 points, including 48 goals, in those two seasons, Zharkov scored just five points (2-3-5) this season.
Carriere says the decision to go back to the KHL may have taken away some of the ice time Zharkov enjoyed in the OHL. Injuries also shortened Zharkov’s first season in the KHL.
“We didn’t see much because he went back to Russia and got hurt,” Carriere said. “I think he struggled for ice time a bit with his team because he was playing in the KHL and it was difficult for him to get in the lineup on a game-to-game basis and be productive. He’d be a fourth-line player so he wouldn’t see the minutes he would have seen if had he stayed and played major junior here. But he made the choice to go to the KHL to a team that had his rights and he played against older guys, professional guys. Then with about a month left in the season, he broke his foot and had to get a plate put in it. He’s missed quite a bit of activity so we’ll see kind of how things shape up for him over the summer and what he’s been able to bring to our training camp.”
D - Erik Gustafsson (Round 4 - 93rd overall)
Erik Gustafsson was the first defensive player drafted by the Oilers in 2012. Playing over in Sweden for Frolunda HC, Gustafsson scored 20 points (2-18-20) in 50 games. The defenceman’s skating is one aspect to Gustafsson’s game that Carriere says has developed nicely.
“I think Erik had a good start to the season,” Carriere said. “He’s a good skater, handles the puck well, not overly physical but he’s pretty sound defensively position wise. The reports we get are that on the big ice his skating is good and that he’s able to defend with having good mobility. As a young guy playing in the elite leagues, he didn’t get a lot of ice time towards the end of the year. He was hard to watch because we didn’t get a lot of video on him.”
D - Joey Laleggia (Round 5 - 123rd overall)
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Joey Laleggia provided offence to the University of Denver’s blue line. The 21-year-old Burnaby, BC native compiled 25 points (12-13-25) for the Pioneers in 37 games.
“Joey had a good season,” Carriere said. “I think he was one of the more offensive defencemen in their conference. If not, he might have been the offensive defenceman or top defenceman. Dynamic skater, great puck handler, good offensive instincts, needs to work on his game down low in his end with his play in the corners and in front of the net. It’s not that we expect him to over-power anybody, but using his footwork and his speed to get position on guys and leverage himself to get loose pucks and move them out of our end quickly.”
Laleggia captured both Defenceman of the Year and Offensive Defenceman of the Year honours this season for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He also earned Second-Team West All-American recognition. He won Defenceman of the Year honours over fellow Oilers prospect Dillon Simpson of the University of North Dakota.
RW - John McCarron (Round 6 - 153rd overall)
John McCarron wraps up the 2012 draft for the Oilers as they took the 6-foot-3, 220 pound forward with the 153rd pick.
The American just finished his third season at Cornell University and upped his point production to 24 (7-17-24) in 32 games.
“Big hard-nosed guy, a physical player, has good straight-ahead speed,” Carriere said. “He needs to work on his lateral footwork and agility and maintaining speed in the turns. A big part of his game is going to be getting in on the forecheck and playing a physical game and being strong down low in the corners and going to the front of the net, much like Moroz.”