Oilers Senior Director of Player Development Rick Carriere provides his thoughts on each of those prospects and their development in an exclusive interview with edmontonoilers.com.D- Darnell Nurse (Round 1 - 7th overall)
The Oilers top prospect outside of the NHL is coming off a season full of learning experiences. The defenceman was disappointed to get cut in pre-season but returned to his team in Sault Ste. Marie determined to dominate the OHL and be a leader.
|Photo provided by Steven Christy/Oklahoma City Barons |
“He’s got a deep desire to please,” Carriere said. “He wants to play for the Edmonton Oilers and I think we saw that disappointment when he got released in pre-season. He went to his team in Sault Ste. Marie and worked hard, he was a leader there, he was the captain. He came out and did everything he could, every single night and played 25-30 minutes per night against the other teams’ best players. From that standpoint, he was probably able to develop a little bit more of his two-way game. He played power play, he got an opportunity to play in some offensive situations.”
This season, Nurse posted 50 points (13-37-50) and 91 penalty minutes in 64 games this season. He added eight points (3-5-8) in nine playoff games. He continued to develop despite not making Canada’s world junior team.
“His big thing was to build his body up, build his strength and I think throughout the year, as he’s working on trying to build and maintain strength and play 30 minutes each night, somethings that takes a little bit from your effectiveness in the game,” Carriere said. “That might have been part of the decision making for the World Juniors team and why they didn’t take him. Maybe they felt he was a high-risk player but we don’t see that. I thought he had a good year. I thought he defended hard. At times he may have been a little impatient defending. He’d step up on some rushes that maybe he should be a little bit more patient in but he’s very physical, wants to punish every time he hits, moves the puck extremely well, great skater, outstanding human being and he’s a workhorse in the gym. My expectation is he’s going to put on some weight this summer and he’ll have a good start to the season for us.”
Nurse also gained some great experience, joining the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League during their late season playoff push. After early struggles in his first professional game, Nurse solidified his spot in the Barons lineup and became a go-to player in important situations. Carriere watched him play when he first made the jump to the pros.
“He struggled the first period and then he settled in and adjusted really well to that level of play. He brought his game up, he made quicker decisions with the puck, he read the rush really well, looked for situations to jump up on the offence and really got his game going there. Over time, he became a regular player for Oklahoma City and into the playoffs as well. It was a great experience for Darnell to have the opportunity to go through that.”
When the Oilers player development department looks at Darnell Nurse, they just know he’s going to be a good one.
“He’s a tall, lean body and he can carry another 15-20 pounds and still be very effective. He skates well, he’s got good skills and he’s coachable. He’s very receptive to new ideas and to adapt his game to how he needs to play.”
C- Marco Roy (Round 2 - 56th overall)
Marco Roy has had a season he might wish he could have back, just because of the time missed due to injuries.
“I think Marco has got a lot of skill,” Carriere said. “He’s competitive, he’s good offensively, he needs to work a little more on his defensive game. Part of that is consistency with how hard he competes. He struggled with injuries. He had a wrist injury at the start of the season that he kind of left here with and it took him a while to recover from that and as a result he was probably a little behind everybody in his league. The Quebec league starts a little bit earlier than the WHL and the OHL. He missed a few more games than what he probably was hoping to. But he got in and in November, he got a concussion. It wasn’t diagnosed early so he played a little longer and went through the Subway Series and then he comes out of that and he’s diagnosed with a concussion. It just prolonged his ability to be ready sooner. Rather than coming back in early December, he wasn’t back until almost mid-January so you’re really behind the eight-ball when you try to come back not having played the first half of the season.”
Even with his injury issues, Roy was still able to almost be a point-per-game player for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. He finished the season with 35 points (14-21-35) in 39 games during the regular season. Next season holds more opportunity for Roy as he was traded from the Armada to the 2015 Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts.
“He’s recently been traded to the Quebec Remparts so he’s got an opportunity to play in the Memorial Cup next year so we’re pretty excited about that great opportunity. In talking to him about that, he’s excited about that and he’s looking forward to that. he’s here to try and get a contract but, at the same time, if he ends up back in the QMJHL then he’s excited about where he’s going.”
C- Bogdan Yakimov (Round 3 - 83rd overall)
After Russian native Bogdan Yakimov signed his entry level contract with the Oilers this summer, he will now look to make the jump to North American hockey after spending this past season with Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL.
“We’re excited that he’s coming back to play here,” Carriere said. “It was great to see him at our development camp last year. He just happened to be in the U.S. at the time of the draft so it was easy to get him here. It’s not so easy when you’re not over here in North America to get the visa that quickly. He came in, couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face, he worked hard and there’s definitely a language barrier but I have a lot of respect for those players that come over that don’t speak the language fluently or struggle with the language. It’s got to be a scary situation for him but he handled everything very well.
At 6-foot-5, Yakimov could added a big weapon to the centre group in Oklahoma City this season. Carriere expects him to quickly make an impact on the Oilers affiliate.
“He went back and played in the KHL. We didn’t see a lot of video on him and don’t have a lot to go on other than some scouting reports. But I think he’s going to come in and make an adaptation to the North American game very quickly and be an impact.”
LW- Anton Slepyshev (Round 3 - 88th overall)
Five picks following the Yakimov selection, the Oilers went back to Russia to take 6-foot-2 winger Anton Slepyshev. Carriere and the Oilers player development team had the opportunity to watch Slepyshev at world juniors this year.
“All we saw was at the world juniors, we got a glimpse of him when we saw Russia play and I think we saw a very dynamic offensive player that makes good plays at high speed. He maybe needs to work on his game without the puck a little bit defensively. But he falls into that category of he wasn’t here at last year’s draft so we couldn’t get him to our orientation camp or development camp so we missed out on getting a chance to meet him but hopefully he’ll make it over this year.”RW- Jackson Houck (Round 4 - 94th overall)
Houck just finished his third season with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. He increased his point production for the second straight year, finishing with 61 points (34-27-61) in 69 games.
“I think Jackson showed signs of improvement throughout the year,” Carriere said. “He’s got to work on his conditioning a little bit more as a lot of young guys do but we work with him on his foot-speed, on his acceleration, his quickness and consistently being gritty. I think that’s going to be Jackson’s game because he has some skills and a desire to go to the front of the net with some conviction. He makes opponents pay the price when he goes there. I see that as Jackson’s game and he’ll go back to junior again next year after being here at camp again.”RW- Kyle Platzer (Round 4 - 96th overall)
Two picks after Houck, the Oilers selected another winger. Platzer is a guy who brings some skill to the Oilers prospect depth. Platzer was traded by the London Knights to the Owen Sound in the OHL this season.
“Kyle has got some skill, he’s a little bit more of a skill guy,” Carriere said. “He’s got an excellent shot. He shoots almost like an American Hockey League player now in his release and velocity on his shot. It’s the same thing with him in that he needs to build up his body and be a little bit stronger and work on his acceleration. You’ve got to have that other gear to his game so that he’s a little bit more effective offensively. Defensively, he was always pretty sound. Watching his games, he didn’t see a lot of power play time but he got on the penalty kill. When he got to Owen Sound, he got a chance to play both roles on power play and penalty kill. Late in games they had him on the ice where he didn’t get those opportunities in London. I’m hoping that helps him translate into a little bit more of a 200-foot player.”
LW- Aidan Muir (Round 4 - 113th overall)
Aidan Muir brings size to the Oilers prospect pool at 6-foot-3. He also burst onto the scene this season by becoming a viral video sensation for a shorthanded goal against Youngstown in the USHL in which he scored from his knees.
Muir will now leave the USHL after winning a championship with the Indiana Ice. He will try his hand at collegiate hockey at Western Michigan University.
“Aidan has prepared himself to play at the college level,” Carriere said. “He’s a bigger guy, he’s a very good skater and he looks to finish checks and punish opponents physically. He’s got good skills, good hands but he needs to work on his vision and awareness a little bit. From the games I’ve seen with him and on the reports we get back, we’ve seen a lot of that he needs to understand he has to have an idea of where to move the puck before he gets it. He needs to try an think a play or two ahead of time. Watching his games, I saw improvement in that and in talking to his coaches, they felt that’s an area of his game he’d been improving in. I think he’s college ready. With him we have some time and we’ll see him here at orientation camp and talk about his next Individual Development Program with him and go from there.”
LW- Evan Campbell (Round 5 - 128th overall)
After making the jump from the BCHL to collegiate hockey with UMass-Lowell, Campbell found himself in a situation where his new coach wasn’t familiar with him. As a young guy, he had to earn the trust of his coaching staff before getting more opportunity. As he did that, he improved over the course of the season.
“He had a slow start,” Carriere said. “His coach didn’t know him and he came out of the BCHL with some good offensive stats. He was a good offensive player for his team and then he gets to college and the NCAA is tough to play in as a young guy. He was used sparingly early in the season but I think after Christmas his coach started to feel a bit more confident in him and he saw a bit more playing time and he had a good finish to the season.”
D- Ben Betker (Round 6 - 158th overall)
The name of the game for Ben Betker this season was getting bigger and stronger.
“I think Ben has improved his foot speed quite a bit and his mobility,” Carriere said. “He’s worked hard in the gym, he’s grown a little bit more and put on some weight and some strength. He’s a good first-pass defenceman. He gets the puck out of his own end. I think Ben needs to develop more of a physical edge to his game. I don’t know if he comes by it naturally but he’s got to find more aggression to his game. Mobility-wise, he’ll have a good year back in Everett next year if we don’t find a place for him in the AHL this year.”
C- Greg Chase (Round 7 - 188th overall)
|Photo by Getty Images |
The Oilers got their hands on an agitator in the seventh round. Chase is a player who likes to get under his opponent’s skin and he does it often. He had a breakout season with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL as he scored 85 points (35-50-85) in 70 games, to go along with his 83 penalty minutes.
Chase played a little with the Oklahoma City Barons following his junior season and scored a goal in his first professional game.
“He needs to continue to work on his strength and his foot speed,” Carriere said. “He needs to develop more acceleration to his game to be a little bit more dynamic on the attack. The things he was working on this year, and I think he improved quite a bit on too, was his play without the puck defensively, with his positioning, going into the corner, battling for pucks and finishing checks. Offensively he brings a lot to the table, as we saw with his point production. I see a steady progression with Chase. He works hard in the gym and I think he’s going to have a good summer and really challenge for a spot in Oklahoma City one day.”