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NHL.COM 30 IN 30: German star Draisaitl leads Oilers' top 10 prospects

by Adam Kimelman / Edmonton Oilers continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

Picking first at the NHL Draft three straight seasons (2010-12) allowed the Edmonton Oilers to select three NHL-ready prospects in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.

Otherwise, the Oilers have done their best to be patient with their young players.

That could change, however, as Leon Draisaitl, the third pick of the 2014 draft, will have every chance to become the team's fourth top-10 pick in the past five years to play in the NHL as an 18-year-old.

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

1. Leon Draisaitl, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 3), 2014 draft

Last season: 64 GP, 38-67-105, Prince Albert, WHL

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound German-born forward showcased his outstanding skills last season, tying for fourth in the Western Hockey League in scoring. Draisaitl, 18, also had two goals and four assists in six games for Germany at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. But what's really impressed the Oilers is Draisaitl's decision to stay in Edmonton all summer and work with the team's training and strength coaches to improve his game.

"He's working out with our trainers to get himself in the type of shape he needs to get into to try and make the team in the fall," Oilers senior vice president of hockey operations Scott Howson said. "It's a real positive step for him. He doesn't want to waste any time with this. He wants to put his best foot forward in September. He realized this is part of it. We thought it was a really good step for him to stay, to work with our trainers, to work on the specific areas he needs to work on, to make himself a little quicker, and a little quicker to pucks so that he can buy himself more time to use the skill set that he has, which is hands and size and passing ability and finding people on the ice."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Darnell Nurse, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 7), 2013 draft

Last season: 64 GP, 13-37-50, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL

The thought last season was at 6-3, 192 pounds and with an outstanding skill set, Nurse would slide into a spot on the Oilers defense. Instead the decision was made to return him to his junior team, and in the Oilers' opinion it was the best possible move. The 19-year-old was captain with Sault Ste. Marie and played against the best offensive players in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He had a tremendous year last year," Howson said. "Throughout the course of the year he was playing 25 or 30 minutes a night against all the best players. He was on the first power play, on the first penalty kill, he got some points, team captain. It was a huge growth year for him."

Nurse started his summer early, at a Hockey Canada junior evaluation camp in early August. The hope is his success there is a springboard to a full-time NHL job.

"He's certainly further ahead than he was last year, and last year he had a really good [training] camp," Howson said. "I think he's more ready to handle the whole ups and downs of 82 games."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Oscar Klefbom, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 19), 2011 draft

Last season: 48 GP, 1-9-10, Oklahoma City, AHL

The 2013-14 season was a strong comeback for the skilled 21-year-old. His 2012-13 was limited to 11 games after he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in November 2012 with Farjestad in Sweden. Klefbom (6-3, 211) started last season in North America for the first time, and after adjusting to the North American game he finished the season in the NHL with one goal and two assists in 15:47 of ice time in 17 games.

"He started rather slowly last year, which wasn't a surprise given that he missed from the end of November on," Howson said. "It was an adjustment for him. You could see his game really grow. You could see from about January on in the American [Hockey] League, he's a top-four defenseman in the [AHL] now. Every night he's a top-four defenseman, and that's a good step. He got to the NHL and played well in the NHL. He'll be a really interesting one in camp. We've made some moves on defense so there's not a lot of … there's no gimmes there now. He's going to have to push someone out, and he's very capable of doing that."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

4. Mitchell Moroz, LW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 32), 2012 draft

Last season: 70 GP, 35-28-63, 156 penalty minutes, Edmonton, WHL

After playing a more defensive role in his first two seasons with the Oil Kings, the 20-year-old got a more prominent spot last season and took advantage. He was second on the team in goals and third points while playing a key role Edmonton's run to the Memorial Cup championship. And the 6-2, 211-pound forward did it while remaining the physical, intimidating presence he had been.

"Up until last year he got slotted behind a lot of the good players, the more offensive players, and played more of a shut-down, checking role," Howson said. "Last year he got the opportunity to play on one of the top lines and he grabbed it, got over 30 goals and didn't lose any of his feistiness or his ability to compete. And he really had a tremendous year, had a good playoff and was a big part of them winning the Memorial Cup. The next step for Mitch is to come into camp and put his best foot forward. He'll likely end up in Oklahoma City. The [AHL] is a real tough league. He's going to have to show us he belongs there on an every-night basis. There will be a little bit of an adjustment to the pro game. He'll get challenged a lot more than he did in junior. It'll be a real growth opportunity for him."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Gregory Chase, C

How acquired: 7th round (No. 188), 2013 draft

Last season: 70 GP, 35-50-85, Calgary, WHL

The 19-year-old took a major step forward in his development last season, his third in the Western Hockey League. The 6-0, 205-pound forward was rewarded for his strong season with five games with Oklahoma City in the AHL to end the season. He also earned an invitation from Hockey Canada to attend a summer evaluation camp for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"Greg had a great year last year," Howson said. "Great hands, great shot. He lost some weight this summer, came to development camp 10 or 15 pounds lighter, which I thought he had to do. He's from Edmonton, so he's there training with our guys all year. It'll be a big year for Greg, going into Calgary for his last year in junior. He had a great year last year, but we really want to see him be one of the best players in the league this year and he's certainly ready to do that."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

6. Martin Gernat, D

How acquired: 5th round (No. 122), 2011 draft

Last season: 57 GP, 4-17-21, Oklahoma City, AHL

The 6-3, 197-pound defenseman made his professional debut last season but never found the level of consistency the Oilers were hoping to see, and at one point he was sent to Bakersfield of the ECHL for three games. However, the franchise has very high hopes for the 21-year-old.

"It's all about consistency and strength for him," Howson said. "He has to get stronger and he has to get more consistent. I think he's got an extremely high-end game that not a lot of people have. But there were periods where he made too many mistakes and wasn't reliable enough."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Bogdan Yakimov, C

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 83), 2013 draft

Last season: 33 GP, 7-5-12, Nizhnekamsk, RUS

The Oilers signed the 6-5, 202-pound center after watching him have a strong first season in the Kontinental Hockey League last season. He'll likely need some adjustment time in the AHL, but Howson and the Oilers are very excited about the future for the 19-year-old.

"He's one of those big centers everyone craves," Howson said. "He played in the KHL last year, played more of a defensive role. I think he understands that'll be his role to start in North American pro, which is good. Some kids have to take a year or two to get adjusted to that. And if the offense grows from there, he'll be a good player for us."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

8. Iiro Pakarinen, RW

How acquired: Free agent, June 6, 2014

Last season: 60 GP, 20-10-30, HIFK, FIN

After going undrafted, the Oilers signed the 22-year-old forward after a strong season in Finland that included three goals in 10 games to help Finland win the silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Championship. The 6-1, 205-pound forward likely will start his North American career in the AHL, but the Oilers won't put a ceiling on his potential.

"He really had a good year last year," Howson said. "He really took his offensive game up and became one of the better offensive players in the Finnish elite league. It'll be interesting to see what he's like in training camp. It'll be his first full year over here and we'll see where he slots."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

9. William Lagesson, D

How acquired: 4th round (No. 91), 2014 draft

Last season: 44 GP, 8-12-20, plus-27, Frolunda Jr., SWE-JR

The Oilers see the 6-2, 196-pound defenseman as a growth stock. He had an impressive season in Sweden's junior league and had three goals in seven games for Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Howson said the 18-year-old will play this season with Dubuque in the United States Hockey League and then play college hockey in 2015-16.

"You could just see he's one of those guys that is hard to play against," Howson said. "He can play against top people. … He's going to have to get a little quicker and little more agile on his feet, but the other parts of his game -- the compete, the willingness to battle and play against top people -- you can see that's there."

Projected NHL arrival: 2018-19

10. Kellen Jones, LW

How acquired: 7th round (No. 202), 2010 draft

Last season: 40 GP, 18-24-42, Quinnipiac, ECAC

The Oilers signed Jones in April after an outstanding senior season that saw him finish second on the Bobcats in goals and points. He was rewarded with five games in the AHL, and that's where the 5-9, 164-pound forward likely will start this season.

"I love the Jones brothers [Kellen and twin brother Connor]," Howson said. "They're just hockey players. They come and play. They didn't change a thing from college. We signed them both to [AHL] deals. They finished the season in Oklahoma City. They'll be in for a battle this season to be regulars in Oklahoma City."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

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