| |Oscar Klefbom was Edmonton's second choice, 19th overall in the NHL Entry Draft this past June (photo by Getty Images)
With the World Junior Hockey Championships kicking off for Team Canada on Boxing Day when they take on Finland, all eyes in Alberta and across the country will be hoping for a return to Gold. Eyes in Oil Country, though, will also be focused in on 4 other teams that boast draft picks of the Edmonton Oilers. These players, four defenceman and one forward, drafted over the past two NHL Entry Drafts, are looking to show off improvement in their development en route to one day donning the Orange & Blue.
I had a chance tonight to chat with the man that facilitated the drafting of these players, Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor, to get his thoughts on the progress of the five young men.Kristians Pelss, Team Latvia, Drafted 181st Overall in 2010
Midway through his second year with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, Pelss has posted 25 points in 34 hockey games with a +19 rating.
Stu MacGregor says: "Very pleased how he's taken it forward this year. Last year was a real development year and a year to figure out what it was like to play over in North America. It's a different size rink and a competitive environment in the Western Hockey League. He had to learn the language, different foods possibly, just the culture. Obviously [the Oil Kings] are a much better team this year than they were last year, and he's a big part of that. The last, probably month, he's been very good and I've been pleased with what I've seen and the reports that have been coming in on his development. He looks like he's made a step forward and he's going to make us make a real tough decision as to where he fits in our organization."Martin Marincin, Team Slovakia, Drafted 46th Overall in 2010
The 6'4 defender is into his second season playing huge minutes for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL, and has posted 16 points in 28 games after racking up 56 points in his rookie season.
Stu MacGregor says: "He's into his third World Junior Championship, so that's a significant feather in his cap. His game has picked up considerably this past month or so. He's on a team that is struggling to make the playoffs and he plays an extraordinary number of minutes. Sometimes in those scenarios, players tend to pace themselves a bit. We'll look forward to him developing through this year and move through to the American Hockey League next year to continue to hone his game."Martin Gernat, Team Slovakia, Drafted 122nd Overall in 2011
Part way through his rookie season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, the 6'5 blueliner got off to a hot offensive start and has posted 25 points in 31 games along with a team leading plus/minus rating of +23.
Stu MacGregor says: "He had an awesome start. Really, he's learning to play defense a little bit. And, yeah, maybe his numbers points-wise aren't as significant lately, but maybe he's learning to play defensively. They've been working on his structure a little bit. The game over here, the angles to defending, you use the ice surface a little bit differently. As an 18 year old I'm extremely pleased with what he's been able to achieve."Oscar Klefbom, Team Sweden, Drafted 19th Overall in 2011
Into his second season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League, Klefbom continues to work his way up the depth chart to earn more ice time in one of Europe's top leagues. In 17 games, Kelfbom has no points and an even plus/minus rating.
Stu MacGregor says: "I don't know how much offense he's going to bring as we move forward. He's a real solid defender that makes a good first pass, gets the puck up the ice. That side of his game still has to develop, but he has some qualities that are interesting, because he can really skate and he's big. He's already over 200 pounds, but I think he's going to get heavier and stronger. Playing against men should help him to become a better player. He's a guy that's really quite emotional and gets quite wound up. If you're real wound up, sometimes you fall on the wrong edge and fall off if things aren't always going your way. I'm pleased with where he's at. He's a great kid and he's got a great demeanor about him."David Musil, Team Czech Republic, Drafted 31st Overall in 2011
The son of former NHL'er Frank Musil is into his 3rd season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL and has chalked up 16 points and 69 PIM in 35 games with a +8 rating.
Stu MacGregor says: "I think he's a solid defending defenceman and a great first pass. He's got great hockey sense, probably a guy that can kill a lot of penalties for you because of his sense and his size and his strength. I think his skating speed needs to pick up some, but he's got the hockey sense to be in the right position and take the right angles to the puck. He plays a real tight gap when he's handling the attack, and he has a great stick. He's also got real good compete. So, he's really a two-way defenseman that has an understanding of the offensive game, but probably isn't going to put up 40 points in the National Hockey League every season. Maybe he's a 15 or 20 point guy."You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 6 to 9 on 630 CHED.