Ten Points: Special “off the rails” edition

Jonathan Willis
December 17 2012 12:04PM

There is some high-end talent in the Edmonton Oilers’ system, and guys like Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov are enjoying stunning 2012-13 campaigns – in fact, late last week I made the argument that those two players were the best drafted prospects in the league. After those two, however, the news for Oilers prospects as a group has been decidedly disappointing. Injuries have knocked out guys like Oscar Klefbom and Martin Gernat, while many others have simply struggled to perform as expected this season.

The following list helps demonstrate how badly some of the team’s auxiliary prospects have faltered this year.

1. Anton Lander (AHL: 22GP – 2G – 2A – 4PTS). Lander spent most of last season in the NHL, but he’s looked like anything but a superior player at the AHL level. He picked up his first point on November 25 after going 13 games to start the season without a point; quality linemates (first Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi; later Taylor Hall in place of Hartikainen) are helping to drag the offence out of him but even so he’s not done nearly enough in a feature role this season.

2. Tyler Pitlick (AHL: 19GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS). Pitlick got a push early in the season on scoring lines, but failed to deliver anything resembling offense. He hasn’t recorded a point in almost two months, he isn’t shooting regularly, and now the coach is talking publicly about his physical game being underwhelming. After an impressive playoffs last year, this was supposed to be a breakthrough campaign.

3. Tyler Bunz (ECHL: 17GP, 0.861 SV%). An 8-5-2 record doesn’t sound so bad, but the fact that Bunz has posted a sub-0.900 save percentage in 11 of his 17 games does. Bunz was expected to copy Olivier Roy’s rookie season last year with a strong performance; instead he’s been terrible.

4. Tobias Rieder (OHL: 27GP – 9G – 14A – 23PTS). Last season, Rieder scored 42 goals in 60 games and was nearly a goal-per-game guy in the playoffs. His pace this year translates to less than half that total. To top things off, the smallish forward hasn’t skated in December thanks to a fractured foot.

5. Alex Plante (AHL: 19GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS). An AHL all-star last year, Alex Plante has been a third-pairing liability and regular healthy scratch this season. His minus-3 rating is an accurate reflection of his play. Foot speed and decision-making have been serious weaknesses.

6. Daniil Zharkov (OHL: 30GP – 8G – 3A – 11PTS). With two goals in his last four games, Zharkov’s offence is on the upswing after he recorded just a lone assist over a 12 game stretch in the heart of November. He’s actually stagnating from underwhelming numbers last year, and that’s the kiss of death for a player whose greatest skill is supposed to be offence.

7. Philippe Cornet (ECHL: 14GP – 8G- 11A – 19PTS). Cornet enjoyed a strong start for Stockton but has been invisible since being recalled – he has no points and a minus-2 rating over eight AHL contests. An AHL all-star last year, the influx of NHL stars and limited long-term upside meant that he was cut by the Barons out of training camp.

8. Curtis Hamilton (AHL: 22GP – 2G- 2A – 4PTS). Hamilton’s been defensively competent at the AHL level, and even impressed at times on the penalty kill. His minus-3 rating has improved dramatically since being put on a line with Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello but is still one of the worst marks on the team, he has barely scored at all and he really doesn’t look like a fit for an “energy” role in the NHL, though, so any praise is at this point muted praise.

9. John McCarron (NCAA: 10GP – 0G – 2A – 2PTS). A nice run last year with Cornell got McCarron drafted as an over-ager; he has pro-level size at 6’3”, 215 pounds. But with two assists in 10 games, he’s nowhere near the pace he needs to be at to be a legitimate prospect.

10. Kellen Jones (NCAA: 17GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS). When the Oilers drafted him in 2010, he was the tiny BCHL forward who could score. Then he became the tiny NCAA forward who could score. He’s the longest of longshots when he is scoring; this year he’s not even doing that.

Bonus: Cameron Abney (AHL: 4GP – 0G – 0A - 0PTS). Abney’s played a total of ten games this season, four of them at the AHL level. That’s off last year’s 43-game pace and while he’s not the kind of player who will ever fail/succeed based on his hockey ability the fact that he isn’t a regular fourth-line guy in Stockton is less than ideal.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.