It was a huge win for the Edmonton Oilers. The fact that Justin Schultz, the highly sought after defensive prospect from U. of Wisconsin, considered Edmonton as a rookie destination is quite remarkable. The glorious history aside, recent seasons haven’t been kind to the blue and orange. And despite losing seasons, the one area where the franchise really struggled was in nurturing quality D men. And if they did, they quickly shipped them out or swept them under the rug. But it appears a new dawn is on the horizon, at least in a small way. Schultz will indeed lace up the skates for the Oilers when the puck (hopefully) drops in October.
The 2nd rounder, picked by the Anaheim Ducks, is a poised, well rounded defensive prospect. The big key for all to understand in this situation (including myself who got caught up in the frenzy) is that he’s still a kid and a prospect. A seasoned collegiate player, but a kid nonetheless. He isn’t the only answer for what ails in Edmonton. Instead he’s just a tiny piece to a much larger puzzle. Signing proven defensive players is still at the top of the list for Steve Tambellini and crew.
Prior to the Schultz ELC contract announcement, David Musil also signed a three year ELC. Musil is a kid that is hard not to cheer for despite his recent injuries, slowing point pace, and question marks about consistency. A Vancouver Giant, Musil has been a key component to his WHL squad. Yet he’s a kid that could have a solid career, but will need some serious tinkering in the minor leagues.
Good friend, and Cult of Hockey writer, Bruce McCurdy had this to say about Musil who finds himself knee deep in a suddenly deep pool of prospects:
David Musil‘s offensive numbers have stagnated at the ~30-point level in the Dub, but he made strides on the defensive side of the puck, notably at the World Junior where he made a very positive impression on observers of the Edmonton pool. An injury that ended his season just before the playoffs was a setback to both David and his Vancouver Giants. Musil has all the earmarks of a good pro, but there are no shortcuts to becoming a solid shutdown defender in the NHL. He has one remaining year of junior, but then he’ll be taken to school — and not always in a nice way — in the following couple of seasons, be it at the AHL or NHL level.
Bruce also listed the NHL equivalency of the prospects in the system, and Musil received a score of 11 which has him lower than Martin Gernat, Brandon Davidson, Kyle Bigos, Martin Marincin and Dillon Simpson. He’ll have some catching up to do. But remember, he’s yet to hit his 20th birthday and it’s hard to look pass that he was selected at #31 in the draft of 2011.
Two prospects. Two contracts. Likely two very different destinations when the season begins. Yet both have an impact on the farm in Oklahoma City.
First, as many have pointed out on twitter, Schultz likely starts in Edmonton which causes other prospects’ stock to fall. Colten Teubert becomes less “patiently waiting” and more “get good soon”. Likewise, Alex Plante’s qualifying offer will remain just that — he’s been nudged out as a result of defensive prospects above and below him. Which is rough for Alex, given how well he’s played in the last calendar year.
Second, Musil adds more muscle on the farm with a system delivered by Todd Nelson that relies on strong defenders. It’ll be interesting to watch as the young blue liners seperate from the pack. A player like Marincin, who’s had some extra pro time, will likely surge early. But that doesn’t mean that he’ll be the best defender for the Barons in the next season. Each and every one of them will have to earn their stripes, prove they are valuable to some extent, and ready themselves to have every move criticized. The Oilers can’t help it — they desperately need a few to be of good rapport.