As the AHL/NHL offseason rolls on with little fanfare for the Oilers organization, there are indeed a couple of things to pay attention to. As the pileup of needed contracts moves to the forefront this summer, it’s worth noting which ones are more immediate than others. Corey Pronman, writer at Hockey Prospectus is a valid source for prospects across many leagues. He has a solid reputation for grading yet-to-be-signed players, and is a weekly read for yours truly. Today he pointed out the June 1st contract deadline for all players drafted in the year 2010 (excluding NCAA or KHL prospects). With that particular deadline only three days away (counting today), it’s time to reflect once more on the whosits and whatsits that fall into that category.
Interestingly enough, for the Oilers organization there are two names that come to mind. Both are defensemen, both have solid junior careers, both are in need of a contract soon, but only one will likely see Oilers/Barons ice time. Of course, I’m speaking of Brandon Davidson and Jeremie Blain.
Here is what Corey Pronman had to say about these two fellas:
I’ve heard scouts say they are 50/50 on giving either a contract although scouts like Davidson more. Davidson has ok pro potential as he has pro-average size, decent physicality, but below average pro skill and hockey sense.
Hockeys Future makes mention of the positions of Blain and Davidson (as well as the oft forgotten Czerwonka):
There hasn’t been much on the prospect signing front from the Oilers thus far, and there are still a number of players from the 2010 draft needing contracts. While Jeremie Blain, Brandon Davidson, and Drew Czerwonka remain unsigned, it is telling that 7th rounder Kristians Pelss has an entry-level deal. That is unlikely to have a huge bearing on the decision making process on Blain or Davidson (both of whom are expected to be signed), but could be an indication that the club could opt to let Czerwonka walk. Pelss projects as a bottom six agitator with penalty killing ability, and when a team is looking to manage a 50-contract limit, having both Pelss and Czerwonka taking up spots seems an unlikely proposition.
I’ll assume that Drew Czerwonka is going to be passed over, mainly because Pelss has already been signed. That leaves Davidson and Blain as the ones to duke it out.
Pronman points out that the Davidson has been viewed as the better of the two players. He lacks the physical size of a guy like, Colten Teubert, but might be a tad more heads-up type of defenseman. He’s a left shot which is something the Barons certainly would entertain, but does he really give more promise than say a guy like Alex Plante who is in need of a contract this summer as well. Blain, although the higher draftee, hasn’t proved to be as potent, and has sorta soured in the injury department. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of days.
My big concern with Jeremie Blain is a simple one, and one that’s all too familiar for Oilers fans: injury. He hit a career high 64 games played in his draft year, after managing just 49 the year before. He played 40 games last season, and has already missed time this year. There’s no question about his ability but injuries at his age tend to do a number on development, and then on top of that it’s probably fair to wonder if he’ll be able to stand the rigors of the professional game.
As for Davidson, he ranked a few points higher at #21 on that same list. Bruce McCurdy had this to say:
That Davidson is spending his overage season back in junior is something of a red flag, of course. It is in keeping, however, with his “late bloomer” development curve. Again there are mitigating circumstances, In part he was a victim of circumstance, given that he was one of a five late ’91s that the Oilers selected in that 2010 draft. All of those picked ahead of him – Taylor Hall, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale – were ahead of Brandon on the pecking order for pro contracts this season. The lanky puck-moving rarguard had a decent camp, but was caught in that numbers game and sent back to Regina. There he was named team captain in short order and led the squad to a blazing start that has it well-placed for a playoff berth for the first time since 2007-08.
Anyway you slice it, one or both of these players will be contracted and come this October will play in Oklahoma City. It’s worth your time to see who gets the nod and who’s left out.