Monday, October 7, 2013

One To Watch: Edmonton Oilers

Few teams have the prospects depth that the Oilers currently do and expectations are high that the club will eventually climb its way out of the NHL basement and back to contention. 

I had a number of valid players to pick from for this piece as a few prospects have be assigned to Oklahoma City for the first time so all of them have peaked my interest. How will players like Oscar Klefbom, Martin Gernat, David Musil and Travis Ewanyk perform as AHL rookies? Then there are the guys that fans want to see take major steps forward this year like Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Ryan Martindale and Brandon Davidson. Will goaltending improve or become an issue? 

But there are also a number of interesting prospects still playing in junior or college worth following as well and I chose one of those guys today. 

2012 Choice: Dillon Simpson - Another strong season of growth and development at North Dakota for the local product. Simpson picked up 24 points in 42 games and he's not really expected to be an offensive guy moving forward. This year will be his final season at North Dakota and he's also been given the honor of being named captain of the club. As a senior at the age of 21 (not until February!), Simpson is barely older than some of the freshman coming in this year. 

My selection as One to Watch for the Oilers this year comes after the jump.

Mitch Moroz (LW/RW)
Edmonton Oil Kings
6'3, 214 lbs
Drafted 32nd overall in 2012

Photo: Andy Devlin
I don't envy the position that Moroz is in. I've talked to a lot of people about the Oilers decision to select the power forward as high as they did in 2012 and not one person has managed to avoid the word "reach". Let's be honest, it was a reach. The Oilers wanted to get bigger and they wanted to find a player that not only had size but could also contribute offensively and, although he really hadn't up to that point, the potential seemed to be there that Moroz could improve in that department. 

Unfortunately, Moroz scored less goals last year although his overall point production rose marginally from 25 to 34 but in three more games. 

The reason I don't envy Moroz is because I don't know that he'll ever become what the Oilers, and their fan base, hoped for when they selected him that high. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
Moroz is big and he's tough and he skates pretty well but a sniper he is not. I think most of his goals as a pro will come from inside of ten feet and half of them could be deflections. I liked that Ryan Smyth worked out with the Oil Kings during the NHL lockout last year because Moroz could one day resemble a beefier version of Smyth.

Maybe I'm not giving Moroz enough credit though. After all, he did have to play further down the depth chart with the Oil Kings becuase their top two lines have been plugged with genuine junior hockey scorers the last two seasons. And that sets this year up to be a very telling one indeed. 

For Moroz to show that he can project to be more than a fourth line muscleman as a pro, he's going to have to prove it offensively this season with the Oil Kings. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
The WHL season is underway and although it's early, Moroz is off to an impressive start - 10 points in 7 games including 7 goals. So far he's been seeing a lot of time on the top line with Henrik Samuelsson and 6 of his 7 goals have been at even strength.  Moroz has also fought three times in the 7 games played thus far as well so he's been able to keep that side of his game as well. 

Can Moroz keep it up? That's the question now as the season continues. If he does, a lot of the people who criticized the organization for selecting him  early in the 2nd round of 2012, like me, may have to eat some crow. But that's a big IF but he's off to a great start this year. 

That's why Mitch Moroz is my One To Watch for the Oilers in 2013-14. 

Up Next: Florida Panthers        

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