Khaira developing nicely as he wraps up third rookie camp
Jujhar Khaira is a mountain of a prospect at just 19 and he's developed nicely since being drafted in 2012
|Photo by Steven Christy/OKC Barons.|
The first thing you notice is his size. Khaira reported to camp at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 215 pounds. That’s about two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than when the Oilers selected him in the third round, 63rd overall, in the 2012 NHL Draft.
It’s not just his size that has changed since his first rookie camp two years ago. A year at Michigan Tech, followed by a 43-point season (16-27-43) with Everett in the WHL and a taste of professional hockey in the AHL at the end of last season with Oklahoma City, has developed Khaira into an impressive prospect.
“I feel like I’ve changed a lot actually,” Khaira said. “I feel like my two-way game has gotten a lot better. From college, I learned a lot there like how to play against older guys and how much stronger you have to be. Then going to the WHL I felt like I kind of got used to the NHL schedule and the NHL style of play. I feel like that really helped evolve my game.
Whenever you ask someone in Oilers Player Development or the Oklahoma City Barons staff to size up the prospects down the pipeline, Khaira’s name is usually at the front of the conversation. His blend of size and skill helped him transition to the AHL game rather easily at the end of last season.
|Photo by Getty Images.|
“I thought he jumped in right away,” Oilers Sr. Director of Player Development Rick Carriere said. “I thought he did a good job at following up what we saw here at rookie camp (2013). What we saw in rookie camp was that he was strong with the puck below the goal line in the offensive zone.
“He can build a wall and take the puck out above the goal line and create a scoring chance, just using his size and strength. He was doing some of the same things at the American Hockey League level. That’s hard to do because you’re playing against some seasoned professional defencemen there. It was good to see him work at those same things that are going to be a big part of his game.”
Khaira will get a look at Oilers training camp. His size, style of play, growth as a player and his ability to play centre will make him an intriguing young player to watch in September.
It’s a very small sample size but Khaira didn’t hurt his chances with a solid Orientation Camp. In front of the Oilers brass and coaching staff at the second-annual Billy Moores Cup, Khaira scored two goals and an assist against other Oilers prospects, not to mention a one-handed highlight-reel shootout goal.
|Khaira skates at Oilers Orientation Camp. Photo by Oilers TV.|
“I thought I played well,” Khaira said after the prospects game. “It’s early in the summer for everybody so not everybody is 100% right now and not everybody is in skating shape. But training camp is the big camp and the camp where I need to make an impression.”
Oklahoma City Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson had Khaira on his bench for six regular season games and three playoff games. But even with that short glimpse, Nelson sees a bright future for the 19-year-old.
Khaira could be re-united with Nelson in Oklahoma City to begin his professional career, should he not make the Oilers out of camp. If he does head to OKC, Nelson is getting yet another big, strong and skilled young player to help shape for the future of the Oilers.
“We have a lot of heavy bodies coming to our team,” Nelson said. “It’s our job to mould these guys to be ready to make the jump to the National Hockey League.”
Khaira has all the makings of what the Oilers want more of in their system and he’s much more closer to contributing after his third summer rookie camp than he was just two years, two inches and 20 pounds ago.