Jujhar Khaira may not be a top-six winger, or one of the most anticipated prospects in the Edmonton Oilers system, but he is certainly one of, if not the closest, to being NHL-ready.
The Oilers selected Khaira with their third-round pick (63rd overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Khaira played two seasons with the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings, tallying 121 points (39 G, 82 A) in 112 career games. In his draft year of 2011-12, Khaira finished 10th in league scoring with 29 goals and 79 points in 54 contests.
The following year, Khaira made the jump to NCAA with Michigan Tech Huskies, registering 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 37 games, and he finished third in scoring on the team. Chair then left Michigan Tech after his freshman year to join the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, notching 43 points (16 G, 27 A) in 59 games as rookie in 2013-14.
The Punjabi winger spent the majority of the past two seasons developing in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons and the Bakersfield Condors, but also got his first taste of NHL action during last year’s campaign. The 22-year-old Surrey, British Columbia native became only the third player of Punjabi descent to ever play in the NHL, following in the footsteps Robin Bawa and Manny Malhotra. He was recalled twice by the Oilers, putting up two assists in 15 games.
On November 28, 2015, Khaira played in his first career NHL game, a 3-2 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. On December 4, 2015, Khaira tallied his first career NHL assist in a 2-1 overtime win over the Dallas Stars.
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound forward is fully expected get an extended look in the pre-season and could supplant Matt Hendricks as the Oilers fourth line left-wing this fall. And although he’s an effective bottom six grinder, Hendricks is now 35 and can become a UFA next July. If Khaira doesn’t make the team out of camp this year, he’s likely no more than a year away from full-time work in the NHL.