Jujhar Khaira was selected 63rd overall by the Oilers in the 2012 draft. This season, Khaira has been been playing for the Michigan Tech Huskies. Tim Braun is a writer for Tech Hockey Guide, a blog dedicated to covering Michigan Tech hockey. He provided me with some good answers to questions I had about Khaira.
ME: In 27 games for Michigan Tech, Khaira has 4 goals and 14 assists. What is your overall assessment of his play so far this season?
TB: Khaira is a young player for college hockey and he took some time to get used to the level of competition in the WCHA. I expected him to struggle at the beginning of the season, but he just keeps getting better with each game. He’s really found a comfort zone with fellow freshman Alex Petan and sophomore David Johnstone. Their line is consistently one of the best on the ice each night and his skating continues to improve every weekend as he adjusts to the speed of the college game.
ME: All 4 of Khaira’s goals have come on the power play. What has been his role on the power play?
TB: He’s mostly the clean-up man. He stands in front of the net, fishes out pucks that get behind the goal, screens the goalie, picks up the rebounds, and puts them in the back of the net. His size is a real asset for him on the power play with him being able to keep his position and out-muscle the defense for rebounds.
ME: Khaira leads Michigan Tech with 45 penalty minutes. He’s been described as “big, mean, aggressive, nasty” (Red Line Report). Has Khaira picked up these penalties due to aggressive or foolish play?
Khaira is still learning what he can and can’t do with his size. Early in the season, he did take some foolish penalties when he let his emotions get the best of him. He’s a younger player and he has to learn how closely things will be called at this level and accept how much more physical his opponents are going to be in the WCHA. I think Red Line Report described him appropriately, but he needs to learn to use that aggression positively and within the rules of the game.
ME: Khaira is listed as a forward. What forward position has he been playing?
TB: He’s been playing center all season and has been doing a respectable job on face-offs (183-196). He certainly has room to improve on that, and he should if he can eliminate the bad games where he’s winning under a third of his face-offs.
ME: The Oilers have been desperately searching for a power forward. At 6’3″, 195, Khaira has the necessary frame. Does he play like a power forward for Michigan Tech?
TB: He definitely plays like a power forward for the Huskies. He loves to initiate heavy contact (especially in front of the net), bangs bodies, does the necessary dirty work in the corners, and wins battles like his first goal in an exhibition game versus Brock. He won the face-off, worked the puck to the front of the net, and stuck it home.
ME: Do you expect Khaira to return to Michigan Tech next season?
TB: I think Edmonton has to be pretty happy with his development as a Husky and I expect that Khaira should be at Michigan Tech for two more seasons before moving on to bigger things.
Tim adds, “[Khaira] did score his first non-power play goal (fifth goal of the season) last night on an unassisted goal where he intercepted a pass from a defender and wristed a laser shot past the goalie.” The video of the goal is below (1:49).