The Edmonton Oilers and their record at the draft: 2002

Jonathan Willis
October 01 2008 01:39PM

 

As part of an ongoing series, I’m evaluating the Edmonton Oilers performance at the draft during Kevin Lowe’s tenure in comparison to the NHL as a whole. This is the second part of the series, focusing on the 2002 NHL Entry Draft (check out 2001 here).

The Numbers

Let’s start with some basic statistics, showing the Oilers totals first and NHL average in brackets following:

Total Number of Picks: 15 (9.7) Draft Position: 14th (of 30) NHL Games Played by Picks: 440 (335) NHL Points Scored by Picks: 179 (119)

Round 1

I’ve talked in depth about the Niinimaki selection before, and neither the poor quality of the draft or the injuries suffered can obscure the fact that this was easily the worst selection of the Lowe/Prendergast era. Let’s start with the two main caveats on this pick:

The scouting staff didn’t like any of the players available; after failing to trade up they felt they’d already missed out on the cream of the draft.

Niinimaki suffered a bunch of injuries, including a broken shoulder in 2003–04 that limited him to ten games that season.

That said, this isn’t a remotely excusable pick. The Oilers had the 14th overall selection and traded down one spot to 15th (picking up an extra 8th round pick), allowing Montreal to select a player who had a good rookie season at Yale University, Chris Higgins. As Higgins developed into an NHL player, Niinimaki played 24 games in the AHL (recording a single point) before returning to Finland, all without signing an entry-level deal. The silver lining is that the Oilers received a compensatory draft pick, the 15th selection in the second round of 2006. It’s early, but that pick (Jeff Petry) looks like a keeper.

Rounds 2 – 3

The Oilers traded away forward Jochen Hecht to Buffalo for a pair of second round picks after trying to use him to move up in the draft order (they offered Hecht and the 14th pick for Tampa Bay’s 4th overall selection; Jay Feaster elected to take Ruslan Fedotenko and two second-rounders from Philadelphia instead). This gave the Oilers four picks between #30 and #100.

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers was taken 31st overall, and after a long wait it now looks like he’s going to get a job on an NHL roster this season. Here’s what I wrote about the selection a couple of months back:

In my opinion, he’s probably the guy who suffered the most from the amateur hour show that was the Oilers’ development team prior to their affiliation with Springfield. His transition to pro wasn’t terrbly smooth, splitting time between the AHL and the ECHL, but it got worse. In 2005-06 he was the third-stringer on the Hamilton Bulldogs, who were busy developing guys like Yann Danis, Jaroslav Halak and Olivier Michaud, when they weren’t playing conditioning-stint guys like Ty Conklin and Cristobal Huet. He was then reassigned to the ECHL to get playing time, where he promptly blew out his knee. He again split time (this time for Pittsburgh’s farm team) in 2006-07, and finally got a decent season (playing time-wise) in 2007-08. The fact that this guy can still be considered a prospect is a testament to his resilience. I’m pulling for him, even though the safe money says his career ceiling is NHL backup.

This wasn’t an amazing pick, but it was a decent one, especially considering the next five players selected (between Deslauriers and the Oilers next pick at #36) have a grand total of one NHL game. The hype on Deslauriers was extremely high; most scouting publications considered him a top-three goaltender at the draft. This is a very defensible pick.

With the #36 pick we can move beyond “defensible” as a descriptive and on to “good”, or even “great”. Jarret Stoll’s career is now in some jeopardy (although a bizarre contract extension from Los Angeles would seem to put it on more solid footing) due to concussion problems, but before that this was the best pick that could be made. Only two players selected after Stoll (Matt Stajan, Matthew Lombardi) have played more games, and none have collected more points. In fact, Stoll trails only Rick Nash (#1 pick) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (#8 pick) in points among 2002 draftees. However the rest of his career unfolds, this was a good pick.

Matt Greene was picked at 44th overall, and although I am not a big believer in him as a player (my forecast for this coming season: “the smart money is on Greene being in way over his head and ending the year a scorched, empty hulk of a defenceman”), he has seen action in 151 NHL games, and seems destined for a fairly low-profile career at hockey’s highest level. A better pick would have been Chicago’s Duncan Keith, who went ten picks later, but so far Greene’s well-clear of the nine players taken between those two selections, and for that matter, also of all but a half-dozen of the 32 players taken in the second round. A good selection.

The Oilers took 6’4”, 200lb Brock Radunske with the 79th overall selection, and like all but ten of the thirty-two players chosen in the third round, Radunske has not (and likely will not) play at the NHL level. Radunske was to the AHL what J-F Jacques is to the NHL; a big forward who puts up big numbers one league down, but can’t score for love or money when promoted. His numbers from 2006–07, for example: ECHL: 16GP - 14G – 19A – 33 PTS AHL: 20GP – 2G – 0A – 2 PTS Swing and a miss, but by the third round, this sort of thing happens.

The Rest of the Way

The Oilers made ten of their fifteen picks after the 100th overall selection. One of these picks, Robin Kovar (123rd overall) was actually ineligible but listed on the NHL website, and thus the Oilers selection was voided but they received a compensatory pick later. It wasn’t a deep draft, but the Oilers struck out entirely, drafting clear misses (Almtorp, Fisher, Murphy, Micka, Johansson), some depth guys (Mikko Luoma, Dwight Helminen) and a player whose development in Russia was botched by RSL teams (Ivan Koltsov) and finally Jean-Francois Dufort, whose career was ended by concussion a year after being drafted.

In Conclusion

This draft was on the ugly side, and below league average, despite the above average games played/points totals. An excellent second round (Stoll, Greene, to some extent Deslauriers) is the only redeeming feature of a draft that remains the biggest post-Sather amateur procurement failure. The selection of Jesse Niinimaki is the most obvious error, but the Kovar selection was embarrassing, and the multitude of late round selections didn’t produce one player really worth developing.

—Jonathan Willis, henceforth known as the Draftmaster, is the force behind Copper and Blue, and a frequent OilersNation contributor.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#1 Jason Gregor
October 01 2008, 02:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Jonathon,

Currently only two players in the whole draft, Rick Nash and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have scored more points in the NHL than Stoll's 165. Of course Bouwmeester and Whitney are D-men, so they are ranked higher. But right now the Stoll pick looks to be the best in the entire 2nd round, and better than 24 picks in the first round. That pick alone makes it a succesful draft for a team. Only 24 players have played more games than Greene. He wasn't drafted to be a scorer, and the fact a stay-at-home D-man has played that many games already, means he is a good pick. Deslaurier is a dud pick. He has played 0 games, until he plays some in the NHL that pick is more bust than anything.

While it is true that Stoll and Greene are not top-end players, they have been great picks considering where they were taken.

While the 15th pick was the worst of the 1st round, the second rounders and the fact Stoll is 3rd highest scorer so far makes this draft better than most teams.

The fair basis of evaluating a draft year is compare GPs, Gs, As, Pts, and goalies from team-to-team. Saying Greene wasn't a great pick because they could have had Keith is flawed. He is the 4th highest scoring D-man in the draft, so then every team except Florida, Pittsburgh and Philly missed the boat.

The way teams evaluate their draft year is comparing the above stats and factoring the # a player was drafted in.

Avatar
#2 Jonathan Willis
October 01 2008, 02:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Deslaurier is a dud pick. He has played 0 games, until he plays some in the NHL that pick is more bust than anything.

Given the rather ugly job done by the development crew, I'm not calling Deslauriers a dud - the same as I'd be hesitant to toss that label on an injured player.

While it is true that Stoll and Greene are not top-end players, they have been great picks considering where they were taken.

Didn't I say great?

Saying Greene wasn’t a great pick because they could have had Keith is flawed.

My exact words (bloding added): A better pick would have been Chicago’s Duncan Keith, who went ten picks later, but so far Greene’s well-clear of the nine players taken between those two selections, and for that matter, also of all but a half-dozen of the 32 players taken in the second round. A good selection.

In other words, a better pick could have been made, but Greene was a good selection. Thus, we agree, yes?

Avatar
#3 Jonathan Willis
October 01 2008, 03:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Incidentally, Jason, if you didn't like the comparison I made between Keith and Greene, check out this Howard Berger article, possibly the worst sports-writing I've ever seen. I dismantled it here.

Avatar
#4 Rick
October 01 2008, 03:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Stoll was a great pick but do the Oilers get points deducted for the fact that he was an overager coming off of a contract dispute?

At the time I though there was something mentioned about how the Oilers broke some unwritten understanding that teams are supposed to let those players fall back to their original team.

Avatar
#5 Jonathan Willis
October 01 2008, 03:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

At the time I though there was something mentioned about how the Oilers broke some unwritten understanding that teams are supposed to let those players fall back to their original team.

Well, if they did, Calgary did the same thing when they took Lombardi.

Avatar
#6 Rick
October 01 2008, 03:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Yeah I remember hearing that it was done in retaliation to the Oilers taking Stoll.

It was still a great pick, but at 20 years old you have to admit it should be easier to project what you're actually getting.

Avatar
#7 Mowzie
October 01 2008, 05:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Deslauriers is a dud.

Avatar
#8 Jason Gregor
October 01 2008, 07:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Good run at Berger...That is the weakest way to rip a team, when you say they should have taken a guy in the first round when he went in the 7th...

Avatar
#9 jdrevenge
October 01 2008, 08:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Stoll wouldn't sign an entry level deal with Calgary for whatever reason and the same was happening with Lombardi and Edmonton. So either Lowe and Sutter reached an agreement or they ripped each other off. It worked out alright for both teams.

Avatar
#10 Mowzie
October 01 2008, 09:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Sutter was coaching San Jose in 2002.

Avatar
#11 jdrevenge
October 02 2008, 08:05AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Fact check. Thanks Mowzie. Whoever the Flames GM was at that point. Button??

Comments are closed for this article.