November 21 2010 07:39AM
Some goals are easier than others. For NHL scouts, delivering multiple players of exceptional quality from one draft is something that may come along once or twice in a career. It's way too early to even be discussing it, but the Edmonton Oilers 2010 draft group keeps doing things to get noticed. It really has been an exceptional start to the season for the top 5 selections. Stand back, we don't know how big this thing is going to get in the next 5 years.
I believe it takes 5 full seasons to be able to get a good look at an NHL draft. Even then, you can sometimes be waiting on a goalie or college kid. An example: Devan Dubnyk was drafted in 2004 (6 long years ago) and is just now getting his chance to start two NHL games in a row (assuming he plays today).
However, there are early returns on a draft that can spell trouble.
A FEW EXAMPLES FROM 2003
- Marc Pouliot was injured before the draft at the top prospects game (Phaneuf drilled him). In the summer of 2003 he got hurt at the Canadian WJC camp in Calgary (hip) and that had a major impact on his 18-year old season. It also hurt his performance at the Oilers rookie camp just two months after being drafted. In November 2003 he suffered an abdominal injury and a broken wrist.
- Colin McDonald had some questions coming out of the draft with regard to offense, and early in his NCAA career it looked like he wasn't going to have enough offense to play as a regular in the NHL. That's still true these years later.
- JF Jacques was selected for his size and speed. He did not miss a lot of games in junior and when he turned pro it looked for all the world like the Oilers had a useful Coke machine. Injuries have derailed his career.
- Mikhail Youkov was taken on a hunch. Scott Howson in 2003: “He’s a Russian playing in Sweden so he wasn’t eligible to play in any of the tournaments over there in Sweden or Russia. He played in the elite league, his father’s a coach in Sweden and that’s why he’s there. He’s a big strong guy that skates very well so we thought that, perhaps, he may be a little bit of a sleeper and we decided to step up and take him in the third round.”
- Zack Stortini was taken very late in the third round. They liked his character and heart, plus he'd already established himself as a leader in Sudbury.
Five months after the 2003 draft, we knew Marc Pouliot would lose much of his 18-year old season to various injuries, the concerns about Colin McDonald's scoring abilities were confirmed, Youkov was another blind pick (the most famous being Alexei Mikhnov). We knew those things 5 months after the 2003 draft. They are tells, just like playing fast when you hold a good hand or calling a girl 20 minutes after your date.
The Edmonton Oilers under Kevin Prendergast had a poor draft in 2003, made worse by the fact that it was so rich and deep. Some of that was bad luck (Pouliot was a first rounder on most pre-draft lists) but McDonald, Jacques, Youkov and Stortini were reach picks.
FAST FORWARD TO 2010
The 2010 draft is also 5 months old, and the top 5 selections are absolutely kicking ass.
- Taylor Hall: Exceptional talent is learning at the very highest level of the game as a teenager. After 18gp, he's 3-5-8 -9 with the Oilers. Stamkos was 18gp, 2-3-5 -7 to begin his NHL career. I'm not saying he's Stamkos, but would suggest that Hall's progress thus far this season--considering the quality of the team he's playing for--is completely reasonable.
- Tyler Pitlick: Took some time to adjust to the WHL's style of play, he's 3-3-6 +3 in his last three games. For the season, Pitlick is 17gp, 7-11-18 +2 and those numbers should rise now that he's playing better. Pitlick is a very important prospect in the Oilers system, because he can play center and has a nice range of skills. If there's one thing we should be looking for in the next few months in regard to the 2010 draft, it's strong boxcar numbers from Pitlick.
- Martin Marincin: 23gp, 8-17-25 +2 in the WHL. He's still posting offense (1-6-7 in his last 7 games) but is a -7 for the month of November. The club is 2-5 in that stretch, so he's not the only one having a tough time of it. I found Oil Change 2.0 interesting for lots of reasons, but one of them was the exchange with regard to Pitlick versus Marincin fascinating. MacGregor did the right thing (selecting the bpa instead of picking for need) but there's every chance Marincin will end up being the better player based on early returns.
- Curtis Hamilton: The young man is having a big season. In November, he's 7gp, 4-6-10 +9 and his overall numbers (22gp, 12-17-29 +22) have him tied for 16th in WHL scoring. He is 2nd in the entire league in plus minus, and like Pitlick represents a Godsend in terms of position and style. A rugged LW with skill is an organizational need and there's every chance he'll be lining up one a depth chart with Hall and Pääjärvi down the line. He is the one player in the top 5 we need to worry over in terms of injury, as his history pre-draft makes Pouliot look like Charles Atlas (Atlas in the 1950's, not Atlas today).
- Ryan Martindale: What in the wide world of sports is going on here? Ryan Martindale is third in OHL scoring!! Based on draft pedigree that's an overshoot of mammoth proportions and we can start to wonder openly about getting a draft steal at number 61. 24gp, 17-21-38 +20 and he plays on the number one line in the league (with Prince and Toffoli). He's rocked November (9gp, 8-10-18 +10) and another month like that one and he'll lead the league in points as Christmas. Even better, he's only 5-5-10 on the PP (1-1-2 SH) so a lot of his points are coming at even strength (24gp, 11-15-26). This is a very, very goood sign. The only negative is that the entire line is ripping it up so we're not sure who's driving the bus. Toronto once drafted Laurie Boschman without realizing the key to the line was Brian Propp on LW. Propp went 5 spots after Boschman and delivered a much stronger career.
That's the top 5, but there is more from this draft. Brandon Davidson in Regina (24gp, 3-17-20 -10) is having a strong season despite the -10 (there are two defenders with worse minus numbers) and is a player to watch. Kellen Jones was in a slump playing in the NCAA (12gp, 4-3-7 -2) but scored a goal last night in a win over Harvard.
Two things about this draft:
- It's extremely early and there are no conclusions to be drawn other than the arrows are pointing in the right direction for the top 5 plus Davidson.
- That's one helluva start for all 5 of them. Splendid.
Stu MacGregor, you really are a magnificent bastard.