September 25 2010 07:21AM
A good way to track prospects progress is to take note of their arrows. Good arrows, bad arrows, they all count. Jani Rita's WJ goal, his first season in the AHL--those are good arrows. Any comment made by Craig MacTavish about Jani Rita? Down arrow. It's been years--over a decade--since the Edmonton Oilers had so many up arrows. It is a little overhwelming.
I've been struck by the quality of the prospects being sent down so far. On September 20, Edmonton sent away 20 players, including Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale and Martin Marincin. These kids are all fairly high draft picks, and were known quantities before the Oilers selected them in the most recent draft. They're not long shots, they're good bets. I know injuries and life can get in the way, and lord knows an old Oiler fan like me knows for sure that prospects don't develop in a straight line. But those three kids had draft pedigree, there are no Niininmaki's or Colin McDonald's (both of whom were drafted well before they were expected to go).
The Oilers used to draft Coke Machines and now they're drafting hockey players with size. Subtle difference, but I think Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor may have found a formula that works: find hockey players, draft as many as possible, make sure they play in a league and situation that will benefit them (Rita sat on his arse in the Finnish league, playing 5 minutes a night in very important development years). That's another reason for all the arrows.
On September 21, the Oilers sent down Olivier Roy. This young man has a chance to be on the World Junior team this Christmas, and his resume already includes some outstanding work (Roy started slowly last year in junior, then had an exceptional run to finish well in the Q; he followed that up with a most impressive 140 minutes in Springfield).
Yesterday, the club sent down Tyler Pitlick. Pretty much everyone agrees this young man showed a wide range of skills and God-given talent during his time in the city. Pitlick may be that Coke Machine poor old Kevin Prendergast spent much of the ott's looking for. and it doesn't look like this one will take long to figure everything out. Pitlick's arrows are all positive from here.
Many years ago, the Hockey News told me the Edmonton Oilers had some nice talent on the horizon. This was just after the crazy period when Gretzky was joined by Lowe, Anderson, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Moog, Fuhr. The article mentioned Steve Smith, Jim Playfair and spent a lot of time promising me Raimo Summanen would be the ultimate LW for Gretzky-to-Kurri. Right at the end of the article the author said something like "and Esa Tikkanen may also help down the line." Well, yes.
Ten years ago, the Oilers training camp roster included the following prospects who became NHL players of note: L Jason Chimera, L Daniel Cleary, C Mike Comrie, D Alex Henry, C Shawn Horcoff, L Dan Lacouture, C Matthew Lombardi, R Fernando Pisani, D Alexei Semenov. Some nice forwards in there. notable in that none of them were Oilers first rounders and that Lombardi got away. Also interesting: not much from the blueline and no goalies made it. Perhaps its the water.
This year's list has some advantages, not the least of which is a #1 overall pick, two other top quality first rounders and that kid Pitlick who is already looking like a real gem. If there's a Tikkanen in there somewhere, the Oilers will be flush in a couple of years. Either way, I like this year's group a little more than the one the club brought in 10 years ago. The Riesens, Henrich's and Mikhnov's have been replaced by Hall, Pääjärvi and Eberle. This decade is starting very well in terms of talent procurement.