May 27 2012 08:28AM
The Edmonton Oilers have devoted enormous resources and placed great importance on amateur procurement since 2010 spring. The rebuild has already delivered the top end of the draft to the NHL. The second and third rounders are on the way, and some of the depth picks are showing signs of life. How important is it to score a home run deep in the draft? What does a 5th round home run look like? Do the Oilers have any on the way?
Martin Gernat was a 5th round pick in 2011, and enjoyed an outstanding season for the Edmonton Oil Kings. He went 60, 9-46-55 and finished 7th in WHL scoring among defenders as an 18 year old. Gernat was the 106th ranked European player by Central Scouting in the 2011 draft, and was the 26th European chosen. Stu MacGregor told us after the draft that the Oilers had Gernat in their top 35. How could that be? I think you have to give NHL scouts a lot of credit for doing their jobs well.
Is this version of the Oilers scouting department better than average? That's a tough question. The club has been drafting high the last couple of seasons, but the Jordan Eberle selection deep in the first round would certainly be a high water mark for the group.
What about those 5th rounders like Gernat? How often do they emerge as quality NHL players? Using the 2003-07 drafts as a guideline, we get the following list of 5th rounders who emerged as solid or better NHLers:
- Jamie Benn, 129th overall (DAL) in 2007
- Darren Helm, 132nd overall (DET) in 2005
- Nathan Gerbe, 142nd overall (BUF) in 2005
- Tom Wandell, 146th overall (DAL) in 2005
- Mark Fayne, 155th overall (NJD) in 2005
- Kris Versteeg, 134th overall (BOS) in 2004
- Nikita Nikitin, 136th overall (STL) in 2004
- Jake Dowell, 140th overall (CHI) in 2004
- Mikhail Grabovski, 150th overall (MON) in 2004
- Mike Brown, 159th overall (VAN) in 2004
- Lee Stempniak, 148th overall (STL) in 2003
- Nigel Dawes, 149th overall (NYR) in 2003
- John Mitchell, 158th overall (TOR) in 2003
- Brad Richardson, 163rd overall (COL) in 2003
14 NHL players (there are many still working on NHL careers so the number will increase) from 162 draft picks. That's a success rate of about 8.5%. Edmonton's 5th round picks in this era (Kalle Olsson, David Rohlfs, Bryan Young, Fredrik Pettersson, Bryan Pitton, Cody Wild, Milan Kytnar) could be described as "swing and a miss" types. Edmonton did score a deep homer late in the draft once in this window: Kyle Brodziak in the extremely deep 2003 draft, 7th rd 214th overall. We know now that the Brodziak selection was strongly influenced by the great Lorne Davis, who pushed hard to draft him in 2002 (source: Guy Flaming).
Edmonton during this era just wasn't good enough. 8.5% of 5th round picks (or more, some of them are still developing) made it, Oilers got nothing from round 5 in the years we're examining today.
We're much too early in the process to properly assess Stu's crew from 2008+ but the kids chosen (Phil Cornet, Olivier Roy, Tyler Bunz, Martin Gernat) all have some good arrows. If one of them emerges as an NHL player, it would represent a 25% success rate. This era's Kyle Brodziak? It could be Teemu Hartikainen, Kristians Pelss or Frans Tuohimaa. Once again the arrows are going in a nice direction.
THE TOUCH LIST
Back when the draft was 9 rounds, Edmonton employed (and may still employ) a "touch list" of players scouts and organization men had a strong passion for in a specific year. The Lorne Davis item above would certainly fit the description, and of course there's the famous story of Kevin Lowe choosing Tyler Spurgeon back when the boss saw more junior games and had major input into at least one selection per draft.
I believe there's still a tendency for the Oilers to listen to their scouts about a specific player. Stu MacGregor will often tell us a scout has a "passion" for this player or "extreme" passion for that player and I think it's about rewarding scouts for all their hard work and those miles and miles of miles and miles.
It is interesting to see how few of those guys turn out though, then and now.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers "touch list" may still exist and if you see them taking some kid who is ranked well below the slot chosen chances are it's an area scout who has argued well for his man. On the other hand, if MBS wanders up to the microphones and suggests the Oilers had a player ranked in the top 35 and were shocked to get him at #122, we may want to follow that man no matter what Central Scouting tells us.
Previously in the series:
- TITANIC (Intro, April 6)
- OILERS WIN (Oilers scouts, Oilers draft trends, April 10)
- MATH SPEAKS OUT (NHLE'S, April 12)
- COMPLETING THE FAB FOUR (Murray versus Nail, April 23)
- FIRST BLUSH 2012 (Initial top 10 list, May 2)
- COMBINE LIST RELEASED (Invites, May 4)
- THE OILERS, THE DUB AND THE FUTURE (possible Oilers from the WHL, May 8)
- THEY COME FROM THE LAND OF ICE AND SNOW (possible Oilers from Swe/Fin, May 12)
- THE COMBINE (injuries, combine and its impact, May 24)
Up next: the OHL and the Oilers.