The Edmonton Oilers sign Travis Ewanyk

Jonathan Willis
March 22 2013 01:18PM

On Friday, the Oilers announced that they had signed 2011 third-round pick Travis Ewanyk to an entry-level contract.

It’s an interesting decision – Ewanyk’s performance since draft day means that signing him was not a no-brainer. He’s struggled with injuries, and even when healthy he hasn’t produced offensively, as his statistics bear out. Of course, offence isn’t Ewanyk’s game: he plays with an edge, and he is responsible defensively. The question is whether a player like Ewanyk can make it to the majors without offensive production.

Comparables?

Looking at the draft since 2000, we can see it’s at least possible. The following is an exhaustive list of WHL players drafted from 2000-present that have played at least one NHL game after scoring 0.40 points per game or less in their 19-year old season. The numbers are projections over an 82-game WHL season (easier to read than points/game) and italics indicate a player appeared in less than 25 games that season. “Draft” indicates each player’s totals in their first year of draft eligibility, and the +1 and +2 seasons are the years afterward.

Essentially, it’s a list of fighters – players elevated to the NHL because of their ability to take and throw a punch. The lone exception is Travis Moen, who against all odds has 100 points in the NHL despite never cracking the 30-point barrier in a single season in junior. Moen is the exception to the rule in a lot of ways – most NHL players, even most NHL checkers, contribute offence in junior. Kyle Brodziak led his team with 93 points in his final WHL season, Colin Fraser was point-per-game player, Dale Weise was close to the mark – even nearly pure-fighter types like Frazer McLaren (40 points in 66 games) and Ryan Reaves (35 points in 69 games) out-scored Moen at the same age.

The Oilers are gambling that Ewanyk, like Moen, has something to offer an NHL team – that he’s good enough everywhere else that he can beat the odds. Time will tell whether that gamble was worthwhile.

Update: Bruce McCurdy, who sees the Oil Kings much more frequently than I do, posts his perspective on Ewanyk.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 RexLibris
March 22 2013, 10:00PM
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DSF wrote:

You can find tough 4th centres in the remainder bin every offseason.

Drafting and spending years developing them is a waste of energy and resources.

See: Detroit, Red Wings.

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#52 RexLibris
March 22 2013, 10:06PM
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You know, Nugent-Hopkins' flu, er, I mean shoulder, no wait, flu bug aside. This debate over the signing of Ewanyk (a prospect who, given their clout with the WHL team and his season lost to injury, could convince the young man to return as an overager) is a nice level of controversy to have.

Compare the current situation going on in the other half of the province. Falling headlong down the league standings, watching the Ghost of Miikka Kiprusoff falter in net, facing the prospect of trading perhaps the most recognizable player in franchise history (sorry, Lanny) and having to worry about leaving that deal up to one such as Jay Feaster?

I'll take the worry over signing a 3rd round pick today.

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#53 Citizen David
March 22 2013, 10:08PM
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Ewanyk scored a goal tonight.

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#54 Bank Shot
March 23 2013, 12:05AM
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Jerred Smithson scored at about .5ppg in his final year of junior which is spiting distance of Ewanyk.

So I guess its possible he makes it as a 4th line forward with grit, and PK ability.

I'm not sure why you draft that however.

Guys like Smithson are available every year in free agency, and if the Oilers rise to be a contender they will have those types of guys lining up to sign.

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#55 loosemoose
March 23 2013, 09:27AM
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Do we have to sign every player we draft now?

Stu is okay, but using up contracts in any year on guys like this is horrible asset management.

The Oiler ship needs a new crew. These guys think, "these things will sort themselves out."

the Oiler Way.

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#56 Don W
March 23 2013, 10:14AM
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This is an okay signing. I'm not sure if people should be concerned about his lack of offense since he will never be relied on for putting up points. If he excels at being a 3rd/4th liner and is fully committed to his role (should be he's already doing it) he could be useful. It's not like our current 4th line gets any points anyways even if they did score in junior, europe, men's league, wherever.

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#57 The Soup Fascist
March 23 2013, 10:23AM
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loosemoose wrote:

Do we have to sign every player we draft now?

Stu is okay, but using up contracts in any year on guys like this is horrible asset management.

The Oiler ship needs a new crew. These guys think, "these things will sort themselves out."

the Oiler Way.

By my account Ewanyk is the 4th player signed of 9 drafted in 2011 - I missed the other five signings you mention. Look, if you want to say you would not sign him, fine. Healthy debate is great. But there just seems to be a lot of hand wringing and scrutiny about a 3rd round draft - especially one who potentially fills an organizational need for a) a center b) size c) grit d) face off ability and e) chatacter- from all accounts, BTW. Great to live in a vibrant hockey market where fans are passionate, but honestly are there not bigger issues than whether Ewanyk should have been signed or not?

A simple "Good Luck Kid" ought to cover it.

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#58 Mike Modano's Dog
March 23 2013, 11:49AM
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I am wondering...does signing him count against our 50 man roster? Does it count only when he makes pro - or when he's in the NHL? I know we're close to that limit, and I want to know how this affects that, if at all.

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#59 @Oilanderp
March 23 2013, 01:02PM
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~ I AM CHRONICALLY UNINFORMED CONCERNING THE MINUTIAE OF PROSPECT DEVELOPMENT YET I PLAY 'BE A GM MODE' ON MY GAMING CONSOLE THEREFORE I FEEL OVERQUALIFIED IN FORCING MY IDIOTIC HOCKEY OPINIONS ON EVERYONE ESEPCIALLY WHEN IT CONCERNS A MINOR CONTRACT, THE SUCCESS Or FAILURE OF WHICH WILL TAKE YEARS TO DETERMINE. I ALSO TYPE IN ALL CAPS SO AS TO REINFORCE MY COMPLETE LACK OF INTELLECTUAL AUTHORITY IN ALL MATTERS OILERS. I CRITICIZE AND SPOUT DOOM AND GLOOM REGARDING MANAGEMENT AS MY SMOKESCREEN TO CONCEAL THE FACT THAT I HAVE NO ORIGINAL IDEAS OR SOLUTIONS OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER. I HAVE NEVER SEEN TRAVIS EWANYK EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE PERIOD AGAINST RUSSIA AND YET I FEEL I KNOW FOR CERTAIN THAT WHATEVER WE ARE TALKING ABOUT IS REALLY BAD. NOW I WILL GIVE MYSELF PROPS!~

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#60 RexLibris
March 23 2013, 03:49PM
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Mike Modano's Dog wrote:

I am wondering...does signing him count against our 50 man roster? Does it count only when he makes pro - or when he's in the NHL? I know we're close to that limit, and I want to know how this affects that, if at all.

Contracts only count when the player plays professional hockey in North America. Pelss (AHL) counts, Klefbom (SEL) does not. Ewanyk would count the moment he is assigned to either the ECHL or AHL.

I suspect that someone in player development (Mike Sillinger or somebody in that position) will take him aside and say that given his lost season last year they would like him to return to the Oil Kings for one more kick at a Memorial Cup. It would be best for his long-term development, in my opinion.

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