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 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.
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#51 DigDeepNBleedBlue
March 22 2013, 07:27PM
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@Citizen David

There are a lot of factors to understand. I don't have a complete grasp on it either, but....

A few points: most players that go the American College route do not play Major Junior. They play in a league like the BCHL or American High School and get drafted from there. Once they go to American College the drafting team holds their rights for 4 years, I believe.

A player, typically, from Canadian College/University hockey never got drafted by a NHL team or were never signed after they were drafted and the drafting team forfeited their rights to the player. Those players where almost always drafted from the CHL if they were drafted at all.

To summarize, most end up in Canadian Colleges after Jr and no NHL team holds their rights. That's the major difference.

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#52 The Soup Fascist
March 22 2013, 07:34PM
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MarcusBillius wrote:

My bad, I should read the comments first.

No prob. Only reason I knew was I asked the same question.

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#53 Citizen David
March 22 2013, 07:38PM
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DigDeepNBleedBlue wrote:

There are a lot of factors to understand. I don't have a complete grasp on it either, but....

A few points: most players that go the American College route do not play Major Junior. They play in a league like the BCHL or American High School and get drafted from there. Once they go to American College the drafting team holds their rights for 4 years, I believe.

A player, typically, from Canadian College/University hockey never got drafted by a NHL team or were never signed after they were drafted and the drafting team forfeited their rights to the player. Those players where almost always drafted from the CHL if they were drafted at all.

To summarize, most end up in Canadian Colleges after Jr and no NHL team holds their rights. That's the major difference.

I see. Thanks.

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#54 thebiggestmanintheworld
March 22 2013, 09:17PM
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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.

Exactly.

More wasted time and resources.

The Oiler Way.

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#55 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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#56 Citizen David
March 22 2013, 10:08PM
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Ewanyk scored a goal tonight.

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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#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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