Man, Stockton’s going to be the toughest team in the ECHL

Jonathan Willis
March 29 2013 09:45PM

The title above is tongue-in-cheek, but it does seem if the Oilers are on a quest to add functional toughness to the organization, they’re only about half way there. The team’s prospect system is loaded to the gills with toughness; the function is a little harder to see.

On Friday the Oilers added Kale Kessy, a tough-as-nails, oft-suspended WHL winger. The cost was Tobias Rieder, an undersized forward who plays a strong two-way game and has good offensive skills, but was going through an underwhelming OHL season. It’s difficult to harshly critique a swap of longshots; both were fourth round picks and despite Rieder’s great season last year both are as much suspect as prospect. Rieder’s range of skills carries more value with me than Kessy’s physical play, but I can see the argument the other way, too.

One more for the crowd

Kessy joins a brigade of similar prospects: generally big, always tough forwards with a marginal scoring game. Players in italics are signed to an NHL deal, ages are as of the start of next season, and ‘NHL/82’ refers to each player’s projected NHL scoring number over an 82-game season.

I’ve included Jujhar Khaira here, though he sticks out like a sore thumb. Penalty minutes and scouting reports indicate he can play a power game; his scoring numbers as a very young player (he doesn’t turn 19 until August) mark him as an honest-to-goodness prospect and a guy to watch.

The rest of the group is less impressive. Abney and Tyrvainen can be charitably described as “underwhelming” at the professional level; it seems a good bet that Tyrvainen will be flushed in the summer while Abney lost his AHL job to a Central Hockey League enforcer earlier this year. Moroz hasn’t had the offensive breakthrough that was hoped for, McCarron’s year-over-year totals are stagnant and Kessy’s 42 points this year represent more than he’s recorded in the last two WHL seasons combined. Ewanyk seems to have no scoring touch whatsoever.

With the exception of Khaira all of these guys - assuming they play in the NHL at all – seem destined to compete for fourth-line work.

Efficiency

One of the Oilers’ trends since 2001, when Kevin Lowe took over as general manager – a trend that continues to this day – is the organization’s willingness to spend top-100 draft picks on forwards with high penalty minute totals and marginal scoring numbers. Under Prendergast, it was players like Ed Caron, Zack Stortini and Geoff Paukovich; under MacGregor it is guys like Cameron Abney and Travis Ewanyk and Mitch Moroz. Maybe the Oilers just coincidentally hired two amateur scouting directors who like this player type, but given how that type of draft pick fits with trades like the Kessy deal it seems more likely that this is an organizational directive.

The real question is whether it’s a strategy that makes the best use of resources. Players like Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk were brought in for nothing via free agency, Mike Brown cost a fourth-round draft pick, and so on. If other names are preferred they’re easy enough to find; from Zenon Konopka to Shawn Thornton, tough players for an NHL fourth line job aren’t typically expensive acquisitions. As the Kessy trade shows, grabbing prospects for that role via trade isn’t particularly expensive either; all the Oilers had to give up was an unsigned prospect whose latest campaign had gone all pear-shaped.

A pick like Khaira (Khaira had 79 points in 54 BCHL games, totals that separate him from the stone hands) and to a lesser extent one like Moroz (there was a case to be made that he turned a corner at midseason and was primed for a breakout campaign, though that hasn’t happened) is understandable because the idea is to land a guy who can play a top-nine role in the NHL while providing a power game. Those players are rare and valuable. But for fourth line guys, grabbing them fully grown or shipping out a disappointing prospect to grab one still in development seems far more cost-efficient than spending top-100 picks at the draft.

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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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#2 voom04
March 29 2013, 10:34PM
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thanks JW, these are the types of articles i look for from O N. never see anything like this from the journal or sun.

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#3 Old Retired Guy
March 30 2013, 08:53AM
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voom04 wrote:

thanks JW, these are the types of articles i look for from O N. never see anything like this from the journal or sun.

Agreed.......JW puts the "anal" in analytics....and that's a good thing....

He brings an analytical approach to the site that helps balance out all of the other contributors that come from a more emotional and antedocal perspective.

I think that what JW writes is more difficult and time consuming to create than what the other writers bring....and for that he is greatly appreciated!

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#4 Jay Gray
March 30 2013, 10:04AM
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Simply put, Kessy has a better chance at a 4th line role on this team than Rieder does in a top 6 role. Trade does make sense to me. I like it.

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#5 oilers2k10
March 29 2013, 10:02PM
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One step close to Milan Lucic I guess lol

As long as the kid can skate..he could have an NHL job someday.. All young players playing this type of role should look at how Mike Brown plays..that's what oilers need more of, more Brown, less J.S. Jacques.

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#6 vetinari
March 29 2013, 10:03PM
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I think that the holy grail that the Oil is looking for is a power forward in the top 6 mold of a Brendan Shannahan or a Erin Lindros or a Mark Messier... heck, I think that at this point, they'd kill for a Wendall Clark type of player...it's fine to target these players but it's like looking for a needle in a haystack... I think the better strategy is simply build a winning team and attract a UFA or trade for this player type when you have some depth to spare

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#7 Smokey
March 29 2013, 10:08PM
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Outta all the Oiler's smaller prospects such as K Pelsch, Tyravainen, Arcobello, Rajala I thought Reider projected to be a potential better player then the others? Would not the Oilers been better off trading KP and signing Reider?

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#8 Smokey
March 29 2013, 10:13PM
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What are the Oilers doing with Gernat? I'm a wee bit scared. Any thoughts anyone?

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#9 Kevin
March 29 2013, 10:52PM
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Seems like outside of the obvious 1st picks over all which it could be argued that maggie the monkey could have picked our drafting has been very questionable. More fingers to be pointed at our gong group of management. As long as we have this management group we will continue to be a toilet bowl team. Sad but true !

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#10 etownman
March 29 2013, 11:16PM
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A tad early to be crossing off 18 yr old Moroz as a failure I would think! You have no idea what the coaching staff of his championship team are asking him to do for the team! This kid is a terrific skater, aggressive & did improve on his point totals from last year! I highly doubt he'll be asked to play full time on the top two lines but in time I could easily see Moroz playing up & down the line up providing checking & physicality!

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#11 andrewmk20
March 29 2013, 11:29PM
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I think everyone can agree that it's not the deal that we don't like, because we're all ambivalent towards it. It's more so the philosphy/direction of the deal that bothers me.

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#12 NewAgeSys
March 29 2013, 11:32PM
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The simple fact is that there is a problem with the math here.

There is no wayyy possible that professional scouts pick so many bombs, no way possible unless they are all just getting drunk together and playing prospect bingo together at night when they are on the road.

I think that the level of professionalism present in the player scouting and development depts have dropped dramaticlly in the last ten years as stats based analysis has systematiclly undermined the traditional core values of pro hockey on every level concievable.

The system and the coach make the player, those two factors control every aspect of a players ability to reach and maintain their optimal personal performance levels. You know the old icetime quandry, what do you do with a roster full of superstars when there are more elite men than there are minutes to keep them productive challenged and happy?

If a man doesnt even have average NHL physical skills and cerebral ability then who in their right mind would recruit him? And if the men DO have these basic requirements and we have this crappy a batting average then obviously there are serious internal problems that a pasty white snowflake statistical BS story will not cover up any longer. Fire every Statistician, on sight, then abolish any media connection to an openly stats supporting source, declare war on the enemy that is destroying the organisation before its to late. It takes Intuative dynamic analysis to properly balance the influences you need to create a winning atmosphere, the majority of the population hasnt even got a clue how to functionally utilise this skillset never mind teach it, teams sometimes wait decades to find the right combonation of personell to project an Intuative enough perspective to create a championship culture and team. Lets not overcomplicate things with statistical BS.

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#13 DieHard
March 29 2013, 11:44PM
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andrewmk20 wrote:

I think everyone can agree that it's not the deal that we don't like, because we're all ambivalent towards it. It's more so the philosphy/direction of the deal that bothers me.

Right, we wouldn't want to get bigger would we.

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#14 Eulers
March 29 2013, 11:46PM
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A-freaking-Men, JW!

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#15 dessert1111
March 30 2013, 12:07AM
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I'm surprised you called Rieder more suspect than prospect. Does he not seem like a good prospect to have in the system? Two-way forward is the key here -- I would suggest they need someone like that more than they need a Mike Brown/Ben Eager replacement -- after all who in the system projects to be that important player-type of a forward who can score, play with skill and PK? Not to mention there are several prospects in the system who project to be fourth liners at best...

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#16 Aron S
March 30 2013, 12:43AM
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@JW: I'd like to hear your thoughts on this...

While I would've loved to have seen Rieder continue in the system as opposed to another potential 4th line goon, my concern along the lines of a Rieder player type are:

What will become of Omark? Have the Oilers totally and officially chased him out of town? Will we next hear of him as a 40 pt player with some other team?

Maybe I've been neglectful, but it seems like he's dropped off the radar since the lockout, despite leading the Swiss A league in points and being the Oilers best player outside the NHL in NHLE.

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#19 Curcro
March 30 2013, 01:17AM
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@NewAgeSys

"And if the men DO have these basic requirements and we have this crappy a batting average then obviously there are serious internal problems that a pasty white snowflake statistical BS story will not cover up any longer."

How exactly do you determine the skill of the scouts (aka batting average) without statistics?

You are suggesting we analyze them by their success rate, however, you forbid people from having access to the very information that would allow them to be analyzed.

You realize you are a delusional autocratic dictator at your very core?

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#20 Curcro
March 30 2013, 01:28AM
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@JW

Why is it everyone forgets Dane Byers in these conversations about Draft Picks, Trades, Waiver Pick Ups etc?

He is like the forgotten Coke Machine in the Oilers arsenal.

(I know he scored at the same rate as Eager in Junior, and matched it regularly in the AHL. But still NHL numbers in the 14 games tell a story.)

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#21 morgie99
March 30 2013, 08:01AM
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these kind of moves make me think Klowe's influence all the way, just an assumption

but it's certainly another example of the organization missing a certain player type and then going about spending much effort to get just that player type.

it reminds before the rebuild we were all grit with little skill, now we are opposite, wishing we had more grit

it reminds me when we had no puck moving dmen then all we had was puck moving dmen.

and with moroz and this trade it reminds of the same mentality, go from one extreme to the other with no balance in between

i really beleive klowe is a problem for the organization

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#22 Alex
March 30 2013, 08:32AM
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Ewanyk is 19 not 20. He has one more year of WHL eligibility left.

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#23 Old Retired Guy
March 30 2013, 08:55AM
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And...yes....I get it....."It's an exhibiton....not a competiton....so please...wagering!" All the writers are good. JW just brings a unique perspective.

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#24 Rod from Viking
March 30 2013, 08:55AM
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etownman wrote:

A tad early to be crossing off 18 yr old Moroz as a failure I would think! You have no idea what the coaching staff of his championship team are asking him to do for the team! This kid is a terrific skater, aggressive & did improve on his point totals from last year! I highly doubt he'll be asked to play full time on the top two lines but in time I could easily see Moroz playing up & down the line up providing checking & physicality!

I agree completely, boy everyone says the Oilers have to get tougher and bigger and they get crapped on for trying to do that. Mike Brown knows his role and these guys are not that easy to find, that is why it cost us a third round pick,it is also more difficult than you think to find tough role players that are good in the dressing room, don't have off ice issues and are willing to come to Edmonton as UFA's. If one or two of these prospects can turn out to be tough team players that are great in the dressing room and can add a little scoring at this level it will be a success Getting these players as teenagers also give the team a chance to help mold them into being an Oiler, culture, and systems. Our prospects playing in Stockton and OKC need protection as well. Everyone would like a David Clarkson type on the Oilers and he wasn't even drafted so projecting this type of player is not easy.

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#25 Old Retired Guy
March 30 2013, 08:56AM
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That should have said "please...NO wagering"....time to clean the keyboard....

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#26 oilers2k14
March 30 2013, 09:45AM
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In NHL 13 terms Rieder is a four star red sniper while Kessy is more of a three star green power forward.

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#27 nunyour
March 30 2013, 09:54AM
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The NHL is changing,they are fazing out fighting,many, mostly U.S.fans don't like it.And the NHL is trying very hard to grow their business in the states.Most enforcers are now gone,next the eager types,so I think it is more important to be a good defensive player and good skater,than to be able to fight.

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#28 David
March 30 2013, 10:11AM
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I saw Moroz play last night on TV. The guy is horrible for a potential NHL player. You would think with his size and speed playoff hockey would be where he excels.

Stu M has this ora around him like he is some jedi master , he has no clothes.

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#29 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 30 2013, 10:21AM
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Deft move by Tamby. Just another notch in his long list of achievements. His best move by far was firing all the equipement staff. Those guys were a bunch of lollygaggers i tell ya. Hate to think where we'd be today without that move.....

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#30 The Soup Fascist
March 30 2013, 10:30AM
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@Rod from Viking

You are correct there is no pleasing everyone. Had Lucic, Clarkson, Clowe, etc been "finished" products as teens, obviously they would have been drafted higher. Moroz and Kessey are young, they are tough customers in a tough league and have showed signs / flashes of offensive ability. Who knows?

The same people who are complaining about the small forwards in the Oil top six are likely the same ones who say Moroz was picked too early and Reider was too much to give up for Kessey. While I am certainly critical of many choices this management has made I also can admit not all decisions are wrong or at least not without merit based on the logic involved.

Small scoring junior forwards are a dime a dozen / so are tough guys who can't quite play at the next level. Chances are neither Reider or Kessey are ever impactful NHL players. If you are going to roll the dice might as well be in a position of need.

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#32 morgie99
March 30 2013, 10:43AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Deft move by Tamby. Just another notch in his long list of achievements. His best move by far was firing all the equipement staff. Those guys were a bunch of lollygaggers i tell ya. Hate to think where we'd be today without that move.....

Well Said!

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#33 morgie99
March 30 2013, 10:47AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

You are correct there is no pleasing everyone. Had Lucic, Clarkson, Clowe, etc been "finished" products as teens, obviously they would have been drafted higher. Moroz and Kessey are young, they are tough customers in a tough league and have showed signs / flashes of offensive ability. Who knows?

The same people who are complaining about the small forwards in the Oil top six are likely the same ones who say Moroz was picked too early and Reider was too much to give up for Kessey. While I am certainly critical of many choices this management has made I also can admit not all decisions are wrong or at least not without merit based on the logic involved.

Small scoring junior forwards are a dime a dozen / so are tough guys who can't quite play at the next level. Chances are neither Reider or Kessey are ever impactful NHL players. If you are going to roll the dice might as well be in a position of need.

Very true!

I just have little faith in Mgmt, they haven't done enough good things to out weigh the bad.

They've made just as many if not more bad moves than good moves.

but you're right, not much of a gamble here

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#34 Rama Lama
March 30 2013, 10:56AM
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My cousin works for the OIlers........he told me that they have a very scientific approach to selecting players......they use the DB approach. The Dart Board, that is!

Yea Tamby, Lowe, Katz, and his son Bubbles all gather around and throw darts at the list of eligible players.

Outside of selecting first overall and not screwing up what all the pundits say, we have no approach, at least none that yeilds any results.........BRING BARRY BACK!

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#35 Rod from Viking
March 30 2013, 11:07AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

You are correct there is no pleasing everyone. Had Lucic, Clarkson, Clowe, etc been "finished" products as teens, obviously they would have been drafted higher. Moroz and Kessey are young, they are tough customers in a tough league and have showed signs / flashes of offensive ability. Who knows?

The same people who are complaining about the small forwards in the Oil top six are likely the same ones who say Moroz was picked too early and Reider was too much to give up for Kessey. While I am certainly critical of many choices this management has made I also can admit not all decisions are wrong or at least not without merit based on the logic involved.

Small scoring junior forwards are a dime a dozen / so are tough guys who can't quite play at the next level. Chances are neither Reider or Kessey are ever impactful NHL players. If you are going to roll the dice might as well be in a position of need.

Exactly agree 100%

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#36 Spydyr
March 30 2013, 11:18AM
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Who would have Tobias Rieder taken the spot of Hall , Eberle, Yak, Hemsky hell even Gagner. No to all.

Even though Kale Kessy most likely will not play in the NHl you have to take some shots to score.He is the type of player the team is lacking while Tobias Rieder is the type of player the team has an abundance of.

I like the move.Sure most of the big guys aren't going to make into the NHL but that one is what the team needs.

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#37 Bucknuck
March 30 2013, 11:48AM
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I'd rather they try and draft toughness than trade Yakupov for it like was suggested earlier in the week.

Just saying...

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#38 FastOil
March 30 2013, 11:52AM
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For me the good part about the Reider deal is that they were for once proactive on a player they don't want, instead of letting him die on the vine.

If you are looking for a needle in a haystack you had better move a lot of hay. I hope they keep trading prospects they don't want (right or wrong) while they have value and try someone else.

Maybe Omark taught them something that actually penetrated the collective skull. Asset management 101.

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#39 K_Mart
March 30 2013, 12:35PM
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All we need is one. It's a numbers game. Simple math really. If the oilers keep drafting these types of players over and over, one of them will eventually turn into Lucic right? RIGHT?!

RRRIIIGHTT??!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!?!?!?

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#40 The Soup Fascist
March 30 2013, 12:42PM
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K_Mart wrote:

All we need is one. It's a numbers game. Simple math really. If the oilers keep drafting these types of players over and over, one of them will eventually turn into Lucic right? RIGHT?!

RRRIIIGHTT??!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!?!?!?

What we do know is if you don't draft one or trade for a work in progress, in the hope he will develop into a bona fide power forward, virtually NO ONE will trade you the finished product. Not at a reasonable price, anyway.

These guys do not grow on trees.

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#41 K_Mart
March 30 2013, 12:59PM
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@The Soup Fascist

I agree. I just hope our scouts can get it right sooner rather than later.

I've been watching this team draft for that type of player for a decade and have zero success.

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#42 oilers2k14
March 30 2013, 01:05PM
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K_Mart wrote:

All we need is one. It's a numbers game. Simple math really. If the oilers keep drafting these types of players over and over, one of them will eventually turn into Lucic right? RIGHT?!

RRRIIIGHTT??!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!?!?!?

Not really, in the past ten years about 2000 players have been drafted into the NHL.. Only one turned out to be a Lucic type..who by the way was taken by Boston with edmontons 2nd rounder that year.

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#43 The Soup Fascist
March 30 2013, 01:24PM
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@ K Mart

Try 25 years. Heinrich, Riesen, Bosignore, Kelly, Hulbig, Mikhnov, Allison et al ...... All big 1st round forwards that were terrible picks.

Hope springs eternal, I guess.

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#44 K_Mart
March 30 2013, 03:59PM
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oilers2k14 wrote:

Not really, in the past ten years about 2000 players have been drafted into the NHL.. Only one turned out to be a Lucic type..who by the way was taken by Boston with edmontons 2nd rounder that year.

I forgot to switch to the *sarcasm* font. My bad.

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#45 Tayranchula
March 30 2013, 08:10PM
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The one thing I find really interesting is that Kessy wore an A for the Giants. He was traded for early this season (find it unique he would be given an A on a team just traded to) and then he was offloaded to the Blazers as they were a playoff team.

He must have something more than just being tough. A team trades for him and gives him the A then he gets traded again that season to one of the better WHL teams this season. Its a unique situation and usually when players get traded often in junior its not a good sign but I think this is a good situation. It tells us he is wanted throughout the league and he has some good qualities.

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#46 Oiler Al
March 31 2013, 11:40AM
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Not sure of McGregor looks beyond the vital stats when he goes after these players, as well as skill stats.

Today you have guys with big bodies and varying degrees of skill, but their DNA lacks in the tough and mean spirit in their character; ie; Smid, Petrel, Pajarrvi, even Petry. These are all big bodies.. but they dont hit to hurt, and dont really take care of business like checking out Mr. Beiksa after cheaply hitting Hall last night. Mike Brown cant be everywhere. All of the above are bigger than Mike Brown, and certainly bigger than a guy like Clutterbuck,Carcello etc.

You need tough , mean spirited guys, with decent skill,. not just the "goon type".

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