TOO SOON TO TELL

Lowetide
August 09 2013 08:31PM

The Edmonton Oilers drafted Travis Ewanyk in the third round of the 2011 Entry Draft. Math suggests he's a marginal prospect, but the Oilers signed him and have not wavered in their conviction about his potential. Will Travis Ewanyk become an NHL regular?

EWANYK'S VALUE

This tweet from last December gives us a nice starting point about Ewanyk's value to the Oilers (and possibly beyond). Ewanyk's offense is subpar--there aren't many players with his offense who go on to long NHL careers--but his draft number (and ranking) suggest a player of some note.

Many Oiler fans regard Ewanyk as a 'reach pick' (he was selected #74 overall) but the truth he is was in the range. Bob McKenzie's list in 2011 included a top 50 and then 25 'honourable mentions' including Ewanyk--he was among the top 75 prospects based on McKenzie's legendary discussions with scouts entering the draft.

HOW DOES HE COMPARE TO THOSE LA KINGS?

Not well. I assume that McKenzie's note above relates to Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford, two Kings forwards who have become well known in recent years as heavy forwards with attitude.

TRAVIS EWANYK

  • Age 17: 72, 16-11-27 .375
  • Age 18: 11, 1-3-4 .364
  • Age 19: 58, 8-15-23 .397

I think we have Ewanyk as an offensive player surrounded at this point, his NHL equivalency (using the Vollman) would be between 8 and 9 points in an 82 game season--that's about what Anton Lander posted during his rookie season in 2011-12. A player would have to be a ridiculous defensive forward to make those numbers work--whatever hockey's Mendoza line is, the Ewanyk number is below it.

KYLE CLIFFORD

  • Age 17: 60, 16-12-28 .467
  • Age 18: 58, 28-29-57 .983
  • Age 19: he was in the NHL (76, 7-7-14)

Clifford and Ewanyk were not similar at any time during their 17-to-19 year old seasons, in fact Clifford arrived in the NHL before his 20th birthday. If we're claiming Ewanyk is a Clifford comparable, we're making a bad bet.

JORDAN NOLAN

  • Age 17: 60, 11-16-27 .450
  • Age 18: 62, 13-14-27 .435
  • Age 19: 64, 16-27-43 .672

Nolan was ahead of Ewanyk in all three seasons, and he stepped forward significantly as a 19-year old. I think you could make a case for Nolan being a 'fringe' comparable but it's not an ideal one. Nolan is 6.03, 227 and that's about 45 pounds heavier than Ewanyk. They are not similar player-types.

WHO IS TRAVIS EWANYK?

Ewanyk is not without charm as a hockey player. He's a good checking center on a very good junior hockey club, effective against the other team's best and a tough, physcial player. Ewanyk talked to Cult of Hockey awhile back and described his play this way:

  • I’ve played in the same [checking line centre] role since I was 17, obviously as a 16-year-old we don’t play as much, but as a 17-year-old right from my second year in the league [Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal] trusted me in those roles. I was playing against 19-year-olds like Brayden Schenn, Emerson Etem, Linden Vey, guys like that. It’s a role I’ve developed into and it’s something I really embrace.  Going forward being a good checker will really help me out. Throughout my career on this team I’ve always been on that third line, there haven’t been a lot of powerplay or top-two line minutes. I’ve embraced that, you look at last year and you know the role I played in the playoffs. As long as the team is winning I know that I’m doing my job.

That kind of player--checking the other team's best--has value in any era. However, there has to be some offense if there's to be a career of some consequence.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Because we don't have access to TOI and because we know (believe me, we know) Ewanyk did indeed play a shutdown role with a severe lack of an offensive push, I'm inclined to believe there may be some good news in pro hockey for Ewanyk's offense.

Is it enough? There's no way to know, beyond watching things roll out this fall and winter.

Jonathan Willis offers an interesting look at Ewanyk here, and Bruce McCurdy's article is here.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#1 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
August 09 2013, 10:53PM
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Yo DSF, do you have to pay Charlie Brown to use his catch phrase?

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#2 Samson Loveblast
August 10 2013, 05:05AM
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DSF wrote:

A player who can't put up more than 50 points in 5 junior seasons and isn't 6'4" 240 should be sending out resumes.

Take your own advice. Might give you something to do other than posting here.

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#4 The Soup Fascist
August 10 2013, 12:50AM
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If you look at offensive numbers he is an easy prospect not to like.

If you watch him play the game as a third liner he can impact a game. Before he got lowbridged in the summit series game vs Russia he was the most noticeable player on the ice from either team. Kypreos and McLean were peeing their pants about him during the intermission. BTW I realize we are not talking Pollack and Bowman here, but that is not the point.

I watched a lot of Oil Kings games over the past 4 years and here is what I will say about Travis Ewanyk. He will do whatever he needs to do to win the game. It likely won't be scoring a goal but if he needs to block a shot, a strong PK shift, shutdown another player, win a draw, run someone or drop the flippers he will do it.

Is that enough to get him a regular paycheque on a 4th line? I am not sure but I have seen enough to know I would not bet against him. I think his injuries due to the game he plays are more likely to derail his career than his lack of offence.

Here is the thing. He KNOWS what he has to do to play at the pro level. This is the advantage he has over a Martindale, Pitlick or Curtis Hamilton who have lost their way a bit in deciding if or how to re-invent themselves. Ewanyk knows he is never going to be top 6 or top even a top 9 guy. There will be no problem with him understanding his identity. He has been in the same role since he got out of Bantam hockey and seems to keep making teams he "shouldn't make".

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#5 Young Oil
August 09 2013, 08:47PM
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I don't know why, but whenever I see Ewanyk, he kind of reminds me of a bit of a more physical Chris Vandevelde. Not saying that's a bad thing, I liked what Vandevelde showed in his call-ups at times, but hopefully Ewanyk will prove himself to be more than an AHL call-up. Good luck to the kid, I wish him all the best, and if he turns out to be a physical shutdown 4th line C for a decade, that would be great for the team.

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#6 Quicksilver ballet
August 09 2013, 10:46PM
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The sooner that kid starts trying to get on with a Fire Department, the better.

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#7 DSF
August 09 2013, 11:00PM
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A player who can't put up more than 50 points in 5 junior seasons and isn't 6'4" 240 should be sending out resumes.

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#8 speeds
August 09 2013, 08:42PM
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One on the one hand, yes, Ewanyk was "in the range" based on that McKenzie list. On the other, there are two* types of players that the "blogger" types think are overrated as a group by NHL scouts - defensive D, and F's that don't score much in junior. So Ewanyk might fit into the range based on the scouting reports, but still be considered a "reach" by those who believe the whole class of players like Ewanyk (not just Ewanyk specifically) is overrated.

*It probably was 3 until the last few years, but the scouting community has become more reluctant to take goalies, a market correction that mirrors the thoughts of "bloggers" as well.

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#9 Citizen David
August 09 2013, 10:54PM
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Loved watching Ewanyk play. I personally don't have confidence in him to find much offence, because he's never shown much, but man was he a crucial part of the Oil Kings success. I never was bothered by the fact that after a game Ewanyk didn't have any points unlike how I was furious with Belanger for his lack of production. If, and it's not certain, Ewanyk can play in the NHL exactly how he does for the Oil Kings then he'd be most welcome. He and Moroz didn't produce much, although they did chip in some, but they shut down other teams top lines and actually often had possession and drove the play into the oppositions zone and wore them down.

Not to mention that there wasn't a 5 man unit in all the WHL that Ewanyk and Moroz wouldn't beat down. Not intimidated at all and no reservations about standing up for himself or teamates.

Probably my favourite long shot Oilers prospect.

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#11 DSF
August 09 2013, 11:17PM
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Lowetide wrote:

Why would he send out resumes? The Oilers have signed him to an entry level deal, so he's three years away from making up resumes.

And although I agree his offense is woeful (I think the Lander offensive comp is probably close), we don't need to resort to false statements to bury him--he did in fact have seasons of 27 and 23 points in junior.

But his offense keeps him out of the NHL imo, don't really think there's an argument against it..

Oh, c'mon.

Brad Richardson, a marginal third line player, scored 97 points in his final OHL season.

That's more production than Ewanyk had in FIVE seasons.

The guy is a stiff.

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#12 The Soup Fascist
August 10 2013, 06:36PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Moros + Ewanky = MacGregor Not So Genius.

I almost never act like grammar / spelling police. I think it is pretentious.

My exception:

When you misspell both draft picks' names while telling the head scout how dumb HE is.

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#13 Yakman
August 09 2013, 08:50PM
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I think we can be pretty sure he will get a look in the NHL... And we can also be sure like stortini, reddox, and Peterson he will drive certain fans crazy.

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#14 DSF
August 09 2013, 10:18PM
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Good grief.

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#16 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 10 2013, 09:08AM
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It's going to take an absolute miracle for this guy to make it anywhere of note.

It's out there, but way, way, way out there.

In his favor are minor details: he's an agitator. Teams often give those guys too many at-bats.

He's a center: same as above.

The real question for me is: Ewanyk is a clear hold over of the Tambo era of over-valuing toughness.

Two minor deals that really have me curious are:

Does MacT sign Ewanyk and does he trade for Kessy?

The other minor deals MacT has done, like trading Bigos for Moffie

http://www.coppernblue.com/2013/7/8/4504120/oilers-trade-kyle-bigos-for-lee-moffie

suggest that MacT doesn't have a lot of time for hulking men with little hockey ability. I think it is reasonable to have strong doubts that MacT trades Rieder or signs Ewanyk.

Tambo gets fired a couple of weeks earlier and we aren't even talking about Ewanyk today.

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#17 The Soup Fascist
August 10 2013, 10:34AM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

Take Ewanyk out of the conversation as I agree if he plays in the NHL he is a sub 20 point per year guy. I still think he can contribute but not offensively.

The Kessey / Moroz / Kharia / Chase group. These are the physical guys who have shown flashes of offensive ability. I think any of these guys have a greater chance to be impactful bottom 6 players than any of the small guys with skill. A Rajala is an infinitely more skilled player than the guys above. But how does he play in the top 6 in Edmonton? Does he get a chance to play in the bottom six? Right or wrong I think it is unlikely he gets more than a cursory look. The bigger guys are going to get an opportunity ( I am not sure Chase is very big but he is a huge pain in the ass). So right now Rajala, through no fault of his own is doomed in this organization. I hope I am wrong but I think he will have to move on to a better "fit" to get a shot.

A lot of making the NHL - for the more marginal guys - is right place right time. If you are a big physical forward with a flash of skill you are getting a long look in Edmonton over the next couple of years. If you are a superskilled waterbug, the window of opportunity is roughly the size of the eye of a needle, IMO. Is it fair ..... No. Is it reality ... I think so.

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#18 michael
August 10 2013, 08:52AM
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Lowetide the need to be a player who puts up points is at this point in the rebuild is not really necessary. The top 6get paid a pretty penny to put that biscuit into the net. More so in 2-3 years from now. TE needs to be able to give the Oilers something else. I believe he would be better served to work on his defensive game at the pro level and his FO%. Get his face wet a few times by engaging the opposition. Add some man muscle. And be as nasty a piece of work as Darcy Tucker or Esa Tikkanen. He and Greg Chase has a real opportunity to make this team in the next 2-3 years if they can take that next step. We need guys who will bring the mean. Guys who will take the opponents best line and neutralize their chances. I could care less if TE scores more than 10 goals a year. Gets 20 points. We already are paying 7 other guys close to 30 million to do that for us. TE and others including Pitlick and Lander and whoever else. Gordon ? They all need to fill those other roles.

Guys named Steve Kasper or Pat Hughes would be players TE should be looking at for inspiration.

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#19 Old School G
August 10 2013, 09:25AM
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Travis Ewanyk is in every way an elite 4th Liner. Elite role players are very hard to come by. The Detroit Red Wings seem to have a knack for finding top tier role players either through draft, or taking in another teams castoff. Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, and Darren Helm come to mind.

It seems like the Oilers are starting to develop this same skill for identifying these gritty, heart and soul type players. Detroit competes every year and the Oilers seem to be heading in that direction. I'm pulling for Ewanyk he's true blue collar, grind you down shift after shift. I'd like to watch him go about his business with the big club.

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#20 The Soup Fascist
August 10 2013, 09:48AM
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The Oilers are going to be hard pressed to find Tony Rajala an opportunity to show his stuff. Tobias Reider would have been in line behind him.

I get that a Kale Kessey may never skate a minute in the NHL but he is a big physical kid who has some hands. The argument was that skill is tough to acquire but that you can pick 3rd and 4th line "role" guys at any time and at cheap prices. If there is anything MacT is seeing it is that it is tough to make your team bigger and better from outside your system.

If the Oilers are rolling the dice on prospects it might as well be in a position of need. There is a ton of young proven smallish NHL players with elite talent that will be here a long time barring cap issues or trade for need. I would rather roll the dice on the Kessey, Moroz, Ewanyk types than more Rajala, Miller, Arcabello clones who the Oilers frankly do not have a spot for. Call them better "assets" if you like, but the truth is until a small forward with skill shows success at the NHL level, their trade value is the equivalent of pimento loaf on brown bread on the school playground at lunchtime.

I am curious to see if any of these bigger more physical players pan out. While he is a couple of years out the Kharia kid may be the most likely to be the big tough skilled forward who can contribute.

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#21 Oiler Al
August 10 2013, 03:17PM
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Moros + Ewanky = MacGregor Not So Genius.

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#22 Citizen David
August 09 2013, 11:13PM
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Lowetide wrote:

Why would he send out resumes? The Oilers have signed him to an entry level deal, so he's three years away from making up resumes.

And although I agree his offense is woeful (I think the Lander offensive comp is probably close), we don't need to resort to false statements to bury him--he did in fact have seasons of 27 and 23 points in junior.

But his offense keeps him out of the NHL imo, don't really think there's an argument against it..

I'm not really hearing any talk of him going back to the WHL As a 20 year old so this next season will be very interesting to see how he does in pro.

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#23 oilerjed
August 10 2013, 12:31AM
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Thing I wonder about is that for a guy that has never scored an outrageous amount of points he seems to get picked for a lot of national teams. That to me says a lot about a guy. Whose to say you have to be a points leader in junior to be a fourth line guy in the NHL. If you can carry the same level of play throughout each league and are consistently scoring fourth line like totals at each level maybe that could carry through to the NHL. Plus the two last 3 years were both improvements points wise. Are players being groomed for specific roles earlier in their careers now?

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#24 MessyEH!
August 10 2013, 03:08AM
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This could be an example of the Oilers using the Oil kings for development. If he can post the same #s in the AHL. I would say the kid makes it as depth centre.

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#25 madjam
August 10 2013, 06:00AM
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One never knows for certain how these draftees will end up like . Could he be an elite role player , and ultimate team chemistry person and difference maker ? He might , and so might Moroz .

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#26 godot10
August 10 2013, 10:10AM
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Ewanyk is being knocked for his horrible boxcars in junior.

But wouldn't it be instructive to know that his Corsi numbers are in a shutdown role in junior against the top lines of other teams, more than his boxcars?

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#27 Citizen David
August 10 2013, 10:33AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

The problem isn't strictly size vs. skill.

The problem is one MacT signalled pretty clearly in his press conference: "you have to be a threat to score at least marginally in this league"

Ugly, non "skill" guys who get it done and put up points make the NHL. See Smyth's entire career.

Skilled scorers that are small have to really put up points to make it to the NHL. But they make it if they can put up points.

The number of skilled, small players that have an impact on the NHL far outweighs the number of hulking (even marginally so) men who can't score worth a damn. It's not even close.

That said, all those players you list: Rajala, Miller, Arco, Rieder, Kessy, Moroz, Ewanyk... are all long shots for NHL work.

But the bettors among us should bank on the guys who score.

Perhaps it all has to do with opportunity. As soon as Kessy was traded to a very good team he put up points. 25 points in 31 games and then 14 points in 15 playoff games. 11 of which were goals. That makes 23 goals and 16 assists for 39 points in 46 games. That looks alright. Moroz and Ewaynk have been permanently assigned to the third line. Playing against, as Ewanyk says, the Brayden Schenns of the WHL. If they had been playing with line mates like St. Croix, Foster, Wruck, Lazar, with more minutes and more power play time maybe their point totals would look better.

The best thing about Ewanyk and Moroz was that even though they'd be assigned against Brayden Schenn, Linden Vey, Emerson Etem, Sam Reinhart, Victor Rask, Ty Rattie and the like, they often had the puck and were grinding away in the offensive zone rather than frantically running around in the d zone trying to get the puck. They got the puck and they moved it up.

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#28 speeds
August 09 2013, 08:54PM
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I guess I'm just saying there's more than type of "reach" pick

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#29 MessyEH!
August 10 2013, 03:06AM
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This could be an example of the Oilers using the Oil kings for development. If he can post the same #s in the AHL. I would say the kid makes it as depth centre.

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#30 Brian
August 10 2013, 09:00AM
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If we assume that the Oil will be a solid contender in thd next few years, then if is hard to believe Ewanyk could be part of that. He might get a sniff of the Bigs but it won't last, unfortunately. And guys like Clifford are "one offs".

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#31 seanjohn
August 10 2013, 09:25AM
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Tambo had him pencilled as a core player in the top 9. thank goodness Tambo is gone because he would be waiting for this kid to fill a roster spot (just like Lander, tho he should eventually work out), which he will never do as a regular. he'll have a cup of coffee in the show, but that's it.

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#32 seanjohn
August 10 2013, 09:31AM
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madjam wrote:

One never knows for certain how these draftees will end up like . Could he be an elite role player , and ultimate team chemistry person and difference maker ? He might , and so might Moroz .

might and could. but from what we have seen at this point and the history of comparable players, it is a longshot at best.

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#33 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 10 2013, 10:09AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

The Oilers are going to be hard pressed to find Tony Rajala an opportunity to show his stuff. Tobias Reider would have been in line behind him.

I get that a Kale Kessey may never skate a minute in the NHL but he is a big physical kid who has some hands. The argument was that skill is tough to acquire but that you can pick 3rd and 4th line "role" guys at any time and at cheap prices. If there is anything MacT is seeing it is that it is tough to make your team bigger and better from outside your system.

If the Oilers are rolling the dice on prospects it might as well be in a position of need. There is a ton of young proven smallish NHL players with elite talent that will be here a long time barring cap issues or trade for need. I would rather roll the dice on the Kessey, Moroz, Ewanyk types than more Rajala, Miller, Arcabello clones who the Oilers frankly do not have a spot for. Call them better "assets" if you like, but the truth is until a small forward with skill shows success at the NHL level, their trade value is the equivalent of pimento loaf on brown bread on the school playground at lunchtime.

I am curious to see if any of these bigger more physical players pan out. While he is a couple of years out the Kharia kid may be the most likely to be the big tough skilled forward who can contribute.

The problem isn't strictly size vs. skill.

The problem is one MacT signalled pretty clearly in his press conference: "you have to be a threat to score at least marginally in this league"

Ugly, non "skill" guys who get it done and put up points make the NHL. See Smyth's entire career.

Skilled scorers that are small have to really put up points to make it to the NHL. But they make it if they can put up points.

The number of skilled, small players that have an impact on the NHL far outweighs the number of hulking (even marginally so) men who can't score worth a damn. It's not even close.

That said, all those players you list: Rajala, Miller, Arco, Rieder, Kessy, Moroz, Ewanyk... are all long shots for NHL work.

But the bettors among us should bank on the guys who score.

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#34 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 10 2013, 10:26AM
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godot10 wrote:

Ewanyk is being knocked for his horrible boxcars in junior.

But wouldn't it be instructive to know that his Corsi numbers are in a shutdown role in junior against the top lines of other teams, more than his boxcars?

not to mention his TOI

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#35 Ryan2
August 10 2013, 10:46AM
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I went to a dozen or so Oil Kings games (t when he was back in the lineup) this past season and the main knock that I would place on him is his skating (same can be said with Moroz). Ewanyk looked slow out there compared to a lot of his teammates and the opposition. He reminds me of a slightly smaller version of Vande Velde - smart enough and defensively aware, but just a half step too slow.

Ewanyk will also need to adjust his style of play if he wants to last in the show. It is easy to run around in Juniors against other young kids, but in the NHL he will be playing against bigger and stronger players. If he has wear and tear issues in junior, it will be even more difficult for him to stay healthy in the NHL.

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