Oilers’ Amateur Prospects Update

Over the last few years, Oilers’ fans have been fortunate enough to watch the results of Kevin Lowe’s revamped amateur scouting staff. With Rob Schremp’s 2008-09 debut last night, 12 Oilers draft picks have played for the team this season. Other players, like Tom Gilbert and Robert Nilsson, while not Oilers picks were acquired as prospects and spent time in the Oilers’ farm system.

With this in mind, and some games played this season, I thought it might be a nice opportunity to do an update on some Oilers prospects playing outside the AHL/ECHL farm team system; guys who are a little less visible to those of us following the Oilers. Here are the Oilers prospects playing amateur hockey or in Europe from the past three drafts:

2008 Draft

Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle is currently performing above last season’s pace, and his current scoring rate projects to a 3-goal, 10-assist improvement from last season. On top of that, the WHL website lists Eberle at 5’11”, 184lbs, which is 1” and 10 lbs heavier than on draft day. On top of that, Eberle has been invited (along with fellow prospect Riley Nash) to Canada’s junior team camp for the upcoming tournament. Still, I’m a little skeptical that Eberle’s actually taken much of a step forward. Last season, Eberle had little offensive support in Regina – overage forward Tim Kraus, who wasn’t even a point per game player and Red Wings pick Logan Pyett were the only other players to put in strong performances. This season, the Pats have 3 point-per-game players, and a much stronger supporting cast. It is entirely possible that Eberle’s modest statistical improvement has been a result of a better team, rather than a greatly-improved performance.

Johan Motin

Based on published reports, Motin gets mixed reviews so far this season. On the negative side, he’s been passed over by the Swedish World Junior team (after playing as Victor Hedman’s partner last year), and has zero points in 28 SEL games. On the other hand, he is +1 on a team with a bunch of minus players, and the fact that he’s playing in the SEL as opposed to Division-1 is a very good sign for such a young player. Seems to be on pace as a rugged, defense-first-second-and-always type player.

Phillipe Cornet

This wasn’t a pick I was very excited about when the Oilers made it – Cornet seemed like yet another smallish forward with an offensive skill-set (albeit a modest one), and it seemed to me that his upside wasn’t anything to get excited about. It’s still early, but I may have been very wrong on this pick. Cornet’s on pace to tie his goal-scoring from last year (23G in 61 GP), but also to double his assist total (from 26 to 52). He’s far and away the best offensive player in Rimouski (his 32 points is 8 ahead of the next nearest player, undrafted defenseman Sebastien Piche). Cornet is also ten pounds heavier than he was at the draft, and a little digging shows that he has some smarts (QMJHL Scholastic Player of the Month last October) and a wide variety of skills. Here’s an excerpt of what ISS had to say about him prior to the 2006 QMJHL draft:

ISS Quebec scouts indicate he isn’t flashy, however, they love his quick release, his passing abilities and his effectiveness in all three zones. In addition, he finishes his checks, he is not a liability in his own zone and he can play in all situations, but offense remains his bread and butter.

Teemu Hartikainen

Finland has yet to announce their roster for the World Junior Championships, but as far as I can tell, Hartikainen has a decent chance at being included. Unlike last year, where Hartikainen played almost the entire season in Junior A, he’s seen quite a bit of time in the SM-Liiga. He’s also managed five goals in 26 games and from what I can tell (based on some Google translating) he’s been a physical presence. The bad news? Hartikainen’s -5 is the third worst +/- on his team.

2007 Draft

Alexandre Plante

This was a much-maligned pick last year (with a number of people claiming it was a ridiculous off-the-board pick, when it was no such thing) as Plante struggled through injury and limited ice-time for the Calgary Hitmen. In so doing, he dropped from 36 points to 2, and this summer requested a trade which never came to fruition. This year, things have turned around for him, and he’s back on the same scoring pace that he was in his draft year. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Plante’s offensive upside isn’t what was projected (his point totals seem entirely dependant on powerplay minutes), but he seems to be back on track after last season’s disaster.

Riley Nash

Nash has only played in 8 games so far (the Cornell schedule is pretty ridiculous for a first-rate prospect) recording 3 goals and 5 points, but he has also been invited to Canada’s World Junior camp. There really hasn’t been much to report here, but after last season’s sensational run, it will be interesting to see if Nash can continue to improve.

Linus Omark

First off, the caveats: Linus Omark is only 5’9”, and according to numerous reports has some difficulty with his defensive game. That said, this pick keeps looking better and better. After scoring 17 points as a 20-year old in 2006-07, Omark nearly doubled that last year, managing 32 points. He’s on pace to do it again – and his 27 points in 28 games leads his team and is tied for 4th in the SEL, ahead of ex-NHL’ers like Jan Hlavac and only one point back of Niklas Sundstrom and Niko Dimitrakos. He’s been a consistent threat offensively, and looks like one of the better picks of the Kent Nilsson era. He’s been good enough that I’d imagine the Oilers may try to make room for him.

Milan Kytnar

Speaking of players who’ve doubled their offensive output, Milan Kytnar is scoring at better than twice last year’s rate after a trade to the Saskatoon Blades, where he’s spent most of his time as the first line centre. He’s also been named to Slovakia’s team for the World Junior Championships. Kytnar is a difficult player to judge by his scoring stats; he’s regarded as a gritty, two-way forward and was the captain of Slovakia’s U-18 team in his draft year. If he does make it to the NHL, it likely won’t be as a scorer.

William Quist

On the other end of the scale from Omark and Kytnar is William Quist. As Hockey’s Future noted in July, Quist is basically ignoring the organization’s advice to play in a lower level Swedish league, the Allsvenskan. He has 2 points in 21 games. To put that in perspective, Jonas Hoglund has 18 goals in 23 games in the Allsvenskan – last year he only managed 9 points in 36 games in the SEL. In other words, Quist is going nowhere, and he’s getting there in the fastest possible manner.

2006 Draft

Jeff Petry

Petry is off last season’s scoring pace, but he is playing for a much weaker team this year than last, so that isn’t as bad as it sounds. Lowetide did an up to date profile of Petry just this morning that’s well worth the read. The short version is that he’s progressing nicely.

  • Hippy

    @ Chris:

    You don't draft based on what your team needs today. Draft picks at best are 2-3 years away from being in the NHL and by then your teams needs may be totally different.

    You can't look at any draft pick and think, "how does he fit into my line up?" You pick the best player at a shot of playing in the NHL because that is what is worth the most.

    And to keep citing Chimera as an example is ridiculous. It's 12 years after he was drafted and this is the FIRST season he is putting up any numbers of consequence. His previous career high 36 points. Hardly a missed opportunity by the Oilers. Chimera's history would suggest this season is the anomaly not the norm.

    JW is right, the scouting staffs job is to get the best player available, it's the GM's job to manage the resources to fit the pieces together.

  • Hippy

    Chris: There's no doubt that scouting/on-ice performance are related. That said, while scouting has an effect, it's only part of the formula for on-ice success. Put another way – if you're making lasagna and it turns out bad, it doesn't automatically mean you're using low-grade beef. It could be any of the other ingredients causing the problem.

    The other thing is that it usually takes a few years for good drafting to have an impact – most of the players drafted in the last four years aren't on the team yet.

  • Hippy

    Fiveandagame wrote:

    You don’t draft based on what your team needs today. Draft picks at best are 2-3 years away from being in the NHL and by then your teams needs may be totally different.

    So in 7 years who did they draft to play with Hemskey? What drafted defencemen is playing big minutes for this club? (Or any minutes) Did they draft a starting goaltender? Schremp, Gagner, and Cogliano. Good kids. But small and overvalued by Oiler fans. I mean Oiler fans are convinced we have great scouting, and think KLowe is a great manager, and so on… So why has the on ice product been so average?

  • Hippy

    Chris:

    Kevin Lowe isn't a great manager. 2005-06 he was great, and he always has some good things, but I figure he's about NHL average.

    Jury's still out on Tambellini.