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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

    Great work again Jonathan. For comparison's sake, do you think Omark could be the next season's Brunstrom (in Dallas)? It seems that his numbers this season are ahead of his pace.

  • Hippy

    Omark's SEL numbers are better than Brunnstrom's, but they're different players.

    At this point, he could be anything from "talented Euro who can't translate his game to North America" to a top-6 forward next year.

  • Hippy

    Yes we are seeing the results of Lowe's revamped scouting staff… The other night at RX1 we iced what has to be the absolute smallest group of top six forwards in the league. No wonder we are so "easy to play against". Q. Why should Gagner have to go to the tough areas of the ice? A. No one else can. Gagner was the biggest, meanest, and heaviest member of his line that night. Am I the only person who thinks that is a problem?

  • Hippy

    Thank you for the article JW.

    I think the Oilers are being very smart in their draft picks. They are drafting commodities. What is the most sought after commodity in the NHL? Scoring. If the Oilers can have a plethora of talented top six forward prospects, you can turn those prospects into anything. They are first rate currency in any trade. You could argue that big solid D-men are the other top commodity in transactions and the Oilers draft those as well.

    The fact that so many of Oiler draft picks and former prospects are playing for the team is a testament to how good our drafting has been. And if we need to bring in an elite level forward, goalie or d-man, we have an abundance of young talent to make that trade a reality.

  • Hippy


    Smallish skating forwards have no trade value. What did the Oilers get for Chimera, or Rita, Or Peterson? It cost Greener and Stoli to get Lubo. It cost Raffi to get Brule. We got Nilsson and two other first rounders for only 3 months of Smyth. Don't overvalue the Kids. Other GM's sure don't. If Tambo could get something for some of these Guys he would have pulled the trigger already!

  • Hippy

    I'm going to argue a point with you here Chris – take Linus Omark. In the late rounds, you pick whoever has a shot at the NHL; in other words, if there's a smallish offensive forward, draft him instead of Jordan Bendfeld.

    The other thing I'd argue is in favour of "best player available". Andrew Cogliano, for example, looks like the best player left when he was taken at 25 (with the exception of Paul Stastny), so despite the fact that there were bigger guys there, he was the right guy to draft.

    It's the scouting dept.'s job to identify the best players and take them. It's the GM's job to address team weaknesses – like being outsized. Some would argue that he did that by trading for Cole, and signing Penner.

    Now the Oilers have Schremp, Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson as young, smallish forwards. Two of those guys have incredibly value, and I'd argue there was some value in the other two as well. As for your argument about the Smyth trade – it's a little ridiculous, I think. We got O'Marra (big 1st round pick, troubled prospect), Nilsson (at the time a small 1st round pick, troubled prospect) and a 1st Round selection (Alex Plante, now a big 1st round pick, somewhat troubled prospect). You could argue that big guys have no value because we got two of them for 30 games of Smyth.

  • Hippy

    And honestly, are any of Chimera, Rita or Petersen in the same class as Schremp, Nilsson, Cogliano and Gagner?

    Also, for the record:

    Rita (6'1", 206lbs)
    Chimera (6'0", 215lbs)

    Rita and Chimera aren't giants, but they don't count as small. I'll propose a different rule for you: (yours was "Smallish skating forwards have no trade value"):

    Prospects with limited upside/stagnating development have no trade value.

  • Hippy

    The Oilers Organizational idea of the best player available is to pick a small skating forward. Are small skating forwards the best players? Why do we keep picking them when we have more than we can fit into the lineup? What can we realistically get for all these minipops in a trade? The pendulum has swung too far the other way. Penner was undrafted…he has hands. It's a crap shoot anyway! We need to get bigger or we need to accept having a .500 team.

  • Hippy

    Oh and yes. Chimera has 16 poinst 6G 10A with a crappy Columbus squad. (Ahead of the Oil in the standings). Toby Peterson has 5 points to Gagner's 4. (I'm willing to bet with a fraction of the ice time) What's the trade value of the kids? Other teams have small forwards that contribute; and no room to integrate into their roster a group of 5' prospects that don't. I'm sure our kids will come around. I'm not sure it will happen until the pressure is off, and we are safely out of the playoff race.

  • Hippy

    @ Chris:

    9 of the top 20 scores in the league are 6' and under and under 200lbs.

    Smallish Skating forwards. Yes you have Iginla and Ovechkin and Thornton. But you also have Savard, Parise, Crosby, and at 5'10" and 163lbs Pat Kane. Small skating forwards.

    As for CHIMERA what is this 2001? Chimera is 29! He was drafted in 97! He has never come close to scoring 45 pts in the NHL as Gagner has already done, let alone at the age of 18. This is the first season he is putting any consistent numbers up.

    And Torres is a bust who had one season that he scored 46 pts. and is now broken again. I would take Brule over Torres on my team anyday because, where Torres has already shown his max potential, Brule has a high level game and despite what you think, he has yet to peak. Potential is worth bank. The great thing about young talent, is potential is worth something. Worth more than face value for a 30 year old grinder.

    I would rather have a group of 6-7 top scoring prospects than 6 third line grinders that can be got for nothing.

  • Hippy

    Chris is right on one count: a skilled player with size is worth more than a smaller, equally skilled player. And he's right that we may, I repeat may, have taken too hard to the idea of drafting small skilled players.

    However, that doesn't mean we should draft more big players. Large prospects are risky too. Remember Bonsignor. Yikes.

  • Hippy

    Guys. Stop correcting my wild generalizations with FACTS.

    But seriously. We need more balance in the lineup. Our kids probably aren't as valuable in a trade as Oiler fans would like to believe. It's not cool that Gagner is the biggest player on his line. AND, who cares about Linus? No room on the roster for another minipop unless he turns into the next Joe Sakic. (And he won't)

    Willis you are a numbers guy. Fine. Numbers said Souray would be a defensive liability. Numbers said Cole would be a contributor. Numbers often lie…but not these numbers: 6'4" 230lbs.

  • Hippy

    @ kris:

    You don't draft based on what your team needs, you draft on what has the most value, and outside the first few picks where your large offensively talented, franchise players go, you take the player that will have the most value if their game progresses. The top valued players in the league are players that put the puck in the net.

    All of our small forwards will not be on this team all at once, but their trade value is high when putting together a trade for a veteran commodity. AND these guys aren't 5'7 with skates on like Mike Comrie (making 4 mil a year i.e. high value). Schremp is 5"11 and 200 lbs. Gagner is 19 and 190lbs.

    Imagine what Selanne or Briere or Savard weighed at 19?

    Any GM in the league would give almost anything to have Gagner on their roster. Don't be fooled by points. GM's are interested in Potential when they are dealing with young players.

  • Hippy

    Matt Green had trade value on size alone. Size is something you don't have to gamble on. The Oilers seem to draft 5'9" 100 point jr prospects bypassing 6'3" 40 point prospects. Then we convert the 5'9" guy into a career third liner (Cogliano most of this season) when the 6'3" guy would have been more suited to that role. Scoring rarely translates into the NHL from JR unless you have a top 5 pick anyway. Size is size. The best player isn't necessarily the one with the most points.

  • Hippy

    Actually, for Souray, his track record indicated that he would be a) injury-prone, b) not as good offensively as he was in 2006-07 c) not as bad defensively as he was in 2006-07. His performance through 25 or so games has been the best of his career, and I don't know where it's come from – I saw him enough in Montreal in 06-07 (heck, during his time here last year!) to know that he's taken a Dave Lowry-esque step forward.

    As for Cole – who knows. He's been a wreck since coming here, and I'm really at a loss to explain why.

    Obviously, if there's a 6'5" forward with the same skills as a 5'9" forward, you take the 6'5" guy. But seriously, with the advantage of retrospect, who should the scouting staff have taken over Andrew Cogliano? Sam Gagner?

    It's the GM's job to give the team balance. It's the scout's job to bring in as many NHL-calibre players as possible.

    And as for not caring about Omark – careful. A lot of GM's didn't care about Zetterberg/Datsyuk, two pint-sized late-round draft picks who turned out to have some value. Brad Richards, as another example, brought back some value when he was dealt last spring (a top-6 forward, 3rd-line centre and #1 goaltender).

    Gagner and Cogliano have value. So do Schremp and Nilsson, albeit not as much. A team does need balance, but that's the GM's job – it's the scouting staff's job to get him some pieces.

  • Hippy

    Drafting is a crapshoot. So is bringing a guy in…ie Cole. With a team hovering near the bottom of the standings; (AGAIN!) I'm not willing to give the scouting dept props. Chimera has 16 points, is 29 and has no value as a UFA or in a trade. God I wish more of our top six had 16 points in 25 games. Oh yeah didn't we draft him?… Maybe our President GM just can't manage the assets he is given

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    The Oilers seem to draft 5?9? 100 point jr prospects bypassing 6?3? 40 point prospects. Then we convert the 5?9? guy into a career third liner (Cogliano most of this season) when the 6?3? guy would have been more suited to that role.

    That simply isn't true. the Oilers have spent a ton of picks on bigger guys. Until the last couple of drafts, every second round they'd spend picks on a bunch of big, hefty guys who they hoped would develop a scoring touch. That's the kind of drafting that gives us J-F Jacques, Colin McDonald, Mikhail Zhukov and Zach Stortini with four of five picks in 2003. Only on of those guys was close to being a success. Another fun note – it's been reported that one of the reasons the Oilers preferred Marc Pouliot to Zach Parise was size and grit.

    Drafting the big guys, even if there were better players available, was an Oilers M.O. from 2001-03. It was a big mistake.

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    With a team hovering near the bottom of the standings; (AGAIN!) I’m not willing to give the scouting dept props.

    The couting department under Kevin Lowe has definitely been one of the ten best in the league – and we're starting to see it now. Those two players that got moved to bring in Visnovsky (Greene and Stoll) were Oiler draft picks. So was Hemsky, and Horcoff. Gagner and Cogliano were both solid choices.

    There's a big difference between scouting performance and team performance – take those Calgary scouts who thought Martin St. Louis was a good risk as an undrafted free agent. He was a consistent scorer in the AHL, but the coach didn't know what to do with him and he stagnated in the NHL. Tampa Bay signed him, and since then he's had two 90+ point seasons, a Hart Trophy, and a Stanley Cup ring. Calgary, meanwhile – not so much. So despite the fact that the scouts did there job the team didn't get the benefits.

    Oilers scouts have done a great job identifying forwards and defensemen, even late in the draft, who have solid potential.

  • Hippy

    So you admit this staff has been unable to draft effective prospects with size. They repeatedly tried and failed. Are you telling me that all 29 other teams were also unable to find useful prospects with size? This is part of why the Oilers are mediocre on the ice. Why give props to scouting?

  • Hippy

    Kevin Lowe remade his scouting staff after the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, bringing in new guys and kicking out much of the old group. His fingerprints have been over the scouting staff since the 2001 Draft. Stu MacGregor replaced Kevin Prendergast as Chief scout in September of 2007; the 2008 draft was the first under his watch, although he's been with the scouting group since 2000-01.

    What I'm saying, Chris, is that it's wise to go after the player (giving due regard to all factors – size, skill, personality, intelligence, etc.) who has the best shot at an NHL job. Some will make it, some won't anyway, so maximize your crop by taking the best player available every time – without regard for team/positional need.

    Just picking the biggest player is always a mistake. As another example – every single player taken in the 1st round in 2003 has played an NHL game, with one exception. Hugh Jessiman ("Huge Speciman") was a 6'6" power forward who the Rangers loved because of his size and his willingness to use it. 5 years later, he has 5 points in 13 AHL games.

  • Hippy

    For a good history of Oilers' scouting under Kevin Lowe, try this link.

    It's difficult to summarize 8 years of drafting in a few comments; there, I've gone through every Oilers pick under Kevin Lowe, looked at who else was available, and tried to explain the scout's rationale.

  • Hippy

    I'm not saying picking the biggest player is the way to go. I'm saying this staff must somewhat undervalue size in relation to other factors. I'm also disaggreeing with the notion that good drafting and a good on ice product are not directly related…poor drafting DOES result in a poor on ice product. If we draft 20 guys and have the highest ratio of prospects to NHLers in the league it doesn't mean we have the best scouting dept. Drafting quality NHLers matters more than drafting a high quantity of NHLers. Oiler fans love all their prospects like their own children…but the team never seems to improve.

  • 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


    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.