Young guns

The Chicago Blackhawks are living proof that there is upside to long-term ineptitude and utter failure that doesn’t exist with sporadic garden variety mediocrity.

One look at the roster Chicago will dress against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place Tuesday tells you that much. Is there another team in the NHL with more young talent — players 25-and-under — than the Blackhawks? I think not, although that’s just off the top of my head.

Out of the playoffs, often hopelessly so, for nine of the previous 10 seasons, Chicago has rebuilt through the Entry Draft from 2002-07 better than any other team I can think of.

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In six drafts, the Blackhawks have added no less than seven players who are on the roster and contributing to a resurgence in the Windy City.

Finish low

While the Oilers made the playoffs in six of the previous 10 seasons, and just missed in three of the other four years, the Blackhawks were dismal enough that they amassed three, top-five picks from 2002-07.

The Oilers, meanwhile, had none — Edmonton’s highest pick in that stretch came in 2007, when they plucked Sam Gagner sixth overall.

After years as an embarrassment to Original Six franchises and of playing in a half-empty United Center, the Blackhawks have drafted high and drafted well. Here’s a look at the youngsters who’ll be in Chicago silks Tuesday.

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Pick high

2007: PATRICK KANE. Taken first overall, Kane, 20, leads the Blackhawks in scoring with 13-21-34. He tallied 21-51-72 as a rookie. The Oilers selected Gagner, a teammate of Kane’s in London, sixth, Alex Plante 15th and Riley Nash 21st with a trifecta of first-round picks.

2006: JONATHAN TOEWS. Selected third overall, Toews, 20, scored 24-30-54 as a rookie. He has 8-15-23 this season. The Oilers didn’t have a first-round pick, although they have blueliners Jeff Petry (45th) and Theo Peckham (75th) in the system.

2005:  JACK SKILLE:  This promising forward from the U.S. National Under-18 team is the only Chicago first-rounder from 2002-07 yet to make a real impact. He’s got six NHL games on his resume and is in Rockford of the AHL. A big edge to the Oilers so far, with Andrew Cogliano in The Show and Taylor Chorney on the way.

2004: CAM BARKER  and DAVE BOLLAND. Chicago took Barker, a 22-year-old defenceman from Medicine Hat, with the third overall pick. He’s already played parts of four seasons. Bolland, 22, was taken 32nd overall. He’s scored 5-12-17 in 28 games this season. The Oilers just sent Rob Schremp (25th) back to Springfield and fellow first-rounder Devan Dubnyk (14th) is in the system. Liam Reddox (112th) is on the roster.

2003: BRENT SEABROOK AND DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN. The 23-year-old Seabrook, selected 14th from Lethbridge of the WHL, already has 240 games on his NHL resume and is in his fourth season. Seabrook was a no-brainer at the draft.

Byfuglien, 23, meanwhile, is the longest of shots and is paying off. Selected 245th overall, the massive swingman scored 19 goals last season and has 126 NHL games in the books. The Oilers took Marc Pouliot 22nd overall and got Zack Stortini 94th.

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2002: DUNCAN KEITH. After taking Anton Babchuk 21st, Keith was a steal at 54th overall. Keith has scored 2-12-14 so far in his fourth NHL campaign after back-to-back seasons of 31 and 32 points. The Blackhawks also got James Wisniewski with the 156th pick.

Jesse Niinimaki was Edmonton’s biggest first-round bust in recent years, but they also got Jeff Deslauriers along with Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, who they’ve turned into Lubomir Visnovsky via trade.


  • nary a kurri

    That's a good article, but a great bio.

    Too bad about Schremp's demotion, I'd say. Do you think he'll ever get a long look with the Oil, or do you agree with many other pundits that he'll be packaged up and traded away by the end of the season?

  • nary a kurri

    Despite the risk, it seems to make better sense to send Deslauriers down to the Falcons where he'll have the chance to play some more. It's not doing his already stunted development any good to sit around in the NHL without playing, and I'm not convinced he's ready for The Show anyway. With his mediocre stats, do you think that there's a significant risk that he'd be picked up through waivers if he's sent down?

  • Jason Gregor

    @ nary a kurri:
    What do you mean mediocre stats? He is 3-2, 2.73 GAA and .915 save %.

    His save % is better than the likes of Nabokov, Giguere, Vokoun, Ward, Huet, Miller, Fleury and Budaj to name a few.

    Deslauriers is practicing against NHL shots every day, and don't be surprised to see him play soon. Is is ideal, but lots of teams would jump at the chance to pick him up for nothing. It makes absolutely no sense to risk it now.

  • RobinB

    @ nary a kurri:
    Mediocre stats? You're kidding, right?

    No way Deslauriers clears waivers. Look, he's hung in through some difficult seasons when the Oilers didn't even have their own AHL team for him to play on and he gutted it out.
    The situation now is less than ideal, but you're going to fold your cards on the kid? Give him some credit.

  • R-DAWG

    we just need to ride out this season and with all likelyhood we will see Garon not resign, and my guess is that Roli will sign as a back-up which leaves J.D. where he should be and thats #1

  • Leonard

    Hey RobinB. Didn't I tell you 5 days ago that Mc T. was going to send Shremp down in a couple of days. That was his good, long look just to prove averybody stupid and him smart. For whatever reason he killed the kid and he did it with approval of management i.e., like it or not, Kevin Lowe. You can deny it as much as you want and protect them but sooner people realise that this management is not going to do anything for the Oilers better it would be.

  • Kinda crazy to see how they drafted and how we did. A little sad on our part. Reading this made me a little jealous but I couldn't stand being that crappy for so many years. Glad to see the resurgence in Chicago. They really haven't been all that good since Roenick left. (and that was with the dinosaurs)

    Go Oil tomorrow!

  • RobinB

    @ Leonard:
    Get a grip. I'm not the least bit interested in "protecting" anybody in Oilers management.

    So what if you guessed right about Schremp being sent down? That was one of several likely scenarios, but you talk like you've got some inside knowledge on why it was done and the motives involved. Right.

  • David S

    Hmmm…5 days ago Schremp was back to playing like uhh Schremp. Slow feet and no grit. Totally outclassed in San Jose and gets little or no time the next two games. Seeing as he's obviously going to be sent down, lets make it look I'm a sooth sayer by stating the obvious and blaming it on MacT at the same time. Then I'll look like a playa when it all goes down.

    Nice one soopa-stah.

  • nary a kurri

    Okay, my obvious mistake in calling Deslauriers stats mediocre notwithstanding, is there a real threat to loose him through the waiver wire if he was sent down? My line of reasoning is simply that he needs to play in actual games, which he's not doing lately. Furthermore, until there's a trade, it seems unlikely that he's going to get a lot of playing time.

    This is by no means giving up on him, as he's shown a lot of patience and loyalty to the organization since being drafted. I'm just not sure how sitting in the press box and on the bench is going to help him develop. He deserves better.

  • Leonard

    RobinB. I am not insider and I don't have any inside info, just 27 years of watching hockey, and it was clear to me. I know that you love Oilers and want to help them. One of the ways to help is this site. You should understand and make it clear to everybody that this management is not the right one for the team and the team need change of management. I just used Schremp as an exemple because he is not important and if he is realy not good for the team then so be it. But there are many others, like Deslauriers, who are not playing, the stupid draft picks, ideotic trades. You know about it better then I do but you did not make the right conclusions. Use this site to get change.

  • Chicago has rebuilt through the Entry Draft from 2002-07 better than any other team I can think of.

    Pittsburgh? Whitney, Christensen, Talbot, Fleury, Carcillo, Malkin, Kennedy, Crosby, Letang, Staal have all had an impact from the 2002-07 drafts, and a bunch of other guys have had cups of coffee, or were used as trade-bait (the rapidly imploding Angelo Esposito being the most obvious case).

    Of course, Pittsburgh was even worse on the ice than Chicago was, but they racked up some talent in that five year span.

  • Leonard wrote:

    You should understand and make it clear to everybody that this management is not the right one for the team and the team need change of management.

    Personally, I prefer it when journalists use a little discretion with their soapbox. There's a place for analysis, and for opinion, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that for a connected guy like Brownlee, making sweeping statements ("this entrie management group is made up of idiots") is a good way to get unconnected fast.

    Besides which, the fact that the NHL system rewards gross incompetence should tell you that the Oilers track record has been mediocre, not grossly bad.

    Leonard wrote:

    But there are many others, like Deslauriers, who are not playing, the stupid draft picks, ideotic trades. You know about it better then I do but you did not make the right conclusions. Use this site to get change.

    The Oilers scouting staff under Kevin Lowe has done a good job. Given that the current chief scout only got the job in September 2007, it's a little early to hire someone else.

    Finally, Daryl Katz isn't running a democracy. OilersNation can say whatever it wants; Katz will make his own decisions, and so on down the line – and that's how it should be.

  • Also, 100 points to any commenter who:

    a) thinks the Oilers scouting staff is awful
    b) can name the three scouting heads who have served the position under Kevin Lowe
    c) can identify the ineligible player selected by the Oilers at the 2002 draft
    and
    d) can name four different Oilers amateur scouts

    Basically, my point is that the guys you hear brandishing their tomahawks and screaming for blood are generally the same guys who don't have a clue as to who is scouting, which players they picked, or what the average NHL team manages at the draft.

    It takes a good scouting staff to do as well as the Oilers have done with their picks. It doesn't take a good scouting staff to pick a Toews, Kane, Crosby or Malkin – any idiot with a THN draft preview could do as well with the first three picks.

  • RobinB

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Let's give them Robin Kovar (oops) of, as I recall, the Vancouver Giants, and they can guess the rest.

    Also, you're right about picking as high as Chicago has — if you tank it every year and can't get it right with a top 3 or top 5 pick, you really should find another line of work.

  • Ender the Dragon

    nary a kurri wrote:

    Okay, my obvious mistake in calling Deslauriers stats mediocre notwithstanding, is there a real threat to loose him through the waiver wire if he was sent down? My line of reasoning is simply that he needs to play in actual games, which he’s not doing lately. Furthermore, until there’s a trade, it seems unlikely that he’s going to get a lot of playing time.
    This is by no means giving up on him, as he’s shown a lot of patience and loyalty to the organization since being drafted. I’m just not sure how sitting in the press box and on the bench is going to help him develop. He deserves better.

    Edmonton's triple-threat in goal has been kept preety hush-hush; almost as tight-lipped a secret as Brian Burke relocating to Toronto (like, who knew?). It stands to reason, then, that teams heading into the Christmas break with goalie trouble would be likely to overlook a young goalie with a current NHL .915%; those teams would probably look to the more conventional routes, like trading some assets for the .919 Khabibulin at the bargain salary of 6.75M.

  • Ender the Dragon

    @ Chris:

    Jonathan has written numerous articles (with actual research and numbers and stuff) that illustrate that the Oilers have scouted with at least an average if not better than avererage record during the K-Lowe regime. He's compared their picks to those of numerous other teams, and while the draft is always a win-some / lose-some animal, the Oilers have landed more than they've let get away. Willis has taken a lot of hours to show us that the Oilers draft record is fine and that it's only the unrealistic expectation of Edmonton fans that has built a gruge against Oilers brass for not bringing in 8 of the top 10 guys from every draft in the last 6 years. I suggest that if you spent as many hours as Willis did to prova a point, you'd be touchy about 'uninformed' fans saying something contrary as well.

  • Wanye Gretz

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    I'll take the Jon Willis Tuesday Morning Challenge
    Also, 100 points to any commenter who:
    a) thinks the Oilers scouting staff is awful
    Me. Also, Mike Abbamont.

    b) can name the three scouting heads who have served the position under Kevin Lowe
    Scout Willis, Lord Robert Baden Powell, Al Griffin (note: these are all real people and applicable to your question)

    c) can identify the ineligible player selected by the Oilers at the 2002 draft
    Trick question. A: Grebeshkov picked 18th by a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD scouting report out of LA

    d) can name four different Oilers amateur scouts
    That's easy. I'll go Dennis, Ender the Dragon, Towel Boy and Nary a Kurri

    QUESTIONS OWNED

  • shakey

    Leonard;
    You need to explain this hard-on you have for Schremp. Did you think this kid was going to be the second coming of Sidney Crosby? Do you see him as a franchise saver or a guy you build a team around for years? If he is anything more than a potential 3rd, or 2nd line at best, scorer then why did he get passed over 24 times in the draft before the Oilers took him? He has the potential to be a useful part of a team but he isn't going to lead us anywhere. He is small, quick and has offensive talent…sounds like a good chunk of our forwards. Big numbers in junior mean squawt (see Jason Bonsignor) and videos on YouTube flipping the puck over your head and into the net mean even less. Schremp gets more press then he deserves for what he might bring to this team. I'm not a fan of coach Mac T but Rob Schremp not playing here is not why this team is inconsistant and soft on most nights.

  • Cam

    If you need proof that fans are fickle you need to look no further than any fan site for the Oilers.

    This summer: "Souray is a bum and so is Moreau, let's trade 'em". If Lowe would have traded any of the kids in the summer, then people would scream for his head.

    Now it's "trade the kids, they are too small and not gritty enough". It seems no one wants to touch big gritty guys on the roster anymore, but in the summer two of the biggest grittiest guys were expendable.

    I know that Oilers management has made mistakes, but they make far more good decisions than bad, and they have been dealt some pretty tough hands to play cards with (Pronger, Comrie, Free Agent Crap).

    Hind sight is twenty-twenty (see Glencross/Hossa), and as fans we have the right and duty to be critical, but let's be somewhat reasonable here. Things can change on a dime, and if they move too quickly they could miss "the best deal". Has anyone else noticed that other GM's in the league aren't making any moves right now? I think that in a mood like this the Oilers woudl have to give up too much to make a move, so I would prefer they didn't.

    If they wait 10-15 games there will be more ears listening and more impatience in the air and that makes for bad decisions, which Tambo/Lowe will want to take advantage of. The Oilers are still very much in the hunt, so why rush it.

    I want the three headed monster put to rest. I want them to make some decisions on which little forwards stay and which go, but I want them to be good decisions so I am happy to see management being patient. Haste makes waste and all that.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Also, 100 points to any commenter who:
    a) thinks the Oilers scouting staff is awful
    b) can name the three scouting heads who have served the position under Kevin Lowe
    c) can identify the ineligible player selected by the Oilers at the 2002 draft
    and
    d) can name four different Oilers amateur scouts

    Jon,

    I'll forfeit the points as I fail with option a), but I'll take your challenge on the rest for fun:

    b) Stu McGregor, Kevin Prendergast, Barry Fraser

    c) Robin Kovar

    d) Bob Brown, Bill Dandy, Kent Hawley, Brad Davis, & Kent Nilsson

    And I agree with you: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.

  • freeze

    RobinB wrote:

    Chicago has rebuilt through the Entry Draft from 2002-07 better than any other team I can think of.

    Washington too has had a pretty good run of picks due to shitanusly bad seasons. Given how well they've played during their rash of injuries, I'd say they will be ok for a few years.
    Can't argue with Ovie, Semin, Backstrom…
    From TSN: (1997-2003)
    1st rnd Draft Choices:
    7yrs – 7 draft picks – 6 NHL Players = 85.7% success rate

    Total: 7yrs – 22 draft picks – 8 NHL Players = 36.3% success rate in first 3 rounds

  • RLH

    @ Cam:
    Exactly my thoughts. There is strangely little activity going on right now. The fact that fan sites (such as this) are jumping on every single waive indicates two things:

    First, there's a definite lack of activity. There are other teams out there with problems, and Chicago is a pretty good example. But there is such a fixation on the wire that it's difficult to move anyone through. I agree with earlier comments, sending down JDD at this point is a bad idea. To many sharks in the water.

    Second, it's a buyer's market. We all saw the recent analysis of cap situations. While I would hesitate to say that salaries are the reason for the lack of movement, I feel confident in saying that the lack of deals indicates that terms can't be agreed upon. Do the two go hand-in-hand? Are we in a situation where teams in trouble simply can't make deals for blockbusters?

    In short, I think everyone, Oiler's management hopefully included, agrees that the three-headed beast is not ideal. Let's all take a step back, and think about the fact that a hastened move would probably (though not definitely) cause more damage in the long run than we want.