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.


  • Ender the Dragon

    Cam wrote:

    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”.

    I don't think the Oilers need to apologize about Hossa. They did what they could to bring him in; Hossa said no. What else could we have done; offered to relocate the team to the city of his preference?

    Regarding Glencross, yeah, it's easy to point fingers now. For all anyone knew at the time, however, he could just as easily have turned out to be another Brule except that instead of spending the season in the Springfield, he'd have been eating up 1.5M on a one-way deal. If he was sitting in our press-box tonight at that salary and with 2 or 3 points to date, you'd have been just as upset. K-Lowe doesn't need to apologize on that one either; he acted as responsibly as he knew how, and if Glencross hadn't been so childishly impatient, he might be here today. We probably would have spun the wheel on him, but we needed to take care of the big things first. I'd have been WAY more choked if K-Lowe had signed Glencross and then found out that we missed signing Hossa by $1M that we might have had otherwise.

  • Chris

    RE Scouting.

    It's a fair comment that I haven't devoted the hours that Willis has rationalizing his undying love and support of Oilers Scouting. Get too close to the BS'ers and you end up smelling like BS. Speaking in large generalizations: It is my contention that there has been a philisophical shift in scouting towards small, skilled, and generally unservicable NHL players since about 04; The idea is that in the "NEW NHL" size isn't as key as in years past. Well the "New NHL" could revert to the "OLD NHL" in a hurry and the Oilers will be stuck holding the bag….wait isn't that already happening? Why did Schremp and Reddox have to sit for Stortini and Strudwick Saturday? I know, I know, you pick the best player…not what you need…blah blah blah. Why on earth would you draft players you need?

  • Ender the Dragon

    @ Chris:
    OK, maybe you have something. Can you prove it? Give us, say, 6 examples of the larger type of player that you contend we needed that was available to the Oilers at their position in any given draft and then explain how these individuals are outperforming the players we actually selected. If you can do that, (and I'm not saying you can) then you'll at least have proved that it was in theory possible for a psychic scout to have done better at the draft than he did.

    If you can't put up, then . . .

  • Jonathan Willis

    Chris wrote:

    It’s a fair comment that I haven’t devoted the hours that Willis has rationalizing his undying love and support of Oilers Scouting. Get too close to the BS’ers and you end up smelling like BS.

    Of course, that makes sense. Obviously you wouldn't want to have too much knowledge before you formed an opinion – it might make you seem credible.Chris wrote:

    I know, I know, you pick the best player…not what you need…blah blah blah. Why on earth would you draft players you need?

    Let's take a look at one Oilers example of your policy – here's the link. Quote:

    Best Player Available is still the mantra, but fans won’t see another goalie selection in the first round even if the top rated keeper is still available when the Oilers pick at 25. “We would go off that (policy) then,” admitted Prendergast. “As much as I love Carey Price, it just wouldn’t serve our purpose to take him.”

    God forbid that a team takes BPA. Draft for need! The Oilers don't need Carey Price – between Dubnyk and Deslauriers they have two bonafide starters!

    Picking the player with the best chance at an NHL jon is the only policy that makes sense. Otherwise you get into Soviet-era five-year projection.

  • Chris

    @ Ender the Dragon:
    It's not my job to scout prospects, compare progress etc. That is the scouting staffs job. I'm too busy. As a fan, however, I have noticed a shift in scouting philosophy and am alarmed by it. When Prendergast took over scouting, for the first three years, he tended to draft large physical players (Stortini, David Rohlfs, J.F. Jacques). Many of these picks were deemed by fans and pundits as busts. Prenergast under pressure did exactly what was right for his career (and wrong for the Oilers); He started down an easier path: drafting small players. It's easier to draft a small player with potential because many teams (for good reason) won't. So all us morons in Oilerland can rejoice and celebrate Predergasts genius watching U Tube Schremp videos for three years never realizing that all this skill on a small body isn't servicable in the NHL. Linus Omark will be the same. Believe it! Now to justify their record Oilers Scouts talk of the "NEW NHL". I say B.S. MacT has to scramble to ice a physically competeative lineup, the kid line is ineffective, and there is little on the farm. Sure our scouts have thier reasons… I call them excuses.

  • Jonathan Willis

    @ Chris:

    Tell you what – I'll watch Andrew Cogliano's NHL career. Meanwhile, you can watch youtube videos of David Rohlfs (can you even get youtube videos of Rohlfs?), content with the knowledge that despite all the evidence, that's the way to draft.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Chris wrote:

    @ Ender the Dragon:
    It’s not my job to scout prospects, compare progress etc.

    For a guy who's job it's not, you seem to have an awful lot of opinions on Oiler's scouting based on moonbeams and fairydust. If you're going to offer the opinion that you know more than the professionals, then you had better be able to show that you know more than they do. Any asshat can point to 100+ players that were drafted and never panned out in the NHL. You prove nothing by doing that except what your level of capability is.

  • Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ Chris:
    Tell you what – I’ll watch Andrew Cogliano’s NHL career. Meanwhile, you can watch youtube videos of David Rohlfs (can you even get youtube videos of Rohlfs?), content with the knowledge that despite all the evidence, that’s the way to draft.

    Can I watch Thundercats while you guys watch all this? Man, I love that show.

  • Chris

    Ender the Dragon wrote:

    For a guy who’s job it’s not, you seem to have an awful lot of opinions on Oiler’s scouting based on moonbeams and fairydust. If you’re going to offer the opinion that you know more than the professionals

    Thanks. My opinion is invalid.

    As For Willis. Rohlfs was a bust…drafted by your man Prendergast…

    Willis you are proving my point. Oilers scouting can't pick good prospects with size/ grit. So they draft Schremp and Cogliano and you rejoyce!

  • Chris

    Let me dumb down what I said.

    Three years of failure drafting big players.

    Three years of medium success drafting small ie (Cogliano)

    Predergast's job safe.

    Future Oilers Teams screwed.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Chris wrote:

    Oilers scouting can’t pick good prospects with size/ grit. So they draft Schremp and Cogliano and you rejoyce!

    Sheesh, man. I don't suppose, of course, that you can cite even one example of who they should drafted instead of Cogliano or Schremp? Just one. That's not asking too much of you, is it? Just one reason why a single person should listen to a single word you say.

  • Cam

    They have drafted plenty of players big and small, and it seems only the smaller ones have worked out – though in the first rounds it always seems we get little guys.

    The mantra at the draft is to take the best player available at the time. That includes big and small or European or North American or whatever specifications you want in place.

    Since it usually takes three years for a draft pick to be ready for the NHL (there are obviously exceptions), you don't know what the makeup of your tea is going to be by that time. Three years ago no one would have dreamed that we would lack grit. You grow assets through the draft and what you do with those assets is up to the GM (trade em or play em)

    @ Ender
    I don't think the Oilers have to apologize about Gelncross either, but in hindsight if they had known Hossa wasn't going to come here they probably would have gotten a deal done with Glencross. I was just giving an example of how easy it is to see in things clearly in hindsight.

  • Chris

    @ Ender the Dragon:

    I apologize for offering a dissenting opinion. Since I'm unwilling to play your game of offering up names of various prospects for you to in turn criticize etc… my observations AS A FAN are completely invalid. I'm not nor have ever claimed to be a pro scout…I'm not suggesting that I could ever be a better pro scout than Predergast and his 12 disciples. I do, however believe that better scouting staffs exist in this league and maybe Katz should offer up a boat load of cash to steal personnel away from organizations like Buffalo, or Detroit.

    You and bloggers like you are the reason many people choose not to offer up any opinions at all.

  • kris

    Oy, this debate between Ender and Chris is revolting. It makes me want to puke, blahhh…

    Please note, everyone on these intertube-bloggy discussion thingies is an ignorant neophyte to some degree. That is, if you tell people who don't know everything about Oiler scouting to not post about scouting, then there's no Oilersnation.

    But please also note that the basic idea of Jonathon's '100 point chalenge' is correct, even though he overstated his point; criticisms of scouting -or anything else for that matter- should be thoughtful and not just empty cries of disdain. For example, "We coulda had Parise… oh man…." is not worth my time to read. But a brief note about some prospect you liked or like still would be quite interesting

    Anyway, all of this is obvious to civil people.

  • Ender the Dragon

    @ Chris:
    An opinion is fine if you can offer up something to defend it intelligently. For example, let's say I offered you my opinion that the moon is made of green cheese. After all, who hasn't heard that, right? Now, I'm aware that there are these so-called 'professionals' at NASA who claim differently and say they've actually been there (As if.) and I thought about calling them out. I thought about doing a little research beforehand, that way, if they tried to discredit my source and prove that Mother Goose doesn't in fact have credible knowledge of the composition of the moon, then I could, as a mature and open-minded individual, rethink my position before I responded and not feel like NASA was attacking me. That seemed like a lot of work, though, and it's not my job to look this stuff up. Conversely, if I were to do no research whatever and simply offer my own opinion (to hell with looking up everything a damned Goose had to say), then NASA might have no choice but to attempt to discredit me, but good luck with that . . .

  • Chris

    (@ Ender the Dragon:

    FINE. Here is a what if:(By the way I find "What If's" colored by hindsight stupid and counterproductive)

    In 2004. Don't draft Dubnyk 14th. Take Wolski. He is a big man who can score (104 points in 162 NHL games)
    Then use your 25th pick to grap Cory Schneider (A better goalie prospect than Dubnyk anyway)

    No Schremp….Wolski. By the way; I like Colorado scouting.

  • Ender the Dragon

    @ Chris:
    Beautiful. Your point is made, and you're right; those would have been better picks. Had the Oilers done that, we might look better today. I'll leave further comments to others.

  • Jonathan Willis

    Chris wrote:

    I do, however believe that better scouting staffs exist in this league and maybe Katz should offer up a boat load of cash to steal personnel away from organizations like Buffalo, or Detroit.

    He doesn't even need to steal Buffalo's scouts; a ton of them got laid off in favour of video/statistical work. Right now, Buffalo is the team to watch, because if they succeed, there's probably going to be something resembling a paradigm shift in how NHL teams scout players.

  • Jonathan Willis

    Chris wrote:

    By the way; I like Colorado scouting.

    Colorado isn't bad by any stretch. Since 2001, the Avalanche have drafted five players who are arguably impact guys at the NHL level: Stastny, Wolski, Gilbert, Svatos and Budaj

    In the same time frame, the Oilers have managed a very comparable group of six: Gagner, Cogliano, Stoll, Greene, Markkanen and Hemsky.

    Outside of impact players, the Oilers have drafted 15 players with NHL games played (so far): Peckham, Syvret, Schremp, Reddox, Young, Pouliot, Jacques, Stortini, Brodziak, Roy, Luoma, Lynch, Haakana, Pisa and Stephenson.

    The Avalanche have 11: Hensick, Kumiskey, Liffiton, Richardson, Jones, Johansson, Boychuk, Weiman, Bois, McCormick, Stephens.

    Honestly, Chris, how big is the difference between these two franchises?

  • Jonathan Willis

    Chris wrote:

    Willis…you also should have nailed me with Detroit having success drafting smaller players…

    I get tired of singing Detroit's praises – to my mind they're the best run team in the NHL, and it isn't even close.

    Still, that franchise would look much, much different if they hadn't gotten lucky on Zetterberg/Datsyuk. There's an (unsubstantiated) rumour floating around that one of the Oilers' Euro scouts wanted Zetterberg as early as the third round in 1999 and was ignored; if it's true, it would go a long ways toward explaining the team's recent willingness to draft unheralded Euros (prime example: Linus Omark) in the late stages of the draft.

  • Jonathan Willis

    freeze wrote:

    pssst, don’t feed the trolls.

    Everyone needs to eat. Besides, Chris isn't bad, we just emphatically disagree on the Oilers' draft record.

    And he's wrong 😉

  • Chris

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Outside of impact players, the Oilers have drafted 15 players with NHL games played (so far): Peckham, Syvret, Schremp, Reddox, Young, Pouliot, Jacques, Stortini, Brodziak, Roy, Luoma, Lynch, Haakana, Pisa and Stephenson

    Many of this group played due to injury/ poor overall lineup.

    In 2005 Colorado drafted Stastney after we had already picked Chorney. (Props to them)…

    Hey what do I know… I like a big team… I would have probably picked Mihalik ahead of Cogliano…

  • freeze

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    freeze wrote:

    pssst, don’t feed the trolls.
    Everyone needs to eat. Besides, Chris isn’t bad, we just emphatically disagree on the Oilers’ draft record.
    And he’s wrong

    fair enough. I think it would be a good idea to revisit your posts on the Oilers draft record from awhile back for those who didn't read it. http://www.oilersnation.com/2008/09/oil-draft-record-2001/

    Didn't a scout from Detroit have a line about what they considered to be a successful draft? 1 or two NHL players per draft?