Injuries and Prospect Development

The mind is a funny thing. It selects portions of events for storage, so that years down the line our memory "plays tricks on us." Many years from now, fans might check out Oilers draft history and think "boy Doug Lynch was a poor pick" without knowing (or remembering) his major injury and how it impacted Lynch’s career.

Men who spend their time examining prospect development agree that the period from age 17-19 are the key years. A player can take a step forward at age 20+, but most of that development has to do with getting comfortable with the speed of the game at high levels married to being placed in ideal circumstances by a smart coach/organization.

Put into today’s terms, Taylor Hall may not have been the most impressive player at this week’s prospect camp, but he has miles and miles of brain and physical development in the next two seasons. Jordan Eberle–just a little older–has developed more physically and is more mature in all areas.

Those 24 months are huge.

Injuries can have a mammoth impact on an NHL organization. Consider a few selected injuries from the last decade:


  • Doug Lynch: A wrist injury that was not properly addressed and then a knee injury after being dealt to the Blues organization derailed a promising NHL career. That wrist injury came on the heels of a very impressive AHL season. Injuries had a major impact on his career; making the AHL All-Star game as a rookie defenseman (at age 20) is a very good career arrrow.
  • Dan Baum: Was a long shot prospect who had an agitator style and fell victim to concussions. Injuries ended career.


  • Jesse Niinimaki: Niinimaki showed a lot of promise until a (Guy Flaming described it as a "devastating injury") severe shoulder injury 10 games into the 2003-04 season ended his year. There were other factors (he didn’t get any stronger) but it had an impact on his development. .
  • JF Dufort: Suffered a career ending concussion late in 2002-03. Injuries ended career.


  • Marc Pouliot: His development was slowed by numerous injuries beginning at the 2003 Prospects game (the Phaneuf hit). It continued unabated through his junior career and Pouliot has had some significant injuries and illnesses as a pro. Most notable was a bout with mono that kept him from being a part of the Stanley run, spring 2006.
  • Mikhail Zoukov: Suffered a "serious injury" that wiped out his 04-05 season. Unkown impact on career.


  • Rob Schremp: Suffered a serious knee injury at the end of the 06-07 season and required surgery. His recovery impacted his TC performance that fall and may have contributed to his inability to crack the roster.


  • Alex Plante: Back and concussion problems after he was drafted slowed his development a great deal. Plante has re-set his career and things are looking up, but there’s no doubt he lost some very important developmental time due to injury.

This isn’t an effort to excuse Kevin Prendergast or to find a way to justify Marc Pouliot’s 1st round selection in 2003. It is an effort to impress on fans that luck will have an enormous impact on the Taylor Hall draft. Good health, good coaching, discipline and desire will be major players in the equation over the next 24 months. We should expect a talented player who can deliver quality offensive seasons. The number one thing we should hope for is good health.

History tell us it is a big part of player development.

  • TheGunnShow

    I always remember an interview Emmitt Smith gave – he basically said all the top RB’s hitting the NFL have talent and that more than speed, playbooks, etc. the most difficult/important career factor was finding a way to stay healthy and avoid injury

  • TheGunnShow

    So….if injuries were the reason those careers never took off, what’s the deal with Alexei Mikhnov, Jani Rita, Michael Henrich, Michel Riesen, Matt Descoteaux, Steve Kelly, Jason Bonsignore, Nick Stajduhar and Joe Hulbig then?

  • Ender

    Lowetide wrote:

    It is an effort to impress on fans that luck will have an enormous impact on the Taylor Hall draft.

    Luck? That or the ability to skate with your head up. And a quick tip, Taylor; you don’t ‘brace’ for a Chara hit. You get the hell out of the way.

  • Lowetide

    The Gunn Show: I’m not saying ALL of these players would have developed, but if injury is a factor ages 17-19 it is a major concern.

    As an example, I don’t recall a Mikhnov injury so it would be very difficult to blame his being a poor selection on anything other than skill set (foot speed, in his case).

    I’m suggesting that SOME of these prospects don’t develop because of injury. It is a huge concern.

    • TheGunnShow

      I hope you don;t think I was calling you out on anything. I was just being a sarcastic goof. Darn interbox not being able to translate sarcasm.

      and I totally agree, there is nothing more devastating to the human body, athlete or not, than sustaining a huge injury during body development.

      I fractured my ankle at 18, and have had 3 surgeries on it, now I’m 25 and walk with a limp. good times.

      Great read, LT.

  • Lowetide


    People often talk about EDM needing to find a Keith, maybe they drafted him a year earlier, but he lost his career due to injury?

    Duncan Keith – drafted 54 OV in 2002

    Doug Lynch – drafted 43 OV in 2001

    Obviously it’s unlikely Lynch would have been as good as Keith is now, but maybe the team looks a bit different now if Lynch worked out like a Hamhuis (picked him because he’s the same draft).?

  • TheGunnShow

    People underestimate how fast NHL hockey is both physically and mentally.

    Any injuries to the knee or head can slow a player down just a fraction, but that’s the difference from NHL & AHL & never was

  • Lowetide

    You’re right on with Lynch as an example of injuries. As you know, I covered the AHL during the NHL lockout and saw Lynch the entire season.
    He was never the same player mentally, in terms of assertiveness and aggressiveness, or physically after the wrist.

    Niinimaki? Not so much. Jesse was never going to be an NHL player because he didn’t have the drive to imrpove and excel. With Jesse, hockey was something to do, a kind of cool pastime.

    His indifference to the work it would take to make the most of his considerable skills was summed up very nicely by coach Geoff Ward. Ward said: “Jesse likes everything about being a pro hockey player except playing the game.”

  • Ribs

    So….if injuries were the reason those careers never took off, what’s the deal with Alexei Mikhnov…

    Hey! Mikhnov turned out to be pretty good. He’s just playing in the wrong country is all.

  • Ribs

    What if Sidney Crosby leaves Pittsburgh in 3 years to win a Stanley Cup for Canadian franchise?

    I doubt he’s host a LeBronathon but it’s really the only UFA with any real buzz due to the CBA.

    • Cowbell_Feva

      The only reason Paul Comrie wore Oiler silks was because his daddy was part owner of the Oilers. He wasn’t even picked up his final year of midgets in the city! Next thing you know he’s good enough to make the show?!?

      Politics and hockey gross me out after seeing and hearing a lot of what goes on behind the scenes.

  • PattQuinn'sChesthair

    Luck may indeed be a controlling factor in some of these player’s development curve. I wonder if you could use the word durability as it applies to these young players. How do you measure durability at such a young age and can you have any realistic hope of drafting with durability as a factor in your consideration.

  • Reggie

    Don’t forget the Nick Stajduhar injury. Punched out in the parking lot of a bar (Barry T’s ??). Had a concussion and at one point there was a pending lawsuit against the guy who did it. The lawsuit claimed that as a result of the concussion from the fight he lost his hockey career. In short, he never progressed after that.

    A total of 2 NHL games – and then the AHL, IHL, CHL, ECHL, WCHL, UHL ….

  • PattQuinn'sChesthair

    There are a lot of players in the edmonton organisation who have suffered serious injuries. These hurt the Oilers every bit as much as a prospect losing his career. The last 4 years prove it.

    Horcoff missed 28 games with shoulder surgey in 07-08, he was on a 50pt – 53gm role.

    Soury – The answer to CFFP – hurt countless times in his career. Including 56 games in 07-08 & 45 games in 09-10. Whether it was his fault or the Oils fault he has been less than stellar and his curent situation proves it it.

    Hemsky’s surgery this season. Devastating!!! Killed any chance the Oil had.

    Pisani and his colitis. Smid 70 some games in the last 3 seasaons. Torres, Stall, Smyth, Moreu, Habbi, Comrie, Brule, Georges L. The list goes on and on.


    I would like to read your take on the injuries to roster players such as these. Management has pulled the injury card as an excuse for the current state of the Oilers dating back to the miserable end to the 2007 season.

    How much blame do you put on the organisation**?

    How much do we owe it to not having a true heavyweight? Such as BG. A nuclear deterent as MacT would call him. Any argument that Mig Mac didn’t make a difference has to question his broken orbital bone. an essential bone for a fighter.

    2007 was when the injury bug hit. Does it have anthing to do with Lowes refusal to lock up BG with a 900k salary and a NTC. MacT said at the time that “you dont realize how much you need a BG type until you don’t have him”. Is this a true statement??? Did big Macs orbital bone lead indirectly to Oiler man games while he was out?

    How much is coachings approach to fitness to blame? Chad Moreau* argued rather strongly that the injuries went up after “the great boondoggle of 2007”. This was when MacT switched much of the focus in the weightroom onto the training of poorly prepared prospects and worn out vets. A large ratio of on-ice / training hours compared to fitness building / sustaining hours.

    Is the obviously bigger and meaner 2010 Oilers going to prevent injuries that have prevailed in the last 4 years? Shoulders, knees, colitis??? Are we big enough???

    Do you think that Quinns old school coaching led to the high man games this past year? To small a team to run around clubbing people with there sticks???

    * Chad Moroeu had an excellent article with an LA based news paper. Google it well woth the time.

    ** Tambo started slow. But has came on as of late. I am all for the direction he has taken. I can not wait to see Renney work with the bigger and hopefully meaner edition of the Oilers. I think that the “plan” of the current managment group is finally on track. Hopefully injuries do not effect our team as drastically any longer.

  • That’s what makes picks like Curtis Hamilton so interesting/dangerous.

    Identifying the difference between significant injuries early that will have little bearing on a pro career vs. injuries that signal a body that just can’t take the punishment of a pro hockey career (I’ll call it the ‘Glass Joe’ problem).

    My suspicion is that players such as Hamilton can often become a draft day ‘steal’ if in fact the injuries sustained prior to the draft can be overcome without long-term ramifications.

    Obvious indicators:

    If Hamilton plays a full injury-free season this year, maybe scores at 1 PPG… and maintains his physical style – then the arrows look very good and one could argue the risk paid off (albeit very early in a career).

    Or… he plays 30 games, has another major set back and gets scheduled for a significant surgery that then sets him back another year or two – making an NHL career a real longshot.

  • Ways the Oilers can limit time on the IR

    1. Avoid mono, stop sharing skanks…
    2. Limit time in defensive zone.
    3. Milk
    4. Hope Regehr gets traded to the East.
    5. Flintstone vitamins.

    **win a faceoff*

  • PattQuinn'sChesthair

    Off topic here,

    Does tonights New York/Anahiem trade make the Ducks a possible trade partner for Souray, even if we have take back a garbage contract?(Blake)Or is he considered to be locker room poison even more than Souray?

    Also, what about Ward as a veteran presence on the back end?

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Best signing of the 2010 off season: Lowetide to team ON.

    Seriously LT, your the best blogger out there… for any team. Kudos to RB too, he’s my second fave.

    Props to Wanye/Bingofuel and/or anyone else (jeanshorts?) who runs this well oiled machine.