Running Back to Saskatoon

This is Saskatoon. "The City of Bridges." Famous people from Saskatoon include Colby Armstrong, Brent Ashton, Mike Babcock, John Diefenbaker, Pete Friesen, Gordie Howe, Bill Hunter, Keith Magnuson, Joni Mitchell, Farley Mowatt, Jim Pattison, the Northern Pikes, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Shannon Tweed. Our subject today is a current resident of the city.

I think Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor may have done it again. Along with completely overhauling the "skill forward" depth chart for the Oilers since 2008, MBS and the scouting staff are collecting an impressive group of hockey players who combine size and skill. I like to call them "Bill Torrey’s WHL types" because the NY Islanders won a Stanley (partly) by making certain the procurement department paid close attention to the big, skilled forwards in the Western League.

Curtis Hamilton has a very nice resume. Size (6.03, 210–the same size as Clark Gillies, although Gillies was a mountain in 1974 and Hamilton is merely a load in the modern era) and a very nice skill set combine to make him a prospect of interest for the Oilers. Here’s MBS after the draft:

  • An extremely smart player, a great two way player. Strong, has good size, works hard along the boards. Very strong on the puck, has good vision, very good penalty killer. A guy who plays hard and smart.

That’s Ross Lonsberry, folks. Like Lonsberry, Hamilton has the resume to set up shop on a skill line in the NHL for years to come if he continues to develop (and avoids injury). We’ve talked about Hamilton here and here and want to quote what Jason Gregor said in the second link:

  • He isn’t a flashy player, but his play along the boards, in traffic and his willingness to be involved physically is exactly why the Oilers drafted him. They think he’ll be a physical, 3rd line type player and after the game Kevin Lowe was very pleased with how he played. Hamilton has decent hands and offensive instincts and like most young players, his first step needs to improve. If he can stay healthy, I expect he is two or three years away from seriously competing for a roster spot with the Oilers.

I think thats about right; Hamilton has a little more offense and should be able to play on a skill line, but even if he fails at it should be able to carve out a career in the NHL as a checker. He was at the WJ invite camp in the summer, impressed at training camp and is off to a wonderful start in the WHL season. Hamilton ranks in a 7th place tie in scoring (7gp, 4-7-11), assists and plus minus. He is getting PP time (1-3-4) but is also scoring well at even-strength.

Kevin Prendergast spent a generation’s worth of picks on kids I called "Coke Machines." They were all huge men:

  • 2000-#35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210.
  • 2001-#52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230.
  • 2002-#79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199.
  • 2003-#51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190.
  • 2003-#68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217.
  • 2003-#94-RW Zach Stortini, 6’4, 225.
  • 2004-#57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207.

Those selections have several things in common: the players were chosen well above their projected number based on various scouting services; they were offensively shy; there were more skilled men available at the time they were chosen. KP delivered two actual players (Winchester, Stortini) from the group, and JF Jacques is trying to rescue his career from injury. Caron is probably filling out transfer papers to another university as we speak, Radunske is the Guyle Fielder of the Asian League, McDonald is working his way back to you and Paukovich will play in Las Vegas (ECHL) this season.

MBS appears to have taken a different approach: hockey players with size. It worked for Bill Torrey and the Islanders, and it can work for the Edmonton Oilers. Your own back yard. Who knew?

  • Lowetide

    It’s been a LOOONG time since EDM picked a top 6/9 F or top 4 D in round 3 or later.

    Assuming Brodziak doesn’t count, Lombardi, who they didn’t sign, is probably the last one, and he was 2000.

  • Lowetide

    Funny isn’t it? You can’t really expect anything from that area of the draft but IF you do get a contributing player it can be huge.

    Added to what you’ve mentioned is that long run of not so much in the first two rounds. No wonder they sucked.

  • Simply more ammunition as to the incompetence of Prenderghast. How did this guy last so long? He reminds of Eskie Maciocia who lasted so long till the house of cards finally fell through. LT, I don’t think there is any simple template of getting good simply by drafting WHL players even though I must admit a bias toward that league as well. In my estimation, building a good hockey team is as simple as drafting the best players period. Crappy Prender drafted crap and voila you get a crappy team…crap, crap, crap….

  • This is … a piece of writing that manages to reference Joni Mitchell, Guyle Fielder, The Dynasty Islanders, The Northern Pikes and The Mighty Toon within the context of the work of Canada’s entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and if I’m not mistaken there is a sly nod to Levi Stubbs mixed in for good measure. All the while making insights into our team which are above and beyond anything else written in the mainstream or substream.
    LT, I am glad that you are open to constructive critique. But please, don’t change a damn thing about how you do what you do.