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?

  • Aitch

    Shannon Tweed? We always claim her as ours back here in Newfoundland. Her family still lives here and more importantly they acknowledged it with an episode on “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels”.

    Now as for the Oilers, I don’t necessarily think they should concentrate on any one area. If they focus too heavily on the Prairies, they could miss good players else where. Personally, I believe we have tremendous depth coming down the pipe at the forward ranks, but some of it may need to be jettisoned in order to get some long-term studs on the blueline or in net. Roy is being talked about as the goalie of the future, but he’s going to have to continue to out perform his draft pedigree and then some to be the backstopper of a future champ.

  • Arby

    Doh. I guess this means I’m closer to LT’s age than the other dudes.

    Stu must have a soft spot for the Blades. Kytnar for starters, and he also invited that undrafted kid Gallimore.

  • Oilchange64

    Northern Pikes – another reference for those of us from Sask of a certain age. Lol. While I would not agree, Rsready may feel this article ain’t pretty, it just looks that way…

  • Lowetide

    RSready: Yeah, I can understand that. I try to tie all kinds of things into a post and sometimes it can get lost in translation.

    If you are about my age (I assume you’re younger, which you should be happy about) then “Running Back to Saskatoon” is a Guess Who song about the prairies.

    Which is the theme of the article, using the Canadian prairies to procure talent. And I grew up not far from Saskatoon so love the city and maybe like to brag a little since its a gem.

    But yeah, I get that. I’ll keep it in mind.

    • Leave it as is… pretty sure he’s in the minority here. No offense meant to the poster though. But to each his own. If my own blogging has taught me anything it’s that you can’t please everyone all the time… but I don’t think I really need to tell you that.

      Keep up the good work.

      Oh and to add… it’s your thing… to read a post of yours where you just simply cut to the chase would probably stun me and I’d have a tough time believing you really wrote it 😛 Best advise for the poster in question was just to start reading a paragraph or two in, as someone else suggested (Bookie?)

  • RSready

    Lowetide, you have some good articles, but you always lose me with your lede. “This is…” just doesn’t capture me enough to keep reading! And the whole first paragraph usually has nothing or very little to do with the rest of the story. I don’t mean to be an ass, it’s just really hard to read!

    • Don’t worry RSready, just wait for the HD 3D DVD to come out and all will become clear. The protagonist will be a bright neon green porcupine fish with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. It will leave you satisfied in the way that only a good moral Disney tale can.

      All you parents out there, read to your kids please! Go Oil!

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      Although I don’t agree with you I respect your opinion. Other people have to accept the fact that some people arent LT fans.

      Really guys, you don’t need to call someone stupid because they don’t agree with you. And this is coming from a major LT supporter.

    • unca miltie

      Grab a brain buddy. LT’s work is some of the best you’ll read on the oilogosphere. Having an interesting lead in is just good writing. If you can’t get past his intro don’t bother reading and above all don’t bother commenting.

      Keep up the great work LT- your insights are always appreciated.


    • SumOil

      i actually like what lowetide writes in the start of the article. Good nice story to let us know the very good players from Saskatoon. It relates to the rest of the article as Hamilton is playing for the blades
      I gave a props to u by mistake…wanted to press reply.