CHL: The Oilers Personal Development League

This is a young Curtis Hamilton. He is among several Oiler draft picks who are posting solid numbers in the WHL. Hamilton is a more complete player than the Oilers have drafted in the past (he’s more than a "Coke machine"), so his offensive numbers have a wonderful kicker–he can be effective in more than one zone.

The three Canadian junior leagues currently house most of Edmonton’s top drawer amateur talent—just one of the innovations that have taken place during the Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor era. Drafting hockey players instead of Coke machines is another new policy and it’s paying off in a big way.

MBS moved to the top scouting job in the Oilers organization in time for the 2008 Entry Draft, and since then CHL players (and Euro’s heading to the Canadian junior leagues) have had elevated status on the team’s final list. The results have been outstanding so far and we’re reaching a point where some of us are outright giddy over the latest draft  (2010).

The Rare Lonsberry

Curtis Hamilton is described as a 2-way winger with enough offense to play on a skill line. His scouting report reminds me of a 1970’s winger from the west–Ross Lonsberry. He combined skill, checking and work ethic and played for a long time in the best league on the planet. Curtis Hamilton has a long way to go before arriving in the NHL, but the tools are there to impact the game in all three zones.

That player type (even at the top end of the draft) runs counter to the previous administration who drafted Coke Machines in the hopes that they’d learn enough to post offense. Scoring goals is partly about effort, but a lot of it is about being touched by God. If a kid can post a strong number in junior, that should translate to a good one in the NHL (should the prospect make it).

18-year old kids have (usually) played at least one full season in the CHL. If that’s the case, then the expectation for the player should be a huge improvement in their boxcar results. After all, they are now in the "older group" of players and if drafted would count among the group of the very best players in the three leagues. The Oilers CHL group is posting some very impressive numbers so far, with Hamilton, Ryan Martindale and (especially) Martin Marincin well ahead of expectations.

  1. Ryan Martindale (OHL) 21gp, 12-17-29 (1.38ppg)
  2. Curtis Hamilton (WHL) 20gp, 11-16-27 (1.35ppg)
  3. Martin Marincin (WHL) 21gp, 8-15-23 (1.10ppg)
  4. Tyler Pitlick (WHL) 16gp, 5-9-14 (0.875ppg)
  5. Brandon Davidson (WHL) 21gp, 3-15-18 (0.857ppg)
  6. Drew Czerwonka (WHL) 18gp, 6-5-11 (0.611ppg)
  7. Jeremie Blain (QMJHL) 2gp, 0-1-1 (0.500ppg)
  8. Kristians Pelss (WHL) 20gp, 1-3-4 (0.200ppg)
  9. Cameron Abney (WHL) 21gp, 3-1-4 (0.190ppg)

A couple of quick notes: Marincin and Davidson are defensemen, so their numbers are truly spectacular. Also, Marincin and Pitlick are new to the WHL so there should be an adjustment period (although Marincin’s numbers are the most impressive in the group). Those numbers really do show how much of the Oilers future is housed in Canadian junior leagues. When we start talking about the 2011 draft, it would be wise to remember that MBS shops local.

I’m just starting to prepare my winter top 20 (it’ll be posted both here and at the Lowetide blog) and can say that the players on the list above are well represented, along with some AHL pro’s and a few European kids. I’ve been following Oilers prospects since the WHA days and honestly don’t recall a time (since 1979-83) when there was so much top end talent. It’s a great time to be an Oiler fan.

  • m_kennedy13

    One might think you slept in for a Sunday there Lowetide, but your earlier 7:43 AM post over at your other site would prove otherwise. I’ve been patiently waiting.

    Still pumping out quality, thanks for the reads.

  • Lowetide

    Thanks m_kennedy. I had to make coffee too, I’m going back to bed! 🙂

    oilersfan2k10: Yeah, it’s very early plus he was suspended too. In Pitlick’s case I’m not sure what line he’s on and how much PP time he’s getting so far. He scored a PP goal early and not since.

    Another thing we have to be careful about is the quality of the team these kids are on. Eberle is currently tracking well ahead of expectations and one of the reasons for it was that he played for a subpar Pats team during his junior career. A guy like Davidson might be even better than he appears.

  • Arby

    There was a lot of talk about Joe Colbourn, that his dad was rich and therefore his desire was questioned. He still went in the middle of the first round where as Martindale is a big center that put up points (in a better league than Joe), but yet fell to us…… Why?

    Marincin on the other hand, is where my scepticism ends. I love the idea of having a lanky, top pairing, 30 minute a night d-man, and it’s just icing on the cake that he’s a big Slovak. I sure do hope kid is for real, and If he turns out being one of the three best defensemen in the ’10 draft…. Stu will have to be assigned a number so it can be retired.

  • Lowetide

    Arby: The knock on Martindale is consistency. Whenever I can’t figure out why a prospect fell to us I google the player’s name and “redline report.” Here’s what they said before the draft:

    Red line report Ranked 100
    Big pivot has three OHL campaigns under his belt and still shows the same mind-numbing lack of effort and passion we saw in him playing minor hockey, when he was being touted as a can’t miss prospect. Effective with the puck in open ice – uses long quick reach, quick hands, and slick puckhandling skills. Lackign strength and drive in his legs, and not quick off the mark. Does have a nice shot release and can be effective when he shows some interest. But is easily pushed off the puck by smaller d-men. Soft and doesn’t compete. Loses all the little battles and in not wild about contact.
    Projection: Frustrating project on the AHL/NHL shuttle
    Style compares to: Ryan O’Marra

  • Ducey

    Davidson looks like a real steal in the 6th round. Although his -11 is a bit of a worry.

    Pitlick seems to be struggling although I have not seen him play. I have been watching his PIM’s and he doesn’t seem to be taking many aggression type penalties. He is likely having to adjust to the difference in toughness between college and the WHL.

    Abney is still a head scratcher for a third rounder.

  • Alex87

    Hey LT, I think I mentioned this in another one of your posts, but do we have a reasonable comp for Marincin yet? IMO, he’s quickly moving to the top of the prospect list, for both his apparent ability and the Oilers’ dire need for a blue chip defence prospect. Finding a comp seems like it’ll be tough since there aren’t too many Slovakian defencemen who came to the WHL the season after they were drafted. The only one who comes to mind instantly is Chara, and I think that’s a bit optimistic (but still nice to think about). I wonder if anyone else has given this any thought?

  • Lowetide

    Alex87: Not really. One of the problems is that Marincin wasn’t supposed to be this offensive. So we’re not really sure what he is at this point.

    Redline compared him to Ladislav Smid:

    Redline Rank 50
    Tall Lanky D with a huge frame to fill out. Good skating ability for his size; Pivots well and shows good agility, though he lacks balance and acceleration. Skates with head up and looking for plays – smooth puck handler with good passing touch. Reads play quickly and makes good decisions. Doesn’t force things that aren’t there. However, once he makes his outlet pass, his arms sag to his side and he’s not interested in trying anything else offensively. Lacks an aggressive mindset and rarely ventures off the blue line at offensive end. Inconsistent defensively – positioning in own zone needs improvement. Tough to beat 1-on-1 off the rush because of his mobility and long reach, but can be beaten in tight by quick, shifty forwards. Counts mostly on the pokecheck and skating ability rather than using his big body, but is improving in the physical aspect and does a good job pinning men against the wall.
    Projection: Big, shutdown #4-5 dman
    Style compares to: Lavislav Smid (with a better shot)

  • Alex87

    We have a lot of talent to develop and obviously more so after this season . Worrisome , is our ability or inability to develop chemistry and gel them into an effective team . It’s been an awfull long time since we developed a team that could gel and have chemistry .

    Just what is our chemistry ? Why do players we have bought into here not fit the type of character that will help us develop chemistry and gel our team together ? Our size is still a big issue , yet we seem resigned to holding on to all of them ? How many should we let go to other teams . etc . even though they can all probably play in NHL somewhere ?

    Until management can draft and trade for players that can actually meld a chemistry and gel on a consistent basis our chances of having a competitive team are very slim to none . To date one has to question their ability or inability to do so . The toxic environment is a product of managements own mistaken insights as they assembled it to begin with .

    I’d like to see an article dealing with the type of chemistry they plan on assembling here and how – not just the talk .

  • Lowetide

    Not sure if this is Spamming, but I know my Mom would have no problem with what I’m saying if she were to look over my shoulder right now..I predict Oilers will win 5-4 against the rangers..and here comes the
    thanks for checking it out.

    Sounds to me like this Marincin kid is alot like former Oilers defenceman Alexei Semenov..maybe with a bit more offensive that a fair comparison LT? What do you thinK?

    • Lowetide

      I think with Marincin it’s too soon to tell. He’s posting enormous numbers compared to his scouting report though, so I think he’ll probably be far superior to Semenov offensively.

      Redline suggests Smid is a good comp, with Marincin having a better shot. I’d use that as a guideline until we get a better idea about the offense.

      If he’s Smid with offense, well that’s a pretty good hockey player.

  • I got to see both Tyler Bunz and Tyler Pitlick play in person just this Friday in Moose Jaw. Pitlick got a goal, but still didn’t seem to have it together like he did in the pre-season. Bunz won the game, but a couple of the goals he let in felt a bit weak, the Warriors didn’t bring a strong offense during the game. I had actually forgotten both were on the Tigers, so it was a pleasant surprise.

  • SumOil

    Amongst the forwards drafted after Hall, I am most impressed with Hamilton so far. He has been consistently good and has been a staple on the PK too.
    I am diappointed with Pitlick. I really expected much more from him. Well we will see how things turn out. It still is early in the season.
    Davidson is tracking well too. Nice offensive numbers. Early on he was a minus player but that has turned around too

    • Lowetide

      I think Pitlick will need some time to adjust. Those college kids take a lot of time when turning pro because the game is so much more physical than NCAA.

      Same with the dub. It’s a tough league.

      • SumOil

        See the thing is that Pitlick is known for his physical play and left college to improve his offense.

        We yes it is still early and maybe his splits will improve.

  • Skidplate

    Great article LT. Hamilton was a steal and MBS did a great job. The magazine I had, said all the right things about him. His injuries (shoulder I believe) are what dropped him in the draft.

    Love these articles!

  • Beer + Wings

    I have to ask; what about Marincin’s defensive game? Sure he’s puttimg up points, but every time I see a boxscore of a Cougars game, they win 8-7 or lose 9-6, so I can’t tell if his team is just apathetic defensively and focused on only offence, or just plain awful in their own end or have terrible goaltending or what. Because it seems like everyone is putting up points on that team, no?