MBS Strikes Again

Some goals are easier than others. For NHL scouts, delivering multiple players of exceptional quality from one draft is something that may come along once or twice in a career. It’s way too early to even be discussing it, but the Edmonton Oilers 2010 draft group keeps doing things to get noticed. It really has been an exceptional start to the season for the top 5 selections. Stand back, we don’t know how big this thing is going to get in the next 5 years.  

I believe it takes 5 full seasons to be able to get a good look at an NHL draft. Even then, you can sometimes be waiting on a goalie or college kid. An example: Devan Dubnyk was drafted in 2004 (6 long years ago) and is just now getting his chance to start two NHL games in a row (assuming he plays today).

However, there are early returns on a draft that can spell trouble.

A FEW EXAMPLES FROM 2003

  • Marc Pouliot was injured before the draft at the top prospects game (Phaneuf drilled him).  In the summer of 2003 he got hurt at the Canadian WJC camp in Calgary (hip) and that had a major impact on his 18-year old season. It also hurt his performance at the Oilers rookie camp just two months after being drafted. In November 2003 he suffered an abdominal injury and a broken wrist. 
  • Colin McDonald had some questions coming out of the draft with regard to offense, and early in his NCAA career it looked like he wasn’t going to have enough offense to play as a regular in the NHL. That’s still true these years later.
  • JF Jacques was selected for his size and speed. He did not miss a lot of games in junior and when he turned pro it looked for all the world like the Oilers had a useful Coke machine. Injuries have derailed his career.
  • Mikhail Youkov was taken on a hunch. Scott Howson in 2003: “He’s a Russian playing in Sweden so he wasn’t eligible to play in any of the tournaments over there in Sweden or Russia. He played in the elite league, his father’s a coach in Sweden and that’s why he’s there. He’s a big strong guy that skates very well so we thought that, perhaps, he may be a little bit of a sleeper and we decided to step up and take him in the third round.”
  • Zack Stortini was taken very late in the third round. They liked his character and heart, plus he’d already established himself as a leader in Sudbury.

Five months after the 2003 draft, we knew Marc Pouliot would lose much of his 18-year old season to various injuries, the concerns about Colin McDonald’s scoring abilities were confirmed, Youkov was another blind pick (the most famous being Alexei Mikhnov). We knew those things 5 months after the 2003 draft. They are tells, just like playing fast when you hold a good hand or calling a girl 20 minutes after your date.

The Edmonton Oilers under Kevin Prendergast had a poor draft in 2003, made worse by the fact that it was so rich and deep. Some of that was bad luck (Pouliot was a first rounder on most pre-draft lists) but McDonald, Jacques, Youkov and Stortini were reach picks.

FAST FORWARD TO 2010

The 2010 draft is also 5 months old, and the top 5 selections are absolutely kicking ass.

  1. Taylor Hall: Exceptional talent is learning at the very highest level of the game as a teenager. After 18gp, he’s 3-5-8 -9 with the Oilers. Stamkos was 18gp, 2-3-5 -7 to begin his NHL career. I’m not saying he’s Stamkos, but would suggest that Hall’s progress thus far this season–considering the quality of the team he’s playing for–is completely reasonable.
  2. Tyler Pitlick: Took some time to adjust to the WHL’s style of play, he’s 3-3-6 +3 in his last three games. For the season, Pitlick is 17gp, 7-11-18 +2 and those numbers should rise now that he’s playing better. Pitlick is a very important prospect in the Oilers system, because he can play center and has a nice range of skills. If there’s one thing we should be looking for in the next few months in regard to the 2010 draft, it’s strong boxcar numbers from Pitlick.
  3. Martin Marincin: 23gp, 8-17-25 +2 in the WHL. He’s still posting offense (1-6-7 in his last 7 games) but is a -7 for the month of November. The club is 2-5 in that stretch, so he’s not the only one having a tough time of it. I found Oil Change 2.0 interesting for lots of reasons, but one of them was the exchange with regard to Pitlick versus Marincin fascinating. MacGregor did the right thing (selecting the bpa instead of picking for need) but there’s every chance Marincin will end up being the better player based on early returns.
  4. Curtis Hamilton: The young man is having a big season. In November, he’s 7gp, 4-6-10 +9 and his overall numbers (22gp, 12-17-29 +22) have him tied for 16th in WHL scoring. He is 2nd in the entire league in plus minus, and like Pitlick represents a Godsend in terms of position and style. A rugged LW with skill is an organizational need and there’s every chance he’ll be lining up one a depth chart with Hall and Pääjärvi down the line. He is the one player in the top 5 we need to worry over in terms of injury, as his history pre-draft makes Pouliot look like Charles Atlas (Atlas in the 1950’s, not Atlas today).
  5. Ryan Martindale: What in the wide world of sports is going on here? Ryan Martindale is third in OHL scoring!! Based on draft pedigree that’s an overshoot of mammoth proportions and we can start to wonder openly about getting a draft steal at number 61. 24gp, 17-21-38 +20 and he plays on the number one line in the league (with Prince and Toffoli). He’s rocked November (9gp, 8-10-18 +10) and another month like that one and he’ll lead the league in points as Christmas. Even better, he’s only 5-5-10 on the PP (1-1-2 SH) so a lot of his points are coming at even strength (24gp, 11-15-26). This is a very, very goood sign. The only negative is that the entire line is ripping it up so we’re not sure who’s driving the bus. Toronto once drafted Laurie Boschman without realizing the key to the line was Brian Propp on LW. Propp went 5 spots after Boschman and delivered a much stronger career.

That’s the top 5, but there is more from this draft. Brandon Davidson in Regina (24gp, 3-17-20 -10) is having a strong season despite the -10 (there are two defenders with worse minus numbers) and is a player to watch. Kellen Jones was in a slump playing in the NCAA (12gp, 4-3-7 -2) but scored a goal last night in a win over Harvard.

Two things about this draft:

  1. It’s extremely early and there are no conclusions to be drawn other than the arrows are pointing in the right direction for the top 5 plus Davidson.
  2. That’s one helluva start for all 5 of them. Splendid.

Stu MacGregor, you really are a magnificent bastard.

  • @ John Chambers:

    For all the love Hickey and Teubert get (thanks to being first round picks/WJC guys) the most interesting Kings defence prospect might be Vyacheslav Voynov.

    Not that any of the three are a sure thing; after an impressive AHL debut Hickey has had injury trouble and hasn’t delivered much offence, Teubert’s mostly been an ECHL’er in his professional cameos to date, and Voynov fell off the pace after an impressive start last season.

    Also worth mentioning is college-trained defenceman Alec Martinez, currently leading their farm team in scoring.

  • Lowetide

    speeds, Woodguy: I’d definitely want more than just Hickey, and as mentioned Forbort is a player EDM was interested in at the draft (I’m glad others watched all that stuff on Oil Change so closely. My wife has used the word “dweeb” when I kept hitting pause on the PVR).

    But would you consider a package that included Hickey as the prospect? Say, Hickey plus a first and then a good young roster player?

  • John Chambers

    There’s certainly an opportunity for someone to make a deal with LA. They’re guaranteed to want to ramp up their lineup as this is the beginning of their 3-5 year window to go for it.

    I’ll be astounded if they were actually prepared to trade Brayden Schenn in a deal for Iginla. I don’t care if we had to trade Hemsky, Schenn’s a strong 2-way centre who you focus a re-build around.

    Schenn, Hickey, Teubert, Forbort … LA will be dealing one or two of those guys and we have the vets (Hemsky and Penner) to acquire them … if the right deal comes along.

  • Hickey has 6 pts in 19 GP, leads the team with a +6 (3 or 4 guys are +6 for that team).

    I think Forbort is an interesting name for Woodguy to bring up. He’s an good prospect on his own, but what makes him so interesting (and this is probably part of why WG mentioned him) is that a FORBORT name bar was one of the ones on the bed during the Oil change documentary – we know the Oilers liked him enough in June to have his name bar prepared so IF they make a Penner deal with LA there could well be interest in Forbort.

  • Lowetide

    This is a bit off topic but I need some clarification from someone who watches the QMJHL..
    Why is it that I’ve never heard the names of
    “Phillip Michael Devos, and Jonathon Audy-Marchessault”
    they lead the Q in scoring (47pts in 26gms and 41pts in 25gms respectively), which is ahead of “Shawn Couturier” who has 37 points in 27 games..I realize those other two guys are under six feet and a year or two older that Couturier, but Jordan Eberle was two years older than Taylor Hall and Seguin in Junior hockey last season and people would easily put Eberle right up there with Hall and Seguin…just confused..what is it about the Q that these players names aren’t anywhere to be found, couldn’t even find them on hockeysfuture.com.

  • Crackenbury

    Martindale is an interesting prospect. It will be interesting to see who’s the straw that stirs the drink on his line.

    PRV’s game is struggling at the moment. Regardless of his corsi’s, boxcars, etc he hasn’t looked like the same player since he got rocked in Calgary. He was playing with no fear up to that point and drawing penalties like crazy. It looks to me like the Oilers are trying to give him some softer minutes in hopes he gains some of that early season confidence back. He’s another 5 games of weak play away from a trip to the PB or a swap with OKC from a 2 week confidence builder.

  • Lowetide

    LT, with so many young talents how can the Oilers assure they don’t waste a talent like MPS playing him in the wrong places. Is Cogs a prime example of what occurs when you stuff a kid where he does not belong? It would be a shame to lose one of these prospects.

    • Lowetide

      It’s a really good question. Cogliano just hasn’t developed at all, and we can blame his lot in life and there’s definitely something to it. However, teams sometimes place prospects/young players in situations to see how they react. Gagner on the 4th line and getting into a fight would be an example.

      I don’t know Andrew Cogliano, but would guess that he’s about where Marty Reasoner was as a St. Louis Blue: stubbornly holding on to the idea that he’s a special offensive player who just hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do.

      And it’s true. The organization has decided–rightly or wrongly–that Hemsky, Penner, Horcoff, Gagner, Hall and Eberle are their skill players. They get the PP time, they get the expectations.

      MPS is in a similar situation but we don’t see as much stubbornness imo. Maybe that will change by year 4.

      I think it must be difficult to be the best player on your team all down the line and then be asked to learn a different side of the game when you arrive in the NHL.

      Marty Reasoner learned it, Daniel Cleary too. I think Andrew Cogliano might learn it but would bet money it won’t be here.

  • m_kennedy13

    I’m a huge Penner fan for a few years now, so I never want to see him leave. However, outside of my secret feelings for him, it’s too early to let him go. We really do need him to help shelter the LW depth chart.

    I think MPS is just going to be another example of how there is a clear cut transitional period for players who come from the SEL. It’s a different game.

    I would love to spend a morning drinking a coffee with the Magnificent Bastard. He has proven to have a special talent. Two players I would want to ask him about would be those Saulnier twins out in the Q (a league I don’t get to watch as much of). They aren’t big but sure can cycle and work the puck. My hopes are we can pick them up this upcoming draft, I have a feeling they might be able to make an NHL line-up one day.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    The Oilers draft track record haven’t been really impressive since the early 80’s. The Oil management can dream and talk big about the future but can I dare say the only player worth watching that the Oilers drafted in the last decade or longer is Hemsky.

  • Lowetide

    Yeah, I don’t know why anyone is down on MPS (as the author of that post states) because he’s doing well in less than ideal circumstances. I sometimes wonder if the Oilers should trade Penner now (for a defenseman) and move MPS up to the Gagner line.

    It’s going to happen sooner or later, and this kid needs to grow.

    • PerryK

      Please, LT!!!

      I usually find myself in agreement with your perspective, but really? Penner?

      I think that he has been the best Oiler so far this season, imo. I think that he is young enough that we should be thinking of him as a core player to take us to the promised land. Think of re-signing him, instead.

      It is amazing to me that Stauffer (and now you) think that we should trade him! Oilers are going to be “top 9” team instead of the traditional “top 6”. We do need to provide him better line mates. Cogs and Brule are not the right fit for him. However, Pitlick and Omark might be just right in the future. Let’s face it our current woes have more to do with the bottom of the roster and the D that ST v. 4.0 was supposed to try and fix last summer.

      I really think that if we lose Penner now, we will regret that trade in 2 years. Just my 2 cents!

      • Mike from Canmore's illegitimate love child

        Move him to LA and in two years if you reget the move…
        He will be UFA and resign him.
        Penner would be stoked at this. He gets a shot with LA now and in a couple years the Oilers will be a vastly improved team.

    • If the Oilers can get Forbort and a pick (not sure you can get a first with Forbort) from LA for Penner, I would be thrilled.

      With Francis stating that the Sutterite Colony has promised Iginla not to trade him, Tambellini should sleep in the Kings’ front office foyer until it happens.

      • Lowetide

        LA is an interesting team. They COULD send us a pick, a strong prospect or a quality young roster player (or any combination of the three).

        How’s Hickey doing in the AHL?

        • DSF

          LT:

          I follow the Kings closely in the absence of an NHL team in Edmonton.

          Hickey very nearly made the Kings roster out of camp but has since been surpassed by Jake Muzzin (6’3″ 215) and in Manchester by Alex Martinez (6’0″ 205) who leads the Monarchs in scoring (19 GP 5G 11A 16P +6).

          The Kings have developed a “defenseman factory” equal to the Predators with Muzzin, Hickey, Teubert, Martinez, Forbert and Voynov all in Double A.

          As someone posted, Steady Steve needs to spend the holidays camped out in the lobby of the Staples Centre until Lombardi takes Penner and/or Hemsky off his hands.

          The Kings really don’t need another first round pick since they’ve outdone your MB by a country mile so perhaps a defenseman and that pick might be headed back.

          • Lowetide

            I doubt the Oilers will deal both Hemsky and Penner. A better plan would be to deal one at the deadline and one suspects it’s Penner.

            Sounds like the Kings have a plethora of good young D. Question: which one is the better bet long term? Is anyone in the minors on a level prospect wise with Forbort?

          • DSF

            As you know, it’s virtually impossible to determine which prospect (especially defensemen) will ripen when you need him to.

            I expect the Oilers could have pried Jack Johnson out of LA last season but Steady was too busy evaluating that that ship has left the station.

            If the biggest need is for a big shutdown D with top pairing potential (as I think it is) Forbort is likely the best bet and he has some offense too.
            Teubert seems to have gone sideways.

            However, it’s quite likely that Tambellini will wait too long, dither and someone else will provide Lombardi with the LW he needs.

            The time to do it is right now, not at the deadline.

          • Lowetide

            How far away is Forbort? If the Oilers pull the trigger now and the kid gets hurt then that’s a really poor trade. As I mentioned above, a prospect closer to NHL ready makes more sense imo.

          • DSF

            Well, if the possibility of injury is a determining factor, you would never make any trade.

            Forbort is 6’5″ and 200 at the age of 18 and could be ready for the NHL as soon as next season.

            Here’s a scouting report:

            http://www.hockeypolls.com/content/nhl-2010-top-draft-prospects-derek-forbort

            If LA ends up keeping him, they end up with Doughty, Johnson and Forbort as their top 3 with Hickey, Voynov, Martinez and Teubert to fill in the blanks.

            Jeebus.

        • I’m the type who needs to see a Dman who is under 6’0 dominate at then lower levels and Hickey isn’t there yet.

          His boxcars are ok with 1-5-6 +6 (tied for team lead with +6)

          With Petry being groomed I’ not sure Hickey would be the Oilers 1st choice.

          If they are looking for immediate help, it makes more sense as Forbort is 3-4 years away, but has top pairing potential.

  • m_kennedy13

    Haha, good stuff LT. I personally got one of Ronald McDonald’s slaves to make my coffee, they are giving away free small coffee’s for a couple weeks. Just pay the difference if you want a bigger size.

    As for your reasonable expectations yesterday, I found this interesting.

    http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=844192

    Maybe Mr. Paajarvi is tracking better then it appears? I think we need to see him get some more prime time minutes personally.

    I think Hamilton is going to be a player. Watching him play this season has been a treat, he’s a big winger with a scoring touch. I have been preaching since the summer that he should make our WJ team, perfect third liner for that squad if you ask me.

  • Lowetide

    m_kennedy: I got Mr. Horton to make the coffee today. No lineups when I got there (it was early). 🙂 Cute girl was at the window too, but at this stage of my life I’m more prospecting for the boy than looking to get into the batter’s box. 🙂

  • m_kennedy13

    Pouliot playing with Crosby still constantly gets stated as fact despite it being proven wrong many times.

    Thanks again for the morning read LT, how’s the coffee?

  • O.C.

    great fist rounders and more?

    The second two picks were more impressive than the first… Can’t believe each were available

    Pouliot proved his centre was the reason he was great too… Some no name putz, can’t remember his name.