Oiler fans know that the 2010 draft looks like a watershed. Taylor Hall is already scoring goals in the best league on the planet, and that second round may live in infamy. Still deeper there are scorers and puck movers and goalies and they all seemingly have a lot of promise. Is this a mirage? When do troubles begin to appear for a draft class?
The Oilers hired Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor in time for the long hours required to preprare for the 2008 Entry Draft. The Oilers draft staff delivered Jordan Eberle, Johan Motin, Teemu Hartikainen and Phil Cornet (along with Jordan Bendfeld). A quick glance at that draft class (2.3 years later) suggests that Eberle is going to have a long Oiler career, that Motin and Hartikainen are continuing their development (although there are some concerns for Motin) and that Cornet and Bendfeld have the look of career minor league/European players. There’s no sin there, as many players taken 193rd overall never make the AHL let alone the big leagues (Bendfeld has played 15 AHL games so far in his career).
The 2010 draft looks exceptional. However, it’s only a few months old. Can we get excited about this draft class or are we doomed to disappointment? Will all of these kids turn out to be productive Oilers? There are a lot of questions.
- When do warning signs appear? Sometimes they can be seen before the draft. Marc Pouliot took a big hit from Dion Phaneuf in the top prospects game, 2003 winter. That started a year long injury run for Pouliot and he never did recover. Jason Bonsignore had a lower points-per-game number than his teammate Ethan Moreau the year both were drafted, and his ppg throughout his junior career was well below lottery country. The Oilers drafted Jesse Niinimaki on the strength of two tournaments. TWO TOURNAMENTS! He was the ultimate "saw him good" prospect. There are tells almost from the beginning.
- What about the 2010 draft picks? Any of them bailing water? Tyler Pitlick is cruising along at a point-per-game pace in the WHL, and you’d like to see a little better from a high pick. There are special circumstances (he’s adjusting to the WHL pace and physical style) but he’s only 1-1-2 in his last 5gp. Pitlick’s skill level is such that he should be able to post well over 1/1 point-per-game. He’s not far off the pace, so it’s only a small down arrow. Jeremie Blain has suffered from injury this season, which is the great killer of careers for defensemen. Kristians Pelss isn’t posting offense in a way that suggests that will be his future role and Kellen Jones isn’t having a huge impact in the NCAA. Still, it’s early but there are some things out there.
- Has MacGregor made some bad choices? The Cameron Abney pick (#82) came when there were still legit prospects on the board, but the organization made hiring an enforcer one of the priorities so better he’s chosen 82nd than 22nd. The bigger worry at this point is likely Troy Hesketh. The tall tree from Minnetonka was in the mix for NCAA duty this fall but was passed over for another recruit. He is playing in the USHL (an outstanding junior league) and in 28 games has no points and is a ghastly -11. The Chicago Steel (Hesketh’s team) has three defenders in the black and another one at even, so Hesketh (at age 19, mind) seems to be struggling badly.
- What should we expect from an average draft? Years ago, the prevailing wisdom stated that NHL teams should reasonably expect 2 regulars from any draft. We do have studies now available that give us a better clue. They are here:.
1979-95 NHL Draft Results
- 2% turned out to be a elite players (about 3 a year)
- 4% turned into impact players (about 6 a year)
- 15% turned out to be average NHLers (about 24 a year)
- 24% played less than 200 games (about 38 a year)
- 55% never played a game in the NHL (the rest)
So, what that tells us is that each team should be able to grab one NHL regular or better and then one player who ends up being about what Marc Pouliot was for the Oilers.
If we look at the 2010 draft, Hall is likely to be in one of the first two categories. After that, Pitlick, Marincin, Hamilton, Martindale and Davidson are either close to expectations or beyond, and there’s still some nice things below (Czerwonka, Bunz). There are negative arrows for a few of the 2010 draftees, but they are being drowned by the enormous number of positive arrows. This really is something to behold.