Ashes By Now

The job of an NHL scout is to project into the future. Their friends are knowledge, experience, other scouts, the tailor-made computer program, miles and miles of blacktop and sheer freaking luck. Their odds are so poor anyone not absolutely married to the career would drop it based on logic and reason within the three month trial period.

According to a draft study (using the years 1979-95) the odds of drafting an impact player are very low:

  1. 2% turned out to be a elite players (the Kurri family)
  2. 4% turned into impact players (the Smyth family)
  3. 15% turned out to be average NHLers (the Stoll family)
  4. 24% played less than 200 games (the Pouliot family)
  5. 55% never played a game in the NHL (everyone else)

Barry Fraser drafted a ton of 1’s but they all came in a wonderful cluster. His career as scouting director was decidedly uneven during a long coda (1984-2000) but he can boast a litany of drafted players (Lowe, Anderson, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Moog, Fuhr, Steve Smith, Beukeboom, Tikkanen) during the glory years (79-83) and a nice bunch over the long slide (Buchberger, Rucinsky, Maltby, Arnott, Satan, Smyth, Poti, Horcoff, Comrie) to his retirement.

Kevin Prendergast presided over the 2001-07 drafts and never drafted a Kurri or a Messier. Part of it was drafting in the middle of the first round, but KP did have one top 10 selection and delivered a quality prospect (Sam Gagner) who may climb above his current ranking (I’d slot him #3). His best selection? Ales Hemsky, who was plucked in the middle of the first round (2001) and has gone on to deliver outstanding offense over the years. I always felt Prendergast was about average at the draft table (which was a huge step up from the end of Fraser’s run) and it is probably the reason he was removed from the job after the 2007 Entry Draft.

Enter the Magnificent Bastard (Stu MacGregor) and a renewed effort to squeeze more out of the draft. As luck would have it, MacGregor hit a home run (at least all of the arrows point that way) with his first selection (Jordan Eberle). A re-draft of 2008 would no doubt see Eberle among the first 10 names to emerge from the list. The kid can play, and when you acquire that kind of talent at number 22 overall it is a very good day. I dare say we may one day speak of Eberle being chosen in 2008 in a fashion similar to the status Hemsky’s selection inspires among Oiler fans. Hemsky was taken 13th overall and should have gone in the top 5. Eberle was selected #22, and it looks like (there is a danger in speaking too soon) he should have gone top 10.

The next summer MBS picked MPS in a rare case of the Oilers falling ass over tea kettle into that sheer luck I mentioned at the top. This used to happen to Los Angeles all the time, but credit where due as MacGregor called out the young Swede’s name after Dallas and Ottawa (of all teams) let him slide. This past summer MacGregor and staff had the chance of a lifetime, selecting first overall in a year that boasted two kids worthy of the title.

MacGregor has had some good fortune, but the underlying story is almost as strong. Almost ALL of the kids picked outside of the first round have some or many arrows pointed in the right direction. Here is a quick summary of the Magnificent Bastard’s first three seasons worth of drafts and how they are progressing.

  • Jordan Eberle: Since being drafted he has delivered in the WHL and on the international stage. The Oilers (I think correctly) have been patient with his development and that should pay off with a strong first pro season. Eberle has the "Steve Shutt sixth sense" around the net and I think he’s going to be an excellent NHL player with a nice range of skills. Tremendous value for the spot the Oilers took him. No serious injuries.
  • Johan Motin: Already playing pro hockey, he drew positive reviews from his coach during the difficult 2009-10 season in Springfield. One down arrow: he was passed by new pro Alex Plante on the Falcons depth chart. Still, a stay-at-home type with a mean streak and pro experience. No serious injuries.
  • Philippe Cornet: Oilers liked him enough to sign him in early May of this season and he’ll compete for a job in Oklahoma City this fall. I think he may end up playing in the ECHL for a time, as the organization has had success in the past (Liam Reddox, as an example) by sending their "tweener" wingers to Double A. Cornet’s offense didn’t build this season (it was flat compared to his 18-year old season) so there are some concerns about him. On the positive side, there’s a lot of evidence that he is less of a perimeter player than he appeared to be on draft day.
  • Teemu Hartikainen: Do you remember the "Sather Oilers" and their tendency to find players out of nowhere? One day the team has a need and the next day Jaroslav Pouzar or Rem Murray is on the scene. I think Hartikainen might be such a player. Since being drafted, this kid has improved his skating and overall performance in an (almost) straight line. Edmonton signed him in May as well, Hartikainen might surprise in camp and I would think he has a better chance of sticking in Oklahoma City than Cornet.
  • Jordan Bendfeld: He had enough talent to de drafted twice (PHX in 2006, EDM in 2008) and Bendfeld did make an appearance in the AHL this past season. When teams take a player 193rd overall, a solid minor league player is considered full value. Bendfeld is 21 years old and he’s going in the right direction.
  • Magnus Pääjärvi (sorry Wanye): The fun thing to note about this player is that NHL PLAYERS are talking about him. Jim Matheson has a piece on Ales Hemsky (and by the way, Hemsky is a calm voice re: expectations about the kids. Well worth the read) and #83 says he has a couple of friends who have played with him and think he’s a good one. There aren’t many negatives about this player, save for age and experience and that’s not really a negative when you’re building from the ground up. Played defense as a kid, so may adjust more quickly than others to the positioning required in the NHL.
  • Anton Lander: There is some evidence the Oilers drafted the Euro Doug Jarvis in Lander. Already playing against men, Lander’s role on Timra was fairly defensive considering age and experience. Based on scouting reports he’s going to be a coach’s dream in the NHL if the offense comes. A slight down arrow for the low batting average but this kid has a nice range of skills at an early age.
  • Troy Hesketh: The tall tree from Minnetonka is progressing well. It is doubly difficult to track this player because Hesketh is a defensive defenseman and he plays high school hockey. However, this is a raw talent and unless he suffers a severe injury (there was a rumor but it was false) we should consider the arrows to be heading in the right direction.
  • Cameron Abney: Leaving aside where he was taken in the draft, Abney will serve a specific role should he play in the NHL and seems on track at this time. He did improve offensively and is a willing fighter.
  • Kyle Bigos: Some nice arrows here. His first NCAA season was a success, and he was used in all manner of ways. He told Guy Flaming his role is "to be as physical as I can and establish a presence on the blueline. I love to move the puck and play 5-on-5 with the team we have, but I’m also getting a chance on the powerplay. I’m mainly used as a shooter. I also get to play PK which is a blast! I think to go out and block shots and to try and stop the talent-filled teams in HE is a great challenge and a lot of fun." This player may have increasing importance to the organization. At 6.05, 230 we are talking about a monster on the blue if he continues to develop.
  • Toni Rajala: Pure skill player who had a strong season with Brandon (WHL). I saw a few Wheat Kings games and he was certainly noticable for his skill and the number of chances he created with an aggressive forecheck. He’ll be back in Finland this fall, but Rajala is certainly a player to watch. Injury concern: tweaked a knee late last summer, don’t know about long term impact.
  • Olivier Roy: There’s a chance this is a home run. Redline Report had him at #56 and the Oilers grabbed him 133rd overall. That’s a slide. His scouting report includes the usual "quick reflexes" etc we expect from a goalie with NHL potential, but Chris Bordeleau from Central Scouting said "he’s steady" which is an enormous item for a junior goalie. He started slowly in the Q last season then came on strong, finishing with a .908SP. He also played in Springfield and was very impressive (.913). Lets not go crazy, but he might get here quicker than anyone thinks he will.
  • Taylor Hall: ALL of his arrows are pointed in the right direction. In bold. In Arial black bold. Even little things like passing on the WJ camp because he’s turning pro and wants to focus on getting ready for training camp is a huge item. A delightful prospect.
  • Tyler Pitlick: He’s a strong prospect, nice range of skills. Redline gushed: Accelerates briskly out of cross-over and blows by defenders. Has an NHL calibre shot right now. Flashed the ability to power through defenders. Can gain separation in corners with sharp twists and can turn on a dime. Patient playmaker. Long-limbed with farmboy like strength. Aggressive and finished checks. Can shield the puck and work it down low, but often gives it up due to his eagerness to come off the wall and attempt to dance around defenders. Work in progress defensively – will come back deep and battle for the puck but lacks awareness in coverage assignments. Well, that’s gushing for Redline Report.:-)
  • Martin Marincin: He’s a solid prospect. Makes a nice first pass, but doesn’t get into the play as much as he should, plus he needs work in terms of positioning and reacting. Having said that, he’s tough to beat one-on-one because of his reach and mobility. A good skater with size is golden for defense. We’ll know a lot more one year from now.
  • Curtis Hamilton: I haven’t mentioned injury much but with this player it is a huge item. Two broken collarbones sounds a lot like "freak accident" but maybe he’s going to be injury prone. Other than that, a lot to like about him, 2-way winger with soft hands and he knows the game. His scouting report reads a lot like the ones written back in the 1970’s, which is my way of saying he’s a throwback "up and down" winger. I swear his scouting report is an exact match for Ross Lonsberry.
  • Ryan Martindale: Another recent draft with some down arrows. There is concern about his level of passion for the game (which sounds strange since MBS makes that a priority). It could be that he leaves scouts wanting more based on his level of ability but we should make note of it as we prepare to follow his career. Redline compares him to Ryan O’Marra. No matter who we’re listening to, we’re going to see the words "Martindale" and "inconsistent" in the same sentence a lot over the next few seasons.
  • Jeremie Blain: Bill Dandy liked him, and he does have a nice range of skills. Size, strength, some puck moving ability. They took him pretty early (#91) but with an eye to the depth chart and their overall lack of size. 
  • Tyler Bunz: He’s a project, exactly what you’d expect from a goalie taken later in the draft. Mike Remmerde did a nice report on him giving us a solid line in the sand.
  • Brandon Davidson: He was a late bloomer and there are some issues in regard to skating. Having said that, nice range of skills and purely based on numbers should have gone earlier. Man he developed late. Had some knee prolbems mid-season.
  • Drew Czerwonka: A big hitter, energy type player. Weird stat lines the last 2 seasons, we’ll need to follow him awhile to see if he’s got any skill aside from board rattling.
  • Kristians Pelss: Skilled kid from Latvia. If he makes a mark in the AHL the Oilers should consider it a success. If he maks the NHL, MBS should get a statue. All of this is based on draft odds, not this specific player about which we don’t know a helluva lot.
  • Kellen Jones: Oilers like the Vernon Vipers. We should start paying attention to them.

There are a lot of arrows pointed in the right direction here. I understand the idea that the scouts should deliver when they pick #1, #10 or even #22. I would counter with the long list of Bonsignore’s, Kelly’s and others, and further add that the quality of player added with selections in the 2nd (Lander, Pitlick, Marincin, Martindale) round are solid. Beyond that, kids like Hartikainen, Bigos, Rajala and Brandon Davidson would appear to be far enough above the event horizon (consdering draft pedigree) to be considered legit NHL prospects at this time.

Finally, there is always the danger of getting excited about draft picks too soon. A 5-year glance can sometimes be incorrect let alone two months later. Having said that, we’re tracking these prospects not making a final decision on them. The Oilers seem to be paying attention to the right things, be it injury history (their first round picks don’t have a Pouliot asterisk attached) to region (they’re all over the CHL and Sweden, shy on Russia, etc).

Even in that area I think the Oilers are taking the right approach. They’re not drafting as many Euro’s but have hired scouts who will pay attention to the developing talents in European amateur AND PRO leagues. With the NHL spending fewer picks on players from across the pond, that’ll mean a larger talent pool in the pro ranks whose rights are available each summer.

As frustrating as the major league roster appears to be, there is real hope from the procurement department. And that my friends is very good news. Stu MacGregor really is a magnificent bastard, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

  • Oilertown

    MADJAM’S EARLY PROGNOSTICATION AND CALL ON THE OILERS !! Keep in mind i was right on the money last couple of seasons and made my predications far in advance of all the so called experts, media and otherwise . I took a lot of crap and abuse on my calls and i expect the same this time , but i was proven to be correct . So here we go .

    What a difference a year makes ! We go from an offensively challenged offence to top of the league by my call this season . We go from a defence reasonable team last season ,to one that looks to be bottom of league and perhaps defensively challenged for this season . First -the offence .

    Throw your stats books in the corner as they won’t be of much value this season , as Oilers youth rewrites the new standards by which to start judging new talents on this season . This will be a new era in hockey ! They already have the potential to be the biggest offence in hockey , and i expect they’ll prove it if given the green light by Renney . Our major strength is going to be in offence , not defence ,and i fully expect roster to show that .

    Predict banner seasons for Horcoff, Hemsky and Penner riding the enthusiasm and multipull talents of the youngsters . The new wave begins with resounding results unparalled or forseen by many . Could Giroux be part of that mix as well and put up numbers this season that might shock us all ? Potentially yes , but not as much as AHL i doubt . Renney and staff will have a difficult time not unleashing their offensive potentials . Will they be defensively responsible . Better than last season but growing pains will be evident and glaring at times . The talents there already for a monsterous season , and the challenge facing coaching staff will to get them to gel and play as a team and support one another . Thas two things they never accomplished last couple of disasterous seasons . I believe they’ll do it this season !

    I expect Omark , Svensson , Hall and Eberle to break the 60 point barrier . Giroux might also do the same . Hartikanen might be hard pressed to reach those heights . Gags and boys will also have banner seasons offensively . Fraser, i don’t know what he might contribute but Stortini unlikely of course as would Jacques be if he makes club . As long as we don’t bring up to many AHL’ers as offensively challenged as last season we should do very well offensively . I stand by my predication of 310 goals for team this season – slightly over a goal a game from last season .

    Oilers already far ahead of schedule on offence potentially ! Defence and general backend is far behind in retrospect , even from last season . So here is my breakdown of backend .

    Smid , Foster , Whitney and Gilbert are reasonable , but after that there is quite a drop in potential . Plante needs to break out and that is iffy . Vandemeer and Struds are limited in effectiveness . Peckham very limited . I must have missed others in here , but they would all fall in more in a fillin role with limited abilities . Souray will be very difficult to replace make no mistake about it .We would be a far better team with a happy and healthy Souray than without him. Goaltending next .

    I like JDD as being the second coming of Ranford in his outstanding season he once had with Oilers . He fights for puck and reminds me also of Roloson when he also played well for us as you recall . Dubnyk i am not sold on . Khabby will try and play his butt off after the grief he has created .

    I predict we are a long ways going forward in our rebuild than most realize , and if backend can be tweaked this could be a banner year yet . Better than Phoenix and Colorado had last year even with the voids . I stand behind my bold prediction and i find thats not too conservative a prediction . Where i’ll put them in the standings just yet , i’ll just wait and see what Tams has planned for backend in next couple of weeks , but i doubt i’ll have them anything less than a playoff team for this year , or below what Phoenix or Colorado did last year with their rosters that i think the Oilers are already above .

    Bring it on OILERS !!

  • Oilertown

    @ Ross Creek you are jealous of the whole future of this team compared to your flameouts lol jk buddy.

    Actually it will be fun to watch the the tide turn with the flames and us. Not sure if it will be this year BUT IT IS COMING SOON bahahahahaha.

  • Looks like that deal the Leafs made yesterday to clear a contract off the books has paid off already. According to Kypreos, everybody’s favorite GM signed Clarke MacArthur to a 1 yr $1.1M deal. Nice signing… not quite the $2.4M Clarke got from the arbitrator, eh.

  • Ernie Catface

    Great article again Lowetide. With it being such a shot in the dark to find real NHL talent through the draft my question to the Nation is why cheer for another top 5 pick? Duh, a top 5 pick has a much better shot at being an impact player … I get that. That being said we have 4 stud prospects in Hall, Gags, MPS & Eberle and some other kids with an upside. Why can’t this ship get turned around much faster like the Avs did a year ago? Sure our goalie is headed to prison. Sure we aren’t going to see the veteran faceoff crushing 3rd line center we all know we need. I think being in the hunt in February is possible with this team. We’ve got skill all over the top 3 lines and as long as Renney plays the shit out of our top 4 young players when they earn the ice I’ll be happy. I’ll be happy and I’ll be rooting for a higher finish then the Flames. I want this team to win.

    ‘You show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a real loser!’

  • Crash

    LT: Please dont have these two so closely paired “Strudwick/Chorney”.. no matter the context…

    Plus, I thought the overwhelming feeling on Chorney (in the Osphere) is that he needs a Full AHL season.. do you think the Org is ‘Still’ going to be giving him the push?!

    Oh training camp, come end the summer speculation..

    As Racki said, great write up.. it does provide hope… My pessimism centres around managements ability to surround these future players with a legit supporting cast.. broken record, sorry…

  • oilslick

    Finally the organization has opened their eyes to see that there is only one way to rebuild the team and thats from the ground up with solid draft choices. I’ve had a chance to see Jordan Eberle quite a bit in The Dub over the last few years and the Edm faithful should be very excited about what this young should bring to the table. But lets not lose sight that this is a long process and We won’t go from “Famine” to “Feast” overnight.

    • Crash

      Maybe not overnight but if Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington are any indication it doesn’t have to necessarily take that long to become a solid playoff team.

      Chicago drafted Kane 2007 and 2 seasons later were a solid playoff team. Then one season after that….Champs

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        and if florida…atlanta…islanders…. etc.. are any indication we might be in for a long stretch..

        dont get me wrong, i totally 110% agree the oilers are taking the right path. i dont, however, see tambo and klowe as the guys capable of building a team from the ground up.

      • I would suggest looking back further though, as there were other key draft points for them too, such as Toews the year before, and Keith and Seabrook in 2002/03 respectively. So I wouldn’t quite say it was as quick as one draft in 2007, and then 3 years later they had a cup parade.

        But I think we’ve already gone through at least 4 years of failure, ourselves, and done some good drafting in that period, in addition to some already solid existing pieces such as Hemsky, Penner, Gilbert, Whitney. So while I have no delusions of a cup in 3 years or anything, I do think we’ll start seeing some exciting hockey in a couple of years. This year could be a good indication of whether that wait time is accelerated though or if we’ll have to continue to be patient (which is fine by me too).

        • Shapeman

          I may seem too optimistic but could Petry and Plante not be our Keith and Seabrook? Petry and Keith were taken around the same place and so were Plante and Seabrook(although Seabrook would have gone earlier if the 03 draft wasn’t so deep). Plante’s arrows are all pointed in the right direction ATM. Also, I may be mistaken but didn’t Keith take the college route too? He also had a year or 2 in the A that we can give Petry too so I guess all I’m saying is you never know

          *edit* it seems my point was stated by Crash earlier too *edit*

        • Crash

          Whoa fellas, I didn’t say it was a given, I just said that it doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to take a long time.

          Yes I agree hawks got Toews the year before, but the Oilers got Paajarvi the year before and Eberle before that and Gagner.

          My point was that the Hawks were near the bottom of the league when they drafted Kane. Nobody knew at that point how good Seabrook and Keith were or how good Toews would be just as we don’t know how good Paajarvi, Eberle, Gagner, Petry, Plante, Peckham, Pitlick, Marcinin will be in a couple/three years.

          I agree with you we’ve gone through the failure years and hit rock bottom last year, and have added what looks to be some very good horses to the stable. I too think we’ll start to see some good promising stories this year. Yes to being patient and hopefully to being a strong playoff team in the not too distant future.

          Here’s hoping.

      • I get your point, BUT the Hawks already had a Jonathan Toews from the previous years draft, a Brent Seabrook (4 years previous), and a Duncan Keith (5 years previous)… the Oilers have none. And while the likes of Gagner, Brule, Paajarvi (haven’t seen him play much, but aside from Hall, he’s the 1 guy I’m jealous of) & Eberle puts a nice young core of forwards on the map, I think the Oil are a little further away than any of the CHI/PIT/WSH examples… at least from Cup contention (although they will have a pretty darn good hockey team soon enough). If they can land a premier d-man (or two), THEN they’re dangerous. Remember, PIT had five consecutive years of top 5 picks.

        • Crash

          RC, you might as well cut bait now and join the Oiler faithful….you know you want to.

          Then you can actually cheer Hall instead of being jealous of him. You already live here, just make it official. Come and join the good guys.

          As far as premier d-men…no one knew until just a year or two ago that Keith and Seabrook were going to be premier.

          The Oil have some young d-men…who knows maybe one or two of them will become premier in the next 2 or 3 yrs.

          As for top 5 picks, Lowetide makes a good point. If there were a do over Eberle would likely be at least a top 10 and Hemsky a top 5. Then there is Paajarvi who likely should have been a top 5 but is top 10, Gagner is a top 6, Smid is a top 10, Brule a top 6 and of course Hall.

          IMO things aren’t as bad here as some feel it is.

  • Crash

    Awesome update on Stu’s prospects…thanks for that.

    I am so much looking forward to being in Rexall this year and it seems I’m not alone as I’ve been getting more request for tickets even before the season starts than I got all of last year.

  • First off, good write-up, Lowetide, as always..

    Secondly, any word on Hartikainen’s skating? Word out of the draft and sometime after was that his skating was pretty weak and in need of a lot of work. He’s a guy I really have a lot of hope for (along with Lander) to make a difference from our bottom six one day.

  • To be honest, the last time I was this excited about the young, up-and-coming talent in the Oilers organization was back in 1994 when Arnott, Weight, Marchant, Mironov, Maltby, Thornton, etc were in the fold and others like Smyth, Satan, Oliver, Grier, Murray, McGillis, etc were on the horizon.
    This is a tremendously exciting time to be an Oiler fan so enjoy the ride.

  • Lowetide

    third string: I believe Peckham is waiver eligible so a solid camp gets him a job. At this point, my D depth chart would be:

    1. Gilbert
    2. Whitney
    3. Foster
    4. Smid
    5. Vandermeer
    6. Peckham
    7. Strudwick/Chorney

    Belle, Plante and Petry are also in the mix. Plus Petiot, who was mentioned recently by Steve Tambellini.