When Edmonton Oiler fans talk about adding "grit" or "crust" these days, it’s almost exclusively in regard to the skill lines. The club has all kinds of role players who can crash and bang but as the JF Jacques experiment a year ago showed us, "hands" are a vital part of the package. It’s early, but it looks like the Oilers may have uncovered a gem deep in the heart of Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor’s first draft as scouting director.
The 2008 Entry draft wasn’t shaping up exceptionally well for the Edmonton Oilers. The team was without a 2nd round pick and the asking price to trade into the round was dear; the club waited patiently from #22 (Jordan Eberle) to #103 (Johan Motin) but that wasn’t their ideal scenario. In order to get anything out of the draft (outside the first round) the Oilers would have to bank on Motin or hit a surprise big fly in later rounds.
Which is damn near impossible, Here are the current NHL games played (10 or more) for all 2008 draftees outside the top 100 selections:
- D Jason Demers (SHS 186th OV) 125 NHL GP
- L Matt Martin (NYI 148 OV) 72 NHL GP
- D Jared Spurgeon (NYI 156th OV) 52 NHL GP
- C James Wright (TBAY 117 OV) 49 NHL GP
- L Matt Calvert (CBS 127 OV) 41 NHL GP
- G Anders Lindback (NAS 207 OV) 22 NHL GP
- C Andrei Loktionov (LAK 123 OV) 20 NHL GP
- C Mark Olver (COL 140 OV) 17 NHL GP
- L Teemu Hartikainen (EDM 163 OV) 11 NHL GP
- R Dale Wiese (NYR 111 OV) 10 NHL GP
NHL scouts are smart buggers, they really are. An enormous percentage (historically) of the really good NHL players from a given year are selected inside the top 100 every year. When you take in account how much projection is required, NHL teams are well rewarded for their investment in the grey hair’s who make up the scouting community. In 2008, there were 111 selections after the 100th overal pick, and 10 of them have played 10 games or more. Finding someone useful with the 163rd overall pick is a feather in the cap of any drafting team. The fact that Hartikainen looks like he can play with the skilled men is an exceptional feat, as many of the kids taken in the later rounds fit the Matt Martin skill set in terms of scouting report. From that list, I’d guess that Spurgeon, Calvert, Loktionov and Hartikainen are the most promising skaters and that the goalie Lindback may also be something.
The key for the Oilers is that Hartikainen might be that rare player who can keep up with the skilled men, take and make a pass on the fly, add a physical element to every shift that keeps the opposition’s heads up, makes certain the play doesn’t die in the corner with an Oildrop logo laying prone on the ice and soft hands to convert those cherry passes from the skilled players.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers at the NHL level have been in a Groundhog’s Day scenario on the skill lines. Beauty stick handlers who aren’t strong on the puck or get beaten up because of their style of play, with no answer save for a big brute the coach can put on the ice after the important moments of the game are in the history books.
Hey, we can’t put too much pressure on Hartikainen, he’s still learning the speed and scope of the NHL game and he certainly has some skating issues. Hell, he might not make the team in the fall, we should be prepared to see him struggle in training camp (it’s one thing to get called up, quite another to win the day–ask Linis Omark). However, Hartikainen is a rare item on the Oilers prospect horizon: a big, strong, gritty forward with hands.
Stu MacGregor, you magnificent bastard. Again.
Nation Radio hits the airwaves again today at noon. You can hear it live on Team 1260, online at the Team 1260 website and Wanye has become very skilled at posting the items online within a few days (no small item btw). Today’s guests who are scheduled to appear are Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun; James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail; Bob Ridley, legendary play by play voice of the Medicine Hat Tigers; Gene Principe from Rogers Sportsnet; Jim Byers, OKC Barons play by play man and Jason McKee, head coach of the Spruce Grove Saints.
We’ll be live at the Pint downtown today. You can email questions (and have been emailing great ones, please keep them coming) to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll ask our guests and try to get you answers.