If the Edmonton Oilers are going to be an impact team in this decade, the 2010 draft will serve as a foundation. Unlike previous seasons where the club lacked a 2nd and 3rd rd pick (2008) or went off the board in search of needs (2009), the 2010 draft combined three vital items: a strong scouting staff, an enormous opportunity and a quad-venti order of luck.
In 1993, the Edmonton Oilers drafted Jason Arnott and Miro Satan; the following season brought in Ryan Smyth and the fourth leg of the table (Wobbly Bonsignore) that should have sustained this organization for a decade. Slats cashed Arnott because he had to and Satan because Ron Low wouldn’t play him, and the scouting staff whiffed in a big way on Bonsignore. Oiler fans watched Ryan Smyth spill his guts in vain for a large number of years, but the ingredients for a frustrating 10 seasons were contained in those two drafts. Opportunity missed.
It is a fact that professional organizations often draft and then discard talent because it develops slowly or doesn’t fit easily into the puzzle. Somewhere in this group of 2010 draft talents there is a slow developing player, or a misfit that makes it impossible for the organization to grind him into a familiar chess piece. One of the key elements of success then will come from using the raw materials in the best possible way and maximizing all available talent.
In the post previous to this one, I talked about the 1985 entry draft and how those players looked one season later. Times have changed and the amount of information available to fans is much larger, so we can go more in depth with the 2010 group. The first rung on the ladder of hockey success for these kids is a pro contract, so some of these kids have already done something the 1985 group couldn’t do: play well enough to get a pro contract. Of the 11 players drafted by Edmonton in 1985, only six (Scott Metcalfe, Todd Carnelley, Mike Ware, Tomas Kapusta, Kelly Buchberger and Mario Barbe) made the AHL or higher.
THE DRAFT (YEAR ONE)
- L Taylor Hall (65gp, 22-20-42 NHL): Signed his pro contract and made the big club. Began the season slowly, but started imposing his will on games and became the top draw for opposition matchups by mid-season. Led the Oilers in CorsiRel and in goals before losing his season to injury. Ridiculous talent.
- C-R Tyler Pitlick (56gp, 27-35-62 WHL): Pitlick’s offense ranked him 3rd among WHL rookies and his EV stats (56gp, 22-19-41) suggest he might be a player. His 22 EV goals rank him 2nd among Tigers during the regular season. A little shy on the offense for his age, we have to factor in that he was a WHL rookie. Big kid, "farm boy" strong according to Redline and has a pro contract in his back pocket. Interesting to see if he emerges as a center, he did suffer an injury during the season.
- D Martin Marincin (67gp, 14-42-56 WHL): Finished 8th in scoring among WHL defenders and led rookie blue in points. Marincin flagged as the season wore on (splits: 1st-33gp, 10-25-35 +6; 2nd-34gp, 4-17-21 -18) but like Pitlick we need to allow for this being his first WHL season. The most negative thing I’ve read is from Redline ("lacks an aggressive mindset") but he’s on track as a prospect by any stretch of the definition. Signed his Oiler contract about a month ago, may return to junior.
- L Curtis Hamilton (62gp, 26-56-82 WHL): The appeal for this player comes from his style and his boxcars. Hamilton is described by Stu MacGregor as "an extremely smart player, a great two way player. Strong, has good size, works hard along the boards. Very strong on the puck, has good vision, very good penalty killer. A guy who plays hard and smart." Remember when we talked about some players being difficult to fit pieces into the puzzle? Hamilton looks like a plug and play type, someone who can play a 2-way role with PK time and chip in offensively. The Oilers need more than one of this player type, but it’s a start.
- C Ryan Martindale (65gp, 34-49-83 OHL): Interesting in that he is the first player on the list without a pro contract. Martindale is certainly expected to turn pro but it didn’t happen during the first wave. He had a solid year on the OHL’s most dominant line despite suffering an ankle injury. Among the group at the top of the draft, he is more of a one-dimensional talent so his numbers are more important to monitor. Certainly on track as a prospect, but I think it’s fair to suggest there’s a line after number 4 on this list.
- D Jeremie Blain (40gp, 2-35-37 QMJHL): Blain suffered a foot injury at the start of the year, and when we see "injury" and "defenseman" in the same sentence then it’s something to track. Oiler scout Bill Dandy liked him a lot, and based on photo’s he looks like a modern (RH) Jacques Laperriere at least visually. Impressive offense for his age and his club struggled terribly when he was out. Remains unsigned, not a big deal as he is younger than the above group.
- G Tyler Bunz (56gp, 2.47 .919 WHL): Impressive season was followed by a strong playoff and then an injury. Bunz quality season "comes with the experience and the confidence that you get with playing back-to-back 60 game seasons. That’s always going to help me get more comfortable with myself and how I feel in the net" according to the young St. Albert goalie. The article suggests he has spoken to the Oilers and the timeline includes another season in junior.
- D Brandon Davidson (72gp, 8-44-52 WHL): Unique story just keeps getting better. A late start in organized hockey hasn’t held him back, and Davidson spent a couple of games in OKC after the Pats season ended. He had a knee problem last season, but this year was a healthy one for the puck mover.
- L Drew Czerwonka (68gp, 13-30-43 WHL): Big, tough winger with a lot of try and a surprising amount of offense. Got a lot of playing time with skilled men during the year, suggesting his role in pro hockey may be in a role similar to the one Edmonton keeps trying to fill with JF Jacques. His season isn’t over, as Czerwonka will be suiting up in the Memorial Cup for Kootenay. Had a concussion during the playoffs. He’s an example of a player who has made himself noticed during the season after his draft, somewhat similar to Kelly Buchberger’s story in part one.
- R Kristians Pelss (63gp, 14-19-33 WHL): Here’s an example of a player who took a long time to get used to the WHL but then improved markedly in the second half. Splits: 1st-30gp, 4-9-13 +8; 33gp, 10-10-20 +3). He’s still miles from being a strong NHL prospect, but is a late birthday (Sept 1992) and his arrows are heading in a good direction.
- F Kellen Jones (38gp, 8-14-22 NCAA): Started slowly but then came on well later in the season with Quinnipiac. Plays alongside twin brother Connor Jones, who would be an astute signing for the Oilers this summer.
The top 4 are signed to pro contracts, although not all are certain to play pro this fall. The 5-8 picks stayed on course, with Bunz showing well deep into the spring with Medicine Hate. Pick #9 Drew Czerwonka is still going as we approach summer, and both Pelss and Jones improved enough in the second half to be considered solid prospects.
We can say with authority that fewer than 11 and at least one of these kids will play in the NHL (Hall’s already played in the NHL). We can say that prospects Pitlick (gritty PF), Marincin (complete defender), Hamilton (quality 2-way W), Bunz (starting goalie) and Czerwonka (enforcer with some skill) have a real chance to be useful players in defined roles.
Kids like Ryan Martindale may have to buy in to the idea that skill alone won’t get them to the NHL. I’d count Blain and Davidson in that group too, prospects whose offense is obvious but need to learn the AHL lessons that grind those skilled kids who are a little shy of elite into useful role players.
Pelss and Jones are undersized kids facing enormous uphill battles, but they both survived and later flourished. It was a helluva draft and year one shows what we expected: sustain and growth; in at least a couple of cases, there was an offensive explosion (Hamilton and Marincin).
Stu MacGregor, you magnificent bastard.