The prevailing wisdom among followers of the NHL draft is that 5 years is the earliest possible point to pass judgement on a specific draft. While boring, it makes a lot of sense: 5 years gives college kids a chance to play all 4 years and junior kids can play 2 and then begin their pro careers. After five, everyone should have played at least one season in pro hockey. However, how long before a bad draft begins to smell? Not long.
I believe Stu MacGregor’s 2010 NHL draft will rival all but the very best in the Oilers history. The best (1979-81, 1993) are among the best ever and some (2007) in recent years could end up being in some elite company. The new candidate is 2010, with Taylor Hall and a bunch of other kids tracking extremely well one year out.
What does a poor draft look like one year later? Is everyone progressing as they should?
The 1985 Oiler draft boasted no lottery selections and no superstars in the making. However, there was a lot of promise for the future and the scouting department was happy with the return. Barry Fraser gave the thumbnail sketches to the Edmonton Journal about the most coveted kids that day:
- C Scott Metcalfe: "He’s something like Dave Hunter was coming out of junior." Oilers had the rugged winger ranked 13th on their list and were delighted he was available at 20th overall.
- D Todd Carnelley: "We had him rated 21st overall. He’s not flashy, but a good, sound player." WHL 1st All-Star.
- D Mike Ware: "Very tough."
- R Tony Fairfield: "Aggressive player. May be going to the University of Alberta."
Not mentioned in the article was 9th round selection Kelly Buchberger. One season later, the situation had changed.
- C Scott Metcalfe increased his offense a little during his first post-draft season and had a ton of pims (213). He also had a good run (10gp, 3-6-9) during the playoffs. He did not dominate as one expects from a first round pick.
- D Todd Carnelley missed a lot of action the year after his draft but was around for the Kamloops Blazers Memorial Cup appearance. Injuries–especially for defensemen–are an absolute down arrow.
- R Mike Ware kept right on being big and tough for Hamilton of the OHL. His stats remained constant the year after his draft. He was Cam Abney before Cam Abney.
- C Tomas Kapusta had a solid World Juniors for the Czechs (7gp, 2-2-4) and I can’t find much else. Kapusta was highly regarded as a prospect and one year later would probably have been considered a quality prospect.
- G Brian Tessier didn’t look good for either OHL team he played for in 85-86.
- R Shawn Tyers played only 22 games in the season after he was drafted and I found an item about his being an early no-show fall 1986 for Oilers camp. He didn’t play organized hockey after 1986 spring.
- R Tony Fairfield didn’t go to the U of A, he ended up at Northern Arizona University.
- R Kelly Buchberger ran in place during the regular season with Moose Jaw (WHL) but caught fire during the playoffs (13gp, 11-4-15) and would play his first NHL games during the spring 1987 playoffs.
- D Mario Barbe had a strong season in the QMJHL and was traded during the season. His counting numbers were up across the board.
- C Peter Headon played very little for Boston University during his post-draft season.
- G John Haley ended up being overwhelmed in 5 games for RPI (NCAA).
By my count, that’s one player who clearly established himself as a legit prospect (Buchberger) and a few guys you could say were on track (Metcalfe, Carnelley despite the injury, Kapusta, Barbe). However, just one year later cracks are forming and a lot of these kids were unable to sustain their status as prospects.
Next up: we’ll review the 2010 draft one season later. By eye, it looks like an ernormous draft even allowing for the fact that the Oilers had the first overall pick.