This is Miro Satan. Darcy Regier once said “with young players there’s a window of opportunity, especially ones with skill. You don’t know if you’ll be able to help them find the switch in time before the window closes. Some make it, some don’t … some just squeeze through and that’s the game we all play”. The Oilers grew impatient with him and sent him away, and Satan’s window flew open in Buffalo and he laid waste to NHL goalies for a decade.
Satan is just one of the headliners of this 5-year period for rookies in Oiler history. Mostly due to Glen Sather’s trades, Edmonton had some outstanding youngsters graduating to the NHL.
THE ROOKIES 94-95
- David Oliver 44, 16-14-30
- Todd Marchant 45, 13-14-27
- Roman Oksiuta 26, 11-2-13
During this era (it probably started with the Bo Mironov trade) Glen Sather would often trade for prospects as opposed to draft picks. Whether he began to distrust his scouting staff we don’t know, but it certainly is fact that Slats dealt his famous NHLers for hot prospects a lot 91-95.
Todd Marchant might be the best of the bunch, an outstanding 2-way center and a player who had tremendous staying power. His speed meant he was effective on offense and defense; although he missed plenty of breakaways, he was music at an enormous point in Oiler history.
Marchant came over from NYC for Craig MacTavish and both teams got what they wanted: a Stanley for the big apple and an extremely useful player for the Oilers, young and miles of track ahead of him.
David Oliver enjoyed a brief career as a scoring star but was lost on waivers to the Rangers in his third NHL season. Oksiuta was acquired from the Rangers (hey, I’m not making this up, after the Messier trade there was a plane leaving every five minutes) for Kevin Lowe and was sent away to Vancouver before the end of his rookie season.
THE ROOKIES 95-96
- Miro Satan 62, 18-17-35
- Ryan Smyth 48, 2-9-11
- Brett Hauer 29, 4-2-6
- Tyler Wright 23, 1-0-1
- Joacquin Gage 16, 3.77 .871
It was painfully obvious to all but Ron Low that Miro Satan was going to have a quality NHL career. How can I say this? Well, he scored 24 goals in 25 AHL games at age 20, an amazing feat. Then he popped 18 goals in his NHL debut, but the Oilers had other options and he was sent away in one of the truly horrible deals under Glen Sather’s watch.
Ryan Smyth has come to represent all that is right in Oiler Nation. Smyth’s trade created an enormous chasm between many fans and the Oilers management, a difference of opinion that continues until this day.
Hauer had an interesting debut but never did catch on, pretty much the same for Gage. Tyler Wright took a lot of time–he was 26 when it happened–but did establish himself as an NHL player.
THE ROOKIES 96-97
- Mike Grier 79, 15-17-32
- Rem Murray 82, 11-20-31
- Mats Lindgren 69, 11-14-25
- Dan McGillis 73, 6-16-22
- Greg DeVries 37, 0-4-4
This may not seem like a lot, but holy hell Mike Grier was a fine 2-way winger over a long period of time. Rem Murray didn’t have a lot of pedigree but played well in whatever role was available and carved out a fine career too. Mats Lindgren impressed enough in his time with the Oilers to earn them Tommy Salo from the Island,
Dan McGillis came over from Detroit for Kirk Maltby and Sather sent him to Philly for Janne Niinimaa and he had a solid career before the lockout season. Greg DeVries was signed as a free agent out of junior and had a long, productive career. This was one of the fine seasons for the Oilers in regard to rookies.
THE ROOKIES 97-98
- Scott Fraser 29, 12-11-23
- Boyd Devereaux 38, 1-4-5
- Joe Hulbig 17, 2-2-4
Oilers got Fraser for a load of hay, he scored 12 goals in a quick hurry and then signed with the Rangers (who else) as quick as you please. Devereaux was a high draft pick, had some promise as a checker but a Dallas Drake hit changed the course of his career. Joe Hulbig got a cup of coffee and a little more in 97-98.
THE ROOKIES 98-99
- Tom Poti 73, 5-16-21
- Sean Brown 51, 0-7-7
- Georges Laraque 39, 3-2-5
- Craig Millar 24, 0-2-2
Tom Poti was an interesting player. He had all kinds of offensive ability but was not an overly physical player. He could certainly pass the puck with aplomb and has (so far) lasted over 800 NHL games, but injuries may have ended his time in the NHL. Sean Brown was an Oiler fan favorite: tough as nails, good size and willing to fight all comers. He’s still around the city, I interviewed him for Nation Radio and he’s a stand up guy.
Georges Laraque is one of the most famous post-Stanley Oilers, a big man with a heart of gold and apparently very little ability to read a speedometer. Craig Millar was partial payment for Miro Satan.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
During this 5 year period Glen Sather was gambling that Barry Fraser’s high picks (Arnott, Bonsignore, Smyth, Devereaux) would merge with his aggressive acquisition plan (Mironov, Marchant, Grier and young NHLers like Weight & Joseph) and for a time it worked well.
The rookies 94-99 were an impressive lot.
WHAT DOES IT ALL REALLY MEAN?
The best Oilers of this 5-year period:
- GOAL: Joacquin Gage
- DEFENSE: Dan McGillis, Greg DeVries, Tom Poti, Sean Brown
- CENTER: Todd Marchant, Rem Murray, Mats Lindgren
- LEFT WING: Ryan Smyth
- RIGHT WING: Miro Satan, Mike Grier, Georges Laraque
That’s a solid group. Here are the previous five year rookie groups.
- GOAL: Fred Braithwaite
- DEFENSE:Boris Mironov, Geoff Smith
- CENTER:Jason Arnott, Shaun Van Allen
- LEFT WING: Martin Gelinas, Dean McAmmond, Shjon Podein
- RIGHT WING: Josef Beranek, Steven Rice, Kirk Maltby
- DEFENSE: Steve Smith, Craig Muni, Jeff Beukeboom, Chris Joseph
- LEFT WING: Esa Tikkanen, Raimo Summanen
- RIGHT WING: Kelly Bucherger
- GOAL: Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog
- DEFENSE: Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Randy Gregg, Risto Siltanen
- CENTER: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Pat Conacher
- LEFT WING: Jaroslav Pouzar, Dave Hunter, Dave Semenko
- RIGHT WING: Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Dave Lumley
The 79-84 group still towers over the rest. Is the 95-99 group 2nd best?