This is Alexei Mikhnov. A dozen years ago the internet was alive with tales of "Traktor Boy" playing in near darkness and Oilers scout Kenta Nilsson nudging his SAAB alongside the outdoor rink to get a better view of the power and the glory. Edmonton’s draft history is rich and bountiful in some places and barren in others. It’s been an amazing ride.
As we are one week from the draft and I’ve likely exhausted your interest in this draft, perhaps you’ll find something interesting in the following snapshots from the past:
- Kevin Lowe was the first Oilers pick (1979) in their NHL history. He also scored goal in his first NHL game, which was also first goal and game in history of Edmonton Oilers franchise (NHL) and first game in Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career. The goal came on a power play at 9:49 of the first period against Chicago goaltender Tony Esposito. Brett Callighen and Gretzky assisted on the goal. The assist was the first point in Gretzky’s NHL career.
- Mark Messier (also 1979) became a full-time center for Edmonton’s Feb. 15, 1984, game vs. Winnipeg after having played left wing for the first four years of his NHL career. Mess had played the position before (notably when he was on a line with Stan Weir) but this is the date where he moved to stay. He had an enormous impact on the game as a center, but us old timers will tell you he was a load on the wing, too.
- Glenn Anderson (STILL 1979) was suspended eight games in 1985-86 for an incident in which his high stick clipped Dave Silk’s ear during Edmonton’s Dec. 13, 1985, game at Winnipeg. Anderson received a match penalty for "intent to injure" at 18:30 of the second period. A suspension hearing was held on Dec. 19, 1985, added six games to the two he had already missed. Anderson claimed he only hit Silk because he was trying to wrestle free of his grasp. The Oilers of that era would be described as "filthy" on many occasions.
- Paul Coffey (1980) was rated in The Hockey News draft preview issue as No. 20 prospect for the 1980 NHL draft. That’s a pick that was a reach and worked out very well.
- Jari Kurri (also 1980) was expected to sign two-year commitment to the Finnish national team and military in 1980, thereby hurting his status in the draft. Edmonton was the only team that knew Kurri would not sign such a commitment and would rather play in the NHL, because chief scout Barry Fraser looked into situation and knew Kurri was available. Ironically, Kurri originally planned to play only one or two seasons in the NHL before returning to Finland.
- Andy Moog (good grief, 1980) was called up to NHL for the first time on Dec. 19, 1980, and served as backup goaltender to Ed Mio. He entered first NHL game for two minutes in relief of Mio, who briefly came out of the game due to injury. Moog faced only one shot, allowing a goal on a breakaway by Mike Murphy.
- Grant Fuhr (1981) was represented by agent Bill Watters when he signed his first NHL contract with Edmonton in September 1981. The contract was a 3-year deal plus an option year at $70,000 per season and a $60,000 signing bonus. It also included bonuses based on the number of games Fuhr won in each season.
- Esa Tikkanen (1983) worked as stick boy for Team Canada in 1982 World Championships, which were played in his native Helsinki, Finland. All of the above material is courtesy hockeydraftcentral.
- Kevin Lowe was told the 1979 draft (via telephone) was to start at 10am. He expected a call from Alan Eagleson around 10:15 to tell him which team had selected him in the first round. Lowe waited, and waited, and waited. By 10:45am the phone hadn’t rung and Lowe’s mom said "My God, they’re not drafting him." A mixup in the phone lines caused a one hour delay, but the Lowe household was not aware of it. At 11:10, Eagleson’s secretary called with the news Edmonton had chosen Lowe—21st overall (this was taken pretty much verbatim from CHAMPIONS, the Lowe/Fischler book).
- Glen Sather was impressed by Mark Messier as he played AGAINST the Oilers in the 78-79 season (WHA). Dennis Sobchuk was a pretty good player and legend has it he thought he could take the kid in the Cincinnati Stinger uniform. Messier apparently had a slight edge in punches. 12-0. Sather noticed and picked him 48th overall in the deepest draft in history, 1979.
- In their first 10 NHL drafts, the only college player to have any impact was Glenn Anderson.
- Oilers LOVED their 1988 second rounder Petro Koivunen. He was a center who had a solid first season after his draft year (named to the Finnish team for the Pravda Cup), but he never made it. He did play in Finland, though, and did have some good seasons.
- Raimo Summanen was a more highly rated player than Esa Tikkanen. Oilers brass were quoted often as saying Summanen might be the LW Edmonton needed to throw onto the Gretzky-Kurri line.
- In the year of Shane Doan, the draft was held at Northlands in Edmonton. The Oilers walked to the table with cheers of “Doan, Doan, Doan” and selected Steve Kelly.
- Michel Riesen, first round pick in 1997, had a terrific camp in the fall of 2000 as part of the Bulldog line (so named for their successful 99-00 season in Hamilton) with Brian Swanson and Daniel Cleary
- Back in the days before the internet ruled the earth, the best pre-draft document was produced by a man named Robin Brownlee. His draft previews featured quick bio’s on possible Oiler picks and often tipped the discerning reader about which player Edmonton coveted. I well remember rushing out those mornings to get the Sun in order to read Brownlee’s take on the draft. They were golden.
- The selection of Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson in 2009 represents the highest ranked European choice in team history.
- Before 2010, the highest pick in Edmonton history was #4 overall–Jason Bonsignore in 1994. The Hockey Gods have now paid us back in full, with Hall, the Nuge and #1 overall this year.
Team 1260-Noon today. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use twitter @lowetide_ or @ItsNationRadio. You can always leave a question or comment below too.
Scheduled to appear:
- Patrick Burke, President of You Can Play. We’ll talk about the good works of the organization, the progress they are making in changing "the way the world thinks about athletes."
- Jonathan Willis, from Cult of Hockey, Oilers Nation, Nations Network, Grantland, NHL Numbers. Willis is killing it so far this offseason with brilliant articles all over the internet. If he were any more prolific he’d be Wilt Chamberlain.
- Kent Wilson, Nations Overlord. Kent will drop by and give us an overview of the latest in Flames Nation, the draft from his perspective and we’ll teast July 1st and free agency throughout the Canadian teams.
- Dustin Nielson, from Team 1260’s Nielson and Fraser morning show. Dustin’s top 30 is one of the more interesting editions I’ve seen and we’ll discuss it and his trip to the draft in Pittsburgh.
- Liz Claman, Fox Business Anchor and a Los Angeles Kings fan from birth. She’s a unique Kings fan, having been born into the tradition and living the long and winding road. We’ll talk about the journey and her experience as a hockey fan.
- Brad MacPherson–Blue Bullet–will be by with his final update for the draft and tell us when we’ll see his final list.
Hope you can tune in!