The Edmonton Oilers dipped into their own past for some draft philosophy yesterday and pulled out a high risk, low payoff page called ‘coke machines.’ How does it work? DOES it work? What can we expect from these young men?
In the early part of the decade, the Edmonton Oilers spent at least one pick per season on a big forward. These men routinely belonged in the 4th or 5th round but the Oildrop plucked them 50 slots earlier in order to make certain they’d be Oilers.
In the first 5 drafts of last decade, the Oilers spent a valued pick on a player with size and some questionable offense:
- 2000-#35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210.
- 2001-#52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230.
- 2002-#79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199.
- 2003-#51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190.
- 2003-#68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217.
- 2003-#94-RW Zach Stortini, 6’4, 225.
- 2004-#57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207.
This is an expensive list. Notice where these players were chosen, as high as #35 and as low as #94 (and that was in a deep draft). The two things about coke machine drafting that make it high risk are:
- It usually involves drafting a player out of order
- Said player rarely delivers a lot of offense even in junior or college.
Coke Machines are expensive and the boom bust ratio is not good.
THEN WHY DO IT?
Great question. The reason NHL teams draft these player types can be demonstrated thusly:
On that play (and hundreds of others) Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller because he could. He’s a big, tough player who has his way on the ice and is also good enough to play with skilled men. He helps create open ice–not as Taylor Hall does, with dashes up the ice that force back the blue and create chaos–but rather with size, force, intimidation. Milan Lucic isn’t a great hockey player, but he’s a very good one who can take and make a pass, find the puck in a crowd, intimidate opponents and take liberties whenever he pleases.
If you want to know the reason Edmonton spent so much time on big forwards yesterday, the answer is contained in any number of Milan Lucic videos.
IS THIS THE BEST WAY TO GET COKE MACHINES?
The only time a Milan Lucic comes available is when injuries begin to diminish results and playing time or via an overpay. Lucic has been surprisingly healthy so far in his career and is now showing offensive consistency. That’s a big fly in any organization, and the selections yesterday by the Oilers were an effort to find a "Lucic" or a "Lucic lite" for the current cluster.
DON’T THE OILERS HAVE ONE OF THESE GUYS ALREADY?
No. A player like Tyler Pitlick has some of the elements required but doesn’t impose his will physically often enough to be a going concern. His 28 pims in 62 OKC games this season reflect it, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence. It’s important to note that doesn’t mean Pitlick isn’t a useful player, in fact he does engage but not at a Lucic level.
The same can be said for all of the big forwards in OKC–Teemu Hartikainen, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris VandeVelde and Curtis Hamilton. I do think Anton Lander has some of the elements of a troubler but is miles from being a Lucic and doesn’t have PF size.
DID THEY GET ONE YESTERDAY?
Maybe. That’s the problem with this player type–they don’t show themselves immediately. Lucic blossomed from 9 goals to 30 with the Vancouver Giants (WHL) in the year after his draft. It’ll be interesting to see if new Oiler Mitchell Moroz gets a push on the Oil Kings in 12-13; he did play some on a line with the very talented Curtis Lazar this spring and his scoring totals could rise (he scored 16 this past season).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers have long used the third round as their gathering area for goalies, enforcers and defensemen. Yesterday’s draft tells us the coke machine column is back on the ballot and the club will be checking it off every draft until the shelves are stocked with big players who have some skill. They are even willing to use it in the second round when players who are clearly more skilled remain on the board.
Here’s hoping Edmonton finds their man in Mitchell Moroz or Jujhar Khaira. These players do have value, but the draft price is extreme.