Although they are no longer "Oilers" the Nation recalls those young men who were once the great hope for the future. Where did Robbie end up? Jani? Jesse? And what about Traktor Boy?
Every NHL team has a long list of misses along with the hits. We know what Ales Hemsky is up to, Sam Gagner too and of course Ryan Smyth’s career track since 1994 is famous. What about those lesser lights?
- Rob Schremp: Had a very nice season for MoDo of the Swedish Elite League (55, 19-22-41) and will play for Dynamo Riga of the KHL next year. I bet he finds his way back to the NHL someday.
- JF Jacques: Signed with Florida today after spending most of this past season in the AHL (6, 0-0-0 in the NHL with Anaheim 11-12). With the NHL teams now looking to mirror LAK’s size on their wings, Jacques may be in vogue again could get a shot with the Panthers.
- Marc Pouliot: Recovered his career a little with 13 regular season games with the Coyotes and another 8 in the playoffs, and signed after the season with HC Bienne of the Swiss League. I expect he’ll also find his way back to the NHL later on.
- Zack Stortini: Slugging it out in the AHL in 11-12, Stortini’s size is a positive as the NHL trends toward the bigger bodies but his footspeed is as always a concern. I wonder if the Oilers might have some interest?
- Colin McDonald: Has enjoyed two strong AHL seasons in a row now and got into a few games for the Penguins in 11-12. Signed with the Islanders over the weekend and I would guess he has a nice opportunity there. He signed a two-way deal but NYI is exactly the kind of organization that always needs depth and he could be an early callup.
- Linus Omark: The Oilers qualified him, implying there was something possibly on the line, enough for them to retain his rights. But we’re well into free agent season and he’s still here. Omark wants to play in the NHL but that might mean a season or two in Europe or walking on as a TC invite. Daniel Cleary made it work (DET) so it can be done.
- Geoff Paukovich: The coke machine-Lucic rising picks last weekend reminded me of the Paukovich selection. He’s got a pretty sweet ride, playing pro hockey in Vegas. Lotta gambling, lotta women, lotta churches. Probably a coincidence.
- Jani Rita: Has carved out a pretty solid career in his homeland, once romping through the SM-Liiga with 32 goals. He’s settled in as a good contributor but has had injury issues (30+ hockey players all do).
- Alexei Mikhnov: Traktor Boy has been a regular in the KHL for a long time now. Too slow for the NHL, his play in the KHL suggests a 3rd line winger.
LOOKING BACK SUCKS
Not really, not when your scouting staff makes successful 1st round selections. In a ten year run from 1995, the Oilers took Steve Kelly, Boyd Devereaux, Mathieu Descoteaux, Michel Riesen, Michael Henrich, Jani Rita, Alexei Mikhnov, Ales Hemsky, Jesse Niinimaki, Marc Pouliot, Devan Dubnyk and Rob Schremp in the first round. That’s not enough, not close.
Since then, the Oilers took Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi before the #1 overalls begain arriving. Magnus Paajarvi–the supposed weak link in the MBS first round record book–has already played more NHL games than all of those 1st rd picks 1995-2004 save Hemsky, Devereaux, Pouliot and Kelly. He’ll no doubt pass all but Hemsky and Devereaux this coming season.
Jordan Eberle is better than all but Hemsky and has an excellent chance of passing 83 someday.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers aren’t going to be drafting first overall for a long long time (lord willing and the creek don’t rise). Stu MacGregor and his staff have proven they can draft outside the lottery and delivery quality in the first round. A sobering reminder of the good old days is available any time by waltzing through Oilers draft history the moment after Ryan Smyth’s selection through the end of the lockout.
Better times are ahead, and the draft is a major reason.