During day 2 of this summer’s entry draft. the Edmonton Oilers passed over some ranked local prospects to draft older prospects. Is this a trend? Is this a good idea? Will the players who were passed over be more expensive a year from now?
For Cody Corbett and Ashton Sautner, the 2012 draft offered promise. Both had done enough during their seasons to be considered for the draft and heading into day 2 it was a pretty good bet one of them would be chosen.
- CODY CORBETT via WHL from Above: Corbett made the smooth transition from the United States to the WHL during the season. Plays mostly a defensive game and makes few mistakes. But, he also makes solid outlet passes, has a hard shot and is a pretty good skater. He did struggle in the WHL playoffs, something that you wouldn’t have been able to forsee considering how mistake-free he was in my viewings. I don’t see a ton of offensive potential for the NHL level but I like him as a safe pick inside the top 120. 6.0025, 205. Ranked Central scouting #117 North American prospect.
- ASHTON SAUTNER via WHL from Above: Sautner is a hard skating two way defender for Edmonton. Moves the puck well and skates very well for a guy over six feet tall. Competes hard, but could still improve defensively, including stick usage. Struggled in the WHL playoffs from time to time. 6.0, 194. Ranked Central scouting #92 North American prospect.
Both players were mentioned as draft options, neither player was drafted. However, there were bigger ‘draft anomalies’ in 2012; here are the highest ranked prospects on Corey Pronman’s list who did not get picked:
- #17 Anton Slepyshev
- #42 Nathan Walker
- #49 Austin Cangelosi
Other names passed over, like Dane Fox and Andrei Makarov are also worthy of discussion. I’ve chosen the two Oil Kings because we’re more familiar with them and it brings the discussion onto our turf as hockey fans.
SCOUTS KNOW WHERE EDMONTON IS, EVERYBODY!
The Oil Kings have become a strong producer of NHL prospects–8 selections in 3 drafts, and three first rounders:
- Mark Pysyk (23rd overall to Buffalo in 2010)
- Keegan Lowe (73rd, Carolina, 2011)
- Travis Ewanyk (74th, Oilers, 2011)
- Michael St. Croix (106th, Rangers, 2011)
- Laurent Brossoit (164th, Calgary, 2011)
- Griffin Reinhart (4th overall, Islanders, 2012)
- Henrik Samuelsson (27th, Coyotes 2012)
- Mitchell Moroz (32nd, Oilers, 2012).
Martin Gernat and Kristians Pelss were drafted from Europe and did not play for the Oil Kings before they were selected in the NHL draft.
So, given the chance to take Corbett and Sautner in late rounds, what did Edmonton do?
DRAFT THAT EDMONTON KID!
A word about not going overboard. Bill Hunter ran the first (WHA) Oilers like a ‘who’s who’ of former Edmonton Oil King stars. Al Hamilton and Bob Falkenberg belonged, but a long look at the early rosters gives away the fact that the WHA Oilers didn’t look too far from home for talent, and their record in those years suggests they probably should have cast a wider net.
I don’t want to imply the Oilers should back up the truck every season and pick eligible Oil Kings. After all, the team has already selected several (Gernat, Pelss, Moroz, Ewanyk) players who have proudly worn the OK colors.
But it’s an interesting exercise. Lets see if we can figure out what the Oilers were doing during this draft, why they chose the kids who are now Oilers, and why they may have passed on some of these eligible kids.
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
The Oilers were looking to get bigger with actual hockey players. Moroz, Jujhar Khaira and John McCarron were all selected in the hopes they’d become a power forward similar to Milan Lucic or Zack Kassian. The club probably felt they had built up enough depth at the skill forward, defense and goaltending spots that they could invest a few selections in one draft on that most elusive of all things: a big, grumpy forward with hands.
Also, the Oilers have been productive under Stu MacGregor and his staff, so productive they actually passed on signing a pretty good defensive prospect (Jeremie Blain) this spring. Edmonton’s group of defenders bubbling under is impressive.
That said, Edmonton did in fact draft two defensemen in later rounds. What did Edmonton see in them that wasn’t available from Corbett and Sautner?
The teenagers passed over by Edmonton–I’ve highlited Oil Kings but your mileage may vary–have some things that we know NHL teams may not find attractive just based on age and league. For instance, the club would have to decide on signing these players in the summer of 2014, and may be in the same situation they were this summer with Blain. Drafting a college player might allow a team to extend the signing window by a year or more. Drafting a Euro player might allow the team to bring him over on their own timeline, based on what they have at the pro level already.
CHL kids play two seasons after the draft and need to be signed and placed. College men can stay in the NCAA, and European players can be kept in their European leagues until needed in the AHL/NHL.
Edmonton spent two middle round picks on defensemen this year.
Pronman on Erik Gustafsson: “I was able to catch a game of Oilers 2012 draft pick defenseman Erik Gustafsson in a recent European Trophy game. I did not comment on him at the draft or in Edmonton’s organizational write-up due to lack of notes. Mind you it was only one match, but from what one can gather from a singular game, I understand why Edmonton used a fourth round pick on him. Gustafsson, who was in his third draft eligible season, certainly has a fair amount of skill and mobility. Several times he showed the ability to be an effective puck carrier who can make impressive plays and be a starting point for offense. He’s a little undersized which won’t help him, but considering that I thought he defended at an ok level as his reads were fine..” 6.00, 203.
Pronman on Joey Laleggia: Laleggia enters his third draft-eligible season after a very successful first WCHA season where he was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year. He’s a good skater with a great offensive mind who would be a nice shot in the dark pick in the mid-rounds due to his notable offensive upside. He flashes high-end hockey sense with his quick game processing and he’s really effective moving the puck out of his own end and controlling the blue line on the power play. Laleggia has solid puck skills as well, at times showing above average, but he is a much better passer than he is an individual creator. He skates well, moving fluidly in all four directions. His main weakness is his physical game, which is below replacement level. I’ve seen him listed at 5’10″, which is generous in my opinion as he looks pretty small on the ice, and he is not effective at all when he’s engaging. Despite his hockey smarts, I don’t see him as being effective defensively to any notable degree at the pro level." 5.10, 180
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think the Oilers drafted Gustafsson and Laleggia over Corbett and Sautner because they are better prospects. Both resume’s discuss skill level and puck movement and for me that’s the difference. Both of them played this season successfully in the roles Edmonton envisions them playing at the pro level (eventually).
We should acknowledge both men are 20 years old–two years farther along and two years closer to making a mark in pro hockey and that there are advantages to drafting college men or Euro’s.
However, if the CHL kids were clearly better I believe Edmonton would have drafted them. We can only conclude that both men were lacking in one or more of the usual areas: consistency, foot speed, size, ability. A lot can happen in a year. Perhaps Sautner or Corbett grab more playing time and end up as top 100 picks in 2013. I do believe the Russian Pronman had in the top 20 is an oversight for all NHL teams, no doubt a reflection of his perceived signability.
The Oilers scouts told us Gustafsson and Laleggia were better prospects than Corbett and Sautner. They took the bpa, and if the two Oil Kings kids take a big step forward this coming year then the Oilers might have to invest something more dear than a 6th rd pick to get them.
Evaluating talent is a moving target for NHL amateur scouts.