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.


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?


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.


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 


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.

    • RexLibris

      I have to wonder if the Oilers were thinking that they’d take the best collection of 20-year-olds this year (seems to have been a theme in 2012) and give players like Corbett some more time.

      Personally I wish they’d taken him this year, but I’m not that much of a risk-taker. MacGregor famously let Gernat slide to the 5th round last year and so maybe he was willing to do the same thing this year.

      If Corbett plays well he could become a top 60 pick (hypothetically) in which case the Oilers will have potentially “lost” that gamble. Otherwise perhaps they think they can get him in 2013 with an extra second (Ducks) or third round pick (when they trade Andy Sutton at the deadline).

      What did surprise me was that Detroit didn’t select Corbett. He strikes me as being their type of player.

      Gustafsson and Khaira are the two from this draft that I would like to watch most closely, perhaps because they are two of the least known prospects going into the draft.

  • Dipstick

    Perhaps the scouting staff are adjusting their selecting of D prospects with the slower development in mind. It is reasonable that at 20 one gets a better read of their potential than at 18. Of course, a few very highly talented D prospects are obviously NHL caliber at 18 and should be picked then. In a couple of years it will be more evident whether Corbett and Sautner will have NHL upside.

  • B S

    Decided it was time to set things straight on Slepyshev: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Slepyshev.

    He was drafted 1st overall because we is both an exceptionally good hockey player (we all saw the junior super series) and because he stated (according to the TSN broadcast) that he only wanted to play in the KHL. While TSN isn’t always reputable, it is the same situation Edmonton faced this summer. And so I seriously doubt Novokuznetsk would have drafted him 1st if he was planning on jumping ship. I’m sure every NHL team that talked to him got the same story, and that’s why he went undrafted.

  • Lowetide

    Even with the concern about staying in Russia (I believe the quote floating at the time was 2 more years) surely a talent of that type is worth a late round pick.

    • B S

      Teresenko was the one who said 2 years wasn’t he? I’ve only heard that Slepyshev wants to stay in Russia, no time stipulations, although I’m pretty sure all of that was still based on TSN’s broadcasters’ comments at the super series.

      I think it comes down to: do you take a flyer on a player who says he doesn’t want to play in NA, or a player who probably won’t be good enough to play in the NHL?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The goal going into a draft should be to draft future top 3 forwards and top 2 d’men. The Oilers strayed from this goal a number of yrs ago (Kelly rather than Doan as an example) and were the benefactors of a roster full of bottom 6 forwards and 3 thru 7 d’men.

    It was a slippery slope when the Oilers goal became to draft a potential 3rd liner or bottom 3 d’man. The fruits of their labour has landed them squarely in lottoland for what seems like an eternity.

    What scares me, is the fact that even under the Oilers current regime, they still think they’re smarter than the rest of the league on this front. Draft morning, June 2012, the Oilers announce Ryan Murray is their guy and will be their No. 1 selection over Nail Yakupov. It’s Daryl Katz that has to step in an prevent this from becoming a reality. What happens if common sense hadn’t prevailed.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      “What scares me, is the fact that even under the Oilers current regime, they still think they’re smarter than the rest of the league on this front. Draft morning, June 2012, the Oilers announce Ryan Murray is their guy and will be their No. 1 selection over Nail Yakupov. It’s Daryl Katz that has to step in an prevent this from becoming a reality. What happens if common sense hadn’t prevailed.”

      Sounds like a DSF style lie.

  • Dipstick

    Interesting read LT – as a comparrison the Canucks have bafflingly never drafted a Vancouver Giant despite some excellent players coming from that program.

    • DSF

      The Canucks drafted Kevin Connauton from the Giants in the third round of the 2009 entry draft.

      He was named a first team all star in the AHL last season scoring 13 goals and 33 points.

      At the end of last season MacT raved about him, saying he’s almost NHL ready.

      Looks like Gillis got a steal there.

      • YoungOil

        Undrafted as an 18 year old, the Edmonton born Connauton was actually drafted from Western Michigan University by the Canucks as a 19 year old, and only then was encouraged to play for the Giants by the Canucks in hopes of facilitating his development. Hockeysfuture rates him a 7C, meaning that while showing flashes he ultimately may not have what it takes to achieve his potential. He is, however, the highest rated Canuck defenceman prospect. By contrast, the Oilers Gernart, Mucil, Klefbom, Schulz and Marincin are all rated higher by Hockeysfuture, yet are are all younger. Just FYI.

        • DSF

          Relying on HF to rate defensemen is akin to relying on Clint Eastwood to make a stirring political speech.

          Connauton already has two seasons playing pro while the group you mention are way behind in development.

          Remember when Taylor Chorney was a highly rated Oiler D prospect?

          • Cheap Shot Charlie

            That’s funny that you mention Clint Easteood. In the later posts of LT’s last article I compared you to Clint Eastwood. If you saw the post then you are developing nicely into a pro-posters. If you didn’t then you’re showing signs of being lost in the system.

            Either way – *HUGS* for you!

          • Cheap Shot Charlie

            Interesting inerpretation of the facts – how can you say the group I mention are “way behind in developement” when they are all younger (in the case of Marincin and Klefbom, over 3 years younger), while Klefbom has already played 2 years in the Swedish Elite League, at least the equivilant of the AHL. And then you pull the name Taylor Chorney out of the air as if that makes your point when it is the very cautionary tale you need to consider before declaring Connauton “a steal” based on nothing more than AHL numbers.

          • DSF

            By definition younger players are farther away and their development is more uncertain.

            Klefbom’ last I looked was the 7th defenseman on his team while Connaution was an AHL all star.

            Want to bet who makes an impact first?

          • YoungOil

            I bet Schulz,Klefbom, and Marincin, all make an impact before Connauton. In fact, a don’t expect Connauton to make any more of an impact on the NHL than the previously named Taylor Chorney. Nuff said

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Just checked your “facts”, DSF. In fact, the first team all-stars in the AHL 2011-2012, announced in April, 2012, were, in fact Mark Barberio, from Norfolk, and Paul Postma, from St. John’s. Kevin Connauton didn’t even make the second all-star team. He did play in the 2012 AHL all-star game in January, but so did Alex Plante and Phillipe Cornet

  • DSF

    Really like the john mcCarron pick, I don`t belieeve they think they are smarter than everyone else, I think it is calculated risk, if it pans out they look smarter than everyone. My money is on McCarron(john leclair clone)

  • hunkybill

    Say the hail Mary prayer 9 times each day for 9 days. Make 3 wishes the first concerning business the other 2 for the impossible. Publish this prayer on the 9th day. Your wishes will be realised even if you do not believe. Thank-you Mother Teresa

    • RexLibris

      Can I get that on a business card? Just the first bit.

      Once heard a guy say that, statistically, he ought to be right about 50% of the time. Since he was never right at home, he must always be right at work.

      I agree, Gustafsson might be a great sleeper. It’d be nice if he could slide under the radar for a year or two and be ready to step into the blueline corps when a body is lost to trade or free agency. Having quality replacement-level talent for this group is going to define so much of this next chapter of the franchise.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    I think our draft strategy reflects the lack of talent that was available in this draft. We were not the only team to draft numerous overagers. While I am not bullish on the potential of these particular late-round picks, at least the NCAA and Europe offers these guys some time to develop without being rushed to North American pro hockey.

  • OutDoorRink

    “Relying on HF to rate defensemen is akin to relying on Clint Eastwood to make a stirring political speech.”

    Well then I guess that HF is pretty much bang on, as was Clint. Time for somebody more competent to take over. Period.