How the Edmonton Oilers run their draft

The Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones wrote a fascinating piece the other day about the Edmonton Oilers’ work at the 2010 NHL Draft. While the tone of the piece – and particularly the quotes from AHL head coach Todd Nelson – are Prendergastian in terms of their optimism, it’s well worth reading because the team reveals a lot of their philosophy on draft day.

In my experience, people in any field – sports, politics, whatever – are at their most revealing when they are confident in the decisions they’ve made. Jones’ piece is clearly premised on the idea that the 2010 Draft was a spectacular success (I think it looks good, but not outrageously so), and Stu MacGregor really gets talking about how the Oilers made the decisions they did.

Positional Picks

It’s abundantly clear that –outside of the first round, at least – the Oilers make decisions based on perceived positional need.

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  • MacGregor on Martin Marincin: “We got the pick in a trade for Riley Nash and with that pick we were really hoping to get a defenceman.”
  • MacGregor on Tyler Bunz: “That’s the pick we’d decided ahead of time that we intended to use to get a goalie.”

My take: Within limits, this is fine. For first round picks, there’s likely enough scrutiny to objectively choose the best player available with little regard for position – this is especially true at the very top of the draft – but with later picks there is always going to be a cluster of guys without much daylight between them. In these cases, deferring to positional balance isn’t a bad thing. Also, with goaltenders, my personal belief is that given the difficulty in projecting them forward, using a late round pick on the best guy available (as the Oilers did with Bunz and previously with Roy) is an excellent strategy.


  • MacGregor on Tyler Pitlick: “We went for size in Pitlik. We just saw a big kid at 6-foot-2 with a real good wrist shot.”
  • MacGregor on Curtis Hamilton: “Hamilton’s selection was totally about size and real good hockey sense.”
  • MacGregor on Ryan Martindale: “Again, he was a big kid.”

My take: Again, within limits, this is fine. Size is a virtue. The thing with picking guys like Pitlick, Hamilton and Martindale is that they were all consensus picks to go in that range – they were hockey players who happened to be big, not big guys who happened to play hockey. The Oilers have, over the years, struggled to stay within limits, though – the Prendergast years are full of coke machine picks and selections like Cameron Abney and Mitch Moroz under MacGregor bear close scrutiny.

Minimizing risk on European picks

  • MacGregor on Martin Marincin: “A lot of the decision involved the knowledge he planned to come to North America to play junior as an 18-year-old.”
  • MacGregor on Kristians Pelss: “Frank Musil did some clandestine work to see if he’d come over to play for the Oil Kings. Knowing that, I figured ‘Let’s take a swing at this guy.’”

My take: One of the difficulties with making a European pick is knowing whether he’s really interested in an NHL career, as well as whether he’s in a good development situation. A good way to minimize those risks is to focus on Europeans willing to play major junior. The Oilers haven’t made it a hard and fast rule – see Oscar Klefbom – but I’d argue it’s healthy that they consider this perspective.

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Assessment of draft success

  • More MacGregor: “If you get two guys who make it to the NHL, that’s a real good draft. Three is exceptional. Any more beyond that is off the charts.”

My take: There’s enough ambiguity in MacGregor’s statement (i.e. What constitutes a guy who ‘makes it?,’ Should first overall picks be included?, etc.) that it’s hard to know for sure where his line for success/failure is. Personally, I think a team that gets two-three full-time NHL’ers out of a given draft year (excluding first overall picks) is probably doing fairly well.

Final points: Notes on the 2010 Draft

I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a few points on the 2010 Draft while writing on this. Jones is bullish (“It may turn out to be one of the greatest days in Edmonton Oilers history”), while Lowetide wrote an intelligent piece the other day in which he expressed optimism.

I like the draft as a whole; I think it was good but not outrageously so. At first overall the team made a pick I agree with in Taylor Hall, but had they chosen Tyler Seguin they would not yet have cause to regret the decision, so it really comes down to the late work.

I only really see two guys as potential impact players in the NHL: Martin Marincin and Tyler Bunz. Marincin’s athletic tools are exceptional and he’s clearly a bright player, but he’s raw enough that an extended minor-league stint to fine-tune his defensive game is probably in order. Bunz is tracking very well, but is three games into his pro career so it’s far too early to say definitively one way or the other.

Beyond that, there are a bunch of legitimate prospects. Tyler Pitlick is a good, well-rounded player but has never produced enough at any level post-draft to justify assessment of him as a scorer in the NHL. I think he’ll play, but probably as a depth guy. Curtis Hamilton’s coming off a tough year but has good size and physical attributes and might round out as a lower-tier NHL’er (he’s a PK regular in Oklahoma and has looked good as a depth guy early). Brandon Davidson is a rookie pro but seems to have a nice mix of abilities – he reminds me a little bit of Corey Potter in terms of how he plays the game.

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Then there are long shots. The organization loves Kristians Pelss and it’s easy to see why, but his offence has been so anemic over the years that I have trouble seeing him as a guy who sticks in the NHL. Ryan Martindale spent last year in the ECHL and struggled; people have come back from that but right now he’s decidedly a dark horse. Tiny Kellen Jones is a scorer in college but may have a tough transition to the professional game.

There were other picks too, already nearly forgotten. Jeremie Blain wasn’t signed by the Oilers but did catch on with the Canucks organization; he’s a point-per-game guy in the ECHL through five games and someone I likely would have retained if I were running the Oilers. I’d slot him in ahead of Pelss or Martindale. 6’2” Drew Czerwonka was less lucky; he’s playing for Kootenay in the WHL and has had a tough start to the season after an off-season injury. Injuries have been a problem down the line for him.

It’s a good group overall, but not the stuff of legend.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • RexLibris

    Love reading anything about the draft.

    Saying that the 2010 draft may be the brightest moment in Oilers history could be forgiven if the author hadn’t been around during the late 70s and 80s. Those first two NHL drafts were, and I think still are, the stuff of legend. 2010 was nice, or at least seems to be tracking well, but in comparison?

    It may just be me, but when MacGregor talks I always get the impression that he only says what he wants you to know or believe. I think he is a more cunning scout than some others in the business, and it is a bit of a cloak-and-dagger business at times. So his comments on his picks might be measured to foster a certain kind of perspective in the minds of the fans and media.

    I will say though, that the European scouts appear to be a strength of this organization right now: Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Reider, and Pelss are all decent prospects, each with at least a chance of an NHL career ahead of them. And that isn’t even counting Tuohimaa and Perhonen.

    Next up, Edgars Kulda?

  • Neilio

    I think it was a pretty successful draft. So far at least. All of these guys are still in the mix to some degree. Even if most of them don’t amount to much more than depth players, that’s pretty good to get so many in one draft.

    If you get your franchise winger in Hall, a likely third line winger in Pitlick, a probable 3rd or 4th D-man in Marincin and a possible goalie of the future in Bunz, you’re already looking pretty good. Throw in the other guys and that’s a good chunk of your prospect pool. For a rebuilding team, you can’t ask for better than that.

    You’re not going to fill your top 6 with late picks anyway, but if you’ve got players that will at least push for pro jobs, you’ve done good.

    • It’s going to be interesting to see how the 2011 group compares. The two third-round picks – Ewanyk and Perhonen – aren’t tracking well, but the fourth and fifth rounds produced Dillon Simpson, Tobias Rieder, and Martin Gernat. And that’s not even mentioning Nugent-Hopkins, Klefbom and Musil.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Ewanyk’s shoulder injury really set him back in development. Not too worried about points from him. Can he kill penalties, win faceoffs and piss people off at the next level? These are the things he needs to do at the minor pro level and get good at to have a shot at the big club in the future. Projected to be in bottom six, no higher – at any level of pro. Jury is still out, but I remember Laxdal’s comment. “Ewanyk will be a better pro than a Junior”.

        He just did not specify what level of pro.

        • I’m always skeptical about those kinds of comments, because most NHL bottom-sixers had some offence in junior. There are exceptions – Travis Moen, for example – but the odds are that if you can’t score in junior you won’t play in the NHL.

          With that said, there’s never been any question that Ewanyk was drafted for things other than his offence. It’ll be interesting to see if the Oilers ink him this summer or let him re-enter the draft. I’m betting on the latter, but people I respect (including Lowetide) have repeatedly suggested the former.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Correct. But to give your point it’s due, I believe Lowetide indicated Ewanyk would be signed due to a lack of center icemen in the organization, more than LT’s love of his upside.

            I am rooting for the kid. Got handed a tough break with the shoulder which really hurt his type of game – which is hitting, winning faceoffs, PK and generally being tough to play against. Hope those skills keep up with his character, but I agree he is a longshot.

  • GVBlackhawk

    So far Martindale looks to be on an O’Marra career path. Oh well, that’s the thing with drafting potential skill players with size – it’s *potential*. For every Milan Lucic, there’s three Raffi Torreses and six Brad Winchesters and a dozen who don’t even make the show.

    Given the Oilers depth of skilled forwards, a modest reach pick like Moroz or Khaira is within the bounds of reason, and to me personally makes great sense. Although a highly skilled player may be more valuable – in that you generally need at least 2 and typically 3 or 4 to win, a Lucic is rarer though not as necessary to a Cup.

    Also, let’s not forget that Pitlick was expected by many to be gone in the late first round. The Oilers aren’t the only ones who value size, grit, and skill. These types of players go high.

    TLDR; the Oilers have enough skill up front and need size badly enough that it makes total sense drafting the Morozes, Khairas, and Pitlicks of the world in hopes of finding a Lucic. A skill pick is a waste, and a trade is a waste because they’re not going to fill that need in any other way.

    • I don’t mind the Pitlick selection – it was in the range. But the odds of Moroz turning out to be Lucic were so small that it was a tough pick – I didn’t mind Khaira, but the Moroz pick was too early, IMO.

      And the idea that you can’t find power forwards via trade is largely mythical, IMO. There aren’t a lot to be found – they’re a rare species, after all – but the Oilers were able to add Erik Cole not all that long ago and Bill Guerin a few years before that.

  • Peterborough

    I think that this is all premature. At this point its more witchcraft than science. We can all offer an opinion and see how guys are tracking. However none us knows for sure how any of these guys are going to pan out.

    That said its looking pretty good. Not a ton of pure miss type picks that I can see. They took some risks in the mid rounds that looked bad (Injuries to the oft injured in the WHL: Hamiliton. Martindale’s commitment was is question in the OHL and had an uninspiring year in the ECHL)

    These guys would not have been availible where they where taken had these questions notbeen there for them. They were positions of need and management took flyers on them.

    This year, albeit in a tiny sample size, they look to be covering thier bets.

    But as I said this all way too early.

  • GVBlackhawk

    It seems the oiler scouts for years have overrated size and skating and underrated skill at putting the puck in the net .
    I think you have to put Pitlick ,Hamilton and Moroz are in that category as they have size and skating but so far haven’t shown the scoring skill.Pelss has the skating but very little clue as to putting it into the net.
    As you state JW the bottom six guys that make it usually have shown they can score at the junior and minor pro level.
    Then we have a guy like Rieder that has shown he can put the puck in the net but the Oil so far haven’t even bothered to sign him.At 5ft 10 and 185 lbs he just doesn’t fit the coke machine mold they seem to look for.

  • DSF

    The notion that the Oilers killed the 10 draft is nonsense.

    They have 1 player with NHL games to his credit and its still arguable that the #1pick was the right one.

    Pitlick has been meh at best and the rest aren’t setting the world on fire.

    Florida, by design, killed that draft and Carolina is close

    • DSF

      Remember that time Mark Alt and Connor Brickey played in the NHL? cause I don’t. Even Petrovic hasn’t proven himself in the show yet. Jeff Skinner is very very good but not on Taylor Hall’s level. Suggesting Florida and Carolina dominated that draft is no better than saying Edmonton did.

      • DSF

        Skinner has scored 51 goals. Hall has 49.

        Skinner has scored 107 points. Hall has 95.

        Suggesting Hall is on another level is not borne out by the facts.

        Briickley and Alt are playing in the NCAA so expecting them to have made an impact in the NHL is dumb.

      • DSF

        Skinner has scored 51 goals. Hall has 49.

        Skinner has scored 107 points. Hall has 95.

        Suggesting Hall is on another level is not borne out by the facts.

        Briickley and Alt are playing in the NCAA so expecting them to have made an impact in the NHL is dumb.

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          I’m going to sound like a total homer here, but I really believe that Hall was held back by his shoulder. When we see him again in 2013-2014, it’ll be something spectacular. A breakout season. At least PPG.

          Between his youth (will heal well, and has room for development) and the year in the AHL to work on his game, I think it’s within the bounds of reason.

      • GVBlackhawk

        Don’t put too much stock in DSF Troll’s comments. I guarantee you he looks like the old computer nerd on the South Park ‘World of Warcraft’ episode.

        Everyone knows that it takes five or more years post-draft to deem it a success or failure.

        • DSF

          Referencing South Park and World of Warcraft says far more about you than it does about me.

          I do agree that it takes at least five years to get a good read on a draft but MacGregor and Jobes were already tooting the Oilers horn and, if course, this post was written in 2012 not 2015.

          As of today, the oilers 2010 draft is nothing special despite picking 1st and 31st.

          Florida and Carolina look better.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            since it is selective stat time again, i have one for you!

            Justin Schultz has 4G and 9pts in 5 games

            Your much touted Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund combined only have 4G and 10points.

            Schultz is outscoring every single player on the houston roster.

            this concludes our selective stat time with DSF for now. please tune in shortly, when DSF tries to spin another tangled web of BS.

  • DSF

    Get real Scouts are the biggest conmen out there for gods sakes!!They get paid to pick the team??Because its EXACTLY like in high school in every facet,and we all did that for free.Because we all knew that it didnt matter because EVERYONE already knew who was the best,its really that obvious.

    But sucess at the NHL level is coach and system dependant BEFORE all the other intangibles like injurys and contracts and all that.So really its a job of picking teams that someone else will pick teams from again thereby removing all accountability from your shoulders.Dream job.Gypsy dream job.

  • DSF

    Good points, Willis.

    I’m not sure I’d put Cole in the same mould as Lucic – though they have their similarities – but I absolutely concede Guerin.

    Still, given the situation, maybe a reach pick for a Moroz not expected to make it out of the second round is more likely to pan out than a 2nd rounder who turns out to put up the kind of numbers necessary to trade for a Lucic?

    It’s a minor but interesting stat problem, I guess.

  • DSF


    Florida of their three first rounders the only one that has done anything is Gudbranson.The rest big meh.

    On the other hand Carolina has Skinner and Faulk who are both good choices .The rest meh.

    The oilers have Hall and the rest are tracking ok for their draft position other than Pitlick who as a thirty one pick should be better.If we spent a little more time on USHL we might have taken Faulk instead.

    • DSF

      Bjugstad is killing NCAA and I’d wager Howden in his first pro season out scores

      Both Petrovic and Marincin are playing in the AHL.

      After those picks, it’s a crapshoot but I think you’ll see Florida with 4 NHL players
      In the first two rounds….Oilers with 2

  • DSF


    how is success defined as a scout? clearly Oilers management seems happy with the 2010 draft, but how do they quantify success. is stocking the cupboards and possibly having transitional players (2 way conracts) at the AHL deemed a measure of success?

    if a scouting team were to draft 5 players, in various rounds, what number of those would have to play at what level for the draft to be termed success.