After the watershed 1979-81 drafts, the Oilers were still producing useful talent. Now that the current Oilers have gathered their Jacks and Kings, how are they doing with those useful 6’s and 7’s and 9’s?
From 1979 to 1981, Barry Fraser drafted Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Andy Moog, Walt Poddubny, Grant Fuhr, Steve Smith and Marc Habscheid. The Oilers procured so much talent they couldn’t find room for everyone (Poddubny, Habscheid) but I think we can agree that’s a nice problem to have. The group mentioned above were added to Gretzky and company and from there it didn’t take long for the good times to roll.
We’re all over the "pro level" Oilers and prospects, hell a week doesn’t go by where we aren’t discussing Hartikainen, Paajarvi or Lander. However, Fraser continued adding players in 1982 (Jaroslav Pouzar), 1983 (Jeff Beukeboom, Esa Tikkanen) and 1985 (Kelly Buchberger) to complete the group.
Edmonton’s future is represented by Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry and perhaps young men like Sam Gagner, Devan Dubnyk, Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi.
Are there any role playing candidates–any Buchbergers, Pouzars, Tikkanens?
Frans Tuohimaa is having a nice season in Finland, playing for Jokerit in the SM-Liiga (Finland’s top league). Through 5 games with Jokerit, his GAA is 1.90 and the young man boasts a .923SP. Countryman Samu Perhonen is playing in Finland-2 league, and has played well (7, 2.68 .912). It’s important to remember that Tuohimaa is 21 and Perhonen 19 (turns 20 in March).
Most of the prospect talk in regard to goaltending in the system surrounds Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz–for good reason, as those two are playing well in NA pro hockey. However, the two Finns are playing well and making progress.
The Oilers really do have some quality and quantity on the way at this position. College defenders like Joey Laleggia (7, 4-5-9 +1), Dillon Simpson (7, 0-2-2 +1) and Kyle Bigos (4, 1-1-2 -1) give the organization all kinds of skill sets and options. Simpson is probably the most interesting prospect, as his age (he’s in his third NCAA season and won’t turn 20 until March) and development (he’s playing big minutes for a strong university program) are strong arrows.
David Musil is another quality prospect, but we’re more familiar with him because he’s a WHL player and (now) an Oil King.
Unlike the blue and in goal, much of the future is already at the NHL level for the Oilers. However, key role players (we’ll call them the Pat Hughes-Dave Hunter-Dave Lumley All-Stars) need to be added to the group (the Oilers bottom 6 forwards have been dreadful for some time). These player types are often acquired from other organizations, as their skills are duplicated by others and their pricetag tends to be more reasonable.
However, the Oilers may have found a real gem for that role in Kristians Pelss. Although he is playing pro hockey this season, it is easy to forget about him. Stu MacGregor was recently asked about him:
- MacGregor: "Now, he’s interesting. I think he could fit into the Oilers plans in a role as a high energy guy who can skate. I was at the World U-18 with Oil Kings general manager Bob Green when we both saw the kid. 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.’ We even had to add him to the Central Scouting draft list so we could pick him. When you do that he only appears on your list.”
The Oilers have several interesting forward prospects–Toni Rajala is doing great work in Stockton, Tobias Rieder skates miles in all three disciplines for the Kitchener Rangers, and Oil Kings Travis Ewanyk and Mitchell Moroz are having fine seasons. However, the 2010 depth pick Pelss is a player worth watching for that support role down the line.
Jacks and Kings are the key elements to a winning franchise, but you still need the 6’s and 7’s and 9’s.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers are gathering talent in great numbers at each summer’s draft, and the top end players have already emerged as NHL calibre talents. The tough work comes from the picks outside round 1, and there are a lot of candidates with good arrows. I’d pick Tyler Bunz, David Musil and Tyler Pitlick as "the most likely to" play in the NHL for an extended period (among the group yet to appear in an NHL game).
The great thing about a deep talent pool is that there are so many candidates. The bad thing is that there are going to be some Poddubny’s and Habscheid’s in the group. Not everyone will play as an Oiler, and many will fall away before establishing themselves in the NHL.
I think the Oilers have a fine prospect pool and should be able to fill a lot of holes "in house."