How many players should we expect Todd Nelson to graduate to the NHL next season? What would the number be in a typical year? How many prospects a season does Edmonton produce via their minor league system?
From 1979 through 1989, the Edmonton Oilers didn’t have a massive need to AHL grads, and that is reflected in the numbers below. This is "grads" who had less than 20 NHL games played entering the season, spent over 30 games in the minors in that specific season and established themselves as NHL players. I’ve listed only those enjoying a career of 150 or more in the world’s best league:
- 1979-80 Houston Apollos: None
- 1980-81 Wichita Wind: None
- 1981-82 Wichita Wind: G Andy Moog, D Charlie Huddy, L Walt Poddubny, C Tom Roulston
- 1982-83 Moncton Alpines: None
- 1983-84 Moncton Alpines: D John Blum, C Marc Habscheid
- 1984-85 Nova Scotia Oilers: D Steve Smith, L Raimo Summanen
- 1985-86 Nova Scotia Oilers: D Jeff Beukeboom
- 1986-87 Nova Scotia Oilers:
- 1987-88 Nova Scotia Oilers: R Kelly Buchberger, D Chris Joseph
- 1988-89 Nove Scotia Oilers: None
The Oilers minor league system had one outstanding cluster (81-82, Wichita Wind) and then three quality NHL players from their time as the Nova Scotia Oilers (Smith, Beukeboom and Bucky). There are 11 names who qualify based on the initial restrictions and I’d suggest that of those 11 the Oilers produced 6 average of above average NHL players. Moog, Huddy, Steve Smith, Beukeboom, plus forwards Poddubny and Buchberger would go on to solid to quality careers.
In a nutshell, the Oilers produced 1 player of 150+ NHL GP career quality per season, and a quality player every two seasons. The big league club was winning four Stanley’s during those seasons, so one can imagine a center drafted onto the roster took one look at 99, Mess and the rest and requested a move to wing. However, it certainly shows the value of procurement and a minor league club that can serve as a feeder to the NHL roster.
Poor drafting takes awhile to impact an organization’s minor league system, and for the Oilers the brilliant drafts 1979-83 had been replaced by a maddening tendency to miss badly in the first round and then score relatively well late (Buchberger, Ewen, Van Allen). It had an impact on the system in the late 1980s and early in the 1990s, but in later years things began to build.
- 1989-90 Nova Scotia Oilers: None
- 1990-91 Nova Scotia Oilers: None
- 1991-92 Nova Scotia Oilers: L Martin Rucinsky, D Brad Werenka, L Louis DeBrusk
- 1992-93 Cape Breton Oilers: C Shaun Van Allen, L Shjon Podein, L Kirk Maltby, D Francois Leroux, R Steve Rice
- 1993-94 Cape Breton Oilers: L Dean McAmmond, C Peter White
- 1994-95 Cape Breton Oilers: L Miro Satan, C Todd Marchant, R David Oliver, R Roman Oksiuta
- 1995-96 Cape Breton Oilers: C Tyler Wright, C Rem Murray, C Mats Lindgren
- 1996-97 Hamilton Bulldogs: D Greg DeVries
- 1997-98 Hamilton Bulldogs: R Georges Laraque, D Sean Brown, C Boyd Devereaux, L Mike Watt
- 1998-99 Hamilton Bulldogs: D Todd Reirden
A much stronger decade, you can see clearly when the procurement department started to matter again. The 10-year period 89-99 gave the Oilers 23 players who were in the NHL for 150 or more games, and of those I’d rank 10 as being average or above average (one per season) in their careers. Some of these men–Satan, Marchant, Rucinsky–were outstanding hockey players for a long time.
We have to make allowances for things like expansion (more spots available league wide) and the fact Edmonton needed to add in the 1990’s (the 80s roster was pretty set each fall). Still, I think we can see that the minor league system during the 1990’s was sending a helluva lot of talent
The final full decade we can look at should be familiar to most Oiler fans of today. This was the period when Kevin Prendergast’s draft day decisions held way and is reflected below:
- 1999-00 Hamilton Bulldogs: L Dan Lacouture
- 2000-01 Hamilton Bulldogs: C Shawn Horcoff, D Scott Ferguson
- 2001-02 Hamilton Bulldogs: L Jason Chimera, D Alex Henry
- 2002-03 Hamilton Bulldgos: C Jarret Stoll, R Fernando Pisani, D Marc-Andre Bergeron, G Ty Conklin, D Alexei Semenov
- 2003-04 Toronto Roadrunners: D Jeff Woywitka
- 2004-05 Edmonton Roadrunners: None
- 2005-06 Hamilton Bulldogs: R Brad Winchester
- 2005-06 Iowa Stars: D Matt Greene
- 2006-07 SWB Penguins: D Tom Gilbert, C Kyle Brodziak, C Marc Pouliot, L JF Jacques
- 2006-07 Hamilton Bulldogs: R Zack Stortini
- 2007-08 Springfield Falcons: None
- 2008-09 Springfield Falcons: D Theo Peckham
Now this decade is over but more and more players will fill in the gaps as they reach 150 NHL games played. Having said that, we can assume this is fairly close to the end for the final 2 seasons (Schremp, Thoresen, Syvret, Deslauriers and a few others are still out there trying to get NHL time).
Here are the numbers: 19 players in the decade played 150 or more games–that’s pretty close to the 90s and should be closer when all is said and done. I would say that 9 of these players were average or above average for their careers, which is one shy of the last decade and certainly in the range for luck and bias.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In a normal decade (one where the Oilers aren’t winning 5 Stanley’s), we should expect 2 graduates per year via the minor league system who will play more than 150 games in their careers. One of those players would be considered as having an average to above average career–it could range from Jeff Beukeboom to Martin Rucinsky to Miro Satan–but they would have played as a regular for a significant number of years.
If Stu MacGregor and his group are going to be superior to that number, they’re going to be providing players to other teams in the league. With Taylor Hall, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry already there, the number of long term job openings in Edmonton has been dwindling since 2010 spring.