THE TOUCH LIST

The Edmonton Oilers have devoted enormous resources and placed great importance on amateur procurement since 2010 spring. The rebuild has already delivered the top end of the draft to the NHL. The second and third rounders are on the way, and some of the depth picks are showing signs of life. How important is it to score a home run deep in the draft? What does a 5th round home run look like? Do the Oilers have any on the way?

Martin Gernat was a 5th round pick in 2011, and enjoyed an outstanding season for the Edmonton Oil Kings. He went 60, 9-46-55 and finished 7th in WHL scoring among defenders as an 18 year old. Gernat was the 106th ranked European player by Central Scouting in the 2011 draft, and was the 26th European chosen. Stu MacGregor told us after the draft that the Oilers had Gernat in their top 35. How could that be? I think you have to give NHL scouts a lot of credit for doing their jobs well.

Is this version of the Oilers scouting department better than average? That’s a tough question. The club has been drafting high the last couple of seasons, but the Jordan Eberle selection deep in the first round would certainly be a high water mark for the group.

What about those 5th rounders like Gernat? How often do they emerge as quality NHL players? Using the 2003-07 drafts as a guideline, we get the following list of 5th rounders who emerged as solid or better NHLers:

  1. Jamie Benn, 129th overall (DAL) in 2007
  2. Darren Helm, 132nd overall (DET) in 2005
  3. Nathan Gerbe, 142nd overall (BUF) in 2005
  4. Tom Wandell, 146th overall (DAL) in 2005
  5. Mark Fayne, 155th overall (NJD) in 2005
  6. Kris Versteeg, 134th overall (BOS) in 2004
  7. Nikita Nikitin, 136th overall (STL) in 2004
  8. Jake Dowell, 140th overall (CHI) in 2004
  9. Mikhail Grabovski, 150th overall (MON) in 2004
  10. Mike Brown, 159th overall (VAN) in 2004
  11. Lee Stempniak, 148th overall (STL) in 2003
  12. Nigel Dawes, 149th overall (NYR) in 2003
  13. John Mitchell, 158th overall (TOR) in 2003
  14. Brad Richardson, 163rd overall (COL) in 2003

14 NHL players (there are many still working on NHL careers so the number will increase) from 162 draft picks. That’s a success rate of about 8.5%. Edmonton’s 5th round picks in this era (Kalle Olsson, David Rohlfs, Bryan Young, Fredrik Pettersson, Bryan Pitton, Cody Wild, Milan Kytnar) could be described as "swing and a miss" types. Edmonton did score a deep homer late in the draft once in this window: Kyle Brodziak in the extremely deep 2003 draft, 7th rd 214th overall. We know now that the Brodziak selection was strongly influenced by the great Lorne Davis, who pushed hard to draft him in 2002 (source: Guy Flaming).

Edmonton during this era just wasn’t good enough. 8.5% of 5th round picks (or more, some of them are still developing) made it, Oilers got nothing from round 5 in the years we’re examining today.

We’re much too early in the process to properly assess Stu’s crew from 2008+ but the kids chosen (Phil Cornet, Olivier Roy, Tyler Bunz, Martin Gernat) all have some good arrows. If one of them emerges as an NHL player, it would represent a 25% success rate. This era’s Kyle Brodziak? It could be Teemu Hartikainen, Kristians Pelss or Frans Tuohimaa. Once again the arrows are going in a nice direction.

THE TOUCH LIST

Back when the draft was 9 rounds, Edmonton employed (and may still employ) a "touch list" of players scouts and organization men had a strong passion for in a specific year. The Lorne Davis item above would certainly fit the description, and of course there’s the famous story of Kevin Lowe choosing Tyler Spurgeon back when the boss saw more junior games and had major input into at least one selection per draft.

I believe there’s still a tendency for the Oilers to listen to their scouts about a specific player. Stu MacGregor will often tell us a scout has a "passion" for this player or "extreme" passion for that player and I think it’s about rewarding scouts for all their hard work and those miles and miles of miles and miles.

It is interesting to see how few of those guys turn out though, then and now.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Oilers "touch list" may still exist and if you see them taking some kid who is ranked well below the slot chosen chances are it’s an area scout who has argued well for his man. On the other hand, if MBS wanders up to the microphones and suggests the Oilers had a player ranked in the top 35 and were shocked to get him at #122, we may want to follow that man no matter what Central Scouting tells us. 

Previously in the series:

Up next: the OHL and the Oilers.

  • RyanCoke

    I can say trade Malkin for RNH and Hemsky but it would never happen because Malkin would never be in play. Also intangibles such as trade clauses and how the players feel about playing here all factor against us an that’s why we are using our #1 pick and nothing else is going to happen.

  • RyanCoke

    Allan, you don’t actually have hope for Hesketh, Abney, Bigos, Rajala, and Roy(little butterfly goalies don’t work)??? Think about what kind of shape we would be in if we had one of Kulikov, Kreider or O’Reilly in Oiler silks.
    Colorado landed Duchene and O’reilly in one swoop. Would COlorado trade Duchene and O’Reilly for Hall and Pitlick?

    • Lowetide

      It’s not a matter of having hope, it’s a matter of observing how well they are tracking. Hesketh is a goner, Abney is a player hired to do a specific thing and appears to be on track. He might have Hordichuk’s job in a few years. We may not appreciate that aspect of the game, but the Oilers drafted him and he’s doing the job asked of him.

      Rajala had a nice season in Finland and reports have him coming over. I think those are good arrows. Roy? He had an enormous season this year. I don’t care how a goalie stops the puck, Deslauriers was a mountain but couldn’t stop enough of them.

      I think patience is required here. Tyler Pitlick is a very nice young prospect.

      • Bucknuck

        Thanks for keeping us up to date on the prospects, Lowetide. The two that keep me interested are Marincin and Pitlick since they would both fill huge holes in the organization.

        • Lowetide

          Marincin impressed Jim Byers (it’s in the Nation Radio item just posted) in a very short viewing. Everyone I’ve talked to about him says the same thing: skilled, tall, all kinds of positives–but badly needs to add strength and bulk.

  • RyanCoke

    @ Lowetide
    Question…why is it always our most recent draft picks that have the greatest potential?

    2008 = Eberle, Hartikainen(maybe okay).
    2009 is looking absolutely HORRID.
    2010 = we have no clue, but not looking good.

    Teams draft impact players outside of #1 overall. We need that too.

    We are on our way to not supporting our #1’s.

    • Lowetide

      Johnny: That’s typical of all prospect lists. Pick any team and count the arrows. As you get more information on a player, it’s more likely they’ll take on water. Taylor Hall’s resume has down arrows, Eberle’s too. We become more familiar and therefore assume some players are performing poorly.

      The truth is that prospects rarely develop in a straight line. Tyler Pitlick is an example. Very slow start, his icetime was limited for a long stretch. come spring, Pitlick forces his way up the depth chart and he was on a roll before his injury sidelined him.

      The 2010 draft has a chance to be exceptional imo.

  • stevezie

    The pattern is repeating itself. The Oilers love their own draft picks and then they flop. Next flop…Anton Lander. AHL..28GP..9pts..21 yrs old. The Oilers LOVE Lander. And how about the Oilers other 2009 selections? Stu you Magnificent Bastard!

    • Lowetide

      Way too early to make the call on 2009 imo. Hartikainen is from 2008 and could still spend another season in the minors.

      Oilers should be patient. Lander is never going to be a strong offensive center btw, I think we’ve known that for awhile.

  • Lowetide

    @lrg DBL DBL I agree that Belanger needs a new change of scenery. I would dearly love the Oilers to take Yakupov. I think Gagne has a better season with Hemsky and Yakupov as his wingers. Last season he was moved from center to wing and back to center and he was up and down the lineup early last season. I would like to see a little more of that grit he showed last season. I see gagne getting 60 points this year. Hemsky I think will get 25 goals for the first time in his caree and Yakupov nets 15-18 goals and 45 points. I think Yakupov replaces Horcoff on the 2cd PP unit.

    Drafing Yakupov is a boon to Horcoff and Smyth. There PP time see a marked decrease as will there overall minutes. I think that they both will benefit from the decreased playing minutes. If they get 12-15 minutes a night I think that you’ll see them both more effective throughout the year. The PK will be benefit and we’ll see a rise in the Pk % .

    The fourth line should see Belanger,Petrell and Jones.

    I think we see MP still in OKC next season along with Lander. Or we see MP moved for a draft pick or Defnceman this June 22. either works for me.

  • stevezie

    Re: tjd’s comment: I don’t know how or if it could be accomplished, but I sure hope that the Oil can find a way to get both Reinhart and Samuelson. I’ve watched them several times and think they are the kind of long-term players we need. Also, from what I understand, they are both character guys who are well-liked by their teammates.

  • Lowetide

    @Dulock. I agree about the need to creat space but the Oilers have room in Stockton to put a few defenceman. Its a lower league. But with the need to have only 50 contracts its going to be tough deciding who to keep.Perhaps thats something the new CBA may address. Increasing the amount of contracts would benefit both sides. Increasing it 54 players seems reasonable. It gives teams the ability to keep players longer so they can develop. Right now its more of a who’s best kinda thing where the kids who are 2-3 behind thier peer group gets the poverbial axe. Defenceman as we know take longer to develop and thier should be some consideration there in terms of the CBA and increasing the amount of contracts teams can keep.

    • Lowetide

      I don’t think it’s an issue of contracts against the maximum. If the Oilers add two AHL defenders to help out the kids (like Helmer & Montgomery) in two years they’ll have a possible 12 non-NHL defenceman and have to develop 3-4 in the ECHL. Blain and Davidson would be third year pros and unlikely to be out of the top 8 so we’d have to send better prospects to an inferior league just to keep Blain & Davidson.

      I think the Oilers don’t sign them and I agree with that decision.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    @tjd

    So who would replace Gagner and Belanger at center? the team is already lacking depth at c somewhat that would blow it right out of the water.

    But I would still like to see Belanger givin the boot and replaced by Konopka on the 4th line

  • Pinoy-ler

    As much as I would love to take Yakupov, we really do need that center. Would you guys do 1st + (Gagner/Hemsky) to Boston for Seguin? and do you think Boston would bite on a deal like this?

  • RyanCoke

    I think the Oilers are gonna lose a couple of late round NHLers this year (Blain, Davidson) because of the large number of defenceman to sign in the next two years (Marincin, Musil, Gernat, Klefbom, Bigos, Simpson) throw in a pick or two from this draft and that’s a potential 10 d-prospects to find homes for.

  • RyanCoke

    I never understood these trade arguments, none of it matters and like 1 in 100 actually look like they would be possible. The one mentioned at #7 is definitely not one I would consider. Bring on the real trade rumors from people in the know but leave these far fetched trade proposals in your head.

    Edit: the only trades I would consider if I were the oilers is to trade players, picks and/or prospects for a #2-8 pick while keeping my #1 or trading my #1 for extreme overpayment. Both of those are not likely to happen so IMO the oilers will not be making any blockbuster deals before draft.

    • Bucknuck

      I have a question for you.

      Would you trade our #1 in a package for Erik Karlsson (21 year old right handed defender that got 78 points this year in Ottawa and is in the running for the Norris trophy)? EDIT – I should add that that 78 points is more than Eberle got, and by a younger player who is a DEFENDER.

      • RyanCoke

        What all is in the package? Straight across I would consider it because you have a developed 21 year old who still is getting better. He is not an 18yo unknown quantity with potential. Add a pick or prospect and it is a trade I would make for sure. I think that picking Nail first gives him more value in 1-2 years though and could garner a lot more in a trade. Back to karlsson for #1 though I would say it doesn’t happen on Ottawa’s end regardless. Like I said someone would have to really want that #1 to give up something really valuable and in this case I don’t think we will get anyone we really want before the draft.

        • Bucknuck

          If I am Ottawa I am not considering it either unless the deal is amazing. A first overall pick is a pretty good start, and as long as the other name isn’t one of the big three I think I would make the trade.

    • stevezie

      Isn’t having fun by throwing out moves we’d make as GM the whole point of these boards? Yeah, most of them are crazy, but it’s all part of it. I didn’t think the Subban deal was that insane.

      • RyanCoke

        Sure I guess it can be fun but i always read all the comments of every article I read. I find it retarded how bad some of the trade ideas are and how one sided they are. I don’t think any of them would ever happen. Some ppl really over value our players and picks and some ppl undervalue them by a lot as well. Then the ones I think are fair trade value usually would not happen because both sides are giving up a lot or something that would never be in the conversation anyway.

  • tjd

    Trade Sam Gagner and #1 overall to Montreal for Subban and #3 overall ( Griffin Reinhart) then trade Oiler’s second round pick plus Eric Berlannger to get henrik Samuelson in the first round I say it would be good draft year

  • Lowetide

    Oil Rigz: I’d say all defensemen make mistakes, especially since the “clutch” rule began to get called so closely. Lay a hand on a guy and it is a penalty, that used to be allowed.

    Anyway, Gernat is a little bit of a chaos defender but that will be coached out of him I’d expect as he gains experience.

    What surprised me about him this season is his mobility and his physical play. He has a wide range of skills and anyone with that size and skating ability is already a mile ahead of most prospects.

    Plus he has some excellent offensive insticts.

    • stevezie

      One thing I don’t fully understand: if the Oil were that high on Gernat, why did they let him fall to round five? Did they get someone else from their top 35 in rounds three and four? Why weren’t those picks talked up too?

      I know you don’t want to pick him with a second when you could get him with a fifth, but round five is a long way to let a gem fall, especially since (I think) after the top 60 teams have wildly different lists- you can’t know that no one else would take him.

      • Lowetide

        I think they must have felt no one had scouted him much. Same thing happened 20 years ago with Tomas Kaberle, except the Leafs were also scouting him and grabbed him.

        It’s a dangerous game to be sure, but we also know that the draft lists are widely divergent.

  • Oil Rigz

    I went to about 10 regular season games and all the playoff games this year for the Oil Kings. Gernat has obviously got a more offensive style game. But I noticed he made some absolutely horrible turnovers/decisions with the puck. Especially in the playoffs once the competition got tougher, he seemed to be good for at least a couple bad decisions with puck per game. He certainly wasn’t the only one, his just seemed to really stand out to me.

    Now I know defense can be worked on and it always a work in progress for a young defenseman.

    What would your take be on this LT?

  • Lofty

    My faith in the Oilers ability to draft quality players in the later rounds has risen alot since SB took over. Amateur scouting has in my opinion improved substantially since Stu took over from KP. Pelss looks like a player. Gernat could be a solid 4-5 dman.Teemu could be a top 6 guy. The mark of good scouting is how many guys make it to the NHL. I think that the Oilers will have plenty of options moving forward. There will be a decreased need to look elsewhere for NHL quality players. Like Detroit those players will be ready and on hand in OKC waiting for thier opportunity. It certainly will pay dividends in the future as the Oilers look to trade assets for players who can put them over the top.