On the eve of the 2012-13 season, the 2008 draft looks like it will boast two members of the club’s top 9 forwards. Not bad for a draft that didn’t include a second or a third round selection.
There are a lot of places on the internet where you’ll see Jordan Eberle being touted as an obvious choice at #22 in 2008, but the fact is that there were questions about him and Eberle was placed later in the first round on the Bob McKenzie list (it is generally agreed that McKenzie’s list is the industry standard).
NOTES ON EBERLE, PREDRAFT
- Mike Remmerde: Strengths: Great sniper’s touch. Knows how to find scoring chances. Quick hands. Will take a hit to make a play. Weaknesses: Casual player – effort level is never there. Tends to stick to the perimeter. One of the best natural goal scorers in the draft. I’d like him a lot more if he ever broke a sweat. Skating seems alright, but almost never uses what speed he has. I’ll say one thing for him, he’s not scared. I’d rather have a lazy player than a scared one. Summary: Light a fire under him and you might have a 1st/2nd line scorer.
- Bob McKenzie: A somewhat under-sized centre, Eberle is considered one of the smartest offensive players in the draft. He is a better goal-scorer than a playmaker and is an elusive talent when he has the puck. There are some questions about his speed, but he does have quickness, especially in tight situations and one-on-ones.
- Central Scouting: Jordan is a slippery scorer with great hands. Jordan is an up-and-down the wing tease in the sense that sometimes he’ll look like he’s just going up and down the wing and you have him slotted as a checker and then he’ll cut in off the wing and use that shot to put his team up a goal.
- Redline Report: Creative little center has been handling the rough going in the WHL better than we expected and is a productive offensive force every night.
- International Scouting Services: A highly skilled goal scorer; he has all of the offensive tools. great touch: very good hockey sense, quick release and soft hands. Compares to Brad Boyes.
As you can see, there are some negatives ("casual player – effort level is never there" and "there are some questions about his speed") and he was not a slam dunk pick at #22. Four years later, Edmonton fans wouldn’t take him for most of the names that came before, and Eberle is a major part of the future.
HARTIKAINEN OF A LION
- International Scouting Services: "A real warrior who hates to lose. Great work ethic, loves to play a physical style and when he’s on he’s unstoppable. Has a habit of taking bad penalties. Does not have a lot of offensive flair but does have the skill set to be a reliable defensive center at the next level.”
- Redline Report: “good size and strength, his feet are fairly heavy.”
Teemu Hartikainen was selected 163rd overall in the 2008 draft, long after the suits had gone and left the scouting directors and their staffs alone to find hidden gems. He was not part of the draft combine and he did not get a push during the first seasons after turning pro.
WALLS CLOSING IN?
This season, Hartikainen has (in the eyes of the Oilers) earned the opportunity to play in the NHL among the top 9 forwards:
- Todd Nelson: “Harty’s got pretty good hands around the net. Lots of his goals come in tight, off secondary chances. He’s also doing a heck of a job on the power play, in front of the net, mirroring the goalie.” (This came during a period Hartikainen scored 7 points in 7 games, playing with RNH and Eberle).
- More Nelson: “The thing (Hartikainen) has to do is what he did in the playoffs last year. He was very dominant. He played a very physical game. And he has the ability to score goals.”
- Hartikainen on playing the powerforward role: “I’ve been playing that way all my life, but when I came over here (to North America from Finland) I didn’t know how I should I play. Do I need to score a lot of points and be a really good player in the stats? Now I know.”
- Steve Tambellini: “What he brings is the ability for us to sustain pressure. It’s hard to move him off the puck. Teemu’s biggest thing has been having consistency as a pro, deliver every night. He’s off to a very good start, which is important for him. I know he’s working very hard on his strength and conditioning to sustain the type of play we’re demanding from him. If he keeps it up, he’ll have a good shot at (playing in) the National (Hockey) League.”
In the fall, the Oilers will have to keep Hartikainen on the roster or lose him to waivers. The other winger options (top 6) for the club are Hall, Eberle, Yakupov and Hemsky. Hartikainen can’t compete with that kind of skill, but based on how the Oilers are constructing their roster it looks like they would prefer a big powerforward over skill. The window of opportunity is there for the big Finn, and he appears to be up to the challenge so far in training camp.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
If we can agree that you need 5 seasons after a draft to do a reasonable "early" assessment, then this summer would be the first opportunity to get a good long look at the 2008 draft and ask: does this draft have legs?
I think the answer is yes. Eberle’s report card is in–all A’s and trending well. For Hartikainen, this 48-game NHL season is an opportunity to earn an NHL job with an up and coming hockey club.
His emergence is a key element for assessing the 2008 entry draft. We wait.