The Edmonton Oilers sign Travis Ewanyk

On Friday, the Oilers announced that they had signed 2011 third-round pick Travis Ewanyk to an entry-level contract.

It’s an interesting decision – Ewanyk’s performance since draft day means that signing him was not a no-brainer. He’s struggled with injuries, and even when healthy he hasn’t produced offensively, as his statistics bear out. Of course, offence isn’t Ewanyk’s game: he plays with an edge, and he is responsible defensively. The question is whether a player like Ewanyk can make it to the majors without offensive production.

Comparables?

Looking at the draft since 2000, we can see it’s at least possible. The following is an exhaustive list of WHL players drafted from 2000-present that have played at least one NHL game after scoring 0.40 points per game or less in their 19-year old season. The numbers are projections over an 82-game WHL season (easier to read than points/game) and italics indicate a player appeared in less than 25 games that season. “Draft” indicates each player’s totals in their first year of draft eligibility, and the +1 and +2 seasons are the years afterward.

Essentially, it’s a list of fighters – players elevated to the NHL because of their ability to take and throw a punch. The lone exception is Travis Moen, who against all odds has 100 points in the NHL despite never cracking the 30-point barrier in a single season in junior. Moen is the exception to the rule in a lot of ways – most NHL players, even most NHL checkers, contribute offence in junior. Kyle Brodziak led his team with 93 points in his final WHL season, Colin Fraser was point-per-game player, Dale Weise was close to the mark – even nearly pure-fighter types like Frazer McLaren (40 points in 66 games) and Ryan Reaves (35 points in 69 games) out-scored Moen at the same age.

The Oilers are gambling that Ewanyk, like Moen, has something to offer an NHL team – that he’s good enough everywhere else that he can beat the odds. Time will tell whether that gamble was worthwhile.

Update: Bruce McCurdy, who sees the Oil Kings much more frequently than I do, posts his perspective on Ewanyk.

Recently around the Nation Network

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    Who Invited ^This Guy^? Hey Dave, Tom Renny called and he wants his “Cory Potter Love Affair” Back

    Is this really the way to get to 50 contracts?

    Pretty sure he will be with the Oil Kings for a lengthy playoff run; and even if they get upset early, the Barons and Oilers will most likely be on the golf course.

    So why sign him now, I don’t get this.

    Ron

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Fantastic! Future 4th line center. Good signing. This is the type of energy, take no sh*t, hombre this team will need in two or three. Beaut!

    Contract doesn’t start until next year, one would imagine. Should be no problems on the 50.

    • D'oh-ilers

      He will. Watch Tanner House not get re-signed. Slides right in. Brings more jump, grit and moxie.

      Gotta watch this cat in the dub’s playoffs this year because this has got to be motivation if I ever heard of it.

    • The Soup Fascist

      No, I dont think so. However, Van de Velde was cast in the role Ewanyk will likely play – 3 / 4 line center somewhere in the organization – hopefully with the Oilers at some point. The difference is CVV, IMO falls into the trap many tweeners do – the inability to reinvent their game.

      Willis’ point is valid that the vast majority of NHLers were offensive stars at some point in their careers. Ewanyk never was a scorer at any point in his career. He has made his bones by winning faceoffs, shutting down the other teams scorers, hitting, driving the other teams crazy, killing penalties and dropping the flippers when required.

      What I will say is if you are wondering about his potential to be an impact player at the higher levels find a replay of the 1st period of the 1st Subway series game – Russia vs WHL. He had as much impact on a period of hockey as any player could, without putting up a point. Granted the Ruskies got their revenge in the 2nd but he was a huge factor.

      Can’t say he will definitely play in the NHL but I will say he will make the most of his opportunity and do whatever possible to help his team win. No disrespect to CVV, but that is not something I see from him shift after shift at the AHL or NHL level.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        That was a great first period. If he can bring that type of energy to the show he’ll be a rock star… without the woman… or the fame…. or the drugs… But, a rock star in his own right!

        Damn shame he got tagged in the second. After that first period I thought we were going to see his coming out party. That injury also cost him a spot in the WJCs. Damn shame.

  • Ducey

    Willis,

    One quibble. You have listed the “drafted” players. There are a lot who are undrafted who have succeeded to some degree.

    There are guys like Staubitz, Goddard who have had solid careers. Penner never scored much before turning pro. There are a lot of guys who were never drafted, went to college and were late bloomers.

    You never know.

    But yeah, he has long odds.

  • Phixieus666

    The Oilers have a huge love for their Oil Kings prospects. With guys like Gernat and Reider and even Bigos needing contracts, this would have been way down on my priority list. I am sure that there are more than a few depth AHLers that we can easily cut loose but I would have rather signed other prospects before turning our attention to Ewanyk.

    • OilersBrass

      The Oilers get the Oil Kings to purposely draft certain players they like so the scouts can keep a closer eye on them. Happens with every NHL team that has a junior team in their city.

  • northof51

    Not a huge fan of this. But, if they can get rid of some other dead weight contracts and make sure they sign the next class of not-as-long, long shot prospects, I will live with it. Good luck to Travis!

  • Ducey

    Holy cripes people are tempermental.

    If Ewanyk somehow blocks Reider and Gernat from being signed, then you can complain.

    If he doesn’t (and I can’t see how he does block them) then why would it matter what order they sign their prospects?

    They can easily dispatch Byers, Hordichuk, VandeVelde, and House who are UFA’s. Eager will likely be bought out. Tyrvainen can be non tendered. That’s 6 spots without trying too hard.

    If they are smart they will throw Abney in the luggage of any player they trade away.

    There should be room for Bigos, Reider and Gernat. I don’t know what the deal is with the two Finnish goalies they drafted in 2011. Maybe they sign one of those.

  • Phixieus666

    More proof that the Tambo has no idea how to concentrate on the issues at his front door. This could have waited until the off season and he could actually spend time deciding what to do up to and at the trade deadline. It just blows my mind. Does tambo sit there watching basket ball on his phone while attending the oilers games? His attention never seems to be where its supposed to be.

  • Ducey

    What the hell. One contract space left and we use it TE. I hope the Oilers can find room if need be if they need to pick up a body, Can’t say I believe TE will ever project to be an NHL’er.

    • The Soup Fascist

      As noted above, this contract does not effect the 50 contract limit for this season. Lots of time at the end of the season to move out the deadwood. Oilers still have a pro contract available.

  • RexLibris

    If Ewanyk plays another season in the WHL, something that is a possibility with the Oilers owning the club, I’d be alright with this signing.

    As you’ve mentioned Jonathan, Ewanyk is a long-shot, and Bruce McCurdy seems to concur.

    As someone has already mentioned, Ewanyk may be a comparable to Vande Velde, but in this regard I would consider Ewanyk to be a long-term upgrade as he is a better skater, by my eye.

    If that is all he ever becomes, well it is hard to justify the 3rd round pick. However, given the developing elite-level talent, this organization may have need of depth utility centers in the future.

    Heaven knows we could have used a plug-and-play one this season.

    • DieHard

      I would like to see him in the WHL for another season for his sake and for the Oil Kings sake. He’s a long shot but Ewanyk and Moroz have a lot more edge and nastiness to their games than anyone else in our organization. Here’s to cheering for him!

      • Phixieus666

        Ewanyk will need to ply his trade in a league that is filled with pros who are grown men in order to become more effective in his style of play.

        I think that next step (AHL) will be good for his continued development.

        JMO.

        • Citizen David

          I think development is best done slowly. I’d like him to get another season of junior. I think it would be better for him. Definately wouldn’t hurt him. If he does move up next year I would bet he spends most of the season in the ECHL, unless he grabs an AHL job and runs with it. I would like him to do one more year of junior, then one or two years in the ECHL and then move up to the AHL. Either that or go the College route. Slow and steady.

          • The Soup Fascist

            That’s a very fair assessment of the situation. And, I can’t say I would be upset if that is how the Org approached it.

            For me, though, I’d like to see him step it up against pros in the AHL. I just believe that next step will help his development.

            Either way it will be fun to watch this future Oiler grow.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Not sure what you mean by “college route”. Certainly ineligible for NCAA when he signed with Oil Kings at 15 or 16. Also can’t play CIS even if he or Oilers wanted him too (which they wouldn’t). College at any level not an option once pro contract is signed, unless I am missing something.

          • Citizen David

            Sorry, missed that one. Can’t go to college once signed. Would it have been an option before signing him to buy some years? The WHL has some sort of college package for players. Anyways I would just like to see it done slow.

          • Citizen David

            I was thinking you were referring to a player (in general) going the College route instead of Jrs in order to play longer before entering pro.

            I think The Soup Fascist is right, though, that when you sign a pro contract you can’t play College hockey.

            Don’t think it would have been an option because you only have X amount of years to sign a player you draft from Jrs, College and Europe. Two years from draft, I believe, for Jr players. Which is probably why they signed him to his ECL now. Not sure the exact date of cut off for 2011 draft picks.

          • Citizen David

            I don’t know this side of things very well. But both those things can’t be true. Either a player can go the college route after signing a contract or going to college buys them some years cause the college route takes four years and teams have drafted prospects playing there. Not really sure what I think of the college route. Don’t like how few games they play but the results from players that did college speak for themselves. I’m definately starting to come around on what I think about it.

          • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

            There are a lot of factors to understand. I don’t have a complete grasp on it either, but….

            A few points: most players that go the American College route do not play Major Junior. They play in a league like the BCHL or American High School and get drafted from there. Once they go to American College the drafting team holds their rights for 4 years, I believe.

            A player, typically, from Canadian College/University hockey never got drafted by a NHL team or were never signed after they were drafted and the drafting team forfeited their rights to the player. Those players where almost always drafted from the CHL if they were drafted at all.

            To summarize, most end up in Canadian Colleges after Jr and no NHL team holds their rights. That’s the major difference.

        • Mike Modano's Dog

          Or he could stay in the Dub work on his scoring while fine tuning his other skills. No need to jump to the pros and try and fight a dude who is much older than you, and get your ass handed to you. That happens a couple times could be a bad thing.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I THINK THEY HAVE A DEAL IN PLAY AND HE WILL BE PACKAGED UP WITH SOMEONE AND OUT OF TOWN WITH HIM
    OR WANT TO KEEP HIM AND SHIP SOMEONE ELSE OUT (VAN DE VELDE)

  • Remember, that contract only counts against the 50 if he plays pro next year….Considering he only really played 2 seasons of junior he might be elevated to a higher line if he went back to the Oil Kings next year. Might see some more success after getting more or less derailed from the shoulder injury.

  • MarcusBillius

    Signing him was a no-brainer: don’t.

    If this is what we saved #50 in the contracts limit for, I’m disappointed. Tambellini could have traded a pick for a 3rd line center.

  • Citizen David

    He is a long shot at NHL roster for sure, but good guy to cheer for and if he makes it would fill a need that is there all the time, he could represent a value contract on a winner in a few years

  • DSF

    To follow through with the Colin Fraser comp. Fraser a high scorer in junior has regular 4th line play & NHL goal totals of 6, 7, 2, 3, & 2 (this season so far). And managed to be called on by the coach on 2 cup winning teams. If Ewanyk becomes every bit as good as Fraser, but scores 1/2 of what Fraser does, do we really care? If my 4th centre is bug, hard to play against, good on pk and excels defensively, whether he scores 3 goals or 7 so what – I know I’m not counting on him for offence anyway.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    When I was young, a wise lady told me that the easiest thing to do is criticize. She said the first thing that people who are ignorant or uninformed do is criticize.

    I never really thought much about this until I started reading Oilersnation posts. WOW! This much hate towards management for a pretty insignificant signing.

  • I have posted previously the Oilers need to develop players in the CIS/NCAA. Here is a prime example of a prospect who should play one more year of WHL. Then should have taken the free ride to CIS. Travis is a bottom six energy guy.Maybe. Going into the ECHL and then on to the AHL and then the NHL. Its the dream. But he would have been better served by the Oilers if they sat down with him and spoke him to him about continued development in the WHL first playing as a 20year old and then moving onto the CIS and or NCAA and continuing to develop those skills.

    My opinion is he plays as a 20 year old next season. Considering he lost a year to injuries it would not behoove him to play the extra year to add to his develop. PLus the educational bonus carrot for playing 4 years in the WHL. Free education is there for the taking.

    The Oilers should be pushing reider directly intot he CIS/NCAA route. I ‘d be telling him in no uncertain terms that is his best shot a future NHL job. It may not necessarily be with the Oilers. Get the sure thing in the education and then work on the dream of the NHL.

    Ask former Bears Alumni which way they would pick. I bet 9/10 say would still pick the CIS route if given a second choice. Ian Herbers,Randy Gregg,and NCAA guys like Shawn Horcoff and Jeff Petry.

    The NHL will be there in 4 years. That education provides invaluable experience and life skills development. Maturity and confidence.

  • RexLibris

    You know, Nugent-Hopkins’ flu, er, I mean shoulder, no wait, flu bug aside. This debate over the signing of Ewanyk (a prospect who, given their clout with the WHL team and his season lost to injury, could convince the young man to return as an overager) is a nice level of controversy to have.

    Compare the current situation going on in the other half of the province. Falling headlong down the league standings, watching the Ghost of Miikka Kiprusoff falter in net, facing the prospect of trading perhaps the most recognizable player in franchise history (sorry, Lanny) and having to worry about leaving that deal up to one such as Jay Feaster?

    I’ll take the worry over signing a 3rd round pick today.

  • RexLibris

    Jerred Smithson scored at about .5ppg in his final year of junior which is spiting distance of Ewanyk.

    So I guess its possible he makes it as a 4th line forward with grit, and PK ability.

    I’m not sure why you draft that however.

    Guys like Smithson are available every year in free agency, and if the Oilers rise to be a contender they will have those types of guys lining up to sign.

  • RexLibris

    Do we have to sign every player we draft now?

    Stu is okay, but using up contracts in any year on guys like this is horrible asset management.

    The Oiler ship needs a new crew. These guys think, “these things will sort themselves out.”

    the Oiler Way.

    • The Soup Fascist

      By my account Ewanyk is the 4th player signed of 9 drafted in 2011 – I missed the other five signings you mention. Look, if you want to say you would not sign him, fine. Healthy debate is great. But there just seems to be a lot of hand wringing and scrutiny about a 3rd round draft – especially one who potentially fills an organizational need for a) a center b) size c) grit d) face off ability and e) chatacter- from all accounts, BTW. Great to live in a vibrant hockey market where fans are passionate, but honestly are there not bigger issues than whether Ewanyk should have been signed or not?

      A simple “Good Luck Kid” ought to cover it.

  • RexLibris

    This is an okay signing. I’m not sure if people should be concerned about his lack of offense since he will never be relied on for putting up points. If he excels at being a 3rd/4th liner and is fully committed to his role (should be he’s already doing it) he could be useful. It’s not like our current 4th line gets any points anyways even if they did score in junior, europe, men’s league, wherever.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I am wondering…does signing him count against our 50 man roster? Does it count only when he makes pro – or when he’s in the NHL? I know we’re close to that limit, and I want to know how this affects that, if at all.

    • RexLibris

      Contracts only count when the player plays professional hockey in North America. Pelss (AHL) counts, Klefbom (SEL) does not. Ewanyk would count the moment he is assigned to either the ECHL or AHL.

      I suspect that someone in player development (Mike Sillinger or somebody in that position) will take him aside and say that given his lost season last year they would like him to return to the Oil Kings for one more kick at a Memorial Cup. It would be best for his long-term development, in my opinion.