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.
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.
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