Miro Satan was drafted by Barry Fraser and the Edmonton Oilers during one of the darkest periods in team history (1993). His incredible development over a small period of time should have represented a major victory for the organization, but they sent away over 300 goals and a long NHL career for very little return.
Satan serves as a cautionary tale: don’t give up on prospects too soon–especially those who are delivering results!
Satan impressed the Oilers with his talent immediately, they were talking about him as a potential NHL player in the fall of 1993–just months after he was drafted. In 1994-95, his first season in North America, he scored 24 goals in 25 AHL games at the age of 20. If you look back through AHL history, guys who can score 24 goals in 25 games at the age of 20 are going to have very short minor league careers unless they get injured or have no free agent option.
In 1995-96 Satan made his NHL debut, effective in a depth role (scoring 18 goals) and finding his way among a tremendous group of young wingers (Dean McAmmond, Mariusz Czerkawski, Ryan Smyth, Kirk Maltby); that group of wingers would eventually cause a logjam that saw Satan (and Maltby) sent away for very little.
In 1996-97, Smyth exploded with a tremendous offensive season and Czerkawski gave the team some impressive secondary scoring. McAmmond was fleet of foot and could play more roles, and so Satan played fewer minutes, eventually getting himself traded at the 1997 trade deadline.
Why did the Oilers do it? Well, in fairness they did have a large number of terrific wingers. There were also other reasons, as mentioned in this article:
- Sather: "Miro? He had the ability with us but he wasn’t playing all that much. But there was another part of the agenda. They were talking about him going back home (over his contract). The ultimate thing is, it’s my decision to trade a guy, nobody else’s."
- Ron Low: "He could always score but he was a streaky scorer."
The Oilers made a massive error, making the call on a skill player because he was inconsistent (there were also rumblings about his ability to play away from the puck–something Buffalo seemed able to life with over the years). The Oilers–at the time of the trade–had seen Satan pump 35 goals in NHL nets in 126 games. That’s about 23 goals per 82 games–a 2line scorer in most every era, certainly the late 1990’s. Add the fact that he was just a kid and that’s a resume for a future 40 goal scorer, which is exactly what Satan did in 1998-99.
Miro Satan had a long and productive career–winning a Stanley with Pittsburgh–and the Oilers got squat. Had they kept him? Well, Satan scored 35 goals in 2005-06 the year Edmonton went to the SCF’s. That season, they needed to add a left winger (Sergei Samsonov) and did so by sending the pick that eventually became Milan Lucic to Boston.
The draft is a long and winding road–and a great selection on draft day needs time to develop. Miroslav Satan screamed ‘first shot scorer’ from the moment he was drafted, but Glen Sather chose to send him away because his coach wasn’t playing him. The club spent the next 15 years looking for a first shot scorer. A painful lesson about the value of skill.