MOROZ MIRAGE?

At last summer’s draft, the Edmonton Oilers made a somewhat controversial selection early in round 2. Mitchell Moroz–20 fighting majors, excellent size, speed and enough toughness to give smaller, less skilled linemates room to create. Moroz’ scouting report was manna from heaven for the Edmonton Oilers, and they jumped at the opportunity to select him. A year later, was it a good move?  

This season, the Oil Kings (to my eye) did not employ Moroz on a skill line; in fact, for much of the season he was part of a designated "shutdown line" with Travis Ewanyk and Klarc Wilson. That line was a big part of an early season turnaround and Bruce McCurdy from Cult Of Hockey gave a great description of the line:

  • McCurdy:The Oil Kings have two full-fledged scoring lines, so the Moroz-Ewanyk-Wilson trio is cast in the traditional third line role. They do get bonus time on the second powerplay due to the unconventional make-up of the five-forward first unit. While advanced stats like ZoneStart and QualComp (or TOI for that matter) are unavailable at this level, by eye they have been getting the same sort of assignments that you might expect to see a Smyth-Horcoff-Jones line get at the NHL level. The type of minutes that since-graduated Oil Kings like Rhett Rachinski and Jordan Peddle covered off in last year’s playoff run.

I think that was the story of Moroz this season. Despite post-draft discussions about his playing on a skill line in 13-14, the Oil Kings coaching staff saw him as a checking option with enforcer ability.

If the Oil King coaching staff, under the watchful eyes of the Oiler organization, see Moroz in a checking/enforcer role, who are we to argue?

COKE MACHINES

The Oilers management has been telling for us years–and were probably telling the scouting department–there was an organizational need for a big, tough enforcer type who might be skilled enough to jump up into a top 6F role. Somewhere between Lucic and Glencross, there must be someone who can fill the void.

The search goes back to the turn of the century. In the early 2000’s, the Edmonton Oilers spent at least one pick per season on a big forward. These men routinely belonged in the 4th or 5th round but the Oildrop plucked them 50 slots earlier in order to make certain they’d be Oilers. Size mattered.

From 2000 through 2004, the Oilers spent at least one valued pick per draft on a player with size and some questionable offense:

  • 2000-#35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210.
  • 2001-#52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230.
  • 2002-#79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199.
  • 2003-#51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190.
  • 2003-#68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217.
  • 2003-#94-RW Zach Stortini, 6’4, 225.
  • 2004-#57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207.

When the lockout ended, rule changes suggested that skill would be more important and the Oilers drafted smaller forwards (Cogliano, Gagner, etc) but the 2012 draft saw Edmonton shoot the moon again in an effort to find the modern Mike Bloom.

THE TOP 2012’S

Tom Wilson was the highest ranked enforcer type in the 2012 draft, and he was the first to come off the books. Here’s the Bob McKenziepre-ranking, with the actual selection listed second:

  • #18 Tom Wilson (went #16 to Washington)
  • #36 Henrik Samuelsson (went #27 to Phoenix)
  • #52 Lukas Sutter (went #39 to Winnipeg)
  • #56 Mitchell Moroz (went #32 to Edmonton)

Since the draft, Wilson and Samuelsson have improved greatly, Sutter has taken a step backward and Moroz has improved slightly season over season:

  • Wilson 1.208ppg this season, .551ppg a year ago (+ .657ppg)
  • Samuelsson 1.16ppg this season, .821ppg a year ago (+ .339ppg)
  • Moroz .493ppg this season, .379ppg a year ago (+ .114ppg)
  • Sutter .333ppg this season, .843 a year ago (- .509ppg)

Based on this season’s totals, it would seem the Oilers made the right choice by taking Moroz over Sutter. He certainly had the better season. Samuelsson is emerging as an outstanding young prospect, and Wilson had a strong season, too.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE IF MOROZ DEVELOPS?

The Oilers spent a lot of picks on this player type a decade ago, and the quicker the club fills this "need" the better, as there are other organizational areas of need (goaltending, center) that have to be addressed.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

My guess is that the Oilers fell short of getting the skill enforcer they were looking for, but that Mitchell Moroz may have a solid future as an Ethan Moreau-type: 15 goals and solid checking with the ability to imtimidate and drop the gloves.

A very useful player if he makes it. The Oilers avoided Lukas Sutter and appear to have a legit prospect in Moroz. He’ll do much of his work outside the scoring lines should he make the NHL.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I have total confidence in young Mitch. Barring injury and non-hockey related setbacks, he is better than a 50-50 bet to maybe someday develop into a solid AHL depth player. Wonderful pick from an incompetant scouting system/management gruppo.

  • Mike Winther was available and expressed his desire to be an Oiler. The Oilers told him if they could get another 2nd round pick they’d take him, didn’t happen. Instead Dallas traded Mike Rebiero to get the pick that drafted Winther.

    The Oilers missed out on a Todd Marchant type player who has more of a gritty edge to his game. Exactly what the Oilers have lacked since trading Marchant.

    Anyone watching the Rebels/Raiders playoffs this weekend keep an eye on Winther. Will stand out in important games.

  • Citizen David

    If Moroz had been a 3rd or 4th round pick I would have liked it. I don’t think there is any chance he is a top six NHLer but he could become a useful bottom six guy. Unfortunately people might always hate on him for being a second round pick like they hate on Horcoff for being paid 5 million a season. For a junior player he’s effective at his role. His line plays fairly good defense, and often spends their shifts cycling in the offensive zone. Every once in a while Moroz flashes some skill and roofs the puck. He also plays with the physicality and nastiness that none of the guys on that list did (Winchester, Jacques, etc). Next season he’ll probably play in the top six on a weaker Oil Kings team. May have a shot at the world juniors too. I’ve come around to like the guy. Cheering all the way for him.

  • The Oilers were so focused on drafting for size that they were complete blind to any of the better options that were available. Moroz was a terrible choice. He’s a player who was on an above average team that helped heighten his box scores; even then he didn’t stand out.

    Oilers late round drafting has been a sore spot, they need to look outside the west.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Not that Moroz is a surefire NHLer – jury is still out – but I would contend that his numbers were hurt, not helped, by being on a 3rd line of a very good team. Laxdal plays the crap out of his top 2 lines – especially in offensive zone starts. I would suggest Moroz’s numbers would be better as a 1st line player in say …. Moose Jaw, than a 3rd liner in Edmonton.

      At the end of the day, big numbers do not typically get generated unless you get a fair bit of PP and top six opportunities. If he has less than 50 points next year in a starring role on this team then we have issues.

      As a 19 year old in the top 6 next year, I would expect 65 or more points, even though the team will likely be weaker. The kid has scored some pretty nice goals. I would say skill has always been there … opportunity has not. Sammuelsson is certainly a tier above in terms of talent, and would have been a very good pick, but too early to write off Moroz IMO. He may not end up being Milan Lucic but he is definitely NOT Cameron Abney either.

      I am thinking a Ryane Clowe type is not out of the question based on skillset, size and numbers. Having said that these are kids so who the hell knows??

  • RyanCoke

    With Gagner, Nuge, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, and Paajarvi, I’d suggest our top 6 will be solid for years to come (I’ll suggest 5-10 years). So I don’t blame them for drafting guys who will need to fill into spots they need down the road (ie: bottom six). A guy who can shut other players down is incredibly valuable, and if he provides that grit and the potential to jump into the top 6 in the event of injuries, even better. I, for one, am a big Moroz fan, but I hope his development is a little faster than our more recent 2nd round picks.

  • RyanCoke

    I talked to Rich Sutter, Lukas’s dad at a Pirates game while at the draft after the first two rounds, he told me the Oilers had said that if Moroz was gone they were going to take Lukas.Being from Viking I had always hoped a Sutter would play for the Oilers, I guess there are a couple more that could be NHL’s someday, for now just Duane the scout.

  • RyanCoke

    At the risk of being a pessimist, I bet Moroz doesn’t have an NHL career.

    They should have drafted Brandon Saad in the 2nd round back in 2011 but took Musil instead because they were filling an organizational need. Why they continue to draft for need vs. best player available I will never understand.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    A more eager version of Eager perhaps. Didnt like the pick then, still dont like it now. I really wanted them to make a deal to grab Samuelsson at the draft but i think we all did.

  • I was hoping beyond hope they would have been able to get Henrik…. they needed to trade up, something, to get him. Dont know if there was a deal to be made to get that extra fist round pick, I guess well never know.

    • Absolutely bang-on. Theres no way that phoenix would part with the #27 for #31 plus something? Mr. Dithers comes through again for us. The Oilers were high on Samuelsson, kid is unreal. Moroz was a backup plan that was a miserable selection. When Henrik Samuelsson makes it to the ‘chel and crushes an oiler and gets suspended, I will shed a single tear, and not for our guy…