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.

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  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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