Ryan Martindale and the Edmonton Oilers’ Drafting

The Edmonton Oilers traded away Ryan Martindale today. Martindale was the 61st overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, a big centre with good hands who, if all had gone well, might have been a perfect fit as the second line pivot in Edmonton.

All didn’t go well, and it’s a move that’s going to feed into the perception that the Oilers have done a poor job of converting important, non-first overall picks into value. Is that perception accurate?

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The Picks

The early stuff in the 2007-2010 window (which is all we can fairly assess at this juncture) is pretty easy to defend. When I look at the 2010 Draft, I don’t see a player I’d want to trade Hall for as an NHL general manager (you can make a case for Seguin, but the case is basically ‘I need a centre rather than a left wing so I’m willing to take a small hit’). Sam Gagner isn’t popular these days but he probably ends up as a second-line right wing somewhere and as he’s halfway there at 24 he’s probably going to play 1,000 NHL games – that isn’t bad for a sixth overall pick, regardless of what people expected. Magnus Paajarvi isn’t a perfect player, but despite some mishandling from the Oilers he’s well on his way to a pretty strong NHL career.

We can quibble and cherry pick better players chosen lower in the case of Gagner and Paajarvi, but that’s the way the draft works. The Oilers got fair value on those picks.

There are some good pieces in the rest. Riley Nash isn’t an especially useful player at the NHL level yet but he’s a pivot with a range of skills and looks on-track to carve out a career. Martin Marincin is on-track to be an NHL defenceman and one or both of Tyler Pitlick and Anton Lander could still turn out. Linus Omark played more games than one would expect from a fourth-rounder and had enough value to bring something small back when the Oilers moved on. Jordan Eberle is pure gold.

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To be sure, there’s some ugliness too. The Oilers could really use a 6’3”, 225 pound defenceman with some nastiness and a range of skills, but concussion and footspeed and whatever else meant Alex Plante never got there. Of the later picks, Cameron Abney stands out because he was always such a stupid selection; teams shouldn’t waste top-100 picks on forwards with four points in junior and ‘punching’ as their only skill because they can trade a top-100 pick for the NHL version of that player any old time they like and they don’t have to take any of the development risk.

What Should We Have Expected?

If we accept that Hall, Gagner and Paajarvi are all basically in-line with expectations, how well have the Oilers done otherwise? Using the Scott Cullen guide to draft picks, we would have expected an average team to churn out between four and five (100-plus game) NHL players with the other picks.

The Oilers have produced one definite in Eberle. Can we expect three or four others from the group of Nash, Pitlick, Lander, Marincin and Omark? It could go either way, but if I had to bet I’d say that Nash, Marincin and Lander make the cut, which would put the Oilers just under the NHL average.

But of course, we’re including the final Prendergast draft, which includes Alex Plante (a slot where the Oilers should have expected to land a player more than half the time). If we nix the 2007 selections and focus solely on Stu Macgregor’s tenure, we should expect three players from those picks between 11 and 100. With Eberle, Pitlick, Lander and Marincin, it’s a decent bet Edmonton makes that threshold.

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There is certainly room for improvement at the draft by the Oilers, but we’re mostly looking at process things like ‘don’t take enforcers early’ and ‘if a defenceman is two years away from playing USHL hockey, draft somebody else.’ These are cases where the Oilers coveted specific skillsets (big, tough forward or big, tough defenceman) rather than drafting a guy posting results in a real league.

But it would be a mistake to look at the Martindales of the draft and crucify the scouts for those picks. Lots of good junior players never make it to the NHL, and when those good junior players have multiple serious injuries by the age of 22 it’s even more common. Most prospects fail, regardless of the team drafting them.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I think that considering we had the first pick in nearly every round we need to use another metric to find out out the true expectations of where we drafted.

    Do the same test at one round higher, then average that total with your original estimate in the round we picked in. That will give us the results for the middle of one round, and then for the next… In other words it will end up giving you the exact expectations of picking first in every round when you average the two together. That would be a very (scary, actually) accurate representation of what we should have expected in their exact drafting position in those years.

    I would be very curious as to what that says then…

    Cool article!

  • Yeah, I’m not going to lose any sleep over Martindale’s failure to develop. And I’m not going to blame it on the Oilers’ farm system.

    The thing we all need to realize here is this: Third-rounders don’t often turn into NHLers. Jonathan’s already made that clear with this article. But the problem is, with today’s saturation of media coverage of the draft and fringe-prospects who are ranked outside the first round, a lot of us expect them to make the big league simply because of how much we’re hearing (or seeing) about them now.

    Jonathan – one of the striking things about your article isn’t only the prose … it’s the video you attached.

    I’m assuming it’s a clip that was taken from the NHL Network’s 17 hours of coverage of the 2010 NHL Draft. It’s a nice 94-second video profile of Martindale, complete with sound bites from Martindale and Central Scouting chief EJ McGuire (!!!) and photos of Martindale when he was a little kid.

    And it’s completely, totally overboard-coverage for an undrafted third-round prospect.

    Twenty or 25 years ago, this video would never have existed because, for one thing, there wasn’t a network with enough air time to fill for it. And, for another, because none of us really cared that much.

    All we might have known about a guy like Ryan Martindale is whatever The Hockey News Draft Preview had. As memory serves, THN generally only did profile write-ups for the first two rounds. Anybody after that got listed in small print on a back page, along with their stats.

    On draft day, print guys like Matheson and Jones and Spector (and Brownlee, no doubt!) would actually have to go out and dig and do some interviews to find out more about the players the Oilers had taken beyond round two or three. I imagine it was the case for all of the other beat writers, too. And, chances are, those stories on the day-after-draft-day were the last you’d seen or heard from those prospects ever again.

    But now, with the NHL Network, and TSN, and so-called prospect experts blogging all year, we hear way more about players drafted late. We have way more footage of them. There’s way more paralysis-by-analysis.

    Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t an attempt to blame the media on his failure, or to braid them for trying to fill air time on the NHL Network. There’s obviously a demand for the coverage and analysis. That’s why we’re all here.

    All I’m saying is try not to throw the Oilers’ organization under the bus if their picks beyond Round 3 fail. In reality, Martindale was a long-long-shot … just as would have been with the 29 other teams in the league. He’s one of those guys who peaked in junior – and that’s perfectly normal, no matter how good they look on that 90-second clip on the NHL Network.

  • For a kid with that size and pretty good hands to fall all the way to the 3rd round, I think the scouting services did their jobs to recognize that there were some significant warts that could inhibit this guy from becoming an NHL player. This 3rd round pick was a calculated gamble, not a slam dunk.

  • Bob Cobb

    From TSN and if your still wondering who the Oilers got for Martindale:

    “EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have acquired centre Steve Pinizzotto and winger Jack Combs from the Florida Panthers in exchange for centre Ryan Martindale and winger Derek Nesbitt.”

  • This kid had all of the tools and I still like the pick in the third round. I don’t really understand the trade though. Unless Martindale wanted out, I’m not sure that dealing away a big pivot with skill for (unless I am missing something here) a couple of journeymen is a wise call. Inconsistency and injuries were likely Martindale’s biggest downfalls as an Oiler but I would have given him more time.

  • When you look at that list & put Perron in place of Paajarvi & Marincin was the draft pick we got for Riley Nash it makes a big difference! The rebuild started in Hall’s draft year & if we can obtain 2 to 3 quality players from each of the drafts after 2010 I would consider that a success!

  • Mason Storm

    Stu Macgregor was head scout under Katz:
    2007 and before is Pocklington and EIG;

    Chicago got 14 players of there cup base from draft picks from 1996 to 2007. 12 years. then signed 6 UFa’s in summer 2009 before cup win in 2010 15 years after first pick of base.

    Michael Schukers of St. Lawerance university looked at the success rate of Draft picks and Made a chart. referencing that.

    #1 Hall 91.7% Macgregor
    #6 Gagner 70.2% Pendergast
    #10 MP 56.5% macgregor
    #15 Plante 43.3% pendergast
    #21 Nash 33.6% Pendergast
    #22 Eberel 32.4% Macgregor
    of these first picks
    pendergast should have 70.2 + 43.3 + 33.6
    = 147.1% success rate Gagner
    Macgregor should Have 91.7 + 56.5 + 32.4 = 180.6% success rate. Hall, MP, Eberle

    The rest of the Macgregor picks should yield
    25.5 + 20.8 + 18.9 + 18.6 + 17.5 + 17.1 + 15.1 + 12.8 + 10.9 = 157.2% will pitlick, Lander, Marincin, Hamilton yield 2 Players way above Average.

    look at 2011
    #1 RNH 91.7%
    #19 Klefbom 36.9%
    #31 Musil 25.5%
    these thre are successful 154.1% of time

    #62 Perhonen 17.6%
    #74 Ewanyck 16.5%
    #92 D. simpson 12.5%
    #114 Rieder 8.9%
    #122 Gernat 8.8%
    #182 Tuohimma 6.6%
    these last 6 should be 70.9%

    do we get 2 players ut of this draft which would be the norm.

    • Don’t count chickens that haven’t hatched.

      Pitlick, Lander, Marincin and Hamilton have yet to yield a single *confirmed* success and I’m quite confident that at least one and probably two of Pitlick, Lander and Hamilton fall short.

  • Tikkanese

    When we do our sell off in March it will be good to have tough AHL bruisers to fill out the NHL roster until the end of the season.

    I am a proponent for a tough-as-nails losing team over a young and getting a taste losing team.

    March 5 we trade Hemsky and Schultz. I say we send Yakupov down and fill the two empty forward spots with bruisers. At least we could be hard on other teams

  • Serious Gord

    While I appreciate the work in developing this entry Johnathon, I think a case can be made that the drafting was far worse than just below average.

    If you are basing success on the number of games played compared to the league average you have to handicap the fact that EDM is so awful that many of these players got far more nhl games than they would have on teams like chi or det. For example – Sam gagner would likely have nowhere near as many games with either of those teams – and he probably wouldn’t have played first or second line when he did.

    So for Edmonton to be scored as avg at drafting it would have to have had players averaging well above that for the league as a whole. Thus just below average translates into far below average. This is confirmed in part by how poorly the oilers have performed over that period.

    And one should also consider what happens to these players when they are traded and what the oil gets in return (another way to judge what the league thinks of these players) and have any of those traded really yielded much in return or done much with their new teams?

    Looking at all of those metrics it seems pretty obvious that the scouting dept sucks – and could arguably be the worst in the league OR the teams development system does OR quite possibly the organization sucks at both.

  • Tikkanese

    Well I thought that the reason we hired Mr. Chop Water was due to the fact he is a development guru…………Yup developed the whole team into losers.

    I for one hope that any of our recent draft picks make the bigs………all they see is Eakins developing Yaks into nothing.

  • PlayDirty

    The oilers from 2003 to 2010 inclusive have drafted 10 players who are currently playing somewhere in the NHL.
    In comparison the Ducks Kings and Columbus have drafted 17 .the Blues have drafted 16.
    The oilers are tied for 20 th in total picks with Florida and Carolina..
    There are only 7 teams worse than them with jets and flames being dead last with 6.
    I just wish people would quit with this the oilers are average bs.They are in bottom third.
    Their drafting is brutal.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Anyone who still thinks Eakins is the right coach for this team or that he should not be fired need to read this article


    Since taking over the Jets they won 2 in a row by scoring 5 goals each game. Yes one of those teams was the Flames, but you can’t dismiss that they play hard for 60 minutes, and of course Phoenix was the other team who has manhandled the Oilers. Everyone after just one week has bought into Maurice’s system and culture, and even their goalie says he has already seen improvements over the D-game. Mark my words, the Jets team showing up tomorrow to play the Oilers isn’t the same and will beat the Oilers easily. 4-1 tomorrow. Scrivens will face over 30+shots once again.

    Firing a the coach does seem like a terrible idea after so many changes, but in this case unlike Renney and Kruger, is the right move.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i thought the Martindale pick was pretty good at the time as well….big guy, some talent, if he turned out, he really would have been just what we needed! too bad for us though that we missed out on a pretty good and tough d-man who was picked 5 picks after ours in Radko Gudas. man we could use a d-man like that right now!

  • misfit

    I remember watching Martindale a bunch in his draft year, and I wanted us totake him in the second. I often hear internet folks (Lowetide especially…or at least first) use terms like “saw him good”. Ryan Martindale was the epitome of that for me. I had a chance to watch a lot of 67’s games that year including twice live, and every time I did, Martindale stole the show. I was shocked that he was even rated as a 2nd rounder by most as he seemed like a pretty decent first round prospect by my eye. Needless to say, I was thrilled when we got him in the third.

    Now, with all of that said, the bloom came off the rose pretty quickly after he turned pro. I thought he looked pretty good during rookie camp and in at least one Oilers TC if I recall correctly, but I expected a lot more out of him at the AHL level. As big a fan as I have been of his, if it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t have qualified him this summer, so I can’t really fault the team for trading him.

  • misfit

    This article seems disingenuous at best. You’re going to have hits. Injuries will take an unforeseen toll. But logically, shouldn’t they be above average in finding players, drafting as high as they have? Is the real message, things aren’t so bad, have some more Kool-aid?

  • It is such a crap shoot trying to predict development t for 18 year olds. I’m happy with Stu so far, but unhappy with how many of his selection s were handled.

    In the NFL you really don’t get to join the league until you are 22-23. The draft ends up being far more successful when you’re picking college grads. Since we don’t have that luxury, we should at least be waiting until our prospects are 22 before throwing them to the wolves.

    Side note: I’m beginning to wonder, are Hall,Huge,Ebs,Yak, and Perron even good enough to be a winning combination ? Or arethey still too young ? These are the guys we always have on the ice, and these are the forwards that have been losing us games. Either our d core is so bad that their poor play cannot be overcome, our top forwards aren’t good enough, or they are simply still too young and undeveloped. 25,23,22,20, and 20 years old.

    Marincin is 21, Jultz is 23, Klef is 21, Nurse is 19, Gernat is 20, Musil is 20?… We really really need two of these d prospects to become top d men. Fire Steve Smith before he ruins any of them.

  • Rdubb

    MacT MUST hire a new scouting staff, @ least a new head, and perhaps even change a few of the others too. The Oilers must be in the bottom 3rd for having picks past the 1st round making it, which is basically where they’ve been finishing these past few seasons…
    Why is it DET can have players like Datsyuk & Zederberg turn out to be all stars all while being drafted in the higher rounds, who does Edmonton have that they can boast about, Eberle. He was picked in the 1st round @ 22, big freaking deal, those guys will/should turn out more than not. But Edmonton couldn’t draft anyone past the 1st round, RIDICULOUS, plain and simple!!!!!

  • Rdubb

    Most armchair GM’s can do pretty well selecting in the first round, so to give credence or kudos to McGregor for Eberle,Hall,Hopkins or Yak is a joke. Beyond the first round is a crpshoot unless you have perseverence, a plan & program to develop prospects. The Oiler braintrust has no conception how to do this. Never has. Why is it the rest of the league seems to have decent journeymen come out of their systems and play well for the parent? I would say the Oilers have been abysmal at best, followed by pathetic and embarassing. This has been true since 1980. Sigh. The window will shut and the talent wasted with the current management.