nuge common33

The Edmonton Oilers and their fans are used to having a front row seat to every summer’s entry draft. The last time the club drafted outside the top 10 was Jordan Eberle in 2008, and even then it wasn’t their draft slotting (this was the Dustin Penner offer sheet season—by the way those picks for Penner? Tyler Myers, Justin Schultz and Kirill Petrov). This season, it’s No. 3 overall again.

The Oilers have been doing this NHL draft thing since 1979, and there’s a lot of trivia over 35 years.


  • Kevin Lowe was told the 1979 draft (via telephone) was to start at
    10am. He expected a call from agent Alan Eagleson around 10:15 to tell him
    which team had selected him in the first round. Lowe waited, and waited,
    and waited. By 10:45am the phone hadn’t rung and Lowe’s mom said “My
    God, they’re not drafting him.” A mixup in the phone lines caused a one
    hour delay, but the Lowe household was not aware of it. At 11:10,
    Eagleson’s secretary called with the news Edmonton had chosen Lowe—21st
    overall, first round. 
  • Glen Sather was impressed by Mark Messier as he played AGAINST the
    Oilers in the 78-79 season (WHA). Dennis Sobchuk was a pretty good
    player and legend has it he thought he could take the kid in the
    Cincinnati Stinger uniform. Messier apparently had a slight edge in
    punches. 12-0. Sather noticed and picked him 48th overall in the deepest
    draft in history, 1979.
  • Barry Fraser was responsible for the Oilers final WHA draft (1978)
    and 1979-2000 (he made the Mikhnov pick, and minutes later Lowe traded
    for the pick that became Brad Winchester).
  • D Jim Playfair, #20 overall in 1982, and D Selmar Odelein, # 21 in
    1984, were both defenders the Oilers chose in the hopes they would
    develop into rugged blueliners. Injuries sidelined both careers.


  • C Jesse Niinimaki, #15 overall in 2002, and C Marc Pouliot,#22 in
    2003, were both centers with size the Oilers chose in the hopes they
    would develop into big centermen who could play on the top 2 lines.
    Injuries impacted both careers.
  • Oilers LOVED their 1988 second rounder Petro Koivunen. He was a
    center who had a solid first season after his draft year (named to the
    Finnish team for the Pravda Cup), but he never made it. He did play in
    Finland, though, and did have some good seasons.


  • Jari Kurri very likely would have gone much higher than #69 in the
    1980 draft but it was widely thought Kurri would not come over to NA because of military duty.
    Inside info gave the Oilers an edge and they selected one of the very
    best to ever play for them.
  • Raimo Summanen was a more highly rated player than Esa Tikkanen.
    Oilers brass were quoted often as saying Summanen might be the LW
    Edmonton needed to throw onto the Gretzky-Kurri line.

One of the most famous drafts in history was 1979. What an enormous draft for the organization. Jim Matheson and Terry Jones are still local legends, and they made their reputations by finding interesting angles on the story.

Their draft work 1979 is here


  • When we discuss a prospect class or drafting period, it’s important to
    include injury issues. I understand all teams deal with this problem,
    but there is a randomness to it that is (of course) outside the control
    of any team or manager. If we discuss players and their lack of success,
    I’d encourage you to consider injury issues. Bruce McCurdy of the Cult
    of Hockey wrote an excellent item on Plante here, and concluded the impact on his career at that time was significant.

oil change capture


For modern day Oiler fans, there is absolutely no doubt that the “Oil Change” series provides invaluable draft information for each season (beginning with the Taylor Hall draft). The ongoing story of a rebuild gives us a chance to look back at extremely important moments in draft history, and re-live “Taylor versus Tyler” and other famous draft events.


Over the next few days, I’m going to pass along more draft stories, but modern ones, some you may remember and some may be new. Items like this:

  • When the 2002 Entry Draft got underway, I sat in my living room with my Hockey News Draft Guide and my computer (with dial-up!) and waited for the magic!!! The Oilers drafted 14th that season, but traded down one so Montreal could take Chris Higgins. No biggie, plenty of photos and bio’s in my Hockey News, AND another pick added somewhere in the 200’s!

And then it happened…the Edmonton Oilers select…..Jesse Niinimaki!! I looked through my HN and found him at No. 50 Euro, but there was no bio and no help. I raced to the dial up, searching madly for something, anything on the strangely named and incredibly obscure Finn. On Monday, this appeared in USA Today:

niinimaki red line

Four players taken in Round 1 that season didn’t play an NHL game. Niinimaki led the way at No. 15, followed by Jakub Koreis, Martin Vagner and Mike Morris. The funny thing is this: Niinimaki is still playing high level hockey, and has played in over 400 SM-Liiga games over the years. This coming season, he has signed to play for Amur Khabarovsk of the KHL.

Up next: Pierre McGuire, Robert Nilsson and how the Edmonton Oilers got nothing out of the 2003 draft. 

  • OilPain

    Regarding the Oilers’ recent failures, I’m just glad that the city of Edmonton has a professional hockey team. I feel as if Oilers fans often take the simplest things for granted, such as having a franchise in the first place.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      Nope, nope and more nope. Edmonton is one of a handful of places that actually turns a profit for NHL teams. After we’ve packed the building every year to see one of the worst teams in the last ten years, Edmonton would be the first destination for a new team if we somehow lost the Oilers.

    • Serious Gord

      Many years ago that was the case and thanks to the efforts of Gary bettman and many others EDM never lost the oil.

      But for about a decade now EDM has been a top third team from a revenues standpoint in what is still a gate driven league.

      Unless and until the league becomes popular enough in the US to become primarily an electronic media driven one that will remain the case.

      And rather than being thankful for even existing, fans of the team should be unrelenting in demanding a top third team on the ice that would be commensurate to its top third revenue status.

  • D

    Really enjoy the palace intrigue surrounding the 1979 draft.

    The Colorado Rockies select, with its first overall pick, Wayne Gretzky. Whoops, that pesky personal services contract cannot be voided without bilateral party consent. Sorry NHL, Wayne stays in Edmonton. But no worries, all you other owners know that the skinny kid from Brantford won’t be such a hotshot in the bigger, tougher National Hockey League.

    So what was the legal mechanism for the WHA teams to join the NHL? They all folded. Then the NHL awarded new franchise licenses (i.e. expansion) to putative owners in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Hartford. The owners with their new legal entities could then acquire the rights to the names Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques and Jets, and utilize similar colours and logos. But the new legal entities were completely different from the old ones. So technically, Wayne Gretzky played for two separate teams when he was in Edmonton.

  • paul wodehouse

    LT…I actually cringed when I read the name Jesse Niinimaki…such a sh!tshow he was subjected to by this organization…it was called the “Niinimaki Dilemma” by Guy Flaming by the mid 2000’s…injury diagnosis after injury diagnosis…finally trainers saw the REAL results of all the ‘treatments’ and apparently the guy had 100% range of motion in one shoulder and like 10% in the other … finally …mercifully it sounds like he was allowed to what, just stay away …fade away … he’s in his early 30s’now playing in the K ? wow…

    btw…great piece …looking forward to the rest

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Biggest draft bust for the Oilers in my eye, Steve Kelly. I still remember the fans here chanting Doan’s name when Slats got to the podium then….”Steve Kelly”

    sad face.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^looking back i was absolutely shocked when Sather did that! but you have to understand at the time that Kelly was a similar sized player with better wheels than Doan had and Kelly played a bit rougher than Doan did, so Sather took a gamble and it didn’t pay off. having said that, the player the Oilers should have taken a chance on if they were going to gamble was Jarome Iginla. anyone living in the Edmonton area at the time was well aware of Iginla. too bad for us really because that 1995 draft really burned us….out of 8 picks, we only ended up with George Laraque!! 🙁

  • Zarny

    I believe it will be Eckblad-Draisatl-Rheinhart-Bennett and Ehlers as the top 5 picks.

    I would be pleased as punch to get Rheinhart. I’ll take brains over brawn everyday of the week.

    Tyrion Lannister has outlived a Mountain,a Hand and a King.Why? Because the sob uses his head.

    Brains pays. Brawn? Well lets just say not as much.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      I like the GoT reference.

      I keep hearing on the radio Oilers will take Draisatl if Ekblad is gone, because of the need for size, Draisatl would be the biggest centerman the Oilers have, if he makes the team.

      My own opinion is the Oilers take Bennett, plays with grit, and smarts(Gilmour) and he tries to model his game after Toews. Plus in a couple yrs Bennett could be closer to 200lbs.

      Rheinhart IMO plays like RNH, very good player don’t get me wrong, but to much of the same thing can be bad.

      I don’t think the Oilers can really go wrong with #3

    • Zarny

      Tyrion has outlived all 3 because he’s a fictitious character in a fantasy novel and that’s what George R. R. Martin wanted.

      GoT doesn’t actually translate to real life let alone professional hockey.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Thanks for the memories Lowetide. Brings back a wonderful time in Oilers history. Remember when the Oilers head scout was too interested in the consistency of the ice in his margaritas which led to consistently putting too many “Jani Ritas” on the ice.

    And remember when the Oilers top two picks each year from 1984 to 1990 played a TOTAL of 637 games in the bigs, thanks in large part to stalwarts Brad Werenka and Franki Leroux who accounted for 90% of those 637 games.

    Then there was the1997 to 2004 Oilers who squandered pretty much every first round pick they had and ended up with exactly one viable NHLer in Ales Hemsky.

    Off the board picks like Heinrich, Niinimaki and Mikhinov were apparently off the board for a Riesen …. er….. reason.

    Basically Maggie the Monkey using a randomizer and Bob McKenzies draft list would have been more effective. Want to know why the Oilers are where they
    are now? Look no further than their draft record. Other than the first 2 years of knocking it out of the park, it has been terrible.

    It just seems the Oilers were busy trying to prove they were the smartest guys in the room instead of making the obvious picks that even dummies like me were aware of and yelling “Doan” and “Parise” to the TV.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’m not old enough to remember the late 80’s, so I never got a man crush on Lowe. Wish Eagleson never picked him. My generation wouldn’t have to suffer thru this miserable and pathetic period of inept management.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I get the hand wringing about Lowe but to avoid revisionist history, Alan Eagleson was Lowe’s agent who ended up being the NHLs version of Bernie Madoff, not an executive with Oilers.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Old age isn’t necessarily a good thing.

          Eagleson was a total tool.

          But for fun, watch Game 8 of the Summit Series. If it wasn’t for Peter Mahovolich the Red Army soldiers might have taken care of the Eagle much better than our justice system did.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Understand though that the Summit Series, Canada Cup and NHLPA were vehicles he formed to feather his own nest. He skimmed millions from those entities.

            All on the backs of his “friends” he was representing.

            No redeeming features. Dude was a parasite, IMO.

          • Spydyr

            Oh no doubt about the parasite thing and I would included DB also IMO but he did help the game.It is not all black and white.

            Look at Pocklington he was a DB too IMO but without him the glory days would never have occurred.

          • The Soup Fascist

            The guys he left penniless would disagree.

            I understand your point that there were a lot of memories left from those tournaments and that owners were having their way with the players pre-NHLPA. My point is I don’t believe there was an altruistic bone in Eagleson’s body.

            Eagleson actually conspired with owners to the detriment of the players he represented. For example, the Bruins offered Orr a piece of the team when negotiating with Eagleson to re-sign Orr in 1978.

            Eagleson never told Orr because he had a side deal (where he profited handsomely) with Bill Wirtz of the Blackhawks.

            We can agree to disagree.

          • Serious Gord

            And he stole from all of those series revenues – possibly over ten million. He facilitated collusion with wirtz on bobby Orr and burgled the NHLPA that you think he was so great to organize.

            The guy was and is SCUM.

            And that Bobby Clarke and others fraternize with him is a disgrace.

          • Spydyr

            Not once did I say he was great and by no means am I defending him.I just said he was part of forming it.

            He was a crook no doubt but he did do some good things for the game even if he stole while doing it.

          • Serious Gord

            And hitler facilitated building of the autobahn and the Volkswagen. He’s still hitler.

            Much of the good you say he did was actually done to line his pockets and shower him with glory whilst beggaring many of the players.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^i find the Draisaitl/Bennett war between Oiler fans kind of comical. the REAL talent difference between the two is MINIMAL, regardless of Bennett being ranked #1 by some and Draisaitl has not, he’s not head over heels more talented than Draisaitl or Reinhart for that matter. Bennett brings grit no question, but i worry if he doesn’t grow significantly bigger by the time he plays in the NHL, he could be oft-injured. he also brings more of the same, talented but lacking in size that fans have long complained about.

    now Draisaitl apparently isn’t the most fleet of foot but that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic kiss of death. Draisaitl is also as talented as Bennett or Reinhart, but brings the size up the middle the Oilers have sorely lacked and have long sought after. Leon is the guy the Oilers should take if he and Bennett are still on the board at #3, but i wouldn’t be surprised it the Oilers took Bennett, and i would be OK with it, but it’s just that the Oilers have a chance to think outside the box a little and take the bigger guy if he’s sitting in your lap. i see no problem whatsoever in the Oilers choosing for “need” because there isn’t a big discrepancy in talent between the two.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Toews wasn’t considered head over heels more talented than backstrom. Who would you rather have? There is a right choice to be made. Picking Pouliot over Parise because he was bigger didn’t work so well

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        i don’t disagree, but the only way we can find out is to take Draisaitl and wait a few years to see who’s better . not sure why everyone thinks Bennett will be so much better? we just don’t know yet, do we? Jordan Staal also seemed like a better choice for the Pens at the time over Toews and Backstrom. he wasn’t but you just have to take a player and hope for the best. i am betting the Oilers will take Draisaitl no matter what with Reinhart and Ekblad likely off the board by #3. and just for the record, i wanted Parise bad and was extremely let down the Oilers didn’t take him at that time! but to the Oilers and Pouliot’s credit, he DID have 45 goals and 114 points his last junior season, so at the time it looked like a great pick. (and apparently he wasn’t actually on the same line as Crosby was, but if anyone knows for sure, let me know!).

        • The Soup Fascist

          I actually thought the story went that he was drafted by the Oilers “pre-Crosby” but he actually played primarily with Crosby his last year in Rimouski.

    • camdog

      Is there a real correlation between size and injuries? The Lindros brothers only proved that the bigger you are the harder you fall, that is when you have your head down.

  • Spydyr

    Jari Kurri was a gem. 99-17 two on one the most lethal in the history of hockey.What a one timer boom there it is.

    Defensively one of the best ever.

    If the Oilers bring in one more guy from the boys on the bus he is my guy.He has been the Finnish GM for years now.Doubt he even wants to come back.Especially to this regime.

  • OilPain

    HockeyProspects Mark Edwards has Nick Ritchie at #5 for final ranking. So this choice is no longer an off the board pick for those nervous about violating Central Scouting pick order – hahaha.

    Edwards added yesterday on 1260 that if all players are on game then Ritchie would have most impact on a game.

    Oilers are so deep in hole that they really should consider the player who could have biggest impact. The most Lucic or Bertuzzi like player in half dozen years. A type of player Oilers are lacking more than they are lacking a second center or top two D, even knowing the degree of lack there.

    I’ll take brains, skill, and BRAWN. It doesn’t have to be one without other.

  • Spydyr

    Ha, ha, LT… I had that same THN entry draft magazine and when I heard his name, my face dropped into a big WHAAAATTTT! I raced through the mag to figure out who Jesse Niniimaki was. Didn’t see him at first glance so I went through it again more thoroughly. And there he was, you had to go deep enough to the part where they stopped printing pictures and then some.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    ps. HockeyProspects has Draisaitl at 6th.

    pss. Jankowski was off board unnecessary, not Ritchie

    psss. Trouba ranked 10th, selected 9th, could easily end up best player from 2012. You can find best player outside top three ranking, especially in a weaker draft year, so we need the BPA by type whose potential impact is highest if you are going to outpace other teams. Throw in that Oil are in Pacific, maybe heaviest division, which means Oil have no choice but to take Ritchie 🙂

  • Serious Gord

    LT, don’t think this audience needs any more pessimism about screwing up at draft 😉 plus it’s not like u.

    e.g. HockeyNews Draft Preview says this about Nick Ritchie:

    “He might have the best pro qualities of all kids in the draft but he doesn’t show up every night, which is disappointing. If the light switch goes on, he’s going to be a scary player. But if it doesn’t…”

    LT, we need more articles that help us look past the critique and nails the potential. With three consensus top picks we now need to risk for strategic pick.

    They further write:

    “One scout called him one of the toughest players in the draft. ‘The term power forward’ is overused in hockey, but it’s not in this case,’ said another scout. ‘This kid is a power forward. He can impose his will on games and when he does, it’s a scary thing to behold.'”

    If you ranked a list of prospects over half dozen years with the size and skill set of power forwards you might have Ritchie at the top. If you do the same for skilled centers over a six yr time frame Sam/Sam/Leon might not make your too ten list.

    Oil need to take Ritchie in consideration of the best of type over multi-year period. Corollary, Oil drafting in top ten next year may get someone comparable to Sam/Sam/Leon but they still might not find a Nick Ritchie.

    It’s a risk and scarcity issue, but it’s time for a risk in a scarce big nasty power forward who can score. So glad LA won.

      • Joy S. Lee

        We DO need big wingers. We only need a D-man or two to plug holes until the kids arrive ready to play bigger roles on the D. You are correct in that most of all we need a center or two. But don’t downplay the value of a banging, scoring winger with size. That would seriously help our mix. And if you only need one to precipitate a shift, would you be willing to go after the most prominent one available in the draft? (18-yrs old: 235 lbs.)

        Jeremy, there is no need to knock OiledStatGuy’s desire to fill another hole, we need to do that almost as much. It would be really nice if they could address all 3 elements of immediate need in the next few weeks. But I understand why this Ritchie kid is so enticing, and will bet he will go in the top 7 because of his upside/potential. Check out his Height/Weight #’s compared to the other prospects… and he’s known to have skill. If I believed in the kid as a person, I might draft him higher, too. I don’t think OilStatGuy is so far out of line here that he should be trashed for it, based on what might actually happen.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Say you have foresight to realize that to win a first round series Oil have to compete against Kopitar, Getzlaf, or Thornton down the middle for foreseeable future.

    So you concede on selection of Drysaddle as best chance. Even if he puts on weight, which he looks like he could, you are still going to lose the battle to those bug heavy studs – hmm wonder why those teams dominate.

    To win that battle MacT is going to have to trade or sign UFA.

    However, as early as next year, you could have the heaviest skilled goal scoring nasty guy in Pacific division. You get to the top by out gunning teams in different player types, not by playing second fiddle to them which we would with Leon.

    No relation to Ritchie, and I’ve recognized and addressed that Oil are short a second line center and top two D. That is, we are even more in need of heavy skilled nasty players. Leon isn’t nasty, sorry. Ekblad will be gone. The closest Oil have to this player by type is Moroz and he might some day make your fourth line. Great we’ll need Moroz on fourth line, but we won’t be getting a Ritchie – someone who can play up in lineup- via trade or free agency, sorry.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Completely agree……I swear most people haven’t watched Draisaitl play. He is not the answer in my opinion. My choice would be Reinhart , he’s twice the player, if available, but I’d be more than happy with Bennett, Ritchie, or Dalcole. (I haven’t seen them play live, but I’ve seen enough of Draisaitl to know he isn’t the savior!)

    • Joy S. Lee

      I’m not saying you are right… but I’m not like the others here who are so certain you are wrong, either.

      It’s a bit of a conundrum, but also a potential opportunity for the team. They really do need a center, first and foremost. But that huge, skilled winger would be so valuable as well… I would honestly be okay if we ended up trading down a few spots and selected Ritchie (with an eye toward Virtanen/Tuch as alternatives), so long as we somehow obtain a center who can play on the top two lines, and fairly immediately. In other words, pick the C at 3, and try to trade up somewhere 7 – 15 to select the large winger with skill, that may really be the most logical option… except MacT has already said they are in the phase of filling out their current roster, not taking away from it, so it’s unlikely he’d obtain another high pick.

      I’m getting to hate this patience thing we’ve got going here…

  • The Soup Fascist

    Say you have foresight to realize that to win a first round series Oil have to compete against Kopitar, Getzlaf, or Thornton down the middle for foreseeable future.

    So you concede on selection of Drysaddle as best chance. Even if he puts on weight, which he looks like he could, you are still going to lose the battle to those bug heavy studs – hmm wonder why those teams dominate.

    To win that battle MacT is going to have to trade or sign UFA.

    However, as early as next year, you could have the heaviest skilled goal scoring nasty guy in Pacific division. You get to the top by out gunning teams in different player types, not by playing second fiddle to them which we would with Leon.

    No relation to Ritchie, and I’ve recognized and addressed that Oil are short a second line center and top two D. That is, we are even more in need of heavy skilled nasty players. Leon isn’t nasty, sorry. Ekblad will be gone. The closest Oil have to this player by type is Moroz and he might some day make your fourth line. Great we’ll need Moroz on fourth line, but we won’t be getting a Ritchie – someone who can play up in lineup- via trade or free agency, sorry.

  • The Soup Fascist

    @jeremy – How do we make case for Ritchie when we are in such handicapped place on centers and d?

    Easy, it is the entire logic of BPA, and I’m just adding in by type.

    Here’s the test: has there been a previous OHL player that has bested Ritchie across all following categories: 6’3″, 225 lbs, 39 goals, 135+ PIM? While playing on an average Pete’s team without much help.

    If not, we may be talking generational player by type of player.

    Hall and Ritchie, one-two punch on left side that would be tough to beat for grit and scoring – going by NHLE goals in Pacific.

    Perron and Yak can both play right. So you package two of them, Eberle and Gagner and you complete the BPA logic by trading for an Eric Staal type center. You close the gap between Oil and heavy Pacific div teams.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Anyone who’s been paying attention to the Oilers during the Lowe era knows that this draft is going to come down to one thing:

    Toe drags.

    From Schremp to Gagner to Yakupov, the Oilers can always be relied upon to draft the kid with the best available toe drags.

    After all, offence wins games, defence wins championships, but dynasties? Dynasties are built on toe drags.


    • The Soup Fascist

      Oilers should be drafting like Calgary. Unknown high schoolers putting up 150 points in a league equivalent to Midget B.

      Glass houses my friend. Glass houses.

      Safe to say there are not many tie drags in Nurse’s arsenal. Maybe they are learning.

    • Zarny

      You know who else has a nifty toe drag?

      Pavel Datsyuk. Claude Giroux. Sidney Crosby. Patrick Kane. Tyler Seguin. Evgeni Malkin.

      Just to name a few.

      FYI…Yakupov isn’t a toe drag guy. Seldom tries it actually.

  • Zarny


    Nick Ritchie is an interesting prospect. Maybe he’s the next Milan Lucic. Of course, he could be the next Zack Kassian. There is no guarantee Ritchie’s offense will translate to the NHL.