If everything breaks right the Edmonton Oilers will sign Vladimir Tkachev to a contract later this week. I believe it’s a quality move, a real innovation—no matter the outcome of the player’s career. Why? NHL teams only have so many ways to procure useful talent, and badly need to exercise all of them. Oilers history has many players acquired in unusual ways.
The Tkachev contract (should it come to pass) is a modern version of an old Oiler tradition: Find players and don’t worry about where they come from. The quality of players acquired can vary but here are three examples of additions that impacted the Stanley teams:
- Randy Gregg turned away the (Atlanta) Flames and New York Rangers, played for Canada at the Olympics and then went to Japan before finally negotiating a contract with the Oilers and Glen Sather. Source
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, 1979. You could argue that’s the best value-for-pick in the history of the game.
Charlie Huddy was never drafted. It’s a little misleading because the
year he was eligible (1979) also happens to be the year that the NHL
decided to cut back the draft by many, many rounds. In 1979 the NHL 126
drafted kids, but in the season before they’d selected 234 and in 1980
the NHL drafted 210 men. The fact that the Oilers signed Huddy September
14, 1979 which was a month after the 1979 draft (it was held very late,
August 9th, because the league had to figure out a way to fold in
underagers like Mark Messier while keeping out other kids his age) tells
me they had him rated right behind Blair Barnes.
Huddy on defense was a warm blanket on a cold winter night.
(Not suggesting Tkachev will match any of these players, using as procurement examples)
‘SAW HIM GOOD’ VS. MATH
The Oilers may have had Tkachev on their draft list (ala Barnes—Huddy) right behind Keven Bouchard, and run out of selections, so this is a nice option. You might be asking how this works—how the Oilers can acquire a talent like this—and the answer is included in an article written about Tkachev recently. Source
Red Line Report had him in the second round (No. 58), but it’s fairly easy to suss out the reason no one took him was lack of size. If we assume Edmonton had interest but decided against him (a reasonable thought), then it’s also probably true the club liked Liam Coughlin BECAUSE of his size.
It brings us back to the ‘saw him good’ method—scouts viewing players and grading them based on size, speed, skill, grit, etc, versus math—goals, assists, points. So often when we talk about scouting, it’s with the idea that math is avoided in projection. Of course, that’s a narrow and cynical view, both visual and math can be used in assessment.
Generally speaking, scouts get it right. If you pick any given draft year at hockeydb, most of the good to greats are gone by No. 60, and they’re rolling up the carpets on NHL future’s about No. 100 or so. Unless a player grows a foot or something, these scouts have identified ways to project into the future.
No system is 100% accurate and sometimes players slip through the cracks. Vladdy Hockey might be one of them, and kudos to the Oilers for looking under every rock to find talent. I believe there’s a pretty good chance Tkachev has a better career than many kids who were drafted in 2014.
Why do I believe that? Well, I saw him good and the math adores him. It’s a tremendous combination, one the Oilers (apparently) have followed when drafting kids like Marco Roy in the past. NO organization is so flush with talent they can turn a blind eye to a player who can help them. Craig MacTavish and his team may sign a part of the Oilers future this week in a non-traditional manner.
The amateur procurement department may be about to deliver another second-round (value) player, with an assist from a CBA loophole.