The Oilers’ 2012 Draft: Trending Sideways

10-Yakupov-1

There has been a lot of focus on the Oilers’ amateur scouting department over the last week or two, and Craig MacTavish’s comments last Friday didn’t really clear up the issue as they were half criticism and half vote of confidence.

The early results of the players selected in 2012 likely isn’t doing the current scouting staff any favours.

What MacTavish Said

Craig MacTavish4

Via the Edmonton Journal’s Bruce McCurdy:

It (absence of drafted players from later rounds) undermines the performance of everything we do on and off the ice, and it has to get better. From the minute we took over we focused on improving our draft record. You’re right, there were only two players who played in Winnipeg drafted outside of the first round. So we’re acutely aware of the former inadequacies of our draft after the first round. We’ve worked hard to improve all of our draft processes. We are more regionally focused. There’s more of an emphasis on getting to know the players, interviewing the players. We’ve integrated a lot of analytics into our decision making. We’ve integrated a lot of technology into our video scouting. We’ve got more management now in the field communicating with our scouts. We’ve got a draft philosophy since I took over in an effort to improve our draft record. Last year’s draft is tough to evaluate because we didn’t have a 2nd or 3rd round pick. The draft before I think we’ve added a lot of pieces & a lot of things that we needed.

There’s some criticism in that statement, with the general manager acknowledging that the team hasn’t had enough depth picks pay off; those comments taken together with an earlier pledge to examine everything on the organization suggest that changes could be coming to the scouting staff.

There’s also a vote of confidence to some degree; MacTavish talked up a change in philosophy and referred to the problems as the team’s “former inadequacies.” As colleague Matt Henderson pointed out yesterday, that effectively boils down to blaming Tambellini for the draft; he also (rightly) suggested that spin has some serious credibility issues.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the words when I first heard them, and I’m still not sure. My inclination is to read it as ‘changes are coming but I can’t toss the scouts that are going to be making the 2015 picks under the bus’ but your mileage may vary. Suffice to say that if significant changes are made after the draft this summer it wouldn’t be a big surprise.

The 2012 Draft

Jujhar Khaira

Analysis of the Oilers’ work at the 2012 Draft often stops and ends with Nail Yakupov. It’s understandable; it’s also a little unfair for a lot of reasons. For one thing, we don’t know who in the organization ultimately pulled the trigger on Yakupov and for another it’s still not at all clear who the best player at the top end of the 2012 Draft is right now (Alex Galchenyuk, who played all of two games in his draft year, is trending at the moment).

The other things is that there are some interesting items the rest of the way.

  • Mitch Moroz was a reach pick at 32nd overall, the latest effort by the Oilers to find a player who marries a nasty physical edge with top-six or top-nine NHL skill. He didn’t score much at all in his draft year or his Draft+1 season; he emerged as a third-year WHL player but even then fell shy of the point-per-game mark. He has one assist in 17 games in the AHL.
  • Jujhar Khaira was similar to Moroz in that he offered a combination of size, skill and a physical dimension. His scoring numbers post-draft were only middling; like Moroz he was south of the point-per-game mark in his Draft+2 season. He has three points in 19 games in the AHL.
  • Daniil Zharkov was the Oilers’ third straight big forward with skill pick, and he’s totally collapsed. As of this writing, he has one goal in 20 games in Russia’s second-tier league and is not a prospect of any note.
  • Fourth-round pick Erik Gustafsson has emerged this season; the defenceman has 16 points in 28 games in Sweden’s top league. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really matter for the Oilers; he isn’t listed as being in the system and as I understand it the deadline to sign him has passed and the team no longer owns his rights.
  • Undersized fifth-rounder Joey Laleggia is scoring at roughly a point-per-game pace for the University of Denver; he’s still a guy who we can reasonably say has a shot as a power play specialist/third pair defenceman.
  • John McCarron is another fourth-year college player, and like earlier picks he’s big and plays a physical game. In his draft year he scored 19 points in 35 games (0.543 points/game); this season he has five points in 11 games (0.455 points/game). Scoring doesn’t tell us everything, especially for a player like McCarron, but he needs to score a bit if he’s ever going to be an NHL player and to-date he hasn’t done nearly enough.

It would be a mistake to make any sweeping claims about these guys; some have just barely made the jump to the professional level and others aren’t even there yet. All we can do is identify trends, and the problem here is that the trends aren’t positive. Khaira and Moroz both bring more than just scoring, but neither is doing much offensively. It’s tempting to blame Oklahoma City’s coaching staff for that, but this isn’t a new thing with either player; given their numbers in their final junior campaigns it would have been unreasonable to expect either player to have much impact in the AHL at this point. With Khaira, part of the problem might be that he’s never been left at one level for very long; the AHL is his fourth league in four seasons after he went from the BCHL to the NCAA to the WHL and now to the pros.

If I look at this list of players and ask ‘who has a chance at a career as an offensive presence in the NHL’ the names I come up with are Gustafsson and Laleggia, and one of those guys seemingly isn’t even a consideration for the organization at this point. That’s not nearly good enough.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • bwar

    The Moroz pick is what breaks this draft for me. It was a highly questionable pick on draft day and at best he looks like a 4th line type guy, which isn’t good enough for an early second round pick. This pick seemed like a good spot for the Oilers to trade down from and they still could have drafted Moroz.

  • Salty

    I really don’t think the Oilers can take too much heat for Moroz since the only players after him in the entire draft doing anything in the NHL are Severson and Smith, and many many many organizations passed both of the them over as well.

  • camdog

    ACCOUNTABILITY, OILERS STYLE

    Almost everything MacTavish said last Friday was BS. The thing that made me most angry was his pathetic attempts to foist responsibility onto other people. For instance, he said he had no involvement with “management” when he was HC for eight years. Nonsense. I am sure he had major input in player decisions. He went to the draft. When they were deciding to trade, extend or acquire players, I am sure he was involved.

    Then he was gone for three years. Speaking of which, remember when every sports “journalist” in town told us that he was going to be a HC in the NHL again lickety-split because he was such a “smart guy”?

    Now he has been back 2.5 yrs. So he has been associated with the franchise at a high level for 10.5 out of the last 13.5 years. He talks about the obvious mess as if it was all done by a bunch of other people he never met before.

    People can say he might “clean house” this summer. I doubt it. In any event, the house cleaning should include replacing MacTavish.

  • Spiel

    Once the euphoria of the 5 game road trip the Oilers swept in December 2009 was over the MSM in Edmonton starting talking about how maybe the Oilers needed to blow the whole thing up and do a rebuild. Eventually Tambellini chimed in with what amounted to “Yeah, we’re going do a rebuild.”

    But I think its fair to say that Tambellini never really wanted to rebuild the team, he just wanted permission for the team to suck for a few years. A true rebuild would have meant examining every person in every position in the organization and asking if they were the right ones for the job.

    Tambo kept many of the same players, found coaches within the organization, kept the same assistant coaches and kept the same scouts.

    I get MacT’s frustration; he took over a team supposedly in year 4 of a rebuild (7 years out of the playoffs) that had done practically no rebuilding. Now the fans have no patience left and so he is expected to get results NOW.

    Of course, understanding his frustration doesn’t mean he’s off the hook for not getting at least one proven goalie and at least one more centre.

  • Salty

    the 2012 draft I personally was hoping that they would trade the top pick, for an nhl player and somewhere around 10th overall to get Faksa, now he hasn’t done much since, but we’ll see what happens. But if they would have done that they could have grabbed Forsberg, who knew he would fall to 11th prior to the draft..

    • camdog

      Just remember that Grebeshkov was a gut feeling by the GM, pro scouting was not involved, strictly a gut feeling and Nikitan was another gut feeling by Howson.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    For me the ‘final straw’ was when the Oilers bypassed potential first-round difference makers in Boone Jenner and (especially, at the time) Brandon Saad.

    I remember hearing there ‘must be a problem internally (with his character)’ for him to drop so low by so many teams.

    So what? If you like a guy, and he drops to you inexplicably (Zach Parisé, anyone) do NOT just assume he is damaged goods…take the player you want and run. To overlook such quality players because there ‘might be’ something wrong with them is indefensible!

    For the record, we passed on sure-fire players such Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad for the coach’s son – expected to go in the draft much later, where he probably belonged to go. David Musil will forever be connected to that draft failure by me. This isn’t fair to him either though – he should have just gotten drafted somewhere in the third round, rather than the top of the second – where first-round talent had dropped to.

    There: I’ve gotten that out of my system now. lol!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The fact that we are judging 2012 draft in 2014 is itself prove that we are all not understanding of how a prospect should develop.
    Let’s review 2009 or 2010 draft classes, its too early for 2012. Yak could still be the 40 goal scorer we predicted just months ago…
    Takes time folks. These guys are 20.

  • paul wodehouse

    The Oilers draft history has sucked since at least 1990 where none of those players drafted that year ever really did anything. Every year since has been just as bad. Only a few players I can think of ever got good from the Oilers drafting system. Its a dated garbage system that Sather set up and Lowe has continued. The Oilers have depended on other teams to trade prospects then develop them themselves. The Odds of us drafting a Zetterberg or another Messier who went late in the draft with the current system is about as likely as signing a player like that. Its NILL.

  • Joy S. Lee

    Perhaps this will sound odd, and it really refers to the top 20-30 and potentially as deep as picks 40 or 50 of the draft, but one of the things that has bugged me about the Oilers management ‘style’ is that they never trade UP to get their man, in a spot they felt was worthy to take him. In other words, they’ve always waited, hoping their guy would fall in their laps.

    And it’s not even the worst part that they’ve then “settled” on the guy related to someone in their organizational history. It is perhaps the most damning evidence of all about their drafting strategies and awareness, though! The worst part is that they’re so proud of nabbing organizational offspring a little earlier than others teams would have taken them. Someone give them a ribbon. Let’s just say that I’m sure Keegan Lowe would be a Rexall employee if he didn’t say no.

    The right guys can fall a long way in the draft…that much is clear. So sometimes waiting pays off. But your ‘guy’ could go 23rd in the draft. Or 12th. Or 16th. Or 32nd. And if you have the 31st pick, and you see your future goalie, like a Malcolm Subban, or your defenseman, like an Olli Maatta, get to 20… well, if I know what I’m doing, I’m looking to trade up and snag that guy I want. Zac Fucale was a whisker from being an Oiler, but then they KNEW Montreal picked directly in front of them at 35. They were clearly choked when the Habs got their decorated French-Canadian goalie prospect, but he’d already fallen much further than expected. But the Oilers clearly wanted him, and traded down as soon as he was picked. Strategic planning would have suggested the Habs would grab him at 35. Could they not – if they really wanted him – traded up two spots to ensure they got their man? The costs are not outrageous for a miniature lateral move like that one. When you consider the big picture, and trust your talent assessments, players jump out for you. Rather than settle every time, how about once in a while going out and ensuring you get that guy you want?

    The fact that they’ve never been willing to offer their upcoming pick plus a piece, to move up and select the guy they want indicates either an unwillingness to step up, or that they don’t really have a player in mind that they really must have. Both of those are negative indicators, though, because at the end of the day, the entire idea is to draft the players you really want. Never making an upward move indicates a lack of confidence, and/or an inability to discern between anyone in the group you are picking between at any given time. There should always be a player or three that you’re biting your lip in the hopes to draft, at whatever stage of the draft you’re in. At some point, you have to be willing to step up to make sure you get more of the guys you really want, especially amongst the earlier selections. At least I’ve always thought so. It’s just something that’s bugged me for quite a while.

  • taz115

    If the Oilers only have 1 or 2 players in their line-up each night that we drafted past the first I’d be interested in finding out how many players we drafted past the first round play for other teams?

    For sure there is that kid playing for Arizona. I bet there is more playing for other teams.

    That might indicate that we also have trouble evaluating our draft picks once they are in our organization, or possibly other teams are able to get more out of our draft picks than we are due to development.

  • Spiel

    Tough to make final judgements on the 2012 draft, but looking at that first round shows that the Oilers likely overestimated that Yak was the “best player available”.

    Galcheynuk, Rielly, Lindholm, Trouba, Forsberg, Hertl, Maatta. I think its safe to say that these players’ respective teams would not be trading them for Nail Yakupov.

    2012 was the year to trade out of the first pick.