Drafting The Next Moroz

It’s difficult to imagine a worse professional debut than
what Mitch Moroz has done in Oklahoma City. The former 32nd pick
overall from the 2012 Entry Draft has been almost entirely invisible as a first
year AHLer after two extra years of development with the Oil Kings. This year he
has gone 46GP, 2-3-5, with 92 PIMs. He was drafted just outside the first
Round by the Edmonton Oilers and now it looks like he will have to work just to
be a poor American Hockey League player, never mind reach the NHL.

What’s important to note here is that the failure of Mitch
Moroz to perform as one might expect a player drafted in the low 30’s doesn’t fall
on him. He didn’t choose to be drafted that high. The Oilers went extremely far
off the board to take him 32nd. In their Mid-Term rankings, NHL
Central Scouting had Moroz listed at 171 for Draft eligible kids. In their
Final rankings they had boosted him quite a bit but still only to 72nd.
The Oilers took him 40 spots ahead of where he was ranked. That’s their mess.

Looking back, it seems clear that the Oilers got too good of
a chance to know this player. Playing right in their backyard for the Oil Kings
they had every opportunity to find out what kind of character this kid had. I
know I just made that sound like a bad thing, but in this case it was. The
Oilers allowed themselves to like a kid so much that they would compromise the
integrity of their draft board.

The first thing they tried to sell Oiler fans (and
themselves) was that Moroz was a power forward with both grit and character.
Tambellini said this after Moroz was drafted, “He has quite a presence for a
young man. There’s a lot of upside there. We know he can contribute both with
the puck and obviously know he has the courage to stand up and take care of a
lot of people, too.”

Presence. Courage. Contribution. 25 points in his Draft
year.

Wait, what?

It’s times like this when I have to keep stressing that it
seems exceedingly rare for players to do things in the NHL that they were
not doing in junior when they were drafted. Considering the massive fail-rate
of all draft picks, ignoring important indicators of future success like actual
scoring when projecting a player to be a top six scorer in the NHL is bizarre.

When we fast forward to this year I struggled to find a
player in the AHL who is having as poor of a year in his debut. The
problem I kept running into was that nobody who scored so little was actually a
forward. Everybody was a defensive defenseman who was coming off of five years of
college hockey or some such nonsense.

Well, that is except for one player: Ryan Olsen.

Ryan Olsen was ranked 178th by NHL Central
Scouting in 2012, the same year Moroz was drafted. He was taken in the sixth
round, 160th overall by the Winnipeg Jets. This year in the AHL he
has 49GP, 2-4-6, with 26 PIMs. He’s not quite as adept at taking penalties as
Moroz, but he makes up for it by being marginally better offensively. Olsen is
also a right shooting center so that makes him a fraction of a percent more
useful to his organization than an equally untalented winger. Both Olsen and Moroz were drafted in the same year and went on to stay in the WHL for two more years before graduating to the AHL this year.

Here are the scoring totals of both players from the 2010-2011
to 2014-2015 seasons side by side:

Year  Mitch Moroz   Ryan Olsen
2010-2011   1GP, 0-0-0  63GP, 7-7-14
2011-2012   66GP, 16-9-25  67GP, 15-17-32
2012-2013   69GP, 13-21-34  69GP, 32-24-56
2013-2014   70GP, 35-28-63  71GP, 30-34-64
2014-2015   46GP, 2-3-5  46GP, 2-4-6

The picture I get when I look at these players is that it took Mitch Moroz until he was in his final year in the WHL to become just as good of a scorer as Ryan Olsen. Before that point, Olsen was clearly the better scorer. Olsen is 6’2″ and a shade under 200 pounds (listed) and Moroz is 6’3″ and almost 215. One is a second round pick and the other is a sixth round pick, but there was almost nothing to suggest that Moroz could have possibly turned out any better than Olsen.

In a round about way, I’m getting at the idea that no amount of character is going to make up for an obvious flaw like the inability to score. Every level of hockey is almost impossibly more difficult than the last and Milan Lucic was the equivalent of finding the Boardwalk token in McDonald’s Monopoly. Everybody wants one but all they ever get is Park Place.

The odds of Mitch Moroz ever having an NHL career are as bad today as they were the day he was drafted and the Oilers better have corrected whatever bizarre line of reasoning that lead them to believe otherwise. They need to do that because Craig MacTavish might have as many as seven picks in the top 100 this year and they can’t be wasted on heavy players with big hearts who can’t actually play.

If they haven’t fixed those errors then they’ll just be drafting the next Moroz or maybe the next four or five of them.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Quote: The odds of Mitch Moroz ever having an NHL career are as bad today as they were the day he was Drafted and the Oilers better have corrected whatever bizarre line of reasoning that lead them to believe otherwise. They need to do that because Craig MacTavish might have as many as 7 picks in the top 100 this year and they can’t be wasted on heavy players with big hearts who can’t actually play.

    What about a tiny player with a heart of unknown size who can play decent enough that we already offered him a contact? We all know who the next reach will be.

  • It’s hard to have a competitive NHL team when the farm system has been bear of talent for a long time.You can pick first over all for 5 years in a row. it wont matter if you don’t have support players to go along with the high talent. this all falls on scouting and how poor of a job they been doing.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    that comparison between Moroz v Olsen is a real eye opener! yes, Moroz was ranked much lower than he was taken, but i remember hearing about some chatter that another team in the middle of the 2nd round was interested in taking Moroz so that’s why the Oilers took him so early.

    it leads me to believe that it was probably the Winnipeg Jets, who took the equally as bad Lukas Sutter at #39. this guy was so bad that the Jets didn’t re-sign him and he was taken 2 drafts later by the Islanders in the 7th round, where he should have gone in the first place! and the Oilers passed on a very good right shooting d-man in Ville Pokka. sure could have used this guy in our system, hey?

  • WeridAl

    Looks like another piece by someone that just looks at the stats. Moroz is a natural born leader. Anyone that watched him with the Oil Kings would know that. This season he had a rough start in his 1st year in the AHL with the Barons, but his game has picked up and has become a fan favorite in OKC. If you had followed Mitch Moroz, would of known he played with a bum knee and a hurt shoulder in the memorial cup. Most NHLer’s would be sitting out injured if this was the case. Is he going to be that power forward, time will tell. But people forget MacT had loaded the AHL with his Marlie favorites, limiting time to other prospects. It also a fact if people had watch Nelson coach in OKC, he had a tendency to bring along the rookies slowly. His slow start could also be do to fact he wasn’t fully recovered from his injuries. All I know in the last month or so it is like watching the Moroz I saw with the Oil Kings, been fun to watch.

    • camdog

      Earlier in the year Moroz was playing the Luke Gazdic role in OKC, playing 5 minutes a night and fighting regularly.

      That said he wasn’t developing his hockey skills. If he’s now playing more than 5 minutes a night good on him. He’s still very young, my only beef with Moroz was that I thought the Oilers should have been playing him 15-20 minutes a night in the ECHL, instead of sitting on the bench in the AHL. That’s all on Mact and the Oilers though…

        • camdog

          He’s got 8 fights this season, in January he was playing 5 minutes a night and fighting regularly, he was playing a Luke Gazdic role. Once his shoulder got better he started to drop the mitts.

          He should have started the season in the ECHL. Now with the call ups and injuries maybe he’s playing more minutes. There is no reason why he should be leading the team in penalty minutes, he should have spent the beginning of the season in the ECHL working on his puck skills, not on his fighting. That’s called player development!

  • Namicus

    I for one can’t wait for our Stanely Cup……..the draft!

    Everyone says this is a very deep draft, with exceptional talent throughout. This has me exteremly worried because we have unknowns handling the draft this year. Combine that with Mac T telling us that NN, AF, and JS are our core defencemen……..now I really worried.

    I hope that Bob Green has enough brains to be able to select some good centres, and defencemen. I know that if they do their job properly, Nelosn and company will develop them properly.

    When was the last time we could say that? In just two months Nelson has made the scouting department look pretty good…….If I were Mac T , I would give him the job allready!

  • pkam

    I just wonder where do the Oilers management and scouts get their inside information of Moroz from? Shouldn’t it be the Oil Kings management and coaches? And who was the GM of the Oil Kings at that time? Wasn’t it Bob Green? So why just shoot at the Oilers management and amateur scout and give a free pass to the Oil Kings GM and HC?

      • tealyn

        5’11, but 200 lbs.

        Has 24 points in 50 games in the AHL.

        Brad Hunt:
        5’9, 188 lbs

        Has 40 points in 42 games in the AHL.

        Not super sold on the organization needing Pokka.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          are you kidding me? you are just comparing points and basically saying….’see they’re even players’ Hunt is a career minor leaguer who has proven he’s not good enough to play in the NHL and Pokka was a high 2nd rounder who may have an actual NHL career ahead of him.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Ville Pokka?

        Is that a hockey player or the set up of Gene Principe knock knock joke?

        Knock Knock

        Who’s there?

        Ville Pokka

        Ville Pokka who?

        Ville Pokka or just do the foxtrot?

        There is also a version of this that has nothing to do with dancing but this is a PG site.

  • pkam

    The Moroz pick will always be linked to Henrik Samuelsson I think.

    Just a guess on my part, but I bet they moved Moroz up in their rankings when Samuelsson was taken because they felt some attachment or obligation to take Oil Kings.

    If the Oilers had owned Arizona’s 27th overall pick as well as their 32nd overall pick, they probably would have taken Samuelsson at 27 and not Moroz at 32.

  • pkam

    Oilers had 9 picks in the 2009 draft year.!

    Only one player Lander is playing in the NHL today.Pajaarvi was dealt to real NHL team who deemed him not to be an NHL player.
    How was that for drafting.

    • pkam

      1st, Oilers didn’t have 9 picks in 2009, only 6.

      2nd, Magnus Paajarvi was a great player before he became an Oilers. He played in the Sweden Elite League as a 19 years old and scored 29 pts in 49 games in 2009-10. He scored 10 pts in 6 games in WJC 2009, and 9 pts in 7 games in WC 2010, 3rd best scorer as a 19 years old just before coming to Edmonton. There is nothing wrong with the drafting of Magnus Paajarvi. If there is anything wrong, it is the development.

      3rd, we also drafted a very small but very skilled Toni Rajala in the 4th round that year, This kid torn up the U18 after we drafted him with 19 pts in 6 games (I think it is the best record shared with Overchkin). He scored 45 pts in 46 games as a rookie in OKC but chose to play in Europe after the season. Bad draft? I don’t think so.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Paajrvi 1-10
        Lander 2-4o
        hesketh 3-71
        Abney 3-82
        Bigos 4-99
        Rajala 4-101
        Horak 5-127
        Roy 5-133
        My mistake, here’s 8 above. [I might have counted Kennedy 5-131 that went to Carolina]

        Paajarvi… the fact is he is not playing in the NHL.. Why? Two teams could not earn him a spot. Hopefully one day he will arrive. Has the tools but not the hockey head? Vandevlde now playing with Philly.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      keep in mind though that this is all on Magnus! he was highly regarded at that draft and was taken in the top 10 like most thought he would but just never developed into an NHL player. it happens and it really hurt the Oilers. we did get Perron out of it, but now he’s been traded for magic beans so we have to start all over again and that will set us back a number of years.

      the 2009 draft for the Oilers is a good example of what MacT is saying that the Oilers absolutely MUST get this upcoming draft right. if it turns out to be another draft like the ’09 one, then it will set this franchise back even further and heads should roll!!

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Lowe and the Oilers brain trust noticed Mitch while watching Kevin’s son Keegan, play for the Oil Kings. They could have gone out and watched the other 100 teams in North America but that wouldn’t have been convenient.

    You could write almost the exact same story about Travis Ewaniuk.

    Some day, some day they will come to the obvious conclusion that Kevin Lowe and MacTavish need to be swept away.

    • Torgerson

      Who are “they”? And if they haven’t come to the obvious conclusion by now, why do you think they would ever notice something that is now blindingly obvious even to Stevie Wonder?

  • The Soup Fascist

    Jujhar Khaira has centred Moroz and Ewanyk for most of the season. While this line has scored very little, Khaira’s hard work has made this a decent defensive line.

    Last game against Grand Rapids, Moroz and Ewanyk got torched when they played with Akim Aliu.

    Khaira has been playing with the Jones twins the past few games and has done better for it.

    I like Jujhar Khaira. He has some raw talent, a good sense for the game, and he works very hard. He may get some NHL games as a fourth liner after another year or two of seasoning in the AHL.

    • WeridAl

      Actually Jujhar Khaira has bounced up and down in the lineup and even was a healthy scratch a couple of times under Nelson as was Moroz. Last game was a real stinker for the whole team, from LB, Davidson,Yakimov, and Jujhar Khaira. Not really a good idea to use that game as a example. 2 games ago Jujhar Khaira was lined up with Moroz and Ewanyk and that line looked real good, best line for the Barons. Jujhar Khaira has talent, but Moroz and Ewanyk have better hockey smart. Still to early to tell, but both of late have looked good. Has to hard work, give that to Ewanyk by far.

  • camdog

    FIRE STU MACGREGOR! PLEASE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!
    The guy is wrong more then the weather man. Put me in charge of scouting, I don’t need to go to all the games to not miss with a first round pick in the top 5 every year.

  • Matt, this is what you get when you look solely at the numbers. Mitch was playing on some strong OK teams & his role on the team was not as a scorer. Push ahead to the Memorial Cup team in his last year & you see MM playing in a totally different role. Mitch’s first year in OKC has not been a bust but rather he, Khaira, Yakimov have been brought along at a slower pace. No pressure to be ‘the’ point leader etc on this team, they have other guys doing that. Towards the end of the year though you can see they’re responsibilities widening.

    It’s way too soon to be making these ‘bust’ statements the way lot’s of people were doing the same thing with Lander. He’s 20 yrs old??

  • Torgerson

    True article or not, it was an unkind one. If you can’t say anything nice, then keep quiet. As for the GM who picked him? he’s disappeared into obscurity. Can’t blame MacT for this one.

  • Torgerson

    Writing a player off 50 or so games into his professional career is garbage. Especially when he couldn’t train properly in the offseason so as Gerry Fleming put it ” he was behind the 8 ball from the start. ” Relax

  • Nomad787

    Did Moroz refuse to sign an autograph for you? Last time I checked there have been a million articles about him being drafted too high. You leave a lot of context out of this article, such as he played on the checking line of a deep and very good junior team for most of his time in Edmonton. How many minutes is he playing in OKC?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ok folks , 4 th line, 3rd line, 1st line, whl champ 2x, Mem Cup winner, game winner in Mem Cup, a big strong young man stuck playing on the fourth line in OKC( buried by a crappy development program)
    If you don’t know what you are talking about, shut up

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Obvious topic (Oh really the Oilers have drafted poorly)
    Referencing the KIDs points while not discussing injuries, TOI, etc.
    Calling a KID a bust one year into his pro career
    Picking on one KID instead oilers giant record of poor picks
    Articles like this is why lots of people hate bloggers

  • camdog

    I find it interesting that in their draft year Moroz was waaay below Olsen points -wise, yet matched him the following year….meaning the Oilers were right; the kid had potential to go along with his size and heart. Kind of shoots down the comparison argument you’re somehow trying to make.