Even if Josh Winquist never plays an NHL game, he’ll have provided Oilers fans with a valuable service. A guy like Winquist enters the system having to earn absolutely everything he gets and so like others (including Mark Arcobello) before him provides a valuable point of reference for the “real” prospects.
Josh Winquist tells us who is passing and who is failing.
It’s not quite as simple as saying, “This guy is behind Winquist, therefore he’s lousy.” Winquist wasn’t drafted and wasn’t signed to an NHL contract, but he did score 47 goals his last year in junior. Not only might there be a player there, but offence comes naturally to Winquist and he’s more likely to be cast in scoring line roles than a player whose primary attributes are defensive.
With that said: Winquist is a replacement-level prospect, the kind of guy available for free every summer, and while his scoring ability might help him he doesn’t have the kind of institutional advantages a player ike Moroz does.
When an organization invests a draft pick and then an entry-level contract in a player, it indicates a level of belief from that team’s managers; coaches who want to stay employed have no choice but to take a long look at those players. Winquist was never drafted and never signed to an NHL contract; if he doesn’t produce he doesn’t play.
As an example: Mitch Holmberg entered the Oilers’ organization on a minor league deal after scoring 62 goals and 118 points in the WHL a year ago. He didn’t even get one AHL game in 2014-15 and may never be heard from again.
Let’s eliminate power play scoring from the equation, just to see what happens. In some ways we shouldn’t, because if Winquist earned time on the power play that tells us something about his offensive game (or the lack of offensive game from other prospects) but let’s take a look anyway:
It is, of course, important to remember that a lot of these players bring more than scoring to the game. But as a rule even players with size, defensive ability and a physical edge don’t play significant minutes in the NHL if they can’t score at least a little in the AHL.
- The only player who comes off looking well here is Bogdan Yakimov. He’s a year younger than Winquist and a rookie pro and he’s a significantly better scorer in terms of even-strength points-per-game.
- Kale Kessy improves, but there are some black marks. He’s nine months older than Winquist, he’s a second-year pro and he only played 17 games.
- Jujhar Khaira is a year younger than Winquist, so we can make some allowances, though he’s further back than he really should be if he’s going to be an NHL player.
- Mitch Moroz is eight months younger than Winquist, but he’s scoring half as frequently. That’s an ugly number.
- If you were wondering why the Oilers tossed Travis Ewanyk into that Eric Gryba trade, wonder no longer.
Winquist, a rookie pro owed no institutional loyalty, started in the ECHL and climbed the Barons’ depth chart, ultimately outscoring Khaira, Moroz and Ewanyk at even-strength and coming close to passing Kessy, too. There will be those who point the finger at coaching and development as the reasons for the offensive failings of those drafted players, who will imply that Todd Nelson and Gerry Fleming love their veterans and mulishly refuse to play the kids.
Winquist puts the lie to that argument. If there was an opportunity available to him, it was available to those players the organization actually values. They didn’t take it, and that’s on them.