The Winquist Line

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.

Player Born Draft GP G A PTS P/GP
Bogdan Yakimov 10.4.94 83rd, 2013 57 12 16 28 0.49
Josh Winquist 9.6.93 Undrafted, 2011 46 8 11 19 0.41
Kale Kessy 12.4.92 111th, 2011 17 3 3 6 0.35
Jujhar Khaira 8.13.94 63rd, 2012 51 4 6 10 0.20
Mitch Moroz 5.3.94 32nd, 2012 66 5 4 9 0.14
Travis Ewanyk 3.29.93 74th, 2011 69 3 5 8 0.12

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:

Player Born Draft GP G A PTS P/GP
Bogdan Yakimov 10.4.94 83rd, 2013 57 9 14 23 0.40
Kale Kessy 12.4.92 111th, 2011 17 3 3 6 0.35
Josh Winquist 9.6.93 Undrafted, 2011 46 6 8 14 0.30
Jujhar Khaira 8.13.94 63rd, 2012 51 4 6 10 0.20
Mitch Moroz 5.3.94 32nd, 2012 66 5 4 9 0.14
Travis Ewanyk 3.29.93 74th, 2011 69 3 5 8 0.12

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.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      he wasn’t so “magnificent” was he? and now he’s unemployed because of his magnificence. Stu wasn’t the greatest at judging a players long term development potential. and Stu’s other problem was that he liked his BCHL and college boys and other players from fringe leagues so much that he’d pick them too high when, as a rebuilding team, we needed to try to pick players who’d not spend 4 years in college and could in our lineup a whole lot sooner with our middle round picks. this is something Stu and the Oiler management at the time didn’t understand. but it’s just my opinion.

  • Oilfan69

    Thanks for an interesting take on the true depth situation in the AHL.

    Yakimov looks like he could make the show. I remember seeing him at the rookie vs Bears game. He shot his own rebound right out of the air into the net!

    Mitch Holmgren looked like a free pick up of a gem. Gads, he may never sign as a pro. Surprising!

    Even clouds in Edmonton still can’t cover what a beautiful McDavid day it is.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    The number are the numbers………but so many have written that the OKC Barons were not in “developing mode” last year and were more interested in winning.

    JK would have struggled to find ice time last year and I wonder if you have taken this under more serious consideration? The same holds true for any first year players including JW.

    • fran huckzky

      I don’t recall reading a lot about the Barons not being in development mode last year. That was probably true 2 and 3 years ago but last year I would submit that the contrary was true.

  • The above chart shows us how hard and cold NHL hockey has to be. It shows how far off the mark Stu and Oilers management have been in drafting outside of the first round.

    It also shows us very clearly why it is dangerous to buy into the hype surrounding various draft choices. Furthermore, it tends to substantiate the wisdom displayed by Chiarelli in trading draft picks for Reinhart. Draft picks are iffy whereas Reinhart is very close to becoming an NHL regular.

    Takeaway is not to fall in love with draft picks until you actually see them play in the NHL.

  • I tried it at home

    Ok, Stu is gone. Im sorry he didnt work out as I waz a big fan when he started out. However, I still wanna know how Howson and MacT kept thier employment. They were his direct bosses, no?

  • billythebullet

    Imho signing these undrafted prospects is massive. Every so often one of these guys carve out a pro career. Oilers had several unsigned prospects at the development camp as did probably every other nhl team. This isn’t something new, but further proves draft order/pedigree doesn’t always mean everything.

  • billythebullet

    I’m interested to see what the new regime institutes at the AHL level this year. Do they want their systems to mirror that of the big club? Will they be focused more on development??

    From his first interviews Chiarelli seems like he’s leaning towards starting at least one of Nurse or Draisaitl in the AHL, so I’m thinking we can count on the best prospects getting the most minutes at least