Top 10 Tuesday: Oilers Draft Busts

Last Friday night marked a draft that saw the Oilers win a little piece of the lottery without having the lottery balls actually drop in their favour. Columbus shocked everyone by taking Pierre-Luc Dubois with their third overall pick, leaving Jesse Puljujarvi (A.K.A Pool Party) to fall into the Oilers’ lap. Amazing! While there’s no way of knowing who the next Oilers draft bust will be, in this week’s Top 10 Tuesday I plan on killing your Pool Party vibe by reminding you of the ten worst Oilers draft busts over the years. 

TEN: NAIL YAKUPOV

Don’t hate me for this one, Yak-City! Leading up to the draft there was speculation about whether the Oilers would take the high-powered forward or go with Ryan Murray, a defenseman that fit what the Oilers needed (and still need) at the time. Despite a 9-2 vote by the scouts in favour of Murray, the Oilers called Yak’s name at the podium.

Many drafts will see a clear-cut first overall choice, but in 2012 things seemed a little bit more complicated. In the end, Yak (the consensus first overall pick) was taken first and was expected to produce as a first overall pick should. While he’s certainly not the worst draft pick the Oilers have made, there is resentment surrounding him and what could’ve been. 

Drafted Later: Ryan Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, Morgan Rielly, Filip Forsberg 

NINE: ALEXEI MIKHNOV

The difficulty I had finding a photo of this guy in an Oilers jersey speaks volumes in itself. Drafted 17th overall in the 2000 NHL Draft, Alexei Mikhnov only played two games in the NHL… six years after being drafted (playing in Russia before and after his NHL “stint”). 

Drafted Later: Justin Williams, Brooks Orpik, Nicklas Kronwall 

EIGHT: JESSE NIINIMAKI

And then there’s this guy… If it was tough to find pictures of Mikhnov then Niinimaki was nearly impossible. From what I found, Jesse Niinimaki can only be found in an Oilers jersey off the ice because, well, he’s never actually played on NHL ice. He was drafted 15th overall in the 2002 draft as a 6 foot 2, 200 pound centreman. Despite not making the show his career did take him to the AHL, where he scored one goal in 24 games before returning to Finland. Let’s hope this year’s Finnish pick works out a little better. 

Drafted Later: Duncan Keith, Alex Steen

SEVEN: ROB SCHREMP

In his first OHL season with the Icedogs, Rob Schremp lead all rookies in scoring with 74 points, earning him rookie of the year honours at 16-years old. From that moment on, Schremp was thought of as one of the best up and coming prospects. The Oilers drafted him at 25th overall following his second OHL season. Schremp played one more season with London Knights, which proved him to be even more of a powerhouse than originally thought by earning 145 points in only 57 games. 

Once his Junior career was over, Schremp became well acquainted with the AHL, only being called up seven times in three seasons by the Oilers. Though his magic hands could not be denied by those who watched, it never translated to many points for him in Edmonton. Schremp finished his tenure with only three assists in his seven games with the Oil. 

Schremp was claimed off of waivers twice (by NYI & Atlanta) before disappearing overseas and leaving us all to wonder, “what ever happened to that Schremp dude?”.

Drafted Later: Cory Schneider & Mike Green 

SIX: THE UN-BUSTS

The number six spot isn’t reserved for any single player, but rather the ones who appeared to be draft busts, left the Oilers and found success. Sound familiar? 

While I’m sure there’s plenty more who could be added to this list, these are the more obvious ones:

Devan Dubnyk: Drafted 14th overall in the 2004 draft, Duby got his chance at being an NHL starter when he was backing up the injury (and Superbowl Sunday) prone Khabibulin. Dubnyk had his ups and downs playing behind the infamous Oilers defence, and was eventually traded to Nashville for Matt Hendricks where he was then traded once more and sent to the minors. Many of us thought we’d never see much of him in the NHL ever again UNTIL HE GOT NOMINATED FOR THE VEZINA ALONGSIDE CAREY PRICE AND PEKKA RINNE! Dubnyk didn’t win the Vezina, but he was awarded the Bill Masterson Trophy and finished fourth in the Hart Memorial Trophy voting in 2015. 

Kyle Brodziak: Selected in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Draft, Brodziak’s expectations weren’t very high and his career with the Oilers saw him bouncing up and down to and from the minors on multiple occasions. He was traded to the Wild in 2009 where he spent six years in Minnesota before being traded to the St. Louis Blues. Brodziak was never supposed to be a superstar, but he’s found his place as a solid fourth line centerman who actually gets to see… wait for it… the playoffs. 

Andrew Cogliano: Cogliano was drafted 25th overall in the 2005 draft by the Oilers. After almost being part of a trade that was supposed to see Dany Heatley in an Oilers jersey in 2009, the following season saw Cogliano struggle along with the rest of the Oilers. He finished the season with only 28 points in 82 games and bounced around all three forward positions. In 2011, Cogliano was shipped to Anaheim where he’s seen the playoffs in all but one of his seasons with the Ducks. He also seems to have found some luck as he has avoided the Oilers injury curse, becoming the 5th player in the NHL to play 500 consecutive games from beginning of his NHL career.

FIVE: 2007 DRAFT 

This spot is reserved for an entire draft… what a nightmare. In a draft that should’ve kicked off a strong rebuild, the Oilers used two of their three first round picks on Alex Plante at 15th overall and Riley Nash at 21st overall. Plante was expected to to be a pilar on the back end AND was also the first round pick we received in the Smytty trade (yes, I’m still bitter). Injury prone (a back injury and four concussions) and unable to skate with the best of them, Plante eventually ended up playing in Asia.

To his credit, Riley Nash IS actually still playing in the NHL. He comes in as a bust because of the steep price paid for him (the 30th and 36th picks) and the players who were chosen after him. Nash spent the entire three years of being an Oiler playing college hockey for Cornell before being traded to Carolina for a #46 pick, where he’s gone on to play 242 NHL games. Well, that worked out well.

We did get Gagner at sixth overall this draft, so that makes the bitterness subside slightly. 

Drafted Later: Max Pacioretty, Mikael Backlund, David Perron

FOUR: 1990 DRAFT

Many know this draft as one of the best, but Oilers fans know this as one of the worst in history. With the 17th overall pick the Oilers chose Scott Allison. This dude that never even got close to the NHL. Normally, we could get past this, but the fact that Keith Tkachuk and Martin Brodeur were chosen with the 19th and 20th picks respectively makes this an even bigger kick in the nuts. Again… what could’ve been…

THREE: 2003 DRAFT

SO MUCH POTENTIAL… until the Oilers chose Marc-Antoine Pouliot at 22nd overall. Want to know who we could’ve had? Zach Friggen Parise. The Oilers made 12 picks at this Draft and only five made it to the NHL. In a draft class full of players like Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Suter, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler we got Pouliot. The guy just couldn’t translate his skills to the NHL level, which eventually sent him along to play overseas. 

The 2003 draft was one of the best the NHL has ever seen, but in typical Oilers fashion they managed to completely miss out on any of the top end talent. This draft saw the likes of Ryan Suter, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Mike Richards, Brian Boyle… and we picked Marc-Antoine Friggen Pouliot. You know who we could’ve had at 17th overall had we not traded down to 22nd and picked this guy? Zack Parise. Just let that sink in. 

TWO: JASON BONSIGNORE 

This guy went two picks before the one and only Ryan Smyth. He played a whole 79 games in the NHL and 20 with the Oilers. Thank the heavens that we held the fourth and sixth picks in 1994 because the Oilers royally screwed up taking Bonsignore at four but made the best draft pick in all of history (in my humble opinion (minus McDavid)) by choosing Smytty at six!  

The Oilers went into the 1994 draft with two picks: the fourth and the sixth. With the fourth pick they chose Jason Bonsignore, a dude who ended up playing a whole 79 games in the NHL (20 with the Oilers) despite being compared to Mario Lemieux in his draft year.  Thank the heavens the Oilers pulled their heads out of their asses two picks later and chose none other than Ryan Smyth. From where I intern, Ryan Smyth is one of the best draft picks in the history of Oilers draft picks (in my humble opinion (minus McDavid)). 

ONE: STEVE KELLY

Let me paint a scene for you: it’s July 8, 1995 and Northlands Coliseum is bumpin’. Alberta born Shane Doan is slated to go somewhere around fifth overall… which is the exact pick the Oilers hold in their hands. Sather walks up to the mic with chants of “Doan Doan Doan” ringing out. He selects Steve Kelly, mic drops, and walks away. Okay, he didn’t actually mic drop, but… WTF? Only minutes later Winnipeg walks up and selects Shane Doan. 

Let me paint another scene for you: Steve Kelly plays 149 games in the NHL (27 of which were with the Oilers) and let’s come back to the present — Shane Doan is still playing in the NHL. 

I threw this in just to remind you that not ALL of our draft picks are bad! Cheer up, the series of unfortunate events got us this guy! 

And there you have it, folks. A reminder of just how we’re not only awful at hockey, but we’ve also been known to be completely awful at picking decent talent. Obviously there’s plenty of Oilers draft busts out there that didn’t make the list, so I pose the question to you, Nation: Who should’ve made the list of all time Oilers draft busts?