As per a tweet from Darren Dreger, the Oilers had Edmonton product Spencer Foo in attendance as a guest last night. Foo is an undrafted right-shooting right winger who has been plying his trade at union College. He is one of the most sought after college free agents available and the Oilers are clearly making their pitch.
For a local kid who played in the AJHL for the Bonnyville Pontiacs, last night’s game must have been an incredible experience. Looking down to ice level and knowing that a lifelong dream could come true with the flourish of a pen has to be a fantastic feeling. His mind’s eye probably saw Foo on the back of those jerseys a thousand times or more and it’s a very real possibility.
All indications point to Foo finishing his college experience by completing this semester before signing with an NHL club. He had an outstanding season in the NCAA with an eyebrow raising 1.63 points per game. He tallied 38GP, 26-36-62 this season and was voted a first team East All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist.
Foo has not signed with the Oilers, but they remain a front-runner. One of the trends I’ve been watching has been how much Edmonton has been active in pursuing older prospects. This is something I endorse fully as a strategy for Chiarelli and company. I’m not a huge fan of taking over-agers with picks at the draft, but as free agents they represent great opportunities to teams like the Oil – that is to say good teams.
One “problem” with turning a franchise North and competing in the playoffs regularly is that draft picks start to lose value drastically. By the time we get to the late 20’s these picks are almost indistinguishable from second rounders and the odds of finding legitimate NHL talent plummets. So finding these college players is important.
Chiarelli poached Matthew Benning from the Bruins out of college and that has been an incredible find for Edmonton. Since Benning was signed in August, the Oilers have added three more of these older prospects costing them nothing more than a contract (Gambardella, Mantha, Starrett). Spencer Foo could make the total five in less than a year. The Oilers could go a decade before a single NHL draft yields five players worthy of receiving ELC contracts, especially since they stand to be a solid team that won’t be drafting high in the order.
What Edmonton needs moving forward is not going to be a bun18-year-oldsr olds. It’s going to be inexpensive players in their early 20’s who are significantly closer to playing in the NHL. Maybe Mantha, Gambardella, Starrett, and potentially Foo aren’t there yet. No problem. They will be in the AHL as a minimum. That’s where I assumed Benning was going to land.
Edmonton needs someone who could conceivably replace their higher priced middle six forwards. They need someone who can provide solid hockey in Pouliot’s spot. They need someone who can legitimately push RNH in the 2C position. They need someone who might displace Jordan Eberle. They need that because every team needs young players do push their vets but also because in the coming years the Draisaitl and McDavid contracts will force Edmonton to find value in their lineup.
With the Oilers pushing for older prospects like gangbusters it might also indicate that the team is preparing for the possibility that the 2017 draft will be a weak one. Edmonton’s first round pick will almost surely be more valuable to other clubs than to the Oilers. If that pick is moved then Edmonton is sitting around until the third round (because of the Chiarelli penalty). Stocking up on prospects now mitigates the loss of those picks.
The club needs more players like Foo and with a new building, a winning team, and the best player in the NHL who is also the Captain and just 20-years-old, Edmonton is in a position to attract these types of free agents. This city is a great place to play when you’re winning and the Oilers are set to do a fair amount of winning for the foreseeable future.