The 2012 entry draft was a low period for the Edmonton Oilers at the draft table. It should have been the best of times, as the club won the draft lottery. However, the scouting staff was divided on who to take No. 1 overall, and forces above their pay grade interfered in the process.
- Mark Spector, Sportsnet, March 2016: But that morning proceeded strangely. Head amateur scout Stu MacGregor would ask the scouts to vote, and then he would leave the room. He’d come back with some alternate criteria to describe the type of player the Oilers wanted to choose, and they’d vote again. Every time, the vote came back the same. Nine votes for defenceman Ryan Murray, and two for Nail Yakupov. Source
Safe to say Spector’s source for that story is no longer in the organization and that the Oilers themselves have figured out the leak. More important, how did it get that way? Who was MacGregor talking to? General manager Steve Tambellini? New arrival (back and holding on to a vague job title) Craig MacTavish? Owner Daryl Katz? By definition this reflects an addled group of managers and one interfering owner. We can assume that statement to be correct until someone offers a more logical conclusion. So it was against this backdrop that the scouts prepared their lists, with Ryan Murray No. 1 overall, and proceeded to procure their yearly crop of prospects.
NAIL YAKUPOV, NO. 1 OVERALL, 2012
- Yakupov was ranked No. 1 overall on most of the major scouting lists, but it was not an overwhelming gap between the young Russian winger and his competition.
- Several NHL experts I read said something along the lines of ‘he is a raw talent and will need an experienced NHL center as a tutor’ in the days after the draft. The Oilers used Sam Gagner as his center much of the time year one. The 5×5 offense was good in year one, but there were issues that would continue throughout his Oilers career.
- In his four seasons with the Oilers, Yakupov was coached by Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Craig MacTavish, Todd Nelson and Todd McLellan.
- In the end, Edmonton would trade Yakupov to St. Louis for a draft pick that will be used 80+ picks from where the Oilers chose the young Russian.
- Summary: Nail Yakupov played in 41 games with the Blues scoring 3-6-9. That first season with Ralph Krueger remains his most productive and we are left to wonder what might have been.
MITCHELL MOROZ, NO. 32 OVERALL, 2012
- Mitchell Moroz was a well known hockey player in Edmonton at the time he was drafted. He had just completed his first full season with the Oil Kings, performing well on a checking line with the junior team.
- Although he was chosen earlier than expected (Bob McKenzie had him No. 56 overall, so at the other end of the second round), the Oilers under Tambellini were focused on getting more size up front.
- Moroz flourished during his Oil Kings career, playing a prominent role on a famous team that would play over 60 playoff games in three seasons.
- His 2014 season was easily the best of his career, as he found the range offensively on a line with Henrik Samuelsson and Edgars Kulda. Moroz would score 35 goals in the regular season and play a big part in winning WHL and Memorial Cup championships.
- As a pro, Moroz could not unlock the offensive potential Red Line Report described on draft day (“has surprising offensive tools with a heavy snap shot”) scoring only 14 goals in three AHL seasons.
- Summary: In an ironic twist, the Oilers traded Moroz to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for former linemate Samuelsson. Both men have work to do after frustrating entry-level deals with their drafting teams.
JUJHAR KHAIRA, NO. 63 OVERALL, 2012
- I could write a book about the Oilers and the BCHL, as the club has draft 15 (!!!) players from the league over the years.
- By games-played, the players who made the NHL are: Riley Nash (323); Don Barber (115); Jujhar Khaira (25); Paul Houck (16); Mike Minard (1).
- Khaira was a pretty close comp for Moroz in terms of style. Red Line (“this kid is big, mean, aggressive, nasty, and guess what… he can score too”) was most encouraging about his potential and overall skill set.
- Khaira had a meandering post-draft career, including stops at Michigan Tech (NCAA) and Everett (WHL). It was especially hard to get any kind of read on his offensive potential.
- In his three AHL seasons, Khaira has increased his scoring each year (10 points in 51 games; 27 points in 49 games; 20 points in 27 games).
- Summary: Khaira is a load for opposition and has no fear. In a division full of heavy forwards, Khaira fits the Pacific Division template for bottom 6F’s very well. Offense is encouraging and if he can bring more to his NHL game (25gp, 1-2-3 currently) and avoid the expansion draft, Khaira could be the one pick from this draft to have an extended career with the Oilers.
DANIIL ZHARKOV, NO. 91 OVERALL, 2012
- Zharkov was the second Russian pick out of the OHL by the Oilers in the 2012 draft. He was the second Belleville Bulls player ever drafted by Edmonton (Darren Gani, 1984).
- Aside from having a great sense of humor (told media he was better than Yakupov) there was a lot to recommend him on draft day. Bob McKenzie had him higher (No. 46) than second rounder Mitchell Moroz on his final list.
- Zharkov ran in place draft +1, scoring 25 goals with Belleville and delivering about the same amount of offense that he managed in his draft year. After that, he jumped to the KHL where he was used in limited roles.
- In 2015, he came over to NA on a tryout (Bakersfield), suffered a severe injury and lost his season.
- Played six games Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in the KHL and 32 games in the Russian minors (VHL). The injury may have impacted his career, but at 23 we hope he recovers and plays for many years.
ERIK GUSTAFSSON, NO. 93 OVERALL, 2012
- An astute draft pick (Gustafsson is a puck mover with speed), the Oilers would never sign him, but Gustafsson would make it to the NHL.
- He was 20 on his draft day, and had played 41 games in the Swedish Elite League.
- Played for three seasons in Sweden, productive in each of them. Edmonton chose not to sign their draft pick, but the Chicago Blackhawks stepped up.
- Gustafsson played half of a season with Chicago and has been in the AHL for the rest of the time during the past two seasons.
- Summary: The Oilers, during their years of losing, did curious things a lot. The team’s scouts may have felt the club didn’t need another lefty (reasonable based on the sheer numbers) but Chicago found a useful player. The Oilers player evaluation department was not a well oiled machine under Steve Tambellini.
JOEY LALEGGIA, NO. 123 OVERALL, 2012
- Joey Laleggia turned 20 on June 24, 2012 and was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers four days later. He was taken in his third year of eligibility and had been productive in each of those seasons.
- Laleggia’s size (5.10, 180 on draft day) and position (left defense) made him a long shot for NHL duty down the line. Still, he was a very productive offensive player in every stop, and continued the trend once he turned pro in 2015-16.
- Condors coach Gerry Fleming tried Laleggia up (LW) around Christmas of his first AHL season, and then made the move for good mid-season 2016-17. Laleggia blossomed, and scored 16 goals in 32 games through March 31.
- Summary: It’s still a long shot, but Laleggia is a pro player who is scoring AHL goals in bunches and that has value. He may have a future.
JOHN MACCARRON, NO. 153 OVERALL, 2012
- John McCarron is the only player drafted by the Oilers while playing for Cornell University.
- He was a good bet, having size and some skill (35gp, 6-13-19 as a freshman) but didn’t progress as hoped on his draft day.
- Since turning pro, McCarron has played in 110 ECHL and 15 AHL games.