Photo Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers are bad at drafting and should feel bad about it

Tuesday night on Inside Sports, friend of the Nation, Reid Wilkins, spent some time talking about the Oilers’ history at the NHL Draft and the conversation was all kinds of depressing. Just how bad was it? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

One thing that any Oilers fan already knows is that the team has been abysmal at finding players in the later rounds of the NHL Draft. That inability to find hidden gems is one of the major problems plaguing this team right now as their depth chart is essentially bare when it comes to skilled prospects. Aside from a few prospects like Puljujarvi, Yamamoto or Ethan Bear, there aren’t many players in the pipeline that look like they will be able to crack the NHL roster, let alone turn into reliable contributors.

It’s not like goal scorers are exclusively found within the first 30 picks so why can’t the Oilers seem to make that happen?

“You can find good goal scorers after the first round, and I think for the Oilers it’s often been that they draft a high-end offensive guy and are unable to fill it in with other draft picks.”

It’s almost like taking flyers on low-ranked Coke machines (or former Oil Kings) doesn’t ever seem to work, amirite? I mean, we all know that the Oilers haven’t drafted well, but things can’t be as grim as we think, can they? Just how bad have the Oilers been at drafting outside of the first round? I’ll let my boy Reid’s research ruin your day just as it did mine, starting from 2010 after the Oilers selected Taylor Hall with the first overall pick.

“Since 2010, the best Oilers’ forwards, not taken in the first round, are Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira, and Tyler Pitlick who is no longer with the Oilers.”

Uhhhh… That is… not ideal. And I mean no offence to any these players because I like JJ and Slep for what they are, but only having three guys taken after the first round make the show in the last eight years is baaaaaad. At that rate, the Oilers would almost be better off trading every single draft pick rather than using them to guess on guys. Frankly, only having three players make the NHL in the last eight years is the kind of track record that should mean pink slips for anyone that was involved in the amateur scouting side of the organization, but this is the Oilers we’re talking about after all.

Even so, the optimist in me knows that poor drafting for eight years is obviously unacceptable but I’m hoping that there’s good news for me here, Reid. Tell me you found something positive. Help us feel better about what’s happening with this organization.

“Let’s look back and find 20-goal scorers that the Oilers have drafted after the first round.”

Alright, I like this. Let’s widen the search and maybe, just maybe we can find something positive. Maybe you’ll tell us that the Oilers actually know what they’re doing. Bring on the good news, Reid! My body is ready.

“You probably have an idea of where I’m going here.”

Wait… I’m not liking the sounds of this, Reid. I said I wanted good news.

“There are three of them… in the last 20 years. Three Oilers forwards drafted in the second round or later who have had 20-goal seasons.”

Good Gord. It’s worse than I imagined.


In the last 20 years, the Edmonton Oilers have only had three non-first round picks with a 20-goal season. Think about that for a minute… The Oilers have picked dozens of players over that time and they’ve only managed to land three guys that have made an impact at the NHL level. If this many swings and misses on the amateur side weren’t so depressing it would actually be impressive in a way. Actually, you’d think that the Oilers would have accidentally drafted an impact player, don’t you think? I guess math hates us.


So who are those three players? I thought you’d never ask.

  • Jarrett Stoll, drafted at 36th overall in 2002, scored 22 goals in the 2005/06 season.
  • Mike Comrie, drafted 91st overall in 1999, scored 33 goals in 2001/02 and 20 goals in 2002/03. Comrie then went on to have two more 20+ goal seasons with other teams.
  • Shawn Horcoff, drafted 99th overall in 1998, scored 22 goals in 2005/06 and 21 goals in 2007/08.

That’s it. That’s the list. In 20 years, the Oilers have only been able to find three guys that have managed to put up 20 goals or more outside of the first round and the last time it happened was 10 years ago. Needless to say, that’s a massive problem that cannot be overstated and is, no doubt, a major contributor to the issues that are happening in the here and now. If you can’t draft and develop players that are able to contribute at the NHL level then you’ll be stuck trying to build your roster through trades and free agency, something that never works in a cap world.

For the Edmonton Oilers, stats like drafting only three 20-goal scorers drafted outside of the first round over the past two decades should be causing all kinds of alarms to be going off at Oilers HQ. You’d hope that these aren’t new numbers to the organization and that they’re doing anything that is humanly possible to try and improve. But is that the case? Until their drafting record improves, and we actually see tangible results, we all have a reason to be cynical and I don’t see that changing until someone drafted outside of the first 31 picks can actually make something happen.

Until then, we wait.

Listen to the full clip below (draft talk starts at the midway point):


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  • btrain

    I believe there is more to finding Gem’s in late rounds then simply picking the right player. The selection part is only one component of the process and I would argue an equally important part is the strength/depth of the organization. I haven’t looked at it closely but it seems that “gems” generally pop up on teams that are already good and/or who employ coaches and managers who are less political and willing to give players a legit shot based on merit/skill set/potential not just draft pedigree. Although credit is still due for drafting these guys, if that same later round player is selected by Edmonton, do they have the same outcomes? Think about the farm team for the Oil, a late rounder could potentially be one of the most skilled players on the team. This probably allows them to put up respectable numbers, but their potential is dragged down by the lack of potential/skill in their AHL teammates. If they are lucky enough to get a cup a coffee on the big club, they are probably penciled in as a bottom 6 guy based on their draft position, they continue to play with less skill at the NHL level/with limited minutes and the team is not good enough to insulate their development pains while still providing them appropriate developmental opportunity.

    On solidly run teams, they have a “Golidlocks” development for their prospects, they give their prospects just right amount of challenge: they don’t limiting them too much nor do they overexpose them too much. Edmonton on the other hand frequently overexposes any high draft pick while wile simultaneously limit their late round picks by giving them little support at lower levels and in turn little chance to get to the NHL. Even when they have been close to getting it right, they choose to let a guy like Pitlick walk, wait until Khaira can’t be denied but still put a bottom 6 glass ceiling on him, and slap a for sale sign on Sleppy (who has made progress despite how he has been managed).

    Anyway, I am one who believes that you need to play with the best to be the best. If you get to the Oilers farm, and all the 1st round picks are being force-fed NHL time, then who are you measuring yourself up to? Who are you learning to play with? The Oilers need to address this ongoing issue but we all know where Yamomoto will be playing next season (#bad management) when he should be helping to raise the standards of the AHL affiliate.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Bang on B-train… you nailed it…
      Prime example is Yamamoto using up a valuable spot at the beginning of the season… Heck he even had considerable time in the top six…
      When the management knew full-well that he wouldn’t be played past the 9 games… That kind of message is “toxic” to the existing team, that has worked hard to earn a position…
      In my opinion, it set the skid of the season off right from the start…

    • ET

      Awesome take and I could not agree more. More than one prospect has been ruined by poor development from this piss poor organization. Funny how some guys need to “earn” their spot in the lineup while others are gifted spots and get to keep them no matter how they perform. Yes drafting well is crucial to a teams’ long term success but I would argue that developing who you draft is just as crucial. Oh well, the team is Katz’s toy so I guess he can do what he wants with it but he is without a doubt one of the worst and least successful owners of a pro sports franchise in history. He would tell you though that he has been very successful as he has made money hand over fist and that is what is obviously at the top of his list of values.

  • OilCan2

    The future will revolve around the Draft for the Oilers. The Boys on the Bus were mostly draft picks. Teams that move fast and effective players onto their rosters will climb the standings.

    • camdog

      The Oilers spent a decade building the left defence through the draft. Klefbom, Marancin, Musil, Simpson, Davidson, Gustafsson , Gernat, Nurse, Bear (right shot), Jones, Lagesson. And then they signed college guys Fedun, Hunt and Osterle. The Oilers spent so many draft picks on the left side that for years they didn’t really put too much effort into forwards, that’s why there are no young forwards in the system.

  • Can you guys also look at defensemen and not just scoring 20 goals? It seems when they do draft a d-man beyond the first round, he eventually gets thrown under the bus. Oilers lack in right shot d-men yet Petry and Schultz were both traded for pucks.

    • camdog

      Schultz was a college free agent. Petry was the best d-man drafted by the Oilers since the early 80’s. There were in between like Greene and Tom Poti (got curb stomped on his way out of town). You probably have to go back to Craig Muni after that for d-man drafted by the organisation. Since 1990 or earlier the Oilers are one of the worst teams at drafting and developing d-man.

    • hammer313

      Petry was confusing to me. I was one of the fans that bashed on Petry, except for his last year. Watching him that year was watching a more confident and rising player, finally I said. Then when he is playing the best hockey of his career, he is traded. I was again confused by the management, why would you trade a player that just had a breakthrough season? I think that Petry was in a contract year and I would bet he had told the Oilers he would not resign. To me they really screwed up again and should have tried to correct it. Of course, they got pennies on the dollar, again. This is the Oiler way now and come to expect it, unfortunately. Tougher every year to stay a fan. If I was a young child that liked hockey, I wouldn’t pick the Oilers as my team, if I knew the incompetence that shadows this team!

      • camdog

        They could have locked Petry up to a 4 by 4 year deal at the end of 2014, but Oilers management wasn’t convinced so they signed him to a one year deal. He would have been looking at UFA status at end of this season. After he played that last season out, his market value jumped to 5.5 million on a 5 year contract. Mactavish didn’t like the dollars on that so they traded him and Montreal gave him what he was looking for. Subsequently they gave that money to Sekera. Petry would have signed if the Oilers would have given him what he was asking for.


    Plain and simple. Tank. Period. Sell off all ufas for the best picks you can get. Maybe get lucky with more bullets in the chamber at the draft. (Even blinds squirrels find the occasional nut). Any other move is just not smart business. Edmontonians will continue to fill the seats anyway.

  • hammer313

    In the late 2000 I phoned in and sent emails for various radio stations and sites, saying the exact same thing as this article and was scoffed at by the various talk show hosts or replies to my emails. Just thought this is so gratifying for myself anyways, just to know that I wasn’t crazy. I went back to the Steve Kelly fiasco and onwards. No one listened, and really they still don’t, I even take it further and say our pro scouts are garbage! Bunch of old Oilers that either don’t care or are not good scouts. Give me a hockey coach and he’ll make a good scout. Not well to do ex-hockey players. I guess I have the last laugh, but I’m not laughing since I’m an Oiler fan and just want them to win!

  • Slipknot 8

    Trading a first overall and a second overall for Rienhart………Only to come out to try and save face by telling people they weren’t even going to draft Barzal they were looking at Ek says all you need to know about this organization, it’s scouting department and the GM…..

    • The Ghost of Alex Plante

      Little pet peeve of mine, but quit calling them “1st overall and second overall” picks, they weren’t. It was a 1st ROUND pick and a second ROUND pick. “1st overall” implies the very 1st pick in the draft and “second overall” implies the pick immediately after. Example: McDavid was chosen with the 1st overall pick and Eichel was chosen by Buffalo with the second overall pick.

      You’d think as Oilers fans we’d know a thing or two about draft picks.

      Aside from that I agree with you. This organization is downright embarrassing in almost every single thing they do. It’s humorous that the argument they weren’t going to draft Barzal could hold any weight whatsoever. It points out exactly how bad they are. They are trying to justify a mistake by saying they would have made another mistake anyways.

    • jultz=2cups!??

      Wow. Classic oilersnation changing the story. Chia didn’t trade the 1st and 2nd overall picks for gr. Wasn’t it a 16th and 32nd???????? Wow just wow. Classic oilersnation

  • Dirtbag Daddy

    In my opinion, Katz inherited the biggest idiots in any sports because of his ego to hang with the stars of hockey and he just can’t see their lack of success. It starts from the drafting history with the head scout living in Mexico. Then we had bad leadership or upper management overriding selections. How about getting a draft pick graduating and sent to the AHL. The coach won’t play him over a veteran free agent signing and therefore the prospect loses confidence and therefore does not pan out. Get rid of the coach in the AHL. There are many reasons when it comes to the Oilers not being capable of hitting home runs in the draft but the biggest one is that upper management interferes with the process and they don’t really have a clue between a good prospect and a bust. If I was Katz, I would start putting business ahead of having these former NHL stars as being buddies. Hire capable individuals that can right the ship. Is George McPhee available?

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    Can I throw some fire on this, BM? I just thought of something….The Oilers have been sellers for the last decade (Except last year). So, not only did they squander there own picks but the picks from all the rental players.

    Remember this? “Stew MacGregor, you brilliant bastard”, after the Eberle draft. Now it’s SM, you bastard.

    • camdog

      Last season they sold off an All-Star winger. I had no problem moving Hall, but I didn’t for see them trading him for a player that was a down grade on Jeff Petry.

      • hammer313

        Thought Larson was their best defenseman last year, so disagree with this. Should have gotten more, sure, but what we don’T know, is how many teams were talked to, what offers were on the table and the general view GMs had of Hall, at the time. Still think Larson is a very good RD.

        • OilersGM

          The problem is You don’t sell low, you keep your powder dry like Colorado did with Duchene and Tampa with Drouin.
          I would’ve never traded Hall period it’s obvious Chiarelli panicked and other GM’s took advantage of him same goes for the Eberle trade.
          All the cup winners built around the core not trade them away that’s how you win. The morons running this team don’t realize that it’s beyond expletive stupid.
          How do you trade Hall, 1st rd, 2nd rd, Eberle and you still don’t have a right shot D who can QB a PP. and still have a job only #becauseoilers. No other organization would even come close to tolerate this kinda a BS.
          Look at what L.A. just did and they won two cups in the last decade.
          I could honestly say 60% of Oilers fans could’ve ran this organization more professionally then this clowns.

    • hammer313

      Even a blind squirrel finds a nut…..you know how it goes. The draft is not about just one pick, it is the overall bulk of work. Hoping some of the picks from the last couple years will pan out, but they won’t if given no playing time in the AHL.

  • toprightcorner

    Too many coke machine and off the board picks. They ignored speed and skill. They changed that the last 2 seasons and skill was a focus. If you draft skill you are more likely going to get someone who will make the NHL and score some goals.

    If you want someone to score 20 in the NHL, they need to score more than 20 in juniors.

  • toprightcorner

    I believe that it was Gregor that said the Oilers AHL team currently have no forwards on the team that they drafted, that are remotely close to a call up, they have all been traded for.

    That’s pathetic

  • Goobie

    You asked, I did it. Here is a list of all 20-goal scorers (at least one season) drafted outside of the first round from 1998-2017 or inception to present day. Drafting team is only included, not the team where they scored their 20-goal seasons. We don’t differ much from other teams in 20-goal scorers, so it’s really not the best gauge of the Oilers draft ability. Where we lack is depth and talent within the pool of players drafted.

    ANA: W. Karlsson, P.A. Parenteau, T. Hunter
    ARI: None
    BOS: M. Lucic, B. Marchand, D. Krejci, K. Versteeg, P. Bergeron
    BUF: P. Byron, C. MacArthur, D. Roy, J. Pominville, A. Kotalik
    CGY: J. Gaudreau, M. Ferland, M. Lombardi, D. Moss
    CAR: S. Aho, V. Rask, E. Cole
    CHI: A. Debrincat, B. Saad, A. Shaw, B. Pirri, T. Brouwer, D. Byfuglien, T. Arnason
    COL: R. O’Reilly, P. Stastny, D. Jones, M. Svatos, R. Vrbata
    CBJ: J. Anderson (2017/18 on pace), B. Jenner, C. Atkinson
    DAL: R. Smith, J. Benn, J. Neal, L. Eriksson, J. Jokinen, A. Miettinen
    DET: T. Tatar, G. Nyquist, J. Abdelkader, J. Franzen, T. Fleischmann, V. Filppula, J. Hudler, H. Zetterberg, P. Datsyuk
    EDM: K. Brodziak, J. Stoll, M. Comrie, S. Horcoff
    FLA: V. Trocheck, D. Booth, N. Hagman
    LAK: T. Toffoli, W. Simmonds, M. Cammalleri
    MIN: J. Zucker, E. Haula, P. O’Sullivan
    MTL: B. Gallagher, G. Latendresse, M. D’Agostini, S. Kostitsyn, M. Grabovski, T. Plekanec, M. Ribeiro, M. Ryder
    NSH: V. Arvidsson, C. Smith, P. Hornqvist, M. Santorelli, S. Weber, M. Erat, D. Arkhipov
    NJD: A. Henrique, S. Gomez, B. Gionta
    NYI: A. Lee, B. Comeau, F. Nielson, R. Torres
    NYR: A. Dulair, D. Stepan, A. Anisimov, B. Dubinsky, R. Callahan, P. Prucha
    OTT: M. Stone, J. Silfverberg, M. Hoffman, Z. Smith, B. Laich, A. Vermette, C. Kelly, M. Fisher
    PHI: P. Maroon, P. Sharp
    PIT: J. Guentzel (2017/18 on pace), T. Kennedy, M. Moulson, R. Malone
    SJS: N. Bonino, J. McGinn, J. Pavelski, R. Clowe, J. Cheechoo, M. Samuelsson
    STL: D. Backes, L. Stempniak
    TBL: B. Point, N. Kucherov, O. Palat, R. Panik, B. Richards
    TML: C. Brown, N. Kulemin, V. Stalberg, A. Ponikarovsky
    VAN: J. Hansen
    WSH: M. Pettinger
    WPG/ATL: None

    • fasteddy

      Fantastic work….I scurried off and started looking too but didn’t have the patience to see it through. I suspected the results might be like this. Not saying there’s no room for improvements, but people throw around the words “draft pick” like something that is a sure thing. The reality is very, very few outside the top of the draft turn into impact players. And the second reality is virtually every team “rushes” their high first round picks. There is almost no such thing as a top 5 pick spending a year or two in the A after they finish junior. This is some fallacy concocted by us fans. The Detroit’s of the world, (where are all their impact draft picks these days?!), did have picks spending time in the minors, but that was more due to the fact they were late first and second round picks than any “model”.

  • kelvjn

    Scott Cullen’s data says a 2nd rounder has a 12% turning into a useful player (top 6F or top 4 D or 1G). This means in 7 years there is a 60% chance that at least one 2nd rounder become a useful player (1-0.88^7). The oilers had none. Below average? Probably, but they don’t have every 2nd rounder in 2010~2017.

    The chances for the later rounders becoming useful players are even more remote at 7%, 5%, 4%, 3% and 2% respectively.

    First rounders percentage is a little more tricky due to the higher end player available in the very high picks. The overall average is 34% of 1st rounder will turn into a useful player, with an average 1st rounder (10th to 20th pick) averaging 30% chance.

    Therefore, there is a 46%~50% chance an average team will not find any useful players (0.65 or 0.7 x 0.88 x 0.93 x 0.95 x 0.96 x 0.97 x 0.98) in all 7 rounds combined. It takes 2 years for a 75%~80% chance to find at least one useful player.

    Microscopically, there are 30 teams x 34% or 10.5 first rounder becoming useful player every year. Similarly, there are 3.6, 2.1, 1.5, 1.2, 0.9 useful players picked from 2nd to 7th rounds, respectively. In total, there are 20.1 useful players all team and all rounds combined. Or, each team is expect to find 2/3 of a useful player in a year (or 2 useful player every 3 years). Of the 11 useful spots (6F4D1G) in a team 0.66 players/year represents a 6% turnover by new players.

    The roster size is fixed at 23 players per team, and there are only so many development time (soft or sheltered minutes, PP time, etc) to go around. When the Oilers is consistently getting lottery picks, it uses up the 2 useful player / 3 years development quota and make the later rounder more difficult to pan out. For example, without the lottery picks, lesser talent like a Tobias Rieder might get more chance to show their stuff or getting better minutes, which is conceivable to get 3~4 goals more than the current carrier high of 16.

    Therefore, the Detroit model is nothing more than not having a high first rounder to gift soft minute to, and having to make do with later rounder fighting it out.

    By the way, 20 goal scorer is not exactly common these days. 20 goal is good enough to tie for top 86~96 in scoring in 2016-17 and 89-103 in 2015-16. These are mediocre 1st liners / very good 2nd liners.

  • Castrum

    Katz doesn’t care. You people keep giving him money. He gets his fan club with the 1980s crew hanging around, misty-eyed over forgotten glories. No sane man would have left Chia in charge by this point.

  • MrBung

    “That’s it. That’s the list. In 20 years, the Oilers have only been able to find three guys that have managed to put up 20 goals or more outside of the first round and the last time it happened was 10 years ago.”

    That makes me want to cry.