Drafting is anything but a perfect science.
And when it comes to predicting the longterm development of young-adult and teenage hockey players, it’s a lot more common for teams to land on a bust than a steal. Through all the letdowns, however, there’s always the hope that an unexpected talent will rise up from the ashes of the mid-to-late rounds to become a key contributor in an everyday NHL role.
Edmonton, like all franchises, have had their fair share of busts and their overall track-record at the draft is an unenviable one — but the organization has also had its shining moments on selection day, with many mid-round steals contributing to the team’s five Stanley Cups and some others playing big roles in the Oilers’ improbable march to the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
Draft-day thievery has brought some of the franchise’s all-time greats to Edmonton, while some were traded before reaching their true potential. Here’s a look at some of the Oilers’ best picks.
Andrew Cogliano. Despite going No. 25 overall in the 2005 draft and posting solid numbers (146 points) in four full seasons with Edmonton, the durable winger was flipped to Anaheim in 2011. That doesn’t take away from the value Cogliano has provided as a late first-round pick, as the now 30-year-old has missed only two career games and put together the fourth-longest ironman streak in NHL history. He’s recorded more career points than 20 of the 24 players selected ahead of him.
Shawn Horcoff. Though he was primarily viewed as a solid, speedy, defensive/two-way centre, only 10 players chosen before the No. 99 (fourth round) overall pick in 1998 finished their career with more points than Horcoff. He spent 12 seasons in Edmonton, suiting up for just shy of 800 games and captaining the Oilers for three seasons before being flipped to Dallas in 2013.
Ryan Smyth. One of the league’s great love stories began with the Oilers’ sixth overall selection of Ryan Smyth, who went on to record 631 points and play just shy of 1,000 games during his two stints in Edmonton. The longtime heart and soul of the Oilers and one of the best PP specialists of the last two decades, Edmonton was lucky to acquire Smyth with the No. 6 overall pick in 1994 after burning the fourth overall pick on Jason Bonsignore.
Jason Arnott. The No. 7 selection in 1993 carved himself an exceptional NHL career, which included 1,244 games and 417 goals over 18 seasons. Arnott spent the first four seasons of his career in Edmonton and was close to a point-per-game player (239 in 286) during that time. Paul Kariya, selected at No. 4 that year, is the only player in the entire ’93 draft class to finish with more career points than Arnott’s 938.
Miroslav Satan. Later in that same draft, the Oilers got an absolute steal in Miroslav Satan with the 111th overall pick. After being flipped to Buffalo during his second NHL season, Satan went on to become one of the best players in Sabres history and finished his career with over 1,000 games played. Only five of the 110 players chosen ahead of him in the ’93 draft finished with more career points.
Esa Tikkanen. The 80th overall pick in 1983 is the eighth-highest scorer from that draft class and was a central figure during each of the Oilers five Stanley Cup championships. Tikkanen spent the majority of his career in Edmonton where he posted 436 points in 522 games and blossomed into one of the better two-way forwards of his era.
Jari Kurri. Selected No. 69 overall (nice) in 1980, Kurri was also a staple during the Oilers’ five Stanley Cups in the 80’s and early 90’s. The Robin to Wayne Gretzky’s Batman for much of his time in Edmonton, Kurri posted more than 90 points in eight of his 10 seasons with the Oilers, was a five-time All-Star, and is a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.
Mark Messier. One of the all-time greats slipped to the third round of the 1979 draft, where the Oilers happily scooped up their future captain at No. 48 overall. The Hall of Famer and two-time Hart Trophy winner ranks eighth all-time in goals and only behind Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr with 1887 points. Messier won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton and added a sixth with the Rangers in 1994.
Glenn Anderson. Yet another No. 69 overall pick (nice), Anderson is also a mid-round steal who was a key contributor to the Oilers’ five Cups. He spent 12 seasons in Edmonton and was over a point-per-game player (906 in 845) during his time with the team. He finished with over 1,000 career points and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.
Any steals that I missed, got wrong, or totally botched? Slide into the comments and chime in.