Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Friendly reminder not to rush prospects

Rushing prospects has been a thing of nature for the Oilers in the past decade. It’s not just us, every other team in the league struggles with it. Every parent who has a child even struggles with it. You always want to see your loved one playing at the best level possible, but in a lot of the cases it can and will be more detrimental to the development of your child. 

Look at me giving parenting advice, right?? Well someone who CAN give parenting advice is Mike Babcock. A video from the NHL draft in 2017 came up on Twitter again this past weekend of Babs giving some parenting advice.  He really hit the nail on the head about rushing hockey players. Have a look below:

Your so fired up about your kid playing at the higher level. What’s the matter with being the best player and having the puck all the time and getting better, and being confident? That to me is what makes sense.

We’re in such a hurry to rush these kids. They’re not ready. They’re not strong enough, they’re not mature enough. Arrive when you’r ready, be good right away. Don’t arrive and lose your confidence. When you get to the National Hockey League and you don’t score for a few years, you check for the rest of your career.

Goosebumps, anyone?

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We’ve all heard this said before, but Mike laid it out perfectly. The chances of the athlete being overwhelmed at a higher level and losing his confidence are far higher than him succeeding. Obviously there are different Mc-scenarios where a player could be more than NHL ready when drafted, but those are rare. After the draft, we have all summer to salivate over the idea of our new draft pick shaping out to be the hero we need. OF COURSE, the temptation is higher than ever when training camp comes around. The key is patience, and fighting the craving to see success in the immediate future.

It’s human nature to want to see yourself or your favourite hockey team succeed in the short term. Being patient in sports is one of the hardest things to do. Of course I wanted to see Nail Yakupov play in the NHL right off the hop and score a trillion goals in his rookie season, everyone did. Was there a gut feeling that it was a bad decision at the time? Maybe a little bit. Did it back-fire? Absolutely. And now, Nail’s NHL career could very well be over. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Evan Bouchard is a REALLY tempting situation. He’s projected as one of the lone first round defenceman who could be NHL-ready next year. We’ve only seen him in an Oilers practice jersey once, but is rushing him the right move? I’m seeing a ton of conversation online about people wanting him to make the team next year. I believe he’s going to get an extremely long look at training camp, but I’d like to think that after the past ten years, Oilers management will not take the risk on our first rounder. What do you guys think?

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The best real life example I can relate to regarding this is with Baggedmilk in NationHQ. The guy loves his colouring books but he has always entered in contests that are way over his head in difficulty. Ever since we got him colouring back at the fourth grade level where he belongs, he’s been finding success like crazy! Now he’s primed to have a long career in colouring and he’ll never lose his confidence. The day you see the smile on your large adult son finding his passion, is the day you’ll never forget.

    • That's My Point

      Nail scored MORE GOALS in his rookie season than Hall, Nuge, Ebs etc.
      He was # 1 on the OILERS!!!
      Couldn’t have been more NHL ready if he’s scoring more than the rest of the older Oilers.
      Wicked shot and great celebrations.
      The next year with Eakins is where the Oilers went backwards.

      • btrain

        True but that was the lockout shortened season, where there are less ebbs and flows. He had an unsustainable shooting % of 21, 4th best in the league at the time for guys with at least a shot/game average.

        He missed the inevitable dry spell as teams start to refine their games mid season and offense becomes harder to come by for all but the best players. The grind of a full season was also a non factor.

        Anyway I dont think the first season is a reflection of his definite readiness to step into the NHL. The coaching change was a factor but not having the maturity professionally and developmentally was also a factor; one that would likely have been better worked out at a lower level.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Yep Dallas Eakins set the entire organization back about 3 years.
        Nail Yakapov had a great season playing for Ralph Kruger. Almost all of the young Oilers regressed in th Eakins era.

  • Spydyr

    Will Katz’s kid still be showing up at the draft when he is thirty-five? When does he stop showing up? You don’t see other teams owners kids at the draft. Then again the nepotism on the Oilers is high. Like moving up to draft the goalie coaches kid.

  • C U Next Tuesday

    There’s nothing wrong with EB playing nine games. But an honest evaluation is required before gifting a roster spot. Too bad it’s either the NHL or junior…that’s the real issue.

    • Spydyr

      That is exactly why they have the age limit, to help the CHL.

      I have been saying for years to raise the draft age to nineteen It just makes sense the kid can turn pro right away. Only a handful of eighteen years olds make the show each year.

      • Reg Dunlop

        NHL draft of 18 year olds is due to the Ken Linseman legal challenge of the draft excluding a legal adult from making a living playing hockey. As long as hockey is a union shop, the draft age will be 18.

  • OilersBro

    I think also size and age plays a big factor. Keep in mind that Bouchard will be 19 when the season is starting and it’s not like he’s Yamamoto’s size.

    • Big Nuggets

      Its true he has the frame to play in the NHL which is a factor. I more worry about confidence than injury for the raw prospects. We have seen multiple guys lose confidence over the years and it really seems detrimental to development. Thats what was good about TBay when they brought along Kucherov and T Johnson and maybe Palat all together through the AHL. They won a championship and the next season they went seemlessly into the NHL. You may want to argue that they were overcooked but on the otherhand maybe that was the perfect way to do it. Kucherov was leading the league in scoring for a while last season. Does he hit that high he was in the league a season earlier and had to struggle through a loss of confidence?

      Overcook these prospects I say. We have a nice crop of talent hitting the AHL next season. I hope they stick together for a couple seasons and learn to dominate.

      As for Bouchard I assume they will give him 9 games and send him back down. Unless he just crushes points on the PP, which is possible. I more wonder if next season he makes the team or not. Management will play him if he looks even a little bit ready.

        • Big Nuggets

          oh, my bad. I thought he played a whole season. Anyway I like this group we have hitting the AHL next season and I think Yamamoto should most likely be there with them. Maybe Bouchard could be fast tracked but if its avoidable that is preferable. I think players that have the opportunity to play a season or 2 in the AHL come out with better all-around games and there confidence is not as fleeting.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Here’s my take:

    1. Have the Oilers rushes prospects, yes. Have they recently? No. Puljujarvi and Kailer both worked hard enough to earn their spots on opening night rosters.
    2. While I agree Edmonton should’ve sent Jesse back to Bakersfield earlier than they did, they handled Kailer perfectly. I think they’ll do the same with Evan.
    3. Evan is good enough to make the NHL and I think they’ll give him his 9 game tryout. Will it work out? We don’t know. But how can playing 9 NHL games hurt your development?
    4. Look at Kailer. Last year he came into camp with hopes and dreams. This year, he’s on a mission. Anybody who thinks that the Oilers putting Bouchard in the lineup for 9 games is a bad idea, needs to look at Kailer.

    • ed from edmonton

      Good points, but I would suggest that JP was in no way NHL ready during his D+1 year. However he had a substantial offer from the KHL and I think the Oil were forced to promise him at least enough NHL games to qualify as a contract year or he may not have signed and wasted a development year in the KHL.

  • 18% body fat

    move the draft age back 3 months for each of the next 4 years,

    There will be better drafting, better development, less injuries, and effectively move the prime age of the nhl back 2 or 3 years,

    • Big Nuggets

      He is ready to come in and be sheltered heavily. Is that best for his development, probably not. I could see his Power Play ability translating immediately and I would guess his defense will be not even close. I know now you are saying ‘but he has NHL size..’ but it takes far more brains than size to play in the NHL, especially defense.

      Maybe he is ready, maybe he is like Ekblad and will be good right away. I am just hoping he doesn’t get rushed because people want to beleive he is ready and not because he actually is.

  • OilCan2

    Bouchard will EARN a roster spot. Bear will be right there with him. Hello depth at RHD. PC can play his cards close to his chest this summer and wait to the last minute for a cheap veteran hire on wing or D as required.

    • ed from edmonton

      LOL. I’m wondering if there is some kind of requirement for all writers on ON to write a “don’t rush prospects” article at least twice a year. Saying prospects “shouldn’t be rushed” is nothing more than stating the obvious. The key question is understanding when young man is ready to play in the NHL. Bouchard is likely closer than almost any tenth pick to make the jump because of his age, apparent physical maturity and having played 3 years in the OHL. He must show he can help the team at the NHL level, but if he can do this he isn’t being ruched.

      Other than Jultz I would challenge anyone to point out which of the Oil’s “rushee’s” have been hurt by quick entry into the NHL? Hall, RHN, LD, McD and Yak all played in the NHL in D+1 year. Ebs, Jultz and Nurse played in their D+3 years.

      LD was terribly overmatched in his D+1 year and he didn’t help the team when forced to play a number 2 center role, but it would be hard to make a claim this has hurt his development.

      I’ll admit I am one of the world’s anti-Yak person, but I think that it would be hard pressed to make a case why his playing in his D+1 year has hurt his development. I would suggest one of his biggest problems has been he has had no development in his 5 years.

      • This article was based more off of an interesting quote from Mike Babcock that I saw. I think he makes a great point and used Bouchard as an example cause he was our most recent first round pick. Makes for good conversation imo

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Yakupov was never going to have much success whether he was rushed or not. Did Matthews not play his draft year? what does Babcock know. Guys drafted in the later rounds need to definitely perculate in Jrs or the minors but guys at the top of the draft are usually more ready. Bouchard already looks like a 30 year old he would be fine in the NHL physically.

  • camdog

    Interesting Bouchard is picked as the example. He might be more ready for his next role than JP, Bear or Yamomoto are. Those are the three players I am most concerned about being rushed going into next season. Regardless, due to the shortage of mature players on the roster there will be a kid rushed.

  • kdunbar

    I would like a cheep 3RHD PP guy who could hold the spot for a year and let Bouchard challenge him for it. Someone like Christian Folin on a 1 year deal, as a possible example, but I am sure there will be a few out there that could possibly be had for a 1M/1year deal.

  • CMG30

    Good luck Chris trying to convince this fan base. The majority have already decided that this guy is going to be on our top paring next October, despite him only having played at the junior level.

    There’s nothing wrong with giving him a cup of coffee if he earns it out of training camp but for him to stick long term he must really earn it on the ice. If he can’t or doesn’t, fans should not take it as an indication that it’s somehow a knock against the player. He’s 18 years old and by all indications has a bright future ahead of him weather or not he plays in the NHL this year or 3 years from now.

      • CMG30

        That would be the point. A huge number of expectations are out there that haven’t been thought through. The danger is that these same fans are disapointed that their crazy expectations are not met and turn on the kid. It’s a story that plays out in canadian markets every year.

  • Kevwan

    Yak is bad example to use as a player “rushed” to the NHL. He led the Oiler team in goals (and all rookies in the league) in his rookie season. It was the best season of his career by far.

  • camdog

    Bouchard will be 19 in October, he isn’t a physically immature 18 year old. We’ll have to see him in training camp, but everything says he’s more ready for a new challenge than anybody else drafted by the Oilers the last 15 years with the exception of Taylor Hall.

    I’m hoping they sign a veteran d-man and a veteran forward so that if it doesn’t work for a kids they’ll have options, but I don’t really trust Oiler management to do the right thing.

  • ed from edmonton

    Chris has an interesting take on the Yak debacle. I recall most people on this site and in Etown in general being more concerned that Yak wasn’t being given adequate opportunity rather than being rushed. Many were concerned that Yak’s spirit was being crushed.

    • camdog

      First season everybody was happy with what Yak did with Krueger. It continues to be his best year. Mid way through the year Krueger let Yak be Yak. It helped Yak put up some good numbers, but he was allowed to wander. After Krueger was fired the Eakins/Mactavish experiment not only crushed Yak’s spirit, but the entire teams.

  • Spiel

    Really surprised that management didn’t trade this pick. Chiarelli doesn’t keep his job if the team misses the playoffs this year. Scouting reports are that Bouchard’s skating is not yet at an NHL level, but it is something he can improve with time. Bouchard is most likely to make the next GM look good. Still think that Chiarelli is looking to make a big move for veteran D.

    • Big Nuggets

      I hope acquiring Bouchard has nulified any of Chia’s designs on the defense. We already have what we need either on the team or in the system. No sense in mucking it all up. Add whatever wingers we can and see what this group can do. If the team pulls together they can add someone at the deadline. If not we can ditch Sekera or Lucic and sign a shiny new toy.

    • CMG30

      Speil, please point us to those scouting reports. The main reports have his skating as average and won’t be a problem . Thats miles away from ‘not NHL level’


    If they are sheltered and have elite or solid vets surrounding them they are not rushed that’s the difference with the past oilers and now. We have way more depth and vets.
    2nd if a prospect if physically ready, elite skill and skating, dominating in junior they will likely have an easier transition to the bigs. Yak still has bad hockey IQ which is downfall and reason he cannot succeed at this level.

  • A-co

    It’s too bad that he can’t play in the AHL next year….it should be up to the team that drafts a player where that player plays the following year…if there’s nothing to gain by another year in junior put him in the AHL or some league over seas to gain experience playing against men…in his case there’s not too much to gain playing another year in junior…

  • TKB2677

    I have no problem if the Oilers keep Bouchard for the 9 games. Give him a taste of what the NHL is all about. You can tell a player what it’s like, you can tell him what he needs to work on but in my opinion until a player actually plays in the NHL and experiences the speed, size and strength, there is no way for them to fully know. Playing in preseason where established NHL vets are either not playing or half assing so ensure they don’t get hurt and going up against primarily other juniors, AHLers and lots of never will be’s doesn’t give you an accurate idea of what it takes to be an NHLer.
    After the 9 games, it all depends on how he does. Given his age, how he as already played 3 seasons in junior and already dominates, I am not so sure what another year of junior does for him. It won’t hurt him but going back to junior I believe will do nothing to develop him. Bouchard is another example of how the CHL agreement isn’t a good thing. He should be able to go to the AHL because he’s too good for junior but maybe not quite ready for the NHL.

    • ROILYDoGG$

      You are correct however if he’s already the top dog what else will he do to push himself ? Its easier to improve and get better when playing against tougher competition than playing with kids and skating circles around them, it doesn’t force them to improve just get bad habits. Why didn’t they play Mcd another year in junior ? Because he wouldn’t have gained as much or been able to push himself to the next level. Not that EB is at Mcd level but just an example.
      If he holds his own in 9 games and looks to be handling the nhl speed
      ( would be my concern) then keep him in, play him 15-20 min max on the 3rd pair and some pp time and see what happens. Hell he can be our 7th , bear should get a few games also as he looked good last year