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Rick Pracey In, Tyler Wright Out

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Photo credit:NHL.com
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
The Jeff Jackson era officially began yesterday for the Oilers when they announced Rick Pracey as their new Director of Amateur Scouting. He replaces Tyler Wright who was with the Oilers for four NHL entry drafts from 2020-2023. Wright and the Oilers made 19 picks in four years. Only two of them were in the top-30 with Dylan Holloway (14th in 2020) and Xavier Bourgault (22nd in 2021). It is too early to say if the picks were correct or not as many of the draft picks are very early in their pro careers or still in Junior or NCAA.
If we are being honest, the amateur draft is still very much a crapshoot, especially after the first 10-20 picks. Wright and the Oilers didn’t have many high picks in the past four years.
Three 1st rounders: 14th, 22nd and 32nd (Holloway, Bourgault, Reid Schaefer).
One 2nd rounder: 56th (Beau Akey).
One 3rd rounder: 90th (Luca Munzenberger).
Two 4th rounders: 100th (Carter Savoie) and 116th (Jake Chiasson).
Three 5th rounders: 126th, (Tyler Tullio), 138th (Maxim Berezkin) and 158th (Samuel Jonsson).
Five 6th rounders: 169th (Filip Engaras), 180th (Matvey Petrov), 184th (Nathaniel Day), 186th (Shane Lachance) and 190th (Nikita Yevseyev).
Four 7th rounders: 200th (Jeremias Lindewall), 212th (Maximus Wanner), 216th (Matt Capponi) and 222nd (Joel Maatta).
Only five picks in the top 100 over a four-year span. History tells us most NHL players come in the first three rounds, and if in 5-7 years a few more of these picks become NHL players, then Wright’s time in Edmonton will look good. It is too early to accurately evaluate the 2020-2023 drafts under Wright. The players are too young, and players develop and mature at different paces. Can anyone say with certainty what type of NHL player Holloway will be over the next few seasons? I can’t. We can project and offer opinions, but the truth is he is far from a finished product. He might become a regular 15-goal scorer, but he could also become a 30-goal player. Or what about Max Wanner? His development in two seasons has been drastic. He looks like he might be a steal in the seventh round, but nothing is guaranteed.
Some will say the Oilers should have drafted Dawon Mercer over Holloway. Mercer went 18th overall in 2020 to New Jersey and has had a better start to his career, no doubt. The other picks, between #14-#23, included: Rodion Amirov (RIP), Kaiden Guhle, Lucas Reichel, Braden Schneider, Shakir Mukhamadullin, Yegor Chinakov, Hendrix Lapierre and Tyson Foster.
It is easy to say Mercer has had the best start of his career, and he might be the best player when we look again in 5-10 years, but I’m leery of ripping a pick when so far only two (Schneider has had a decent start), are off to potentially better careers.
Amateur scouting is a skill, but rarely do we see a head amateur scout have great picks year in and year out. Barry Fraser’s first three drafts with the Edmonton Oilers were unreal as they produced Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Andy Moog, Grant Fuhr and Steve Smith — six Hall of Famers and two other very good players. But Fraser never came close to having the same success. I wouldn’t expect him to draft six Hall of Famers over a three-year span ever again. Since the NHL expanded to 21 teams no other team drafted close to six HHOF players in a three-year span.
But Fraser’s first round picks after 183 weren’t good. Ironically in the nine years between 1984-1992, his best first round pick was Wright. He played 613 NHL games. The other eight first rounders played a total of 290 NHL games, with Francois Leroux playing 249 of them. His best picks outside the first round over those nine years were Martin Rucinsky, Kelly Buchberger and Shaun Van Allen. It was a rough stretch.
Wright, like his replacement, Pracey, has had some good years and some not-so-good years.  Pracey has over two decades of scouting experience. He was an amateur scout with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2014-2023 and prior to that spent 13 seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, including six as the director of amateur scouting. He selected Matt Duchene (third), Ryan O’Reilly (33rd) and Tyson Barrie (64th) in 2009 — easily his best draft year. He also oversaw the first overall selection of Nathan MacKinnon in 2013 and took Gabriel Landeskog second in 2011.
I wonder if this move is more about philosophy than actual results. Jackson has a vision and a plan, and often we see changes when a new person takes over. It is like that in many businesses. The Oilers might not have a first round pick for the next few seasons. I could see Ken Holland moving his 2024 first rounder at the deadline to bolster his lineup. Pracey, Bob Green and the rest of the amateur scouting staff will need to uncover a few late round gems.
But, as many scouts have told me, there is a lot of luck involved. Projecting 17- and 18-year-olds is incredibly difficult. Even with all the new technology and more data, it is still hard to predict who will handle playing in the toughest league in the world or adapt to not dominating every night. It is why I staunchly believe the NHL should move the draft age back one year. Give scouts more time to watch players, and more importantly give players more time to develop. Some players peak at 17, 18 or 19. It happens — often. An extra year of views will help players, scouts and organizations. I’ve yet to see a good reason not to move it back. You could keep five spots open for obviously elite 18-year-olds, which is more than enough since for the past 15 years we’ve averaged just under two 18-year-olds in the NHL each year.

GETTING CLOSER…

We are two weeks away from the launch of Sports 1440. As each day passes the lineup of regular contributors is coming into view. I’m excited about the lineup we will unveil starting next Monday. I hope you will join us. Just a reminder about the station and signal.
The reality with AM signal is that higher number frequencies can have issues in certain areas. On 1260 there were spots where the signal crackled or had 630 intercept it. There will be some less-than-ideal spots for 1440 as well. I used to listen on the iHeart Radio app as the signal was better wherever I drove. The great part about 1440 is it is available on the Stingray app as well as iHeart Radio and Radioplayer Canada. As a backup, I recommend downloading one of them to your phone, especially if you drive out of town a lot and are on the road. It will improve your listening experience. For those who listen in the office at work, you can listen online at www.sports1440.ca and you will be able to watch my show Live on YouTube and Facebook. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel. 

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