Coke Machines

In the early part of the decade, the Edmonton Oilers spent at least one pick per season on a big forward. These men routinely belonged in the 4th or 5th round but the Oildrop plucked them 50 slots earlier in order to make certain they’d be Oilers.

Size mattered.

After that, Edmonton bought into the idea that the new world order of the NHL meant smaller, more skilled men who would have more room to make plays. Just like the French in World War Two, the Oilers seem to have their cannons pointed in the wrong direction at critical moments. The Coke Machines (Zack Stortini aside) never landed on the beaches of Normandy. Allow me to list the men I’m talking about:

  • 2000-#35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210.
  • 2001-#52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230.
  • 2002-#79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199.
  • 2003-#51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190.
  • 2003-#68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217.
  • 2003-#94-RW Zach Stortini, 6’4, 225.
  • 2004-#57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207.

Chris Vande Velde was drafted in 2005 (and there have been others since then) but I’d say these are the men who represent the Golden Era of the Oilers Coke Machine drafts. Brad Winchester is 183 games into an NHL career that has never looked stronger; Eddie Caron is working hard at refrigerator college; Brock Radunske is playing hockey in South (whew!) Korea; Colin McDonald is still trying to hit a curve ball in the minors, JF Jacques is infuriating but impossible to ignore, Zack Stortini is a useful (if limited) NHL player and Geoff Paukovich hit some guy named Greentree in a training camp game against Calgary last fall.

The Oilers may decide to add some size and grit in the draft, since GM Steve Tambellini has expressed it’s an organizational need.

This year’s model? Gavin Hartzog (in photo). He’s a RW. 6’3, 215. He goes to Marquette High School and will be attending Wisconsin (NCAA). His favorite sports team is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but other than that he looks like a winner. Here’s some things about him:

  • he was named the MVP of the highly scouted Chicago Showcase tournament last month.
  • he scored 23 goals in 21 games as a senior for Marquette University High School, then added seven goals and two assists in five games for Team Wisconsin at the Chicago Showcase.
  • Hartzog: “In high school, it was a little easier to score goals, I think, than it will be at the next level. I’ll just have to see where I fit in as a team player. Down in Chicago, it seemed like I was a goalscorer. But if the Badgers need me to be a grinder, I’ll be a grinder. Whatever fits.”

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48 Responses to "Coke Machines"

  1. Schitzo says:

    Off topic, but it looks like two more years of the Marty Party in Atlanta. Good for him.

  2. Psyche says:

    Ouch on the Blue Bombers comment! lol.

    I am curious how the role of a grinder compares between the NCAA and Major Junior. Can anyone fill me in?

  3. Mr. Bugg says:

    Hartzog's definitely a player who fits the bill. Brooks Herrington from New Hampshire of the EJHL is another.

    -We know they look at the Eastern Junior circuit (see: McDonald, Colin)

    -He NH in goals, then lead the league in post-season scoring.

    -Biggest flaw: Skating.

    -Same size as Hartzog.

  4. Deano says:

    Too bad Lucic was only 12 years old in 2000. That's who the Oil (and everyone else) were looking for.

    I have hope that JFJ is ready for the GlenX spot with Brodz and Storts.

  5. speeds says:

    Anyone think one of Ashton, Budish, Kassian, or Klingberg last until 40 OV? If the Oilers take a Russian flyer later, maybe Burdasov if he sticks around for awhile?

  6. Jon says:

    If we are talking about a highschool player from the states then I am thinking:

    1. If we trade down in 1st round Chris Kreider…all reports rave about him as a potential top 10 if he played against decent comp

    2. Ben Hanowski…in 31 games he scored 73 goals and 62 assists…what??? all reports have him a sure fire 1st rounder if he played in a different league but since it is highschool he is rated to a 2nd or third round. If he is still around come round 3 we better jump at him. Could be the steal of the draft.

  7. jdrevenge says:

    JF was starting to show a little more towards the end and i was hoping he'd be skating with Storts a little more. They looked good together.

    As an aside … Have the Oilers been posting articles like this alot over the past few days. I've kind of been asleep at the wheel… Took a look at the NHL site but couldnt find it there so I guess they're telling us who they're high on in advance? Any thoughts?

  8. Gerta Rauss says:

    What round do you think these guys will go in…?

    Are these 1st round prospects..or much later in the draft?

  9. Lowetide says:

    Gerta: A kid like Hartzog should go late, very late. Last round.

  10. Fake Craig McTavish says:


    Where on earth did you find that pic?

    Awesome stuff.

  11. Ribs says:

    Damn Coke machines. Let's skip wasting the pick and just give Mikhnov his one-way for a season.

  12. Bar Qu says:

    I remember working construction with a kid once who told me he was going to some sort of tryout camp with the Hitmen that summer. Dude was solid and i could tell had a mean streak on the ice. But he was shorter than me (even if he could fight) and a bit slow. I don't remember what happened to him as far as hockey goes, but I assume it didn't work out because he was still working construction when I went back to school.

    My point is, I think there are a ton of guys out there who aspire to coke machine-ness in the NHL/AHL. I agree that there is some interesting possibilities in this draft, but if they can't skate, score or think, then late round picks are all they are worth.

  13. PunjabiOil says:

    This is encouraging – from the Oilers site

    So, who will it be? The only thing the Oilers are saying for sure is that it won't depend on position.

    "You have to take the best player available with your first round pick; you can't do it any other way," says Stu MacGregor. "You can't bypass talent because you don't know where your organization is going to be 3, 4 or 5 years from now. You don't want to bypass quality because of (a player's) position.""

  14. Lowetide says:

    Except we don't really know what BPA is under this admin. MacGregor plucked a sniper in rd 1 last year and frankly the entire draft is tracking extremely well one year out (a big, mean teenager from Sweden who has played in the SEL and is on his way to the AHL; Cornet who is clearly better than his draft number, and the big Finn Hartikainen is looking very good).

    But, what is BPA now? Are we certain that Tambellini hasn't told the scouting staff to grab a coke machine?

  15. PunjabiOil says:

    Well Tambellini has himself stated that they'd like a big player if he's the best player, but ''you can't manufacture talent'

    In Sunday's journal, Tambellini was quoted as saying that you don't draft for need because the team may not be in the same position 3 or 4 years down the road.

    I'm not worried whatsoever that the Oilers will select a guy like Kassian. I wouldn't be the least surprised if they draft Schoerder or Ellis.

  16. Yeti says:

    If they grab a coke machine with a late pick, I don't think there could be any objections. Looking at the list between 2000-2004, only one (Stortini) has convincingly passed the pepsi challenge, but that's an acceptable success rate given how low many of those picks were. JFJ is the obvious one where more can be expected – perhaps this is his breakout season if his back holds up. He needs to come into camp with some real fizz.

  17. Black Dog says:

    Oh Yeti.


  18. Black Dog says:

    LT, you're like the speed bump for my brain; I wish you were around when I asked that girl when her baby was due and it just turned out that she was, um, a little pudgy.

    You should hire yourself out. You'd make a killing.

  19. Smarmy Boss says:

    An American High Schooler? He'd just Wheeler us.

    If you want a coke machine then stick with WHL boys. They git'r done.

  20. DBO says:

    Since Coke machines seem to take longer to develop, doesn't it make more sense to let someone else draft them, and then trade for them or make an offer sheet for them once they get better. Penner obviously not the best example, but draft BPA and use those assets to acquire a more polished and veteran coke machine. Don't get me wrong, you can still draft them, but making a play for them in their mid 20's seems a more prudent strategy. They've been mentioned before, but guys like Clowe, Armstrong, etc. have enough at bats in the bigs to go out and get, and you can reasonably predict what you are getting.

  21. Traktor says:

    Tambellini was on board when Vancouver went to Phillips Academy to find Cory Schneider in the first round.

    The 6'2 14th ranked Chris Kreider also played at Phillips Academy this year.

    Some teams will be turned off because of the level of competition but if Tambellini isn't then Kreider could be a good bet at 10th overall.

  22. Mr DeBakey says:

    making a play for them in their mid 20's seems a more prudent strategy.
    Winchester is available.
    I never quite understood why MacT hated the guy so much.

    He'd look OK on the LW with Halpern & Pisani.

  23. Nennog says:

    Heatley coming home solves more than a few problems. Obviously not a grinder, but a bigger body, a great shot, etc. This seems like a good possibility, even with a few of our bigger bodies going back east. Jacques and / or Pouliot would seem like logical pieces, in addition to an Eberle or Omark plus.

  24. shep says:

    heh, check this out:

  25. spOILer says:

    TSN has Heatley asking for trade too. BIIIIGGG contract though.

    Radio reporting Brent Sutter has resigned from the Devs, but I see no weblink yet.

  26. Dave says:

    Gilbert, Cogliano, 10th for Heatley?

  27. Coach pb9617 says:

    There's no way that Heatley works here at all. The amount of salary they'd have to move makes it impossible.

    Even if Tambellini is a magician and can move Souray and Cogliano for Heatley, he'd have to get rid of one of Moreau/Nilsson and one of Penner/O'Sullivan.

  28. gogliano says:

    Well, judging from the pics on his site, it looks like Paajarvi's stats were boosted from playing while on fire. I don't think they allow that in the NHL, so I'd be hesitant to waste a pick on him given our uncertainty regarding how much being on fire has a bearing on performance.

  29. rider guy says:

    Interesting possibilities with Heatley. Yes, he'd cost a lot, both in terms of $'s and assets, but he'd solve the one shot scorer problem for the next several years and I think that the Oilers and Sens are a pretty good match to make a deal like this. From what little I've watched of the Sens in the last 2 years, their biggest problem is the inability of their back end to move the puck to their forwards, much like the Oil in 06-07. We've got a surplus of puck movers on the back end obviously. Would Gilbert plus the 10th pick be in the realm of a reasonable price for Heatley? Or Gilbert + a young forward who's established (13 or POS) so that Ottawa doesn't take a big step back.

  30. spOILer says:

    Coach I would think that Penner would have to be part of any deal going back… Sens would want an LW, and we would need to free that salary.

    Penner + Nilsson, with maybe a mid-pick?

    Sens are in tough if the rumour is true because of Heater's cap hit and he could probably be had for less than normal trade value accordingly. That's my guess anyhoo.

  31. Coach pb9617 says:

    Gilbert, Cogliano, 10th for Heatley?

    It's not enough cap moving out.

    Souray, Cogliano, Petry and a second?

  32. Coach pb9617 says:

    Penner + Nilsson, with maybe a mid-pick?

    If Tambellini can pull that off, I'll name every future child, grandchild and pet "Steve Tambellini"

  33. spOILer says:

    Coach, I gotta think Sens won't want much salary coming back condidering their cap situation. They'd likely like a high level prospect though.

  34. Coach pb9617 says:

    spOILer, the trade can't happen without the Oilers moving a huge amount of cap space and if Ottawa can't take it, a third team would have to be involved.

  35. speeds says:

    Gilbert, Cogliano, 10th for Heatley?
    Too much to pay, IMO. Just the kind of deal that I'm a bit /worried about

  36. Moose says:

    What we don't know in all this is if Heatley has given Murray the freedom to make a deal with anybody who will take the salary or if he's given him a list of teams and/or parameters (western conference, contenders, etc.) He has an NMC.

    You'd have to think if a player wants out of a particular situation, then he wants to choose his next destination to some extent? Edmonton?

    Effectively what this does is take whoever gets him out of play for a big ticket UFA (Gaborik, Hossa, Havlat, Bouwmeester) or a Lecavalier trade.

  37. kanadienkyle says:

    Dont get too excited about Hartzog. He is big, played in Fargo (USHL) this year but couldn't regularly crack that lineup.

  38. kris says:

    No doubt Heatley's great.

    But I'd bet Ottawa would say Hemsky or no deal.

    I'd do that deal, but I can see a bunch of reasons not to.

    First, even though Heatley is the better scorer, of course, it looks like he gave up a lot this year PVP.

    Second, as noted, his cap hit is a monster.

    And third, he's a little older than Hemmer at 28. He doesn't fit the Gagner/Cogliano youth movement as well as Hemmer.

    However, I'm not sure if Heatley's poor GAON 5×5 numbers are a result of playing with Spezza. What do you guys think, do they show he gives away a lot playing PVP? (How would he do with Horc? How would Hemsky do with Spezza?) This is where I get hung up.

    There are some other things in Heatly's favor; even though Heatley isn't that physical, he's a little bigger. That might make him a better fit to play with Gagner/Cogliano in a year or so. But that's just a guess.

    And 28 isn't exactly ancient. We've talked about the need for players in their prime here before.

    Finally, we could shed the salary to make him fit. You move 4 million out with Hemsky. Then you move Penner out for a decent low paid 3rd line center and a pick (1.5 million or so) and move Cogs to the wing. At any rate, there's a lot of salary on this team that's moveable with some effort, IMO.

  39. Gerta Rauss says:

    Small ball indeed speeds…

    this is the kind of big ticket item that Tambo may go after,and that may not be the best plan of action

    i'm kind of hoping we don't pursue him,and if we do,i'll have both eyes closed and fingers crossed

  40. HBomb says:

    Forget Coke Machines. Today's discussion is about a different applicance.

    Heaters. Like the one who just requested a trade out of Ottawa….

  41. PDO says:

    One of Penner/Staios/Moreau/Nilsson would have to go the other way in any trade for Heater.

    If we're lucky, two.

  42. hunter1909 says:

    I haven't got a lot of mathematical talent, and so must stfu when reading about the incredible technical developments in measuring performance in hockey players. On the other hand, words are something which to me have as much power as bullets on a battlefield.

    Oiler fans for years have been forced to talk about the team as if those running the org were incompetant. Kind of like the sailors in Mister Roberts talking about their lunatic captain.

    There's just this palpable sense of terror, when you read between the lines of the majority of posts on this and other message boards.

    All the more reason to stand up and rejoice at the passing of the old guard, who talked the talk but when all was said and done were clearly out of their depth as big league sports managers.

  43. Master Lok says:

    To get Heatley, how about Penner + Gilbert? Is that enough cap space moving both ways? And I'm thinking that Ottawa is probably looking for another puck mover defenseman, unless they think that Campoli is the only solution they need.

  44. R-Gib says:

    Heatley and Campoli for Gilbert, Nilsson, Penner. Throw in Schremp just for the hell of it.

    Book it ;P

  45. Gandalf The Red says:

    LT, you are a year late on your data for Gavin Hartzog. All that happened 12 months ago, he played for the Fargo Force of the USHL last season and will be there again this season before coming to UW.

    kanadienkyle, not sure where you get your information, Gavin played in 46 of 60 regular season games, I wouldn't call that having a hard time cracking the lineup. Only missed one game in the playoffs. Stats weren't great, but he'll improve next year.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Gavin suffered an ankle injured around mid-season and missed several games.
    He actually played in all of the post-season games even though the stats don't reflect it.

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