The Edmonton Oilers won the 2012 draft lottery and chose the correct prospect. I say that because over the years it’s been covered, uncovered and covered back again and people never seem to remember Yak was in fact the No. 1 prospect on the board. The final Steve Tambellini draft featured three bigger men, a second Russian, a Swedish defender and an undersized kid from Burnaby. Honestly, “mixed bag” seems like the best description.
- No. 1 overall: R Nail Yakupov. It’s hard to believe his entry-level deal is complete, and it ends without a lot of fanfare. Our man Nail has shown glimpses of brilliance and there are important signs of progress (the new contract being one indication). The difficult maturation of Yakupov coincided with the difficult growing pains of a newly-formed management group and I’m fully prepared to heap blame on the suits, with enough left over for Nail to acknowledge a difficult 2.5-ish seasons in the show. I remain convinced he’ll be an impact NHL player, although it may be in a more narrow view. Among those chosen afterward (Ryan Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Reilly, Hampus Lindholm, Matt Dumba, Jacob Trouba), several are now emerging as strong players for their teams. There’s every reason to believe Yakupov will take a step forward next season, and not to be a broken record but waiting five years is a good idea. Yakupov leads his draft year in goals (42) and that should remain for the next several years, especially if he can find an EV center he can work with every game. Scott Cullen tells us there’s a 100% chance of 100 games (he’s already at 192) and the average player at No. 1 overall develops into a top-six forward trending to first-line forward. In Feb-Mar he was 25GP, 7-11-18, representing his best run since his rookie year.
- No. 32 overall: L Mitchell Moroz. One of the Oilers lightning rod selections in the second round during the Tambellini era, Moroz enjoyed a solid Draft+1 season and a quality Draft+2 that saw him blossom offensively in junior. His draft day scouting report tells us exactly what Edmonton was looking for: Redline Report: Big, edgy power forward plays an in-your-face style and looks to initiate hard contact all over the ice. A feared enforcer who picked up 20 fighting majors, yet skates and handles the puck well enough to take regular shifts. Coaches eventually rotated him into the top six to give scoring lines a boost – gives smaller, skilled linemates more room to work with his physicality. Has surprising offensive tools with a heavy snap shot. His first season in pro hockey (64GP, 5-3-8) doesn’t look like we’re seeing a top-9 forward in the making, but time-on-ice and deployment issues keep us from knowing the entire story. Among those chosen right after Moroz, Sebastian Collberg, Ville Pokka, Nicolas Kerdiles and Pontus Aberg all had superior AHL seasons—playing time no doubt having a role in their performances. Scott Cullen’s numbers tell us selection No. 32 has a 34% chance of playing 100 NHL games and the average pick at this number becomes a minor leaguer with 50+ games in the NHL. The issue with taking Moroz isn’t related to the player, from all I’ve heard and read he is a quality young man and he’s well spoken in conversation. The issue is in taking a role player (Moroz’ outer marker is a physical two-way player who can chip in offensively) at No. 32 overall and points to Edmonton’s draft for need mentality and then not playing him much. It does appear he’s getting more icetime in the last dozen games and his performances are improving.
- No. 63 overall: C Jujhar Khaira. Another big man, the sense I got out of training camp is that Khaira (and Bogdan Yakimov) had stepped ahead of some others in the organization based on management’s estimation. Khaira didn’t deliver much offense in OKC (51GP, 4-6-10) and his boxcars are a comparable for Moroz and Travis Ewanyk—the job Khaira will be applying for in the NHL (should be make it) will need a far better bat than the one he’s showing so far in his pro career. Of the group taken immediately after Khaira, Jimmy Vesey looks like a very promising prospect and MacKenzie MacEachern has progressed nicely. The 2012 draft seems a little hit and miss by the third round, perhaps reflecting the quality compared to 2011 and 2013’s editions. Cullen’s work shows a player taken No. 63 overall has a 37.5% of playing 100 NHL games and the average player at this number is a good to very good minor league who could be expected to play in 50 or so NHL games.
- No. 91 overall: L Daniil Zharkov. Russian winger was drafted out of the Belleville Bulls (OHL) and had a pretty nice resume. He struggled in his draft+1 season, trying to add to his two-way abilities while improving offensively and I’m not sure he managed to improve either. He flew the coop to the KHL in season two after the draft and played measured minutes in the KHL (49GP, 2-3-5) and then in the VHL (39gp, 4-5-9) this past season. Edmonton did not sign him last summer, don’t think they’ll sign him this year. Among those taken after, Josh Anderson has played some in the NHL but none of the players in his range (taken after Zharkov) are trending as legit NHL players. Scott Cullen’s numbers tell us selection No. 91 has a 24.5% chance of playing 100 NHL games and the average pick at this number becomes a minor leaguer with under 50 NHL games as the expectation.
- No. 93 overall: D Erik Gustafsson. Offensive minded 23-year old had a nice season in the SHL and there might be a player here. Oilers no longer have his rights, so if he ever does come over chances are it’ll be another NHL team doing the signing. An aside that really doesn’t have much importance, but finding out things about this player has been a royal pain in the ass since draft day. There are several men with the same name (not just the Flyers D) and I’ve read something on all of them. Among the five players taken after Gustafsson, Josh Anderson, Kevin Roy and Adam Gilmour are players of interest. The Cullen story goes like this: No. 91 has a 24.5% chance of playing 100 NHL games and the average pick at this number becomes a minor league player/under 50 NHL games.
- No. 123 overall: D Joey Laleggia. Offensive defender always had the puck-moving chops but reports have him improving defensively—and that will be a key. There are some things to worry over, he’s not a big guy and the NHL is a league of giant wingers, but Laleggia’s supporters are myriad and include some pretty sharp hockey minds. He went 37GP, 15-25-40 to wrap up in Denver and is 3GP, 0-1-1 in OKC as we speak. Of the five men taken directly after him, none are tracking more impressively—although Seth Griffith, taken later in the round, has played 30 games in the NHL. Cullen’s toy has Laleggia with a 16% chance of making it to 100 NHL games and average is a minor leaguer with 10-50 games in the NHL.
- No. 153 overall: John McCarron. Disappointing wrap to his college career (31GP, 4-8-12) and it’s unlikely based on boxcars the Oilers sign McCarron. He’s a big winger though, so there’s always a chance they see something—he did have some traction before this year. Among the five players taken afterward, Connor Brown really does look like a good prospect. The Cullen story goes like this: No. 153 has a 15% chance of playing 100 NHL games and the average pick at this number becomes a minor league player/under 50 NHL games.
Cullen’s list is here, and you may also enjoy ‘Harvest Moon‘ written in the moments after the draft. In that post, I quote Stu MacGregor and his reasoning behind taking Mitch Moroz, and in my opinion he reveals the flaws in drafting for need at any time in the first three rounds of the draft.
- MacGregor: “You always have to step up if there was a player you like. We liked him, we followed him and his developmental curve is on the way up. He provides some toughness, but not just toughness, he’s a good hockey player. He takes the puck to the net real hard and he shows a little bit of touch around the net. He’s only played one year of junior and I think he’s got an opportunity, with continuous development and drive, to be a good player for us.”
When we talk about draft and development, I have a very difficult time marrying that paragraph to the time-on-ice given Moroz this season in Oklahoma City. If he can’t play at the AHL level, then send him to the ECHL so he can play a lot and gain confidence. Among the things the forensics has been looking at this spring, I’m hopeful this silly practice gets put to an end with righteous fury. The scouts draft them, but you have to play these kids.