There are few moments in the life of a sports franchise that represent a true shift in fortunes. Although we all love the lore of the game, even moments that present themselves as a change in the weather don’t always work out that way. Although Edmonton won the 2015 lottery and with it that season’s draft, Peter Chiarelli traded away a lot of picks that day. In return, he acquired Cam Talbot, Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba, plus paid the ransom for hiring Todd McLellan.
As other teams plucked brilliant prospects from a generational draft, Edmonton had to wait. Now, two years later, we are seeing the results of those depth picks come into view. So far, things look bright. What should our expectations be? Scott Cullen has done the heavy lifting of looking back and figuring out expectations based on draft number and history. Let’s have a look.
- No. 1 overall: C Connor McDavid. The ultimate home run, he is delivering 1.165 points-per-game at the NHL level. Scott Cullen tells us this pick has a 100% chance of playing 100 NHL games and the ‘average’ No. 1 overall pick is a first-line forward. McDavid has already covered that bet and now it’s a matter of surrounding him with enough talent to win.
- No. 117 overall: LHD Caleb Jones. Cullen’s article suggests the expectation for a player chosen here is under NHL 50 games, with much of his career spent in the AHL or Europe. Jones has a 14 percent chance of playing 100 games. The strength of the 2015 draft and Jones fine play since he was drafted suggest he is on track to outperform the past.
- No. 124 overall: RHD Ethan Bear. Very similar to Jones in that his performance post draft has been exceptional. Ordinarily I would say these two men would go higher in a re-draft, but I haven’t looked at all of the draftees and it was a deep one. Suffice to say that historically the Oilers should be pleased with Bear (and Jones). Cullen expectation is under 50 NHL games (same as Jones) but a 16 percent chance of playing 100 NHL games. Small increase in chances over Jones is just randomness of life.
- No. 154 overall: RHD John Marino. I think Peter Chiarelli has more input into his drafts than previous general managers. Why? Increased interested in the USHL and its feeder leagues. Both Jones and John Marino were plucked from previously underused areas and both men look to be quality draft picks. Marino is now at Harvard and posted a strong season in a two-way role. Cullen’s numbers suggest he remains in the range as Jones and Bear, with 50 NHL games the average and a 15 percent chance of playing 100 or more games. I’m tempted to suggest that the reasonable view would be that one of Jones, Bear and Marino make it as NHL regulars, but I like the trio now better than Petry, Chorney and Wild a decade ago.
- No. 208 overall: G Miroslav Svoboda. Another player who has performed extremely well since draft day, the issue here isn’t the numbers, it’s quality of play in his league. We simply don’t know the level of play, but Svoboda is dominating Cze-2. Cullen says expect 10 or fewer NHL games and an eight percent chance of 100 NHL games. I don’t know that we’ll ever see him, but man he’s something else by the numbers.
- No. 209 overall: LHD Ziyat Paigin. A forever trivia answer (he was the last name to land in the Cam Talbot trade), Paigin made his reputation previous to draft day by playing solid defense in international tournaments (and the shot didn’t hurt). He is the fourth player from this draft who has signed and we’ll see how he adjusts to North America. Cullen says a player chosen here has an expectation of 10 or fewer NHL games and an eight percent chance of playing 100 or more games.
The 2010 draft taught me to understate the promise of a draft, so I will do so here. The six names chosen by Edmonton on draft day 2015 have all flourished since that weekend. The one man in the NHL is the best player in the game already, the others are matriculating. It was a great draft for sure, McDavid ensured that much. How many of these men will join him for the heart of his Oilers career? We wait.
There is a second story in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft that may become a monster in the years to come. In trading for Talbot, Reinhart, Gryba and McLellan, the Oilers sent away picks that turned into Mathew Barzal, Mitchell Stephens, Mike Robinson, Jonas Siegenthaler, Sergey Zborovskiy, Adam Huska and Christian Wolanin. Their futures will be tracked, same as Jones and Bear and Paigin, too. We wait on those stories as well.