The 2012 Entry Draft should have been a productive one for the Edmonton Oilers. The club won the draft lottery, moving up from No. 2, and that meant the same team would draft first overall for three years in a row. The Edmonton organization was not strong at that time, with management structure fluid and decision making in a state of flux based on reporting.
- Mark Spector: Head amateur scout Stu MacGregor would ask the scouts to vote, and then he would leave the room. He’d come back with some alternate criteria to describe the type of player the Oilers wanted to choose, and they’d vote again. Every time, the vote came back the same. Nine votes for defenceman Ryan Murray, and two for Nail Yakupov. Truth be told, one of those Yakupov votes had started as a vote for Alex Galchenyuk, then morphed into support for Yakupov. Source
- No. 1 overall: R Nail Yakupov. Through 3.44 seasons with Edmonton, he averaged only 32 points per 82 games played. He has talent but hasn’t developed without the puck and hasn’t earned the trust of the coach. I think Nail has the desire to be a responsible player but the attention to detail is lacking. No longer Edmonton’s problem, he was a major miss as a No. 1 overall selection. I said he was the right pick at the time, I’m not going to back off now. McKenzie on Yakupov draft week 2012: “8 of the 10 scouts I talked to said he is the #1 prospect in the draft.” Still, a searing miss and a memorable disappointment.
- No. 32 overall: L Mitchell Moroz. Moroz was ranked No. 56 by Bob McKenzie, but the Oilers clearly felt they couldn’t wait for No. 63 to grab him. As was the case with Yakupov, I think drafting Moroz this high did the player no favors. He enjoyed a very productive junior career but didn’t get a lot of play early in his AHL career. Peter Chiarelli had no attachment to Moroz (or Yakupov), so dealt him off for another 2012 selection in Henrik Samuelsson. Moroz signed with an ECHL team over the summer.
- No. 63 overall: C Jujhar Khaira. Khaira is a successful third-round selection, the first sign of hope in the 2012 draft for the Oilers organization. Although injury impacted his 2016-17 season, it’s clear the big forward did enough during his entry-level deal to warrant another contract and (probably) a roster spot this fall. He is a player to watch as a LW, Edmonton needs youngsters pushing the veterans at the position.
- No. 91 overall: L Daniil Zharkov. Russian winger will forever be known as having a brilliant sense of humor. On his draft weekend he announced he’d be better than Yakupov, but the ensuing years have been been unkind. Made a surprise appearance with Bakersfield that turned out badly as he tore the ACL in the same knee that forced him out of action the previous season. Absolutely up in the air as a prospect, elite prospects does not yet list him with a team for the 2017-18 season.
- No. 93 overall: D Erik Gustafsson. This was a really nice pick. Gustafsson has basically covered his draft bet, he has been effective in the NHL and AHL since signing with Chicago. Sweden is in a golden age for defenders, so grabbing one every year is a good idea. I wish Edmonton had signed him but glad he made it all the way to the NHL. Ranks No. 2 behind Yakupov in NHL games from this draft.
- No. 123 overall: D Joey Laleggia. He had a pretty strong AHL debut, posting 27 points in 63 games. The coach gave him playing time too (estimated 18:50). Laleggia is an older prospect—turned 25 in June—so his time is now. A new development last season (moved to LW from LHD) has elevated his status as a prospect. Important not to get ahead of ourselves here, but goal-scorers are rare talents.
- No. 153 overall: John McCarron. He signed a pro deal and scored well in the ECHL, so there’s some traction for him as a pro player. He’s 25, so we’re not talking NHL potential but McCarron could have a pro career.
MAKING THE CALL
I believe in waiting five years to make a call on drafted players, and on a team’s overall draft year. For 2012, it was a very poor draft for Edmonton, especially considering the club had the No. 1 overall selection. In saying that, the club was in a tough spot at No. 1 overall and for me made the right call (going for the potential home run). The club has had a difficult time in the second round because (previous to Peter Chiarelli’s arrival) there was a willingness to leave skill on the table and draft possible checkers and defensive defensemen. I believe that tendency is no longer a part of the draft template but the Oilers are still paying for past sins.
The “lottery ticket” portion of the 2012 draft worked out well. Jujhar Khaira looks like he’ll have an NHL career in a bottom 6F role and Erik Gustafsson could also help in a support role. Joey Laleggia is an intriguing curio, maybe he will help this draft’s final score. Success has a thousand fathers. As it stands no, this draft is an orphan.