“Number 11 is Mark Messier. Of all the factors that have turned the Oilers around in the last few weeks, from the trades to the midnight raids in Hartford, none has been more important than Mark (Messier’s) decision to apply himself. The reckless abandon of the early months had now turned into a controlled fury on the ice, and in many games he was the Oilers’ most exciting player. He kills penalties and adds zest to the powerplay. Although he has been converted from a center to left wing on Matti (Hagman’s) line, Sather still sends him out for critical faceoffs, and it is a favorite ploy to send him out with, for example, Stan Weir, then have Stan deliberately mix it up with the opposing center, get waved off by the referee and hand over the faceoff duties to Messier to take against another winger. So many of the other youngsters take their moods from him that there are those who believe he will one day be captain of the Oilers.
-Peter Gzowski, The Game Of Our Lives (Spring 1981)
The Oilers 1979 and 1980s drafts may be the best two-year cluster by any one team in the league’s history. Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson is insane. Follow that with Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Andy Moog and that’s all she wrote. Each year I do a “Games Played” comparison of Entry Drafts by the Oilers, with a five year window as the “line in the sand.” Five years isn’t really enough to get a complete picture of a specific year, but it’s a clear indicator of success, since everyone is 23 or older by that time.
Here, by games played, are the Oilers drafts (first 5 years).
- 1980-1,056 (Paul Coffey-394, Jari Kurri-363, Walt Poddubny-157, Andy Moog-142)
- 1979-1,052 (Kevin Lowe-383, Mark Messier-375, Glenn Anderson-290, Mike Toal-3, Blair Barnes-1)
- 1993-602 (Jason Arnott-321, Miro Satan-217, Ilya Byakin-57, Alex Kerch-5, Nick Stajduhar-2)
- 2001-471 (Ales Hemsky-275, Jussi Markkanen-128, Ales Pisa-53, Kari Haakana-13, Doug Lynch-2)
- 1996-466 (Tom Poti-230, Boyd Devereaux-230, Matthieu Descoteaux-5, Chris Hajt-1)
- 1981-440 (Grant Fuhr-211, Gord Sherven-84, Marc Habscheid-80, Steve Smith-57, Todd Strueby-5, Paul Houck-3)
- 1994-439 (Ryan Smyth-269, Mike Watt-89, Jason Bonsignore-79, Ladislav Benysek-2)
- 1989-414 (Anatoli Semenov-240, Josef Beranek-146, Peter White-26, Darcy Martini-2)
- 1991-406 (Martin Rucinsky-241, David Oliver-124, Tyler Wright-41)
- 1999-361 (Mike Comrie-241, Alexei Semenov-92, Jani Rita-15, Tony Salmelainen-13)
- 1982-345 (Jaroslav Pouzar-186, Raimo Summanen-142, Steve Graves-14, Jim Playfair-2, Deane Clark-1
- 1983-322 (Esa Tikkanen-191, Jeff Beukeboom-117, John Miner-14)
- 1992-286 (Kirk Maltby-236, Ralph Intranuovo-22, Joaquin Gage-18, Joe Hulbig-6, Marko Tuomainen-4)
- 1987-235 (Geoff Smith-207, Peter Eriksson-20, Igor Vyazmikin-4, Shaun Van Allen-2, Tomas Srsen-2)
- 1998-229 (Shawn Horcoff-188, Alex Henry-41)
- 1995-213 (Georges Laraque-126, Steve Kelly-86, Mike Minard-1)
- 1984-186 (Todd Ewen-121, Emanuel Viveiros-29, Selmar Odelein-18, Simon Wheeldon-11, Daryl Reaugh-7)
- 1985-164 (Kelly Buchberger-140, Scott Metcalfe-19, Mike Ware-5)
- 2000-153 (Matt Lombardi-134, Brad Winchester-19)
- 1988-63 (Shjon Podein-40, Francois Leroux-11, Len Barrie-9, Trevor Sim-3)
- 1986-31 (Ron Shudra-10, Dan Currie-5, David Haas-5, Jim Ennis-5, Kim Issel-4, Mike Greenlay-2)
- 1997-16 (Michel Riesen-12, Jason Chimera-4)
Although 5 complete seasons haven’t yet passed for 2002-2007, here are the counting numbers for each of those seasons:
- 2002-313 (Jarret Stoll-205, Matt Greene-105, Mikko Luoma-3)
- 2003-160 (Marc Pouliot-54, JF Jacques-44, Zack Stortini-29, Mathieu Roy-17, Kyle Brodziak-16)
- 2004-16 (Bryan Young-15, Rob Schremp-1)
- 2005-26 (Danny Syvret-26)
The 2001, 2002 and 2003 drafts are the interesting recent ones, with ’04-’07 not yet coming into focus. The 2001 draft with Hemsky is the 4th most successful draft in Oilers history by this measure, and certainly Hemsky alone makes it the best one in some time (probably 1994). 2002 has one more year before the 5-year mark, and with Greene and Stoll regulars a total around 450 seems possible. 2003 has two more years, and with 5 guys possibly getting at-bats over the next two years I’d say it should end up being one of the 10 best in organization history. So far, 9 of the Oilers draft years have seen 400+ games in the NHL in the five total seasons after draft day.
A few other notes:
- The ’93 and ’94 drafts should have set this team up for a long time.
- The ’99 draft was supposed to be a strong one but so many things went wrong for pretty much everyone in that Oilers draft.
- It’s amazing how many of these kids get derailed by injury. The memory fades but when you line these kids up like this then things begin to come into view again. From Selmair Odelein to Doug Lynch to Dan Baum and more, the Oilers have had a lot of players whose careers just ended one day (or they were far less effective). I’m certain it’s the same for all organizations, and it isn’t an excuse, but man that’s an expensive hit when a valuable pick has his career end in the prospect stage.
- I cannot imagine a draft year like 1979 or 1980 ever happening again. Rich, deep and both had an immediate impact. That was an expansion team, but still those players were quality.