HF’s Top 20 Prospects, Summer 2002

This is Jesse Niinimaki, who looks skinny (and is it just me, or are there maybe one or two many logo’s on the uniform?) and should have had one or two more hesburger’s before this game.

In the summer of 2002, Hockey’s Future issued their top 20 Oilers prospects. They had room for Niinimaki, but not for Fernando Pisani, and it’s a lesson we can probably all learn for this upcoming season: the first round picks (Schremp, as an example) have to prove their worth just as much as some 8th rounder the fanbase never talks about (let’s pick Tyler Spurgeon).

Here is Hockey’s Future’s Top 20 list (Dean Belanger was the author) followed by the actual NHL games since summer 2002 by prospects in the organization.

  1. Jani Rita
  2. Ales Hemsky
  3. Alexei Semenov
  4. Jesse Niinimaki
  5. Alexei Mikhnov
  6. Jeff Drouin Deslauriers
  7. Jason Chimera
  8. Jarret Stoll
  9. Brad Winchester
  10. Doug Lynch
  11. Bobby Allen
  12. Tony Salmelainen
  13. Michael Henrich
  14. Ty Conklin
  15. Kenny Smith
  16. Eddie Caron
  17. Jan Horacek
  18. Alex Henry
  19. Alexander Ljubimov
  20. Matt Greene

Here’s the GP since 2002, with players not included in the HF Top 20 in bold:

  1. Jason Chimera 288
  2. Ales Hemsky 275
  3. Fernando Pisani 268
  4. Marc Andre Bergeron 212
  5. Jarret Stoll 205
  6. Alex Henry 175
  7. Alexei Semenov 142
  8. Matt Greene 105
  9. Brad Winchester 78
  10. Ty Conklin 72
  11. Tony Salmelainen 70
  12. Jani Rita 65
  13. Bobby Allen 32
  14. Mike Morrison 29
  15. Mike Bishai 14
  16. Peter Sarno 7
  17. Chris Hajt 5
  18. Alexei Mikhnov 2
  19. Doug Lynch 2
  20. Shay Stephenson 2
  21. Adam Hauser 1
  22. Jesse Niinimaki 0
  23. Jeff Drouin Deslauriers 0
  24. Michael Henrich 0
  25. Kenny Smith 0
  26. Eddie Caron 0
  27. Jan Horacek 0
  28. Alexander Ljubimov 0

A note: Overage drafts like Jussi Markkanen and Mikko Luomo would not have been considered eligible for the list by HF standards, so I didn’t include them. The skill bias all fans have is here, as Alex Henry and Matt Greene were on the list but not considered to be among the 15 best prospects in the system at that time.

The earliest reference I can find at HF to Pisani comes from Jim Harnock, late summer 2002 in an article he wrote called Training Camp, the Forwards: “Poor Peter Sarno leads the pack for the guys who just can’t crack the roster, along with hard-working right-winger Fernando Pisani and former leading scorer of the Bulldogs, Brian Swanson.”

Guy Flaming arrived as an HF writer and details Fernando’s emergence in his year end 2002-03 piece: “March was a great month for Oiler rookies. The emergence of Fernando Pisani was as fortunate as it was unexpected. Quite often a player excels in the AHL but not at the highest pro level. Pisani, another Edmonton product playing at home, had become a fixture with the parent club since early in 2003 and had earned his way into the lineup in place of Dan Cleary. Fernando scored twice against Anaheim early in March and then notched his first career hat trick against the Washington Capitals. It was the first three-goal performance by an Oiler since 2001. Pisani had another two-goal night on April 3rd versus the San Jose Sharks.”

The same article gives the first prolonged reporting on Marc Andre Bergeron: “The trade deadline deals involving Janne Niinimaa and Ales Pisa that Lowe made opened the door for Marc-Andre Bergeron as the seventh defender. In his first couple games with the Oilers, Bergeron quickly became a fan favorite by delivering big hits and not shying away from confrontation. Bergeron had great games against the Islanders and the Flames before the season ended.”

Is there anything we can learn from Bergeron and Pisani when looking at the current prospects? Well, they performed well in 2001-02, so there was no reason (aside from pedigree) to exclude them over some of the names on the top 20 above. For instance, Pisani went 26-34-60 in 79gp and was the 4th leading scorer on the team and at 24 when the 2001-02 season started he should have qualified for the HF criteria. Bergeron didn’t deliver the kind of season we came to know him for (2-13-15 in 50gp) but did have 1-4-5 in 9 playoff games.

Are there any current Edmonton Oilers AHL prospects who aren’t in the most recent (March) HF Top 20 who we might keep an eye on beginning this fall? I don’t think there’s anyone who delivered a big minor league season who isn’t on the HF list, but here are a few candidates:

  1. D Mathieu Roy: He had excellent numbers and should be on any list of Oilers top 20 prospects. I bet Guy has him on his next list.
  2. RW Zack Stortini: Qualifies in the “Alex Henry” category, as his counting numbers are nothing special but he’s passed a few guys with better scoring results already.
  3. D Danny Syvret: I have no idea how any young defenseman in this organization can count on seeing the light of day this season, but Syvret is building some NHL experience each pro season.
  4. C Tyler Spurgeon was 5-10-15 in 34gp and he’s a guy I have heard the organization likes, but those numbers aren’t comparable to Pisani’s season (and Spurgeon was just 20 this past season).

Final notes: My list (which is a fan list, unlike Guy who talks to scouts) includes Roy right at the end but doesn’t contain the other three. Also, this isn’t meant to point a finger at anyone in particular (unless you want to make fun of my friend Dean Belanger, then go right ahead) :-) but it does reflect some of the thoughts RiversQ expressed the other day that I quoted in the Saw Him Good post.

Guys like Pisani and Bergeron are exactly the kinds of players that pedigree and “upside” don’t really do justice to, but at some point those prospects began to do did the things that led directly to winning hockey games.

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5 Responses to "HF’s Top 20 Prospects, Summer 2002"

  1. jerk clown says:

    IMO, Danny Syvret has no shot. He just doesn’t do anything to impact games at the NHL level. While he may have a career at the AHL level, he’s no better than #10 on the depth chart and there’s a lot of guys coming up behind him who are about to pass him (Peckham, Bisaillon, Young).

  2. jon says:

    There are a lot of prospects who didn’t turn out in that top 20. It really reminds you to temper your enthusiasm when you look at a list of current prospects. There’s a lot of potential there but as always it’s exceedingly difficult to project the abilities of 18 or even 20 year old players.

    In my opinion Syvret is an AHL player for life. He just doesn’t have the quality to be an NHL defender, and his lack of size really hurts him even further.

    Spurgeon on the other hand is a guy whose name just keeps coming up and won’t go away. He’s probably my pick for the next Pisani-type emergence, as he’s still a very young guy and despite not having great counting numbers yet, reports from the A suggest he could be a player.

  3. Lowetide says:

    I hear you guys re:Syvret, but he has played 26 NHL games already which would put him 15th on the 2002 list.

    There were 7 guys on that 2002 HF list who didn’t play a game, and another 7 who played less than 82 career games (or at least so far).

    Amazingly, of the 6 prospects who did play more than 82 career games (and were on the HF top 20), HF ranked them:

    7. Jason Chimera
    2. Ales Hemsky
    8. Jarret Stoll
    18. Alex Henry
    3. Alexei Semenov
    20. Matt Greene

  4. James L. says:

    Can we please trade Matt Greene for a bag of Doritos and let someone else play in his place?

  5. Mr DeBakey says:

    Danny Syvret

    During the 20 games from Hell,
    MacTavish said something about
    how some of the young guys were distancing themselves – showing themselves to be unready – from the NHL.

    I think Syvret was one of them

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