Sunday Minor League Report

Hockey’s Future has now completed its Fall 2007 Organizational Rankings. It is an extremely difficult process I’m sure, and is the closest equivalent to the beauty Baseball America lists I used to cherish before the great game died in 1994 summer.

I’m not quite certain HF is accurate, though. One of the wonderful things about BA’s survey was that they talked to scouts from the Expos AS WELL AS other scouts in regard to Montreal’s best. So when you heard about Vladmir Guerrero coming down the pipeline you knew he was something special, but BA also told me that Casey Candaele could be a useful role player because they’d done their homework with the Expos’ scouts AND people outside the organization in MLB.

No matter who does them, hockey lists have a tendency to reflect draft position and hope. I’m not being critical of any specific list, my top 20 is probably the ultimate example of it (although I try to throw math, logic and comps into the mix). I think there’s just too much we’re all missing, things that allow us to worship at the feet of Jani Rita and then look on in shock and awe when the coach sends him out there with Scott Ferguson on the opposite wing.

On the other hand, no prospect blog or site I can name had 5 words on Fernando Pisani while he was in college. Drafted in 1996, HF has a prospect report from October of 1997 that talks about 4 rookies who made the grade out of camp (Boyd Devereaux, Steve Kelly, Joe Hulbig and Dennis Bonvie) and several kids bubbling under. This includes the best goaltending tandem in the AHL (Steve Passmore and Jean-François Labbe), Dan Lacouture, Michel Riesen and Chris Hajt. I didn’t read HF at the time but am familiar with all of those names save for Labbe and can say those were the people I followed as an Oiler fan at the time.

No mention of Pisani.

An April 1999 article updating the top 15 Oilers prospects also has no mention of Fernando Pisani. The 15 players listed are (in order) Michel Riesen, Michael Henrich, Georges Laraque, Steve Passmore, Fredrik Lunqvist, Mathieu Descoteaux, Alexandre Fomitchev, Chris Hajt, Chad Hinz, Peter Sarno, Paul Comrie, Jason Chimera, Alex Henry, Brad Norton, Adam Copeland. As with almost every prospect list then or now, the first rounders are usually at the top no matter how crappy they play. Hope springs eternal. In the system at that time and not mentioned would be Shawn Horcoff and Fernando Pisani, but this is a much better list than the October 1997 list mentioned above.

In the fall of 2000, the Edmonton Oilers experienced a watershed season in terms of players entering the system. Mike Comrie, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani and others entered the pro ranks and had immediate and long lasting impact on the organization. A February 2001 2-part article from HF on Oilers prospects lists everyone but again misses Pisani (despite a detailed list).

In January of 2002, HF finally mentions Pisani. The writer (it may have been Jim Harnock, who lived in Hamilton and wrote some nice things for HF over the years) said Fernando was “Ethan Moreau with hands. Drives the net regularly, but needs to bulk up his 6’1″ frame to become more of an obstacle (currently 185 lbs.). Current stats: 16-25-41 and +18 in 46 GP. GRADE: B-”.

It is most definitely Harnock who in April of 2002 writes “25 Fernando PISANI LW (26-34-60): After a 25-point rookie season, the Edmonton native established himself as a legitimate pro hockey player in 01-02, playing on the Bulldogs’ first line with Swanson and Chimera. Pisani spent a lot of his ice-time right around the blue paint of the opposing goal crease and played a big role on the Hamilton PP, where he scored 11 of his 26 goals.”

Finally, in June of 2003 in an article reviewing the 2002-03 Oilers’ rookies, Guy Flaming writes: 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.

For some reason HF doesn’t have their old top 20s anywhere (at least that I can find), but I do not recall him on any lists. No big surprise since he didn’t gain clearance as a pro until just about the time Harnock wrote about him, but Pisani’s AJHL career and his junior and senior seasons at Providence were something worth noting.

I think that’s where we as fans probably miss things. Prospects rarely progress in a straight line and if they do they are impact players that any fool can track. Pisani’s career progression surprised probably even the organization and in fact had the Oilers been coached by someone other than MacT he may have been passed over. Are there Fernando Pisani’s in other organizations who are “bubbling under” in the AHL? I believe there are. Current players in the organization who seem to be on the downbeat (there are several, but MP and JFJ are the poster kids) may turn it around with Edmonton or another team.

Predicting the future on any level is a crazy thing to do, and in terms of prospect progression in hockey it leaves one open to criticism. By and large I think Guy Flaming and HF do a solid job of passing along information on the Oilers prospects. If there is one thing I’d like to change, it is their rating system that tries to do too much (pegging a player’s upside with 1line, 2line, 3line descriptions) instead of stating “what we know.”

As an aside, Flaming and I agree pretty much on the Oilers best prospects. We both have Gagner #1, Cogliano #2 currently. I have Gilbert #3, Flaming has him at #11 for some reason. He has Chorney at #3, I have him 4th. He has Schremp at 4, I have him at 5 due to ranking Gilbert ahead of him. Pretty close, Guy’s crazy on the Gilbert call but I think it has to do with that wonky HF rating system (Gilbert is a 7C, which means his top end is a 3-4D who MAY make his potential).

The Oilers are ranked #7, that’s probably too high but just a guess. I know Flaming, he can make a strong argument when it comes to prospects. Can he identify the next Fernando Pisani? No. No one can. That’s why they invented minor league at-bats.

The one thing HF can do to improve their evaluation system is to talk to NHL teams about another club’s prospects. If you could spend two hours with a scout from the Columbus organization and find out why Pouliot, Schremp and Jacques are in the AHL and Nilsson, Stortini and Thoresen are in the NHL, would that not have value in terms of putting together a prospect list?

Yes. Yes it would.

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8 Responses to "Sunday Minor League Report"

  1. Ribs says:

    Interesting list. I wonder where the Oilers would rank without Sam Gagner?

  2. Bruce says:

    Great work as usual, LT. Now go visit your mom. :)

  3. Lowetide says:

    HEY, she was HERE for Christmas!!! :-)

  4. Pat H says:

    That was an awesome post LT. The Pisani narrative really drives your point home.

  5. uni says:

    It’s better that they didn’t mention Pisani.

    Pisani’s like the Spanish Inquisition, no one sees him coming.

  6. Guy Flaming says:

    I have talked to some other team’s scouts but the problem is, none will go on the record in regards to another team’s players. Hell, some won’t even speak off the record about them.

    And the Gilbert ranking of 11th is definitely a bad one although in my defence… some guys I know had Trukhno much higher on their lists than I do. No names though.

    LOWETIDE!

    ;-)

  7. Lowetide says:

    Guy,

    lol. Update your damn blog with something so I can do a post on it, would ya?

    When does your new top 20 come out? The one guy I had a hard time with was Spurgeon because he’s always hurt.

    As for the scouts talk, I know you have talked to scouts but BA talks to every organization about every other organization (at least they used to).

    I don’t know that we’ll ever get there with hockey, these scouts seem to think they know more than the other guy when the fact is every year all the good players seem to be gone by 50.

  8. Guy Flaming says:

    I actually added a Robin Figren thought to “Coming Down the Pipe” earlier today.

    The next HF Top 20′s come out in April I believe. AHL/ECHL update in the works right now, then NCAA I think and then the top 20′s… I could be wrong, I just work there.

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