Between the selection of Kevin Lowe in 1979′s 1st round and Esa Tikkanen in 1983′s 3rd round the Edmonton Oilers (in 39 picks) acquired the heart of a champion.
In fact, that “draft cluster” rivals the best 5 year procurement timelines in NHL history. Since expansion, I would suggest that the Habs and Bruins mid-60s sponsorship clusters and the Islanders 72-77 cluster are “classics” that fall just short of the Oiler drafts 79-83.
Not only did the Oilers draft players who emerged as key elements in the “Boys On The Bus” run (Lowe, Messier, Anderson, Coffey, Kurri, Moog, Fuhr, Steve Smith and Tikkanen) they got some trading chips (notably Walt Poddubny) that helped specific areas of need along the line.
I love watching draft clusters emerge over time and impact a team’s roster and fortunes. The Oilers went on a long run of awful draft years after 1983 (1984-1986 brought only Kelly Buchberger, as an example) but there were two five year clusters that helped the team in the 90s and early oo’s.
From the 1st rd pick in 1993 (Jason Arnott) to the 5th rd pick in 1997 (Jason Chimera), Edmonton’s picks included Miro Satan, Ryan Smyth, Georges Laraque, Tom Poti and Fernando Pisani among others. Traded selections included Steve Kelly and Jason Bonsignore in that time period.
The Oilers draft cluster 1998-2002 was also strong despite major dead spots like the entire 2000 draft. From Shawn Horcoff in the 4th rd of the 1998 draft to Matt Greene in the 2nd rd of 2002′s group the Oilers selected several regular players in the 2006 Stanley run (Horcoff, Hemsky and Stoll) along with some trading chips (Rita, Comrie and Salmelainen) that helped specific areas of need at the trade deadline spring 2006.
The 2003 draft looks like a disaster for the Edmonton Oilers. Extremely disappointing since the rest of the league was picking players who are either “franchise” types or quality regulars. Edmonton chose 5 players in the top 100 and the only one clearly on track as a prospect is role player Zack Stortini.
It’s especially galling considering the 2003-07 cluster appears to be delivering on several other levels. It’s way too soon to properly evaluate these draft seasons (5 years from draft date gets you a nice look, so summer 2008 we can officially bury Pouliot), but there are positives everywhere:
- 2003 offered some solid picks outside the top 50 (Stortini, Brodziak) so even one home run in the first three rounds would have an impact.
- 2004 features Rob Schremp and Devan Dubnyk at the top and progressing as prospects, with gem Liam Reddox ahead of the curve.
- 2005 features a kid who looks like a player in Cogliano along with highly touted prospects in Taylor Chorney, Chris Vande Velde and Slava Trukhno.
- 2006 which brought in Jeff Petry, a solid prospect who has so far eclipsed his draft number.
- 2007 gave the Oilers Sam Gagner who looks worth the price of a top 6 pick and Riley Nash who is delivering big time in college (at 18, he leads Cornell with 12 points in 13 games).
I’m beginning to think that Pouliot and Jacques may represent the “Walt Poddubny” portion of the Oilers 03-07 draft cluster.