This is Raimo Summanen. 23 years ago he was mentioned in a Hockey News (January 13, 1984) Prospect Update from Director of Player Personnel and Chief scout Barry Fraser.
I bought the HN and kept it, which makes me both “unusual” and a “pack rat” along with other phrases I’ll thank you not to “pass along” in the comments section.
Comparing that decades-old article to Guy Flaming’s latest update on the pro prospects is an indicator about just how far prospect information has come over the years.
Among the things Barry Fraser told us in that HN were:
- Fraser listed Summanen and Gord Sherven as the top prospects in the organization. Summanen was scoring well in Finland and on his way to the NHL in spring and Sherven was with the Canadian Olympic team.
- The best junior players listed were LW Steve Graves, D Jeff Beukeboom and D Jim Playfair.
- Fraser mentioned a few Moncton Alpines (top minor league team) including Todd Strueby and Marc Habshcheid.
- Fraser on Summanen: “He’s just a great talent. We’re looking at having him cover over right after the Olympics.”
- Fraser on Esa Tikkanen: “He’s much the same as Summanen. But I would say Tikkanen is ahead of where Summanen was at this stage of his career. He’s a hard nosed kid too, having played tier two in Regina a couple of years ago.”
- Fraser on Gord Sherven: “He’s a good, solid all around player.”
- Fraser on Steve Graves: “He’s got the rockets, he can really fly.”
- Fraser on Jeff Beukeboon: “He plays a tough, defensive game and keeps his net clear.”
- Fraser on Jim Playfair: “If there’s one area he needs to improve, it’s in his acceleration.”
- Fraser on Habscheid: “The best thing that happened to Marc–and the only way he’ll develop–was to go to Moncton and play a lot.”
- Fraser on Todd Strueby: “The big thing for him to do is realize his ability.”
- Fraser on Moncton’s D: “Defense in Moncton is something I’m not sure about,” saod Fraser was rates Steve Smith and Dwayne Boettger as the Oilers top blueline candidates in the AHL. “About the only place we don’t have depth is defence.”
Hindsight tells us Fraser probably meant that Summanen and Sherven were closest to the NHL, but we sure didn’t know it at the time. I remember being astounded by Tikkanen in the spring of 1985 during a brief playoff look-see and the following season he began his exceptional NHL career.
I don’t want to spoil Guy’s story and please click through and read it, but here are some examples of more precise information not available 2.5 decades ago:
- Bob Mancini on Ryan O’Marra: “I have no problem telling you that Ryan was upset and shocked and a bit taken back by his demotion to the ECHL, but it’s part of the development process.”
- Kevin Prendergast on Rob Schremp: “He still has a lot of work to do to play there in the NHL, but whatever deficiencies we felt he may have had in his skating they’re not showing up as much on the wing. He’s just got to learn to compete in the tough areas in the corners and along the wall a bit more.”
Marrying that quote to the classic MacTavish quote from earlier this year on Schremp (“He needs the strength base and the quickness. He’s got to be strong enough to battle at a standstill with players because he’s not going to outskate many players”) we can read the tea leaves and reasonably argue that the switch to the wing may be long term.
Flaming’s updates are just a part of it. There are websites, blogs, news stories and more available from all over the world for the avid follower of the Edmonton Oilers.
Two things are certain about the passing of 23 years: More people are spending more time monitoring NHL prospects than they were long ago, and if my Dad knew I’d have this much leisure time in 2008 he would have made me pick more rocks than he did 35 years ago.