Prospect Information 25 Years Later

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.

:-)

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29 Responses to "Prospect Information 25 Years Later"

  1. PunjabiOil says:

    A nice read.

    Not much left to be said. At least not from me.

  2. Dennis says:

    I can’t remember watching this guy, LT, and besides what I can learn from db, what can you tell me about his play and why he was moved.

    A note on O’Marra, listening to the roundtable yesterday on Stauf’s show and they were talking the 94 deal and specifically about ROM. The news seemed to be that the brass thinks he’s too much of a politician and that he should focus more on playing a good game rather than talking one. That’s interesting because I remember him making the media rounds after the deal and I said he’d got a lot of love from the fans because he was a good quote and knew how to say all the right things.

  3. Asiaoil says:

    Dumb kids hate to have a smart kid around…….just say’in :)

  4. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: He was a smaller, skill winger along the lines of Robert Nilsson (maybe less skill with the puck but a little more as a scorer).

    He had his 500 at-bats and came in with more ink than Tikkanen, but the Oilers had all kinds of skill up front, from Kurri and Anderson to Lindstrom and Napier and a bunch of guys in between.

    I don’t recall him having any kind of extra skills (like fellow Finns Kurri and Tikkanen) but he was certainly skilled.

    Inge Hammarstrom, Robert Nilsson. That family of players.

  5. Mr DeBakey says:

    Yeah, there wasn’t much room for “second line forwards” on the 80s Oilers.

    I always wondered if guys like
    Dan Currie & Kim Issel
    could’ve had NHL careers in a different time or place

  6. Lowetide says:

    Scott Metcalfe was a guy who did some nice things in junior, but the Oilers spent several 90s 1st rounders on guys who screamed “role player.”

  7. Eetu says:

    Damn it, just keep rubbing it in my face: the Oilers are, for the first time since the 1980 entry draft, Finnless. There hasn’t been a moment since the moment they picked Jari Kurri that there wasn’t at least one Finnish player on the roster or the prospect list of the Oilers. Before they decided not to resign Jussi Markkanen, that is.

    Your memories of Raimo Summanen are mostly correct. He was a bit on the small side (though he was extremely strong for his size, at least later on, when I actually remember seeing him play), but he was never the most skilled player out there. He had to work really hard to get where he did. Not as far as he (or the Oilers) would’ve hoped, but quite far anyway. He was part of the 1995 Finnish IIHF World Championship team.

    As you may or may not know, after he retired he got into coaching. He had a shooting star type of career, first having success with the Finnish U18 team and winning a Finnish championship with HIFK as an assistant to Erkka Westerlund, then winning another SM-liiga title as the head coach of Jokerit, then being signed as the head coach of Team Finland and leading them to World Cup final.

    Unfortunately his people skills were never quite on par with his coaching skills. After a locker room clash between him and certain Mr. Niinimaa between the second and third period of the World Cup game against Sweden led to Niinimaa leaving the team after the game and Summanen getting fired after the tournament.

    After that he has worked as a “director of hockey operations” at Espoo Blues and, after getting fired, as a scout for the St. Louis Blues.

    Every time a Finnish club fires their coach, the name Summanen comes up as the potential replacement, but so far no organization has had the guts (or the money) to hire a guy who demands from everybody the same level of commitment he has himself.

  8. Eetu says:

    Oh, as usual, eurohockey.net is a better source of statistical information for European players: http://www.eurohockey.net/players/ show_player.cgi?serial=8357 (split on two rows for layout purposes)

  9. Devin says:

    eetu – … Pitkanen?

  10. Lowetide says:

    Eetu: Joni Pitkanen’s a Finn, right?

    I love the Finns. The player I miss the most from the great teams is Kurri, the blogosphere would be gushing on him every night if he played in this era.

    The defining moment for me re: Kurri came in the 1984 Stanley clinching game. I believe it was Ken Morrow who skates the puck up ice and shoots it into the Oiler end and it’s jailbreak to the bench for everyone. I believe the Oilers were rolling over their forward lines too btw.

    Anyway, Kurri races to the puck to the left of the net, and sends a bullet to 99 at the exact point where the Yellow Pages sign would be near center ice (rh side) a little later and Gretzky goes in clear and makes his deke to the left and that’s all she wrote.

    How 99 got that puck between Billy Smith’s legs is a wonder, and so was the pass.

    Ridiculous.

  11. Moose says:

    I just watched a replay of that game on the NHL Network the other night. Fantastic pass. Unreal team.

  12. pboy says:

    I can’t remember what show I was watching last night but it was about Gretz’s 50 in 39 and they were interviewing current NHLer’s who all said that it is one of TGO’s records that will never be challenged let alone broken. Ignila made a good point when he said “look at the amount of net those guys were shooting at and look at what we are shooting at”. The showed highlights of some of Wayne’s goals and then some of Iggy’s, AO’s, Heatley’s………..
    It is amazing when you see not only how much more equipment current goalies where but how much bigger they are in general.

  13. pboy says:

    And by where, of course I meant wear…………

  14. Hawerchuk says:

    Yet another guy traded for the immortal Moe Lemay…Hard to know much from his stats, but it looks like he had a 90th percentile season at age 20 in Finland, and set expectations too high. He was a 50-point kind of guy in an era when there were many.

    How a horrendous Canucks team couldn’t do something with him is a question, but he was already 26 when got shipped over there. Plus they already had Doug Wickenheiser to worry about…

  15. Pat H says:

    Nice post, LT. Jeez, Gord Sherven. That’s a name I have only vague childhood memories of. On the general topic of younger guys and their strengths/weaknesses, I have to admit that I love this quote from MacT in yesterday’s “Oil Spills”:

    “I always liked Bergy … he’s got areas to his game where he’s strong. His decision-making with the puck is lacking at times and like a lot of young players he lacks confidence with the puck and when he doesn’t have it, he gets trapped with the puck, but he has a great element on the power play”

    lol. More like, ‘I always disliked Bergy, and here’s why…’ Oh MacT…you’re always great for a quote.

  16. Bruce says:

    How 99 got that puck between Billy Smith’s legs is a wonder, and so was the pass.

    Yes it was a great pass, that turnover happened right in front of me (SW corner) to the (defensive) right of the Oilers net, on the far side from the players benches. Kurri jumped on the puck and Gretzky leaped to the weak side and Kurri fired about a 75-foot bullet pass that hit Wayne in full throttle right on the red line, right on the tape. It was as good a pass as Wayne himself ever delivered, and the compliments just don’t come any higher than that. The Islanders scrambled off the bench and Bob Nystrom, a forward, wound up trying to tie up Gretzky as he walked across the face of the goal before somehow dribbling one through Smith. I think he wobbled it under Billy’s armpit, not through his legs. The puck was slanted at 19.6 degrees to squeeze into the triangular puck sized hole, and had to be shot at change-up speed for the hole to develop just as the puck got there. Wayne found those holes so often that it was no fluke but some sort of divine seventh sense.

    Historical note: that goal was Gretzky’s 99th of the 1983-84 season, and 5:18 or so :) later he would score his 100th, again with a lone assist to Kurri, whose first order of business after any turnover — of which he created many — was to get the puck to Gretzky, who would surely be finding open ice somewhere. In the second instance 99 managed to convince Smith he was going to pass to the ultimate decoy, Dave Semenko, before fooling him with a quick release wrister. It was the last meaningful shot the long-time Oiler nemesis faced that spring, as Smith started the second period on the bench to enthusiastic chants of “We Want Billy!” (none of that “sucks” stuff in the good ole days)

    Gretzky’s 100 goals that 1983-84 season (inc. playoffs) is in my opinion one of the greatest records in the sport, and it should be one of the Great One’s most famous numbers. 100 freaking goals in one freaking year!! But the league prefers the apartheid record book, so “92″ is the number they mention in those NHL commercials. Too bad, I don’t even remember #92, it was in a meaningless end-of-season untelevised game, maybe in Denver. Or was it Calgary? (One of them southern cities.) Whereas when the Great One scored #99 and #100 in the last game of the Stanley Cup Finals, against the defending champions and for the new champions in a definitive changing of the guard, well, I remember those goals. What a setting, for what a record! Too bad it doesn’t seem to be very celebrated, but to me the 100-goal season is right up there with 50-in-39.

  17. Dennis says:

    Bruce would also appreciate it if you got the hell off his lawn;)

    Just kidding, Bruce. You know we’re buddies considering you’re a Newfoundlander:)

    I had a laugh at MacT’s PP portion of that comment given that in the last days of Bergy’s disco, Toby Petersen was playing one of the PP points.

  18. heed says:

    I had a laugh at MacT’s PP portion of that comment given that in the last days of Bergy’s disco, Toby Petersen was playing one of the PP points.

    as terrible as grebs has been at times, i still like him better than the guy he replaced. i think bergeron’s ability as a player were summed up perfectly in the islanders’ last power play. he gets the puck at the point and while deciding what to do with it, horcoff just shoved him over the blueline, puck and all (at least i think it was horcoff). last year i tried to love him…it didn’t work.

  19. IceDragoon says:

    Good day,

    Bruce… agreed on Gretzky’s 100 goal season. I argued for years that individual stats belonged to players who played one game after another until they were finished for the year. Showing the year totals and then giving the regular season/play off breakdowns always made sense to me.

    I liked Bergie for what he was… a small, tornado-of-chaos, depth D. He made it work for him when he had dependable support, and could step it up against tougher opposition for a game or two. He wasn’t very smart and could lose focus and confidence in a heartbeat, tho.

    Regardless of the series of events that lead to Roli’s injury in game one, MAB became the Oilers version of “Joe Btfsplk” to the fans.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Btfsplk

    Add that MacT didn’t have the veteran D support for him, and that there were younger versions of chaos on the horizon… et cetera

    OT: There were some outstanding interviews on Just a Game last night. Jason Gregor had some one-on-ones with Horcoff and, I think, Penner & Garon.

    Yesterday’s scrums don’t appear to be available on the Oilers site, but there are some good comments from MacT and Stoll, as well.

    http://www.justagame.ca/index.php

    They only keep the interviews up till the next night’s replace them at about 11 pm.

    L8r
    Louise

  20. Bruce says:

    re: MAB, he drove me nuts with his positional play and decision making lots of times, but he’s a real weapon who has posted some pretty good numbers. In the two seasons 2005-07, here’s the (hopefully inclusive) list of the top 15 goal scoring leaders among defencemen:

    S. Souray 38
    D. Phaneuf 37
    D. Boyle 35
    P. Boucher 35
    L. Visnovsky 35
    B. McCabe 34
    M. Schneider 32
    M.A.Bergeron 29
    N. Lidstrom 29
    S. Niedermayer 28
    R. Blake 28
    Z. Chara 27
    S. Zubov 25
    S. Gonchar 25
    C. Pronger 25

    MAB would have had even more goals had he not been inexplicably removed from the Oilers’ powerplay by MacT in favour of Toby “One Powerplay Point All Fucking Season” Petersen … that would break anybody’s spirit, in fact I think it broke our whole powerplay unit’s.

    MAB is a plus player for his career (+10) which doesn’t give any credit for the one thing even MacT grudgingly acknowledged, powerplay proficiency, where he has scored 26 of his 45 career goals. Which I should mention, is 45 career goals more than Grebeshkov has scored in 70 GP over parts of four seasons. And 35 more plusses.

    Maybe that’s an unfair comparison, but it’s a fact that besides CFP, MAB is the only player on the above list to have been traded away during that two-year window (Chara and later Souray and Schneider would change addresses as expensive UFAs; almost all the rest have been re-upped by their own teams for huge money.) That this proven sniper was traded WITH a draft pick for a prospect with zero goals and big minusses in several cups o’coffee, remains brain-rattlingly bizarre.

    MAB was and remains useful as a third-pair soft-minutes guy who can contribute on the PP, and is reasonably priced for that role at under $1.2 MM this season. (Compare that salary to anybody else on the above list.) For an undersized and undrafted free agent he’s done alright for himself. While I’m not overly sorry he’s no longer an Oiler, I certainly wish him well.

    Now get the hell off my lawn, Dennis.

  21. Pat H says:

    Applause, Bruce. Nice comment.

  22. Dennis says:

    I didn’t have a problem with Bergy, though I suspect that MacT did and I put this trade on him. I’m also not sure it would work out if it was MAB/Grebs straight up and I really don’t like it that we had to throw in a second rounder to boot.

  23. Bruce says:

    Well the way I see it, if — or should I say, when — “Bergy” gave one up, there was a non-zero chance he might get it back. Whereas with Grebs, the only constants are the zero in the one column and the minus in the other.

    I haven’t given up on the guy — strangely enough — but 4 points in 37 games just doesn’t cut it. I’d like to see evidence of his touted “offensive upside” more than once a month. He’s exactly three years younger than MAB, who three years ago at this time was playing in Brynas during the lockout. But he’d already made his early mark on the NHL. Here’s a comparison of MAB’s career numbers then to 37′s now:

    MAB: 59 GP, 10-18-28, +15
    Grebs: 70 GP, 0-10-10, -25

    To be fair, their numbers in the AHL are more comparable:

    MAB: 133 GP, 14-47-61, +43
    Grebs: 166 GP, 9-76-85, +34

    … but I still don’t see anything there that screams PLUS a draft pick. Fact is that MAB continued scoring at exactly the same ~0.5 PPG rate in his early cups of coffee in the NHL and Grebs didn’t/hasn’t come close to duplicating either his point production or his plus rating. Other fact is that being three years older at the time of the trade MAB was much more a known commodity with three more years of development under his belt, at ~15 goals/82.

    Of all the trades that K.Lowe has made, this one makes the least sense to me. At least in the other cases where we may have lost the best player in the trade we at least wound up with a bundle of assets, whereas this was a one-for-two. I still don’t get it.

  24. James Mirtle says:

    Habscheid was a ridiculously good junior. Played only six games in Kamloops, had seven goals and 23 points.

    In those days, you could punt kids back and forth from the NHL to junior, and that’s what happened. It was strange, really, that he didn’t have a longer pro career, but he’s a very good coach.

  25. Dennis says:

    Bruce, yeah, it’s the smallest trade that makes the least sense.

    I’ll chalk it up to factors like MacT being fed up with MAB and wanting him gone and the Oilers having pined for Grebs in his draft year.

    I think we’re looking at a whole lot of sucking for potential as well, maybe we can call it Bluesky Mining, which, yes, is a wicked Midnight Oil tune. Things like seeing things in Smid and Lupul that just weren’t there, letting Hejda go while continuing to hope for Greene and letting a bird in the hand go in Bergy for one in the bush in Grebs.

  26. David says:

    Did anyone else reading Guy Flaming’s article end up a little underwhelmed about what we have in the way of prospects currently? Admittedly, I have only started paying attention to prospects since discovering this blog a few months ago, but I didn’t feel that the future was hugely brighter after reaeding that report.

  27. Lowetide says:

    David: I think there are 3 factors that are at play.

    1. A large class graduating to the big leagues and pretty unlikely to fail. Cogliano, Gagner and Gilbert (with Brodziak possible too) is a strong rookie class for any team.

    2. Most of the AHL kids Guy wrote about are either struggling (Pouliot, JFJ), new kids to pro having some trouble adjusting (Trukhno) to pro or not what we might call “sexy” prospects (Peckham isn’t Orr but he keeps doing good things).

    3. With all the graduates and guys who no longer are considered prospects (MAP, JFJ), by my estimate the current top 5 is probably Chorney, Schremp, Nash, Trukhno and either Dubnyk or Petry. So there are as many good top level prospects in U.S. college hockey as there are in the AHL right now.

    I’m truly astounded about Pouliot, though. Not that I’m any kind of draft expert but from everything we were told about the kid he seemed like a pretty solid bet to become a MacT type.

    The most disappointed I’ve been in an Oiler prospect since Rita.

  28. Eetu says:

    Ok, I know Pitkänen is a Finn and I know he plays for the Oil. I have no idea why that slipped my mind while I was writing that. I guess it reflected my thinking during the summer, before they traded for him. And he’s been injured a lot and… Ok, I’ll admit it, that was incredibly stupid :D

    The point is that the Oilers should draft Finns, even though their track record on them since Tikkanen is terrible.

  29. Lowetide says:

    Eetu: Agreed. I always slept better knowing Kurri and Tikkanen were on the good side, and all down the line (Niinimaa, etc) the Finns seemed to have adapted well here and played their hears out.

    I’ve always wanted to visit Finland because whenever you see them at hockey games (WJC’s, etc) they seem “most Canadian” in that they are having a very good time and holding a beer.

    :-)

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