This is Tom Poti. He was drafted out of Cushing Academy (U. S. High School) and played two years at Boston University before turning pro and coming straight to the NHL with the Oilers at age 21 in the fall of 1998. Poti never played a game in the AHL.
Recent Oiler draftees who have skipped the minor leagues include Ales Hemsky, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner. NHL teams usually elevate players as soon as they are ready and in some cases (you could certainly argue Poti, Hemsky and Gagner from the list above) bring the kids to the show early in order to oversee their development firsthand.
In the Flaming Hot 20 thread below, Bill Needle brought up an interesting point. The Oilers scouting and minor-league coaches are two separate departments. When they pick Gagner and watch him immediately pay off, the scouts should get the credit.
I completely disagree. Although the amateur scouting department should get plenty of credit for Gagner, Hemsky and the other home runs hit recently, the team (and coaches) are also responsible at some level for monitoring development and picking the right time for these young men to turn pro. Recent examples of unusual calls in this area would certainly be Hemsky (the organization decided he was better off playing a limited role on the big club) and Gagner (the bet to keep him up may well make him a better player when he’s 22 than another season shooting lights out in junior). If you agree Gagner is a better player now than he would have been in junior, then some credit must be given to Oilers management for handling the talent as they have in this case. Also, the coaches had to have spent time with Gagner in training camp and during the season building on a solid foundation. Fair? So the statement by Bill Needle above that “the scouts should get the credit” I agree completely, with additional credit going to the coaches and management group who kept him in the NHL. Again, that’s if you agree it was the right call. As for splitting hairs between major and minor league coaching, I guess that’s a point but a minor one. Kelly Buchberger’s presence not having much to do with Sam Gagner’s development would seem to be an obvious point, and I don’t think that is what Mr. Needle is arguing in the post.
Bill Needle also states that “While the scouts have been picking seemingly good offensive players with high picks — like Pouliot and Schremp were initially described — the minor-league coaching and the players have let the scouts and the Oilers organization down. The fact that Pouliot’s latest final chance with the Oilers is as a possible poor man’s replacement for the replaceable Marty Reasoner shows how far he’s regressed under Oiler tutelage.”
Again, I disagree. There are plenty of reasons Pouliot hasn’t turned out and among them are injuries, ability and action. Pouliot’s injury history has been well documented and I think we can agree valuable post-draft development time was lost due to these injuries. The Oilers found him a place to get minor league at-bats and he’s performed well in the AHL. He has been unable so far to deliver at a passing level in the major leagues and time is running out on him. How much of that is the fault of the minor league coaching is open to question, but the success of others during that same period of time would suggest (as in all walks of life) some pupils are better listeners than others. We Oiler fans have had an excellent lesson in this regard from one Bobby Nilsson this winter. How can we honestly make a case the coaching is bad when Kyle Brodziak emerged from the same system as Marc Pouliot?
Finally Bill Needle states “When they pick a lesser player and he battles his way up the chain, like Brodziak has, it’s a success for the minor-league coaching. They turned a shot in the dark into a tangible return.”
I would prefer to share the credit. The player is certainly most responsible, combining hard work, coaching and luck to reach the goal. The procurement department needs to be given credit for finding the best player available at that number, which is usually the case when a guy makes the NHL after being drafted 240-something. The minor league coaches do indeed deserve credit for honing skills, preaching the lessons needed and filling out those post game reports that go to head office after every game.
I don’t think you can split procurement and coaching, even the minor league coaches. It’s a team, and the failures of Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp (should they fail) has to be shared on several levels, beginning with the player.
Tom Poti made the NHL through his ability, his high school and college coaches hard work and patience, and the skills of the men hired to evaluate talent and move the best talent to the front of the line. Had he turned pro at 20 he might have spent a season in the AHL learning his trade and it might have made him a better hockey player.
I believe that is worth discussing. The minor leagues aren’t for everybody, but if you are there then it means someone thinks you need some work. If the Oilers coaching and mangement were truly inept, Jani Rita, Michel Riesen, Michael Henrich and Chris Hajt would be playing every night in the NHL.
They are not.