This is Duncan Milroy during one of his 381 AHL games. That’s a lot of AHL games for a player chosen in the top 40 (37th overall) in his draft year (2001).
I remember that draft year very well. My preference for the Oilers with their first round pick (they moved up to 13th overall because of a flip with Boston which was part of the Guerin-Carter deal) was RW Colby Armstrong and I would have been completely satisfied if Milroy’s name had been called by the Oilers (I’ve never made a penny from hockey and consider myself overpaid.)
Central Scouting had three players rated tightly together among North American skaters that season:
- CSB#7 skater: Duncan Milroy, Swift Current (WHL)
- CSB#8 skater: Colby Armstrong, Red Deer (WHL)
- CSB#9 skater: Ales Hemsky, Hull (QMJHL)
All three players were available when Edmonton stepped to the podium. The Oilers chose well. Currently, the standings are exactly reversed:
- Ales Hemsky: 349gp, 70-195-265
- Colby Armstrong: 199gp, 41-68-109
- Duncan Milroy: 5gp, 0-1-1
What happened to these three players? Well, a clue is available in their draft day scouting reports (I always use the scouting reports from pre-draft because every prospect is placed in the best possible light but usually there are clues) and the names they were compared to. All three are courtesy The Hockey News, but you can google “Hemsky Redline Report” and get other information as well. Every word below is from the Hockey News 2001 Draft Preview Issue:
- Ales Hemsky: When scouts talk about Ales Hemsky, they mention Martin Havlat in the same breath for good reason. They’re both from the Czech Republic and are highly skilled wingers. Hemsky is a top notch puck carrier who can reach top speed in a few quick strides. He handles the puck with poise and confidence and is such a good stick handler he’s often double teamed. “He has great skills,” said a scout. “He is a typical European winger with good hands, good skills, great skater. Size is an issue but we all knocked Havlat a little too. He is very creative.” Hemsky has a quick and accurate shot. He had 100 regular season points and led Hull in playoff scoring with 5 points in 5 games. The knock on him, however, is that he is a soft player. “He could be a Martin Straka or a Havlat,” said a scout. “I’d take a flyer on him.”
- Colby Armstrong: He has come a long way from his mid-season Central Scouting ranking. He finished the year 8th among skaters compared to 15th in January. The Red Deer Rebels’ right winger is considered an honest player. He’s a good skater with a long stride, has an awareness of where his teammates are and his first passes are often tape to tape. “People worry about his size (6-1, 180 pounds) but he’s a solid player,” one scout said. “The question is can he do it at the next level.” Armstrong battles hard for loose pucks and likes to drive to the net. He protects the puck well with his body and has a fiesty side to him (278 penalty minutes in 2 seasons). Twenty-six of his 36 goals were at even strength or shorthanded. “He will be a good second line player,” another scout said. “He is a little short on skating and he has to put on some weight and some strength. But he will play.”
- Duncan Milroy: Despite the fact Duncan Milroy scored 38 goals and 92 points in 68 games for the Western League’s Swift Current Broncos, some scouts says he’s best suited as a third-liner. At 6-0, 180 pounds and average skating, Milroy compensates with a knack for creating offense. He scored the series winning goal against defending champion Kootenay this spring. Scouts say he’ll need an extra gear when he gets to an NHL training camp. “But he has good hockey sense, which goes a long ways,” a scout said. “He’s a gamer and a deceptive player.” Although not overly physical, Milroy is not afraid to mix things up. He likes the grinding play along the boards and in the corners. He’s more than capable of making short passes in close quarters and he guards the puck well. “I’d like to see him go to the net a little more as opposed to battling along the boards,” said a scout. “He will make a goal-scorer look awfully good.”
The Hockey News ranked Armstrong #16, Hemsky #22 and Milroy #27. Once again the NHL scouts had it right, with Hemsky going #13, Armstrong #21 and Milroy #37. If the draft was done over again Hemsky would go near the very top of the draft (it was the Kovalchuk-Spezza draft) and Armstrong would probably go near the end of the first or early in the second round, and Milroy recently signed with ERC Ingolstadt in Germany for the 2008-2009 season.
The lesson is long established: nailing the early picks is tremendously important. Ales Hemsky was a line in the sand for the Oilers procurement department and their record at the draft table since then has been very good. They aren’t getting much credit yet, but as time rolls on they will and someone from the Edmonton scouting department (possibly McCarthy or Davis) may end up moving along to another organization to run the show.
The resume since 2001 is that good. Seriously.