Milroy was Here

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:

  1. Ales Hemsky: 349gp, 70-195-265
  2. Colby Armstrong: 199gp, 41-68-109
  3. 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.

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20 Responses to "Milroy was Here"

  1. Sean says:

    Given the Oilers draft record of late and the fact that they were quite vocal about their intentions to draft Eberle I’m surprised he was available. Stud or bust it wouldn’t be a bad strategy. Hell someone should be paid to follow Håkan Andersson around Sweden ;)

  2. NotLeeFogolin says:

    God, I can’t even imagine the pressure these guys are under at the draft table. Imagine the Oilers without Ales Hemsky.

    On second thought, don’t.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I agree with the overall point, LT, but I can’t help this:

    God, I can’t even imagine the pressure these guys are under at the draft table. Imagine the Oilers without Ales Hemsky.

    Imagine if the Oilers had taken Chris Higgins instead of Jesse Niinimaki.

    Overall, they’ve been good, but not great. Niinimaki stands out as the biggest bust in the crowd, although the goalies (Dubnyk, Deslauriers) have yet to prove anything either.

  4. Lowetide says:

    Jonathan: I think it’s also important though to point out that NO organization nails every selection in a 5-year cluster and that the Niinimaki pick does indeed stick out as being the big mistake.

    Whereas a decade ago the big mistake was taken #4 overall. Imagine is Sam Gagner was Jason Bonsignore.

    The current Oilers procurement department is doing well compared to the other 29 NHL teams and running laps around their own history (save for the 79-83 run).

  5. Schitzo says:

    And even with that dumb Niinimaki pick, they turned around and landed Greene and Stoll in the second round.

    That’s a nice roundabout way to end up with a Lubo on your team.

  6. Alice says:

    Let’s hope Eberle and Milroy don’t comp as close as it looks on first pass. Smallish WHL scorers with middling foot speed. But you gotta throw the dart somewhere.

    On another more pressing matter, as pertains to Our Fearless No.2 – why don’t we just call him Tiny?
    KLo and Tiny, Giant-Killers of the Northwest. Works from here ~

  7. PunjabiOil says:

    Niinimakki was a poor pick, but at least they managed to save face by not signing him and obtaining a compensatory 2nd round pick, which they used to select Petry.

    2002 was a poor draft. Though I do recall how disgusted I was, with the Oilers going completely off the charts. I remember how surprised Gord Miller was, after Prendergast announced that pick.

    2003 marks the biggest blunder. I like Pouliot, but in a very deep, talented draft, with the Parise’s and Getzlaf’s right behind – the Oilers ended up making a momenteous mistake.

    And to be objective, the 2004 first, 1st round pick in Dubnyk still has a way to go before making the NHL. It’s a possibility the Oilers screwed it up there too.

    In 2007, the Oilers couldn’t really have done poorly with Gagne or Voracek. Plante however, seems at this point to be a terrible pick. I would seriously consider not re-signing him and taking a compensatory, if his 19 year old season in junior fares in similar fashion of his 18 year old season.

    Summary of my opinion: Good, but not great drafting.

  8. Lowetide says:

    PJ Oil: Can you give me a list of teams who have drafted better ’01-’07? How many teams would you list as having done a better job based on draft position? If the Oilers are, say 7th best on your list would that represent middling success?

  9. PunjabiOil says:

    LT: That’s a fair point, but not all things are equal (draft position) so it would be somewhat unfair to compare against other teams.

    I’m just looking at the Oilers perspective. Is there room to improve? Definitely?

    2002 – Complete miss. Gross miscalculation on character.
    2003 – Pouliot instead of Getzlaf, Praise, Burns, Kesler. MISS
    2004 – Jury is still out on Dubnyk.
    2007 – Questionable pick in Plante.

    To be fair, the Oilers have done a great job in the 2nd rounds during the span (Petry, Chorney, Stoll, Greene). On the other side, there are blunders in Colin MacDonald, Geoff Pukovich, etc.

    I would think it’s fair to argue the first round drafting has a way to go before we can state without doubt that the Oilers have an excellent draft record.

  10. rananda says:

    oilers have done well for themselves during that time, but i’d put wash, mtl, sj, det, ott, and nyr all ahead of them. a good group though for sure.

  11. PDO says:

    PJO you’re missing the point…

    Every team does that. They’re 17 year olds, shit happens. Compare it to other teams and you get the same kind of mistakes over the same period.

    The Devils, for example:

    2001: Adrian Foster in the first round over the likes of Derek Roy and Fedor Tyutin.

    2002: The ONLY player they got was Cam Jansen.

    2003: NOTHING after Parise.

    2004: NOTHING after Zajac.

    2005: Bergfors over Cogs doesn’t look all that smart, does it?

    It’s not a science. It never will be. Mistakes will be made, chances will be taken, some will work, some won’t. The Oilers drafting over the past 7 years has been good as, if not better than, anyone else in the league. That’s a pretty damn good accomplishment. Yes there are mistakes… but every team makes mistakes on the draft floor, it’s impossible not to. The key is to make more good decisions than the other teams… and the Oilers are doing that right now.

  12. Schitzo says:

    One other factor to consider is that in some alternate universe where Pouliot stayed healthy and kept away from girls with mono, he’s already our 3rd line centre.

    If Phaneuf would have gotten hit by a bus at age 21, it’s pretty hard to say that Calgary’s scouts fucked up and picked a loser.

  13. Lowetide says:

    The other thing we always need to consider is injuries. It’s a very slippery slope because you can end up making excuses for an underperforming procurement department but in the case of three of the top selections from ’01-’07 injuries have had a very large negative effect on injuries.

    And that doesn’t include Plante.

    http://lowetide.blogspot.com/2007/08/oh-those-injuries.html

  14. Jonathan says:

    Sorry, LT, but there’s a couple of things that keep me in the “good, but not great” mindset about the Oilers scouting work:

    1) Europe. Name an impact player drafted by the current group out of Europe. If all you’re coming up with (like me) is Jussi Markkanen, then I think we can argue that there are some weaknesses there.
    2) Big bodies. This group has picked a bunch of guys from the Caron/Winchester/McDonald family, and has very little to show for it (AHL ace J-F Jacques being the star of that group).
    3) Draft strategy. This may largely be on Prendergast, but I remember the HF preview for the draft and Prendergast was quoted as saying they wouldn’t take Carey Price if he slipped down to 25th overall. BPA is what they should be doing, and they don’t. It’s probably the biggest flaw in the group, although it may be changing, given that they keep drafting centres despite a total lack of organizational need.

    With those things in mind, it seems fairly obvious to me that there are holes that need addressing.

    Despite that, however, the Oilers have done an amazing job, and have some areas where the rest of the NHL should consider aping them (NCAA, USHL, even the QMJHL). I also don’t think there’s any arguing they’ve had some nice success in the WHL/OHL. Dubnyk over Schwarz stands out as an against-the-grain pick that looks, if not good, than at least OK so far.

  15. rickibear says:

    PJO:
    2003 draft still in the air.

    Rd 1 pick 22 Pouliot
    Rd 2 pick 68 JFJ
    Rd 3 pick 94 Storitini
    Rd 7 pick 214 Brodziak
    Rd 7 pick 215 Roy
    Rd 8 pick 248 Hrabal

    Two years from now we could be going Damn!

    As LT has pointed out, this team drafts depth.

    Since 2002 the team selects at least 3 players a year with serious chances of being extended term NHl players. That kind of consistency is a sign of a great drafting team.

    2001
    Hemsky
    Lynch
    Markkanen

    2002
    JDD
    Stoll
    Greene

    2004
    Dubnyk
    Schremp
    Reddox
    Young
    The middle two should get time on the team this year according to many on this Blog.

    2005
    Cogliano
    Chorney
    Will see:
    Vande velde
    Trukhno

    2006 we had five picks total
    pick 45 Petry
    pick 75 Peckham
    pick 133 Pitton
    pick 140 Wild
    pick 170 Bumagin
    Damn!

    2007 These guys have had words that hint at yes to the nhl.
    Gagner
    Nash
    Omark

    2008 ???
    Eberle
    Motin

    I am with LT name us 7 better.

  16. Lowetide says:

    Jonathan: They absolutely do need to improve Europe. No question. The Coke Machines have been an epic fail so far (I would argue the success story is Brad Winchester) but there is some time on a few of them. As for draft strategy, it’s a fact Edmonton drafts for need and it’s a crazy decision.

    So, you’re right but I keep coming back to the idea that despite all those things (and more, they drafted Bendfeld instead of taking a flier on someone) they still seem to be a team whose batting average is solid.

  17. Doogie2K says:

    I really do wish people would quit calling Plante a terrible pick over one injury-plagued season. He was on the top pairing and #1 PP on a good Calgary team in his draft year, for fuck’s sake. Even if he does wash out, I don’t think you can call that a bad pick, so much as unlucky.

  18. Bruce says:

    On the other side, there are blunders in Colin MacDonald, Geoff Pukovich, etc.

    PJO: Geoff Pukovich?!

    Paging Dr. Freud … your slip is showing.

  19. Black Dog says:

    Agreed with doogie on Plante and as for 2003 Pouliot was considered a good pick. He was ranked where he was picked.

    2002 was a disaster absolutely but it makes me mental when people act as if Lowe picked Pouliot’s name out of a hat. Kid was considered a strong prospect.

  20. Jacque Choi says:

    kinda late to the party;

    Funny thing, Duncan is a good friend of my brother Willy (badminton player along with their older brother Bobby).

    I was estatic when he was called up for his 5 game stint with the Habs, as he was pretty good in the A that year.

    I always wondered if Lowe would acquire him to play a depth/role with the occasional callup during one of our nightmare-injury seasons. Lowe seems to like Edmonton born lads, and the Oilers organization are pretty good at developing talent.

    - Perfect_Drug

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