Jumping Jack Flash (Prendergast) Is a Gas, Gas, Gas

This is a rare photo: the Oilers brain trust smiling about Marc Pouliot. Kevin Lowe, Scott Howson, Pouliot, Kevin Prendergast and Craig MacTavish all seem pretty happy with the board (behind) but as the 2003 draft rolls out each winter the Oilers are losing ground to the other clubs.

Recently, Guy Flaming (and then Tyler Dellow) spent some time discussing Prendergast and his record. I’m not terribly interested in the stories behind the scenes or reading between the lines in regard to trades that KP may or may not have been involved in.

I prefer attempting to use math in an effort to measure performance. Let’s begin with an independent “average” in which to gauge the Oilers. In 2004 a study of the 1979-1995 drafts showed:

  • 4,136 players were drafted by NHL teams.
  • 55% never played a game in the NHL.
  • 24% played less than 200 games.
  • 15% turned out to be average NHLers.
  • 4% turned into impact players.
  • 2% turned out to be a elite players.

Kevin Prendergast was the head scout for Edmonton from 2001-07, with new man Stu (Magificent Bastard) MacGregor being named the head man in the fall of 2007. So, we’re going to use the 67 men drafted in those years as the talent pool and then figure out where they are now. One quick item: we need to remember that the original study took place 9 full years after the final draft in the window. This means that the numbers posted below will only improve over the years up until 2016.

  • 67 players were drafted by the Oilers.
  • 62.7% (42) never played a game in the NHL.
  • 26.9% (18) played in less than 200 NHL games.
  • 10.4% (7) turned out to be average NHLers.
  • no Oilers are impact players.
  • no Oilers are elite players.

I’ll give you the names so we can argue the slotting if you wish.

  • The 7 “average” NHL players are Hemsky, Gagner, Brodziak, Cogliano, Stoll, Greene and Markkanen. You can argue Hemsky should be higher and that Gagner will be, but remember there are NINE years to go here and the odds are one of them will be in one of the top 2 categories. You could also argue that Markkanen doesn’t belong here but he played 128 NHL games and that’s probably north of 200 for a skater.
  • The 18 “less than 200 games” include Peckham, Chorney, Syvret, Schremp, Reddox, Bryan Young, Pouliot, Jacques, Roy, Bodie, Deslauriers, Luoma, Helminen, Lynch, Haakana, Pisa, Stephenson, Stortini. Candidates to move up include Pouliot, Peckham, Stortini, Chorney.

In order for KP’s draft record to qualify for average in terms of “never played an NHL game” he would need 5 prospects to play in one NHL game. Given that Jordan Eberle, Alex Plante, Riley Nash, Jeff Petry, Chris Vande Velde and others are bubbling under it would seem plausible that this group would qualify at the lowest bar in the event.

In the “less than 200 games” category, the Oilers already qualify but chances are that Pouliot, Stortini and Peckham (among others) would move up the list in due time. Still, I think we can safely say the Prendergast draft era is safe at second base in this little exercise.

Next up we have “average” NHL players. This is the group of players who make the show for two or three years (or are part timers over several seasons) and are north of 200 games with something of a track record. The Oilers are shy in this category but there are players on the way (the gap between 15% and 10% in this study is 3 players) and it’s a reasonable bet that Edmonton will have enough to satisfy the test by 2016.

The two toughest categories are “impact player” and “elite players.” There are none in the group currently and at this point only Hemsky is building the resume to qualify (and many Oiler fans would dispute that for a long time). Since 67 players have been drafted, we should reasonably expect 3 impact players and 1 elite player from the group (if the “average” is to be maintained).

The 3 most likely candidates from the group (at this time) are Hemsky, Gagner and Cogliano. If all of them deliver at “impact” or above the Oilers would still be one shy of the average. However, it’s still very early in the window for many of these men, and this club drafted inside the top 10 exactly one time during the period and inside the top 15 four more times. The average slot for first round picks in the years KP was head scout was #17.

Not too many impact players are found in the range, and Prendergast may have found one in 2001. Plus the one time he got to the lottery the club chose Sam Gagner. The club is light on Jacks and Kings and Aces because they rarely chose in slots where they were still available, and the fact the procurement department found usable 6′s and 7′s and 9′s in the flotsam should be viewed as a strength and a positive.

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