In the early part of the decade, the Edmonton Oilers spent at least one pick per season on a big forward. These men routinely belonged in the 4th or 5th round but the Oildrop plucked them 50 slots earlier in order to make certain they’d be Oilers.
After that, Edmonton bought into the idea that the new world order of the NHL meant smaller, more skilled men who would have more room to make plays. Just like the French in World War Two, the Oilers seem to have their cannons pointed in the wrong direction at critical moments. The Coke Machines (Zack Stortini aside) never landed on the beaches of Normandy. Allow me to list the men I’m talking about:
- 2000-#35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210.
- 2001-#52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230.
- 2002-#79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199.
- 2003-#51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190.
- 2003-#68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217.
- 2003-#94-RW Zach Stortini, 6’4, 225.
- 2004-#57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207.
Chris Vande Velde was drafted in 2005 (and there have been others since then) but I’d say these are the men who represent the Golden Era of the Oilers Coke Machine drafts. Brad Winchester is 183 games into an NHL career that has never looked stronger; Eddie Caron is working hard at refrigerator college; Brock Radunske is playing hockey in South (whew!) Korea; Colin McDonald is still trying to hit a curve ball in the minors, JF Jacques is infuriating but impossible to ignore, Zack Stortini is a useful (if limited) NHL player and Geoff Paukovich hit some guy named Greentree in a training camp game against Calgary last fall.
The Oilers may decide to add some size and grit in the draft, since GM Steve Tambellini has expressed it’s an organizational need.
This year’s model? Gavin Hartzog (in photo). He’s a RW. 6’3, 215. He goes to Marquette High School and will be attending Wisconsin (NCAA). His favorite sports team is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but other than that he looks like a winner. Here’s some things about him:
- he was named the MVP of the highly scouted Chicago Showcase tournament last month.
- he scored 23 goals in 21 games as a senior for Marquette University High School, then added seven goals and two assists in five games for Team Wisconsin at the Chicago Showcase.
- Hartzog: “In high school, it was a little easier to score goals, I think, than it will be at the next level. I’ll just have to see where I fit in as a team player. Down in Chicago, it seemed like I was a goalscorer. But if the Badgers need me to be a grinder, I’ll be a grinder. Whatever fits.”