Through the great successes of Hemsky, Cogliano and Gagner and the poor selections that included Niinimaki, Pouliot and Schremp, Oilers fans enjoyed a much better “draft era” than the 1990s led by Barry Fraser.
As good as Fraser’s 79-83 drafts were (and they were top drawer, the gold standard), Edmonton at the draft during the 1990s was more miss than hit.
During the KP era (’01-’07), the Oilers definition of “best player available” changed a few times. From 2001 through 2003, the Oilers chose skill early (with size if they could get it, with Pouliot vs. Parise being the obvious example but Niinimaki was a big kid) and then went for Coke machines in the second and third rounds. By 2003 they also had established a trend of picking players who had passed through at least one draft (Brodziak, Roy, Syvret) but were considered closer to NHL ready than younger options.
In his first three seasons (2001-2003), Prendergast drafted only one truly small player (Dwight Helminen, and they traded him). 94% of their picks were over 6 feet, 60% were over 6-2, 20% of them weighed over 210 the day they were drafted. The biggest kids were Zach Stortini, David Rohlfs and the gigantic Jean-Francois Jacques, whose slow transition to the NHL may be explained in part to the “big men take awhile longer” credo long held for pro hockey.
From 2004-07, the Oilers began to overlook size (Cogliano) and speed (Schremp) at the top of the draft in order to bring more skill into the organization. In fact, both Schremp and Cogliano are under 6 feet tall, the first players taken by Edmonton in the first round under 6 feet since Tyler Wright in 1991. From 2004-07, the Oilers selected all kinds of players who may have been overlooked in previous drafts (Gagner, Cogliano, Trukhno) and because of it have more skill than we’ve seen in these parts in several years.
The new regime continued the love of skill last season (Eberle), but also returned a little bit to some old favorites (size, Finland). I think we might be seeing another turn on the exact definition of “best player available” for this team. Away from “pure skill” and toward size and skill. If the conclusions reached by Robin Brownlee are true then we can expect a Glennie or a Kulikov more than a Schroeder or an Ellis. The devotion to young men who test off the charts in terms of grey matter will likely continue unabated.