Draft and Follow

After finishing the top 20 earlier this week, I made a mental note (Pat actually mentioned it) to add some things about a few of the bubbling under group.

The first of those is Troy Hesketh, and his story brings to mind one of my favorite baseball phrases: draft and follow.

The idea (for baseball) is to draft players who might gain a foot on their fastball, or have a growth spurt, later in the draft when all the sure things are done.

We’ve talked about it in the past, and with all respect to a player like Jordan Bendfeld the fact is that every season has a bunch of guys available later in the draft that have terrific potential. Any fool can see that (there are after all players who are never drafted that make it) and when the Oilers draft an “organizational” player or a friend of the GM’s they’re really wasting an opportunity to cash on a “draft and follow.” The Oilers top line currently features 2 top 10 picks and a guy who fell through all of his available draft opportunities.

Hesketh is an interesting player on all kinds of levels. He isn’t going to be available for pro hockey before the early teens based on reports (he’s in high school, headed for the USHL and then college. That could be 6 years after this one!) but he is going to be a big defender when he arrives. I’ll begin by posting the stuff we knew at the draft:

  • “Owns a very projectable frame for the defense position thanks to a late growth spurt during his junior high school campaign in 2008-09. Has committed to attend Wisconsin beginning in 2011-12, but is expected to complete his senior year at powerhouse Minnetonka high school (Minnesota). Should become a better defender once he adds more strength and plays for Badgers coach Mike Eaves. Was not rated in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American players.”
  • Star Tribune: “Stay at home defenseman with a mean streak.”
  • 08-09 Minnetonka numbers: 25gp, 7-14-21, 42pims +23.
  • Draft day numbers: 6.02, 178.
  • Stu MacGregor after the draft: “After the draft was done, other guys were saying ‘you guys snuck one here!’ New Jersey runs their own scouting combine and we knew they’d have him in there and a number of other teams had him on their radar right around that area so we knew we had to step in there if we wanted him.”
  • More Macregor: “Pretty excited about Hesketh. He’s going to play high school again next year. He’s a player that has some long term potential. He’s a guy that (Oilers scout) Mike Peluso had extreme passion for, he’s a solid defender and smart in his defending skills, his angles in taking away ice from the puck carrier.”
  • Jim Connelly, Senior Writer USCHO: “The move to take Hesketh was considered risky because the 18-year old’s current timeline for junior and college hockey may make it difficult to sign him before he becomes a free agent. Teams have no more than 4 years to sign a player after he is drafted, so given that Hesketh will play 2 years in junior (USHL) and then head to Wisconsin, that could create problems. It’s similar to what happened to Blake Wheeler and the Phoenix Coyotes.”
  • Hesketh: “The last year has been crazy, picking the college I want to go to and the Edmonton picking me. I couldn’t have picked a better organization, happy to be an Edmonton Oiler. My Dad is 6.06, my brother is 6.06 and 195, I’m like 188 right now and I still want to gain 13 more. My goal is to be 200 and I’ll make that goal. I’m a stay-at-home defenseman, my job is to keep them from scoring and move it up to the forwards as fast as I can. If the big hit comes around, I’ll take it but won’t get out of position. I just want to get better. I like Chris Pronger, because he’s got a great stick as a defender and that’s what I try to do.”

The concerns here are the signability problem and even if they do sign him the quick turnaround to free agency. The one thing we need to state is that NHL teams change their draft rules for convenience at will, so those restrictions may change in the next couple of years and we should watch for something that disallows the Wheeler scenario.

This season Hesketh is doing even better across the board (6gp, 2-4-6 +10) but we have to remember his team has outscored the opposition by a mile (44-3) in the season’s first 6 games. They must be the Harlem Globetrotters of Minnesota high school hockey.

I haven’t seen a lot on his skating and that would be a concern. There are some things that suggest a guy like Matt Greene could be a comp if this kid can skate well. The combination of size/speed for stay-at-home types is overlooked but very valuable (Habs used to have a lot of these guys when they won a lot).

There are some questions about the player, and we shouldn’t get too carried away about New Jersey eyeing him (why wouldn’t they just invite a bunch of fringe guys to mislead teams like the Oilers? I prefer teams that do their own due diligence and talk about that) but if he grows into a 6.06 frame and can skate? Could be something.

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