20 Things about the Oilers Draft History

The Edmonton Oilers have a new scouting director (Stu MacGregor) and a small sample under his direction. Still, there are indications that the “MBS” is going to be his own man at the draft table. Below are Oiler draft trends–both old and new–that may have some application at this year’s draft. I think it is worth looking back to see if we can predict the future.

  1. When they selected Alex Plante in the first round in 2007, it marked the first time a defenseman had been drafted by the Oilers in that round since Mathieu Descoteaux in 1996. In both seasons, the defenseman was the second player taken in the round (Boyd Devereaux in ’96, Sam Gagner in ’07). What can we learn from it? I think the Oilers will take a defenseman (my bet is Dylan McIlrath) should they trade up to the middle of the first round. The highest choice for the blue since Stu Macgregor took over was Troy Hesketh (#71) last season. Small sample size, but they need to stock the blueline with better prospects.
  2. The most popular position in the first round is center, with Jesse Niinimaki, Marc Pouliot, Rob Schremp, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Riley Nash and Jordan Eberle all being selected since 2002. In the same span, they’ve chosen one goalie (Dubnyk) and one defenseman (Plante). No wingers (none!) were chosen in the first round 2002-2008.
  3. The selection of Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson represents the highest ranked European choice in team history.
  4. MPS was also the highest ranked winger chosen since Steve Kelly in 1995 (Ryan Smyth was taken the previous season).
  5. During the “Coke Machine” era, the Oilers would routinely draft kids 40+ slots before one might have expected them to go. Geoff Paukovich was NA#80 (which would put him well into the 100s overall) in 2004 and they picked him 57th overall, dealing NHLer Jason Chimera for the right to do it. JF Jacques was ranked #88NA in 2003 and they picked him 68th overall. We saw that again last season with Cameron Abney.
  6. Despite going 248th overall in 2003, Josef Hrabel was ranked #30 Euro by Central Scouting. His ridiculous hgt/wgt ratio (6-1, 176) probably helped the slide.
  7. Rob Schremp fell big time. ISS had him top 5 and CSB had him #10NA but he fell all the way to #25. Mike Green went to Washington 4 picks later and he was ranked #9NA.
  8. Every year the Oilers say they tried to trade up. They’ve been after Pitkanen, Coburn, Barker, Alzner, usually defensemen but it never works out. This season they own the #1 pick, and I think there must be some temptation to trade down 1 slot in order to pick up a second pick in the top round.
  9. The Oilers DO trade a lot on draft day but it’s usually down. The infamous Parise-Pouliot deal, the Niinimaki-Higgins trade are just two, although they did trade up for Riley Nash.
    The 2002 trade that saw them send Jochen Hecht to Buffalo for 2 second-rounders featured Darcy Regier looking like he was about to pass out with glee on the draft floor. Seriously.
  10. Lowe on the draft floor looks like a befuddled high school Math teacher looking for his shoes. Kevin Prendergast resembled a man about to receive the “Tobacco Rep of the Year” award and Stu MacGregor looks like a guy who wears a suit maybe 10 times a year and hates every minute of it.
  11. Many think Barry Fraser arrived in time for the 1979 draft, but in fact Fraser’s first Oilers draft was the 1978 WHA amateur draft.
  12. Kevin Prendergast’s era started in 2001 and went through the 2007 entry draft. He plucked Hemsky as his first pick and I don’t think he made a better choice in the following seasons.
  13. Garnet Bailey was a scout after spending a little time coaching once his playing career ended.
  14. When they drafted Messier, several references in newspapers mentioned he was “raw-boned.” That phrase is seldom used these days. The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t know he was available, and reports years later suggest it had a major impact on scouting staff turnover.
  15. Jari Kurri lasted until the 69th pick in 1980 because NHL teams were convinced he would remain in Finland for military duties. We saw this impact young Teemu Hartikainen (as chronicled beautifully by Derek over at C&B) and one would hope that these young men would be allowed to focus on their chosen career at such a vital development point.
  16. Scott Metcalfe was compared to two-way LW Dave Hunter the day he was drafted.
    We’ve talked about him a lot on this blog, but Tony Hand is the most interesting human interest story Edmonton drafted.
  17. Through about 1983, the Oilers basically buggered the other NHL teams senseless at the draft table. They were that good. 1984-2000 it was the other teams turn.
  18. Draft years go sideways very quickly. I always use the 5 year window as a “tell”, meaning we can call the 2005 draft (too many small guys, specifically Chorney) but college kids (like Vande Velde in 2005 and Horcoff 7 years earlier) can save a draft.
  19. The 2004 draft comes down to Dubnyk now. Should Schremp end up being a useful player, I don’t think we can credit the Oilers for it.
  20. The 2007 draft–despite three first round picks–has a bad taste. Plante was a raw player and he suffered major injury problems during key development years, and Nash is the Oilers “Cool Hand Luke” in that there is a major ‘failure to communicate.’

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