Pick the Famous Guy. Who Knew?

This is Jason Bonsignore. He is STILL a young man, born the same year as Fernando Pisani. Bonsignore hasn’t played at a high level since finishing up the 02-03 season in the AHL. Pisani was finishing up his rookie year in the NHL in 02-03. Prospects stubbornly refuse to develop in a straight line.

Remember Jesse Niinimaki? The guy was a dog after the Oilers selected him in the middle of 2002′s first round. He had a wrist injury early on and didn’t do much to help his cause during a quick North American tour in 04-05.

Fast forward to this season and the same Niinimaki is in the SM-Liiga’s top 5 scorers (33gp, 11-20-31). Oiler fans know what this means: a contract signed this summer by a rival team followed by a decade long “in your face” dance by the former first rounder. I kid.

Bob Stauffer talked to Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor today and the entire conversation got me thinking about how a “reach” pick in the first round can impact an organization. Macgregor talked about a bunch of prospects and then touched on Kristians Pelss and his adjustment to the North American game. MBS suggested that he’s learning about the WHL style and using his linemates to better advantage; Pelss was used to doing things on his own in the past because (at least in International play) there wasn’t a lot of help.

I found it fascinating because Pelss is a 7th rd pick (181 overall) and what baseball people call a “draft and follow.” Maybe he grows six inches or adds a foot to his fastball, maybe he doesn’t but either way nothing ventured nothing gained.

The old guard often drafted obscure players in the first round. That’s a huge difference, implying one has either the balls of a pirate or an addled brain (or both). Jesse Niinimaki was a major reach, Alexei Mikhnov was not heavily scouted and therefore there was a wide range of possible outcomes (I’m a math guy, but you need to see a player to confirm 10 fingers and toes). 

This past summer at the draft, Edmonton’s list was pretty famous. Most of it showed up at the NHL scouting combine before the draft and many of the Oilers picks were ranked by the major scouting services:

  • #1: Taylor Hall: #1 (ISS, Redline, Bob McKenzie)
  • #31: Tyler Pitlick: ISS20; Redline30; Bob McKenzie25
  • #46: Martin Marincin ISS40; Redline 50; Bob McKenzie71
  • #48: Curtis Hamilton ISS60; Redline 121; Bob McKenzie57
  • #61: Ryan Martindale ISS61; Redline 100; Bob McKenzie58
  • #91: Jeremie Blaine Redline 156
  • #121: Tyler Bunz ISS 14G; Redline 178; Bob McKenzie NR
  • #162: Brandon Davidson ISS75; Redline204; Bob McKenzie NR
  • #166: Drew Czerwonka unranked
  • #181: Kristians Pelss Redline218
  • #202: Kellen Jones unranked

Hall and Marincin were feature players at last year’s WJ’s and there’s a very good chance the club’s first round pick in 2011 is scheduled to play over Christmas week. Candidates include Couturier, Larsson and Landeskog, and there are a few others too.

Why mention this now? Well, with the world juniors straight ahead I wanted to kick start the 2011 draft coverage here. I’ll update over the next 10 days and we should have a better idea about the top drawer kids by early January.

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