There are many stories about the Edmonton Oilers at the draft table that I can share with you. The time they drafted an ineligible player (Robin Kovar) which caused the Vancouver Canucks table to scream “cheaters” at the Oiler table. It would have been a better story if Kovar had done something as a pro hockey player, but then again the Oilers drafted him.
Here are a few draft items I’ve collected over the years. Feel free to add in and pile on.
- In the year of Shane Doan, the draft was held at Northlands in Edmonton. The Oilers walked to the table with cheers of “Doan, Doan, Doan” and selected Steve Kelly as a giant FU to the Oiler faithful. What you may not know is that John Short took the time to ask some of the drafting group how much of a gap there was between the two players. Razor thin was the response. Never let it be said that the Edmonton Oilers give in to pressure.
- 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).
- The most popular position in the first round for the last decade or so has been 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), plus franchise winger Taylor Hall. No wingers (none!) were chosen in the first round 2002-2008.
- The selection of Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson in 2009 represents the highest ranked European choice in team history.
- MPS was also the highest ranked winger chosen since Steve Kelly in 1995 (Ryan Smyth was taken the previous season).
- Taylor Hall of course is the highest ranked player and winger ever drafted by the organization.
- 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. MBS has done it once, taking Cameron Abney miles before he was projected to be drafted.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Steve Tambellini on the draft floor looks like Mr. Krabs, wandering around calling people “me boy”, asking bewildering questions, bothering staff with superfluous suggestions and mispronouncing the names of Oiler drafts and the colleges they played for last year. He also has some kind of issue with every phone on the table.
- Stu MacGregor looks like the guy who can’t wait for the suits to leave and secretly hopes the GM will fall asleep. He disconnected all the phones 20 minutes ago.
- Darl Katz looks like the guy invited by the owner to sit at the draft table.
- Garnet Bailey was a scout after spending a little time coaching once his playing career ended.
- When they drafted Messier, several references in newspapers mentioned he was “raw-boned.” That phrase is seldom used these days.
- Jari Kurri lasted until the 69th pick in 1980 because NHL teams were convinced he would remain in Finland for military duties.
- 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.
- Through about 1983, the Oilers basically buggered the other NHL teams senseless at the draft table. They were that good.
- 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.
- 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; I believe the 2007 was the final straw for Kevin Prendergast’s time in the director’s chair. After the Parise-Pouliot and Niinimaki drafts, not getting two players the team valued from three first round picks cost him his job. The fact that the draft was weak did him no good.
- The 2010 draft is years from being properly judged, but so far the Oilers group looks very good. It’s hard to find down arrows in the group and the up arrows fill the sky.