Best Draft, 5 Years Out

Of all the great Oilers from the Stanley days, I miss Jari Kurri the most. He was a wonderful player, cheated for defense but had a scorer’s knack for finding open ice and God gave him 99 most every night just to make it completely unfair for lesser men. Jari Kurri arrived as an Edmonton Oiler as the showcase talent for the 1980 entry draft.

Whatever else Oiler fans of my vintage are blessed with from this day until we draw our last breath, the thought of Gretzky to Kurri in orange, white and blue reminds us that there was a time when giants walked among us.

I do this every summer, but mostly for me. The ‘GP’ measure of weighting a draft is flawed as we shall see when looking at this list. I wish there was an easy answer, but short of me “grading” prospects and young players there’s no better way, and if I’m grading them the Poo makes the Hall. :-)

  1. 1980-1,056 (Paul Coffey-394, Jari Kurri-363, Walt Poddubny-157, Andy Moog-142). Kurri played on the best line in hockey for ages and at the peak of his NHL career scored 45, 52, 71, 68 and 54 goals as an Oiler. Paul Coffey was the best offensive defenseman of his era and on of the best of all time, and Andy Moog was a quality goaltender for a long time. Poddubny established himself as a solid roke player in the NHL during his career.
  2. 1979-1,052 (Kevin Lowe-383, Mark Messier-375, Glenn Anderson-290, Mike Toal-3, Blair Barnes-1). I’m not sure this one belongs behind 1980. Messier was a killer, an absolute killer. Anderson was a legend too, it’s ridiculous they got them same year along with a durable defender in Lowe.
  3. 1993-602 (Jason Arnott-321, Miro Satan-217, Ilya Byakin-57, Alex Kerch-5, Nick Stajduhar-2). This draft came at a very low point for the organization (similar to the situation they’re in now). Arnott was a high pick who delivered, but Fraser should also get credit for finding Satan. Two quality regulars over a long period of years makes for a very good draft.
  4. 2003-557 (Kyle Brodziak-175, Zack Stortini-147, Marc Pouliot-141, JF Jacques-60; Mathieu Roy-30, Troy Bodie-4). The 2003 and 2004 drafts benefit from having the lockout season. Same number of available at-bats but one more year of development than the others. No outstanding talent but several role players. The first of two drafts that I would consider candidates for Prendergast’s best, I’d vote for the 2001 draft if I had a vote.
  5. 2001-471 (Ales Hemsky-275, Jussi Markkanen-128, Ales Pisa-53, Kari Haakana-13, Doug Lynch-2). The first Prendergast draft was probably his best one because of Hemsky alone. A decade ago Edmonton was not a successful drafting team (kind of like Calgary in the Sutter era) but Hemsky looked like a winner from the word go.
  6. 1996-466 (Tom Poti-230, Boyd Devereaux-230, Matthieu Descoteaux-5, Chris Hajt-1). Devereaux was a very high pick who didn’t have the kind of offensive pedigree associated with lottery picks. He was a solid role player before that Dallas Drake hit and recovered his career a little later on. Poti had some exceptional skills and a lot of chaos, but he has had a good NHL career (although it may be in jeopardy at this point).
  7. 1981-440 (Grant Fuhr-211, Gord Sherven-84, Marc Habscheid-80, Steve Smith-57, Todd Strueby-5, Paul Houck-3). This was a nice draft, Fuhr came very quickly to the show and Habscheid looked for a time like he might be something. Goalies get nicked a little when we measure them by GP, this draft probably deserves to be in the top 5. Steve Smith was a helluva defenseman.
  8. 2002-440 (Jarret Stoll-286, Matt Greene-151, Mikko Luoma-3). A little misleading in that Stoll was a draft re-entry and technically belongs to the 2000 group. Greene and Stoll have turned into quality NHL players, and this draft (despite the Niinimaki miss) has to be considered a success.
  9. 1994-439 (Ryan Smyth-269, Mike Watt-89, Jason Bonsignore-79, Ladislav Benysek-2). Smyth is the heart and soul for the Oilers 95-06 and will play a role on the new team too. The Bonsignore pick is the biggest and most devastating miss in the team’s history (so far). One of the reasons we don’t remember Fraser fondly is the number of high picks that fizzled, something Prendergast never had an opportunity to do (his only top 6 pick was Gagner).
  10. 1989-414 (Anatoli Semenov-240, Josef Beranek-146, Peter White-26, Darcy Martini-2). You’d like a little more from a draft, but it came when they were winning every season and two useful players isn’t a bad return.
  11. 1991-406 (Martin Rucinsky-241, David Oliver-124, Tyler Wright-41). This is the final of the group I would give passing grades. Rucinsky and Wright had nice careers.
  12. 1999-361 (Mike Comrie-241, Alexei Semenov-92, Jani Rita-15, Tony Salmelainen-13). I really thought this draft was going to be outstanding. Fizzled. Comrie saved it somewhat and this isn’t really about what we all thought but lordy Jani Rita looked like a player.
  13. ****2007-349 (Sam Gagner 291, Linus Omark 51, Alex Plante-7). This draft has one more season to go before reaching the 5-season limit and has a chance to be both a top 10 all-time draft and deliver some quality in Gagner and Omark. KP’s final draft looks like a good one, although with three first rounders one would hope it would have quality. This draft has an outside chance of being the 5th Oiler draft to deliver 500 man games in the first five seasons. 
  14. 1982-345 (Jaroslav Pouzar-186, Raimo Summanen-142, Steve Graves-14, Jim Playfair-2, Dean Clark-1). Pouzar had a nice career and the Oilers thought Summanen would be 99′s left-winger, but this draft fell short of acceptable.
  15. 2005-339 (Andrew Cogliano-246, Danny Syvret-49, Taylor Chorney-44). Cogliano is now gone but he certainly delivered on his draft number.
  16. 1983-322 (Esa Tikkanen-191, Jeff Beukeboom-117, John Miner-14). I think this one gets a passing grade as well, the 5-year measurement punishes this draft because the club had improved. Two solid NHL players, and in the case of Tikkanen a very unique talent.
  17. 1992-286 (Kirk Maltby-236, Ralph Intranuovo-22, Joaquin Gage-18, Joe Hulbig-6, Marko Tuomainen-4). This came at a time when the club really needed to add solid building blocks for the future, but it fell well short.
  18. 1987-235 (Geoff Smith-207, Peter Eriksson-20, Igor Vyazmikin-4, Shaun Van Allen-2, Tomas Srsen-2). Van Allen ended up having a career, but he was a late breaker.
  19. 1998-229 (Shawn Horcoff-188, Alex Henry-41). Another draft that looks less effective because of the 5-year rule. Horcoff most certainly helped the Oilers during the 00′s but the club was shooting blanks in the first round.
  20. 1995-213 (Georges Laraque-126, Steve Kelly-86, Mike Minard-1). Kelly was a painful miss but he was in fact highly rated that summer. Guy Flaming has written some amazing articles over the years about the Kelly miss, and every Oiler scout stands by the decision and admits they liked him better. Doesn’t change anything, but there must have been something there.
  21. 1984-186 (Todd Ewen-121, Emanuel Viveiros-29, Selmar Odelein-18, Simon Wheeldon-11, Daryl Reaugh-7). Odelein’s injury had a lot to do with this draft and its lack of success.
  22. 1985-164 (Kelly Buchberger-140, Scott Metcalfe-19, Mike Ware-5). Buchberger was a nice late round pickup but Fraser was choogling during these drafts.
  23. 2000-153 (Matt Lombardi-134, Brad Winchester-19). It actually turned out pretty well for Fraser. Lombardi emerged as a true NHL talent and Winchester a role player. It took awhile, and of course Lombardi is the Stoll mirror.
  24. 2004-143 (Liam Reddox-56, Rob Schremp-51, Devan Dubnyk-19, Bryan Young-17). This draft is an extreme disappointment, although Dubnyk can still save it and Schremp looks like he might have a career. However, unlike the 2003 draft which produced useful role players this one was pure thud.
  25. ****2006-137 (Theo Peckham-102; Jeff Petry 35). Although Peckham and Petry took time to arrive and this measurement system tells us the 2006 draft is a fail, if the Oilers can grab two starting defenders from a draft season that’s a pretty good year in anyone’s books. Added to the fact the Oilers had two picks in the top 130 selections and there’s some good news here.
  26. ****2008-82 (Jordan Eberle 69, Teemu Hartikainen 12, Johan Motin-1). Three years in and the first MBS draft is taking shape. Eberle looks like a very good one and Hartikainen could turn out too. The 2008 draft suffered from not having any picks in the 2nd or 3rd rounds.
  27. ****2009-80. (Magnus Paajarvi 80). A nice debut for MP and some games possible for Lander this coming season. Olivier Roy is also tracking well enough to be considered a legit NHL prospect.
  28. ****2010-65. (Taylor Hall 65). Hall is the only 1st overall pick on the list and 2010 should be one of the best on the list 4 summers down the line. Hall alone (should he stay healthy) will play over 375 games before 2015 summer. Many of the players chosen in this draft are tracking well, and the top 5 picks from this draft were all called early (1, 31, 46, 48, 61). It should eventually rival the Arnott-Satan draft of 1993.
  29. 1988-63 (Shjon Podein-40, Francois Leroux-11, Len Barrie-9, Trevor Sim-3). Len Barrie got famous.
  30. 1986-31 (Ron Shudra-10, Dan Currie-5, David Haas-5, Jim Ennis-5, Kim Issel-4, Mike Greenlay-2). Mur-diddly-urdler’s row. 
  31. 1997-16 (Michel Riesen-12, Jason Chimera-4). Chimera ended up having a career, but developed slowly.
  32. 1990-00. Thanks for coming. Fraser should have been fired, but the Oilers won the Stanley (again) and honestly not many people were paying attention.
  33. 2011-00: This draft should see at least 9 games in year one.  

Here are the names of Oiler draft picks to have played 200 or more games in the 5 seasons after they were drafted:

  1. Paul Coffey 394
  2. Kevin Lowe 383
  3. Mark Messier 375
  4. Jari Kurri 363
  5. Jason Arnott 321
  6. Sam Gagner 291
  7. Glenn Anderson 290
  8. Jarret Stoll 286
  9. Ales Hemsky 275
  10. Ryan Smyth 269
  11. Andrew Cogliano 246
  12. Martin Rucinsky 241
  13. Mike Comrie 241
  14. Anatoli Semenov 240
  15. Kirk Maltby 236
  16. Tom Poti 230
  17. Boyd Devereaux 230
  18. Miro Satan 217
  19. Grant Fuhr 211
  20. Geoff Smith 207

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