In his fascinating book THE ROAD TO HOCKEYTOWN, Jimmy Devellano talks about the goal of a scouting director and his staff:
- ‘We’re trying to determine if the player can get to the next level, that’s the real job. Most people can sit and watch a game and tell you who the best player on the ice is, but the good scout will be able to judge whether or not a player can go a step or two higher. We in the hockey business call it projecting. “
The current Oilers are counting heavily on Stu MacGregor and his staff to be very good at projecting into the future. It is a vital component to success: anyone who watched the Oilers fall so quickly from the top circa 1990 through 1993 can tell you that drafting well is job one for a successful NHL team.
This doesn’t mean every pick is going to be a winner, and it also doesn’t mean that every pick is going to end up as the scouts projected him. However, a good scouting department should be able to deliver quality with their 1st rd picks and be on point in rounds 2 and 3. After that, all drafting teams face the vagaries of the crap shoot and Edmonton isn’t impervious to that reality.
The problem for an organization is that by the time a scouting director and his department have a drafting record you can evaluate, many seasons will have passed and many opportunities missed. We are just now getting into the period where we can evaluable Stu MacGregor and I think this is a good time to compare his early draft record with that of his predecessor Kevin Prendergast.
Both had enormous success in their first selections, and both have had selections which darted off the rails early. Such is the business of the scouting life.
I am looking for three main things in this look at the scouts:
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (1st, 2nd, 3rd round)
- Success in what Devellano calls “projecting”
- Success in addressing team needs beyond the first round.
KEVIN PRENDERGAST 2001
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (1st round): In his first draft as scouting director, Prendergast and staff knocked it out of the park with Ales Hemsky at #13 overall in 2001. It is important to note that Hemsky was not among the top 10 forwards ranked by Redline going into the draft and Central scouting ranked him 9th among NA skaters. I think it is reasonable to suggest that KP and his staff correctly identified Hemsky as the BPA despite other more touted players being available.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (2nd round):In the second round, the Oilers selected Doug Lynch at #43 and he was on course for an NHL career until derailed by a hand injury. Lynch was an AHL All-Star at age 20, and I think you could reasonably argue that this would have been a solid selection without the injury. Finding fault with the selection seems contrary. Central scouting had Lynch ranked #23 NA skater that season. The first misstep then for the 2001 draft came at selection #52 when the club announced Eddie Caron from Phillips Exter HS. However, he had been ranked as #29 NA skater by CS, but he stalled out and became something of a nightmare with college transfers and the like. I don’t know if the Oilers gave up on him or vice versa at the end, but it really didn’t matter.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (3rd round): Kenny Smith was a 6.02, 210 D from Harvard and ranked #74NA by CS in 2001. He did not develop as a pro and was a draft flop.
- Success in what Devellano calls “projecting”: The Oilers exercised an option to flip picks with Boston in 2001 (a remnant of the Bill Guerin-Anson Carter trade) in order to secure Hemsky. They could be credited with selecting wisely and projecting Hemsky into something resembling the player he became. Hemsky had a “Hossa” buzz around him on his draft day, so he was a player of interest by the time the first dozen names had been called that day. The Lynch selection was also a solid projection, the big defender was on track as a prospect before injury. I’ll also give the organization credit for projecting Jussi Markkanen as a ‘plug and play’ goaltender in round 5.
- Success in addressing team needs beyond the first round. A positive grade here too, not only for Markkanen but also later round overage selections Ales Pisa and Kari Haakana. Although they were short term, stop gap additions, both players contributed to the organization in NHL GP.
The first KP draft included a big fly (Ales Hemsky) as well as another useful player in Jussi Markkanen. Doug Lynch was also a plus despite his career altering injury. On the other side of the ledger, the club wasted several selections, notably #52 and #84 as well as three picks after #150.
OVERALL GRADE: B
STU MACGREGOR 2008
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (1st round): MacGregor plucked Jordan Eberle at #22 and as with Hemsky rates a big fly. Over the last year or so there is a storyline emerging that suggests Eberle was an obvious choice by the Oilers. In fact, Eberle was not an obvious choice at #22 if you believe Bob McKenzie (he had him #29) and Mike Remmerde established the concerns about him.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (2nd, 3rd round): Oilers didn’t have selections in this round. Although the scouting department apparently pushed for trades during these rounds, the price was too high and the Oilers sat for a long stretch.
- Success in what Devellano calls “projecting”: Credit where due here the Oilers were on target with their assessment of Eberle. Motin was a “low ceiling” player, I don’t know that there was much to project and Cornet looked like a tweener then and now. I’ll give credit for the drafting of Hartikainen in this category, he had a rep for poor footspeed but has progressed beyond the scouting report and his draft number.
- Success in addressing team needs beyond the first round. A tough question in a draft that featured 5 picks overall and 4 after #100, but I’d give some credit for Hartikainen here.
MacGregor’s draft was made with the Eberle selection. Unlike KP, he didn’t have a chance to build on it in the second and third rounds, and for that I’ve ranked the 2008 entry draft slightly above 2001. Should Harikainen emerge as a legit NHL player, the grade still has room to improve. We can assume the other selections are not strong contributors to the draft grade until further notice.
OVERALL GRADE: B+