One of the things Oiler fans follow closely (more closely now after the #1 trio) is the entry draft. The first round pick is usually the marquee name, but there are gems after #30 and those picks can define a draft. In the case of Kevin Prendergast’s 2002 performance, that’s exactly what happened.
The first round is here. I gave MacGregor the nod (B+) over Prendergast (B) and it’s that close today–5 years after the 2008 entry draft. I’d say it’s about 88% to 84%–not enough clearance really to suggest one scouting group was clearly superior over another, but enough to give an edge to the MBS team (mostly because of Eberle). Hartikainen has had 5 years, and may still make it, but I think we can give credit for uncovering a useful prospect who pushed toward the NHL at this point in time. I’m satisfied keeping both grades as they were one year ago.
I think 5 years is a good amount of time to evaluate, so you may be asking why I’m doing 2002 versus 2009 today. The answer goes like this: although we have questions that remain about the 2009 entry draft, there’s enough evidence for us to “make the call” and then spending season #5 monitoring progress. If Anton Lander or Toni Rajala progress beyond where they are today, next year at this time we can adjust the grade before putting it in the books.
KEVIN PRENDERGAST 2002
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (1st round) A swing and a miss here. Jesse Niinimaki was an enormous reach, one of the biggest in Oiler draft history (and baby that’s saying something). Niinimaki did show a lot of promise until a (Guy Flaming described it as “devastating”) severe shoulder injury 10 games into the 2003-04 season ended his year. Niinimaki was never really a threat to play in the NHL, in fact he played in only 24 AHL games, scoring 1 goal. My strongest memory of Niinimaki was his Hockey News ranking (#84) compared to his final draft number (#15)–if you’re going to make that reach, you better be right. Niinimaki is one of 4 2002 first round selections who never played an NHL game.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (2nd round) Prendergast and crew clearly felt they could do big business in 2002′s 2nd round. How do I know? Kevin Lowe traded a good NHL player (Jochen Hecht) for two picks–#31 (Jeff Deslauriers) and #36 (Jarret Stoll). I’m not going to get into the issue of value for the player, or nicking the picks because it cost a good NHL player. That’s another conversation. We’re evaluating the draft board, KP’s job was to get good players. And he did. In the second round of the 2002 NHL draft, Prendergast selected Jarret Stoll (641 NHL games and counting), Matt Greene (466 NHL games and counting) and Jeff Deslauriers (62 NHL game and counting). That’s a great round–two NHL regulars over many seasons and a goalie who was good enough to get a long look and could still hang out at the shallow end of the NHL goalie pool. Would it have been as good without the Hecht trade? No. However, as we progress through this study, the shoe will be on the other foot (2010 the next example) so I think it’s wise to acknowledge Hecht’s importance, but to evaluate the draft based on the pure quality of the selections.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (3rd round): Brock Radunske is very famous now, but did not have a long North American pro career. Chosen 79th overall, he played only 28 AHL games before becoming a legend in his time halfway around the world. I’ll always cheer for him, but can’t give the KP camp any counting points in this evaluation.
- Success in what Devellano calls “projecting”: Jim Devallano: ‘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.” I can’t give huge credit for Stoll here, because he was a draft re-entry and the Oilers knew what they were getting–in fact he went right to the AHL and established himself as an NHL prospect and actually played in the NHL the season he was drafted. I think we can give some credit for Greene; the club saw him good for the Green Bay Gamblers and then followed his progress through NCAA and eventually to pro. Although he’s never been a consistent 20-minutes a night defender, Greene is most certainly an NHL player.
- Success in addressing team needs beyond the first round. Huge marks for the KP team here. They added a useful center who was close to NHL ready, picked up a big defensemen with good foot speed (always useful) and the top ranked NA goaltending prospect to boot. I’d say it was an extremely effective draft when viewed through this lens.
The second KP draft did not include a Hemsky-calibre big fly, but did produce an excellent 2-line center and a top 6 defender. The first round was an addled moment, and the picks beyond #100 (Ivan Koltsov, Jonas Almtorp, the illegal Robin Kovar, Glenn Fisher, Mikko Luomo, JF Dufort, Patrick Murphy, Dwight Helminen, Tomas Micka, Fredrik Johansson) produced very little (a total of 30 games, 3 for Luoma and the rest for Mighty Dwight). I don’t think there’s any reason to punish the scouting staff for a barren draft after pick #100, but it is worth noting that all 10 selections failed to make the grade. I did knock the grade down a significant amount because of the Niinimaki reach, however. Whatever the sins of a draft team, fanning in the first round should be met with release from employment. It it not forgivable.
This mark reflects: the lack of a top end talent like Hemsky; the poor first round decision and the solid second round.
Kevin Prendergast Grade: C+ (69%)
STU MACGREGOR 2009
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (1st round) The Magnus Paajarvi selection looked like a questionable ticket a year ago, but the young man has settled in and enjoyed a solid third year in North America. Wooguy’s excellent piece and the recent RE discussion reflect good arrows, to the point we can suggest he’ll be a productive top 9F next season and into the future. He ranks 11th in GP and points among his draft class, despite some struggles and time in the minors. Although he may not cover a #10 overall bet, I’m going to give the MacGregor group a full share of points for Paajarvi. We can review next spring.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (2nd round): Anton Lander has played in the NHL, but I don’t think the scouting staff should get extra credit for it–the organization crushed on his improved footspeed and made a poor decision. On the other hand, he’s shown some glimpses of being able to put together enough offense (I think we see he has some value as a PK man already) and he could end up being a useful 4line player. That doesn’t really cover the bet, Lander at this point is a net negative in my opinion. There was value in that 2009 second round, it’s not certain the Oilers got enough of it. We’ll wait a year, but right now it’s a down arrow in terms of value. Not a Niinimaki miss, but not a full glass of Falcon either.
- Success in the first 100 selections of each draft (3rd round): A noxious third round and no hope of recovery. In 2008, the MBS group didn’t have a third round pick, but in 2009 they spent them on #71 Troy Hesketh, #82 Cameron Abney and (early 4th) #99 Kyle Bigos. That’s a miserable payback, and what’s more two of these selections were derailed soonafter the draft (Bigos remains a prospect of interest). I don’t want to overstate this–these are picks between 70 and 100–and the three misses here are not as criminal as the Niinimaki miss. Overall, however, it represents a missed opportunity on a pretty significant level. I’m hopeful MacT will move these types of picks back to the 4th and 5th rounds.
- Success in what Devellano calls “projecting”: Jim Devallano: ‘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.” I think they did a good job in projecting Paajarvi beyond his role before the draft, he had some offensive question marks but there was little doubt he’d play somewhere in the lineup once he adjusted to North American ice. I’m not able to give credit for the Lander selection, they clearly projected him to be a more offensive player and he hasn’t delivered.
- Success in addressing team needs beyond the first round. Lander was a pick clearly made to address need, but the Oilers are still looking for centermen, and on a team with Nuge and Gagner they might not be looking so hard if Lander was more able offensively. I think we’re talking less ’2-way’ and more ‘shutdown’ and 4line C’s are more prevalant and less costly. I’ll mention the late picks (Toni Rajala, Olivier Roy) here and they could improve the final rating of this draft (both have shown flashes of brilliance this season). Still, there’s not enough proof currently to suggest they’ll peak out beyond AHL level during their time in the organization.
The second MBS draft did not include a big fly like Jordan Eberle, but did produce a significant talent in Magnus Paajarvi. Although his career progression this far isn’t at “Stoll level” it’s certainly plausible he’ll occupy a similar spot in the lineup as his NHL career evolves.* I think they’re comparable talents. The draft after Paajarvi isn’t much, not so far and we’re 4 years into the debate. Lander’s outer marker is probably a 4th line C who can PK and post 15-20 points a year. Does that have value? Sure, but it doesn’t cover #40 overall and there are lots of those guys available for just money every summer.
This mark reflects: the lack of a top end talent like Eberle, the Paajarvi first round selection (which I believe covers/will cover the bet) and the picks after Lander and their lack of value.
Stu MacGregor Grade: C (66%)
*Four years after his draft, Paajarvi’s NHL totals (163, 26-32-58) aren’t close to Stoll’s (220, 53-84-137) but it’s also true that Stoll was 20 on his draft day. Another way to look at it is this: Paajarvi’s totals at age 21 (163, 26-32-58) compare well to Stoll at the same age (72, 10-12-22). I don’t believe Paajarvi will have a 68-point season anytime soon, but Stoll had only one of those in his career.
- I wanted to make a quick note in regard to the difference between these two seasons and the previous look at the 2001/2008 draft. I put a high value on getting top flight players like Hemsky and Eberle–there are none in either draft (that I can see, at this time).
- One more thing on the Hecht trade/change in draft quality. Although I did not reference it above, the Oilers added picks in 2009 too, although much later in the draft. Edmonton traded Kyle Brodziak and a 6th rder (Darcy Kuemper) to Minnesota for the picks that turned into Kyle Bigos and Olivier Roy.
- In doing this look at the two drafts, I was surprised to see just how much Matt Greene has fallen down the Kings depth chart. He was playing 16.5 minutes at evens and another three on the PK when he went over to LA, but his playing time has been steadily fading. I’m not sure if it’s the tremendous LAK depth, performance or injury, but this TOI erosion has been going on for some time.
- Because of the above point, and Lander’s ‘in limbo’ status, I wanted to at least make a note about those two players. Should the gap between them (NHL regular, NHL fringe player) close, then it’s likely the overall grade will change when we discuss it next spring.