For many many years, really as long as I can remember, the Edmonton Oilers go walkabout during the middle rounds of the entry draft. Sometimes it’s the 3rd round or 4th, and some years it even starts in the second, but there are countless examples of the club drafting ‘outside normal’ during the top 100 selections. It’s a very big deal, because the odds of one team being smarter than the consensus as often as Edmonton goes walkabout is very low. I understand that by pick #40 or so there are more than three or four ‘possibles’ per selection, but a team should be selecting two recognizable names with their first selections and the third one should be at least vaguely familiar.
Imagine my delight with this year’s edition of the draft! The 2009 Oiler draft remains the cock of the walk walkabout draft:
- 2009 Troy Hesketh selected #71 overall, unranked even by Central Scouting (the NA list in 2008 was 209 names deep!)
- 2009 Cameron Abney selected #82 overall, unranked even by Central Scouting (the NA list in 2008 was 209 names deep!)
- 2009 Kyle Bigos selected #99 overall, ranked #169 by Central Scouting
(Troy Hesketh photo by Andy Devlin)
Over 20 draft picks taken after Hesketh have played in the NHL, including Cody Eakin, Craig Smith, Marcus Foligno, Roman Horak, Tomas Vincour, recently signed Marcus Kruger and Jordan Nolan. Now, it’s a crapshoot in the draft and we know it, but these selections were well outside the consensus and again history suggests taking a guy not ranked on any list at #71 is going to look like a mistake so be absolutely sure. Abney same thing, Bigos same thing although it was at #99 overall so it’s not a mortal sin. What’s a reasonable guess for one actual NHL success when choosing at #71, #82 and #99? 30%? I think we all knew it was going to end badly the day these three were taken. Among the comments on this blog:
- doritogrande: I don’t like this pick at all. (Hesketh)
- uni: Why waste a 3rd pick on an enforcer? Aren’t those guys available in numbers in the AHL? (Abney)
- Mark-Ryan: I don’t know these players, I can’t say much about them, but there are real players on the board.
- Lowetide: The concern, as it was with the Coke Machines drafted 00-03, is that the Oilers are doing this extremely early. This fellow should have been available much later in this draft. (Abney)
- Punjabi Oil: Taking him was just idiotic. Why not take a goalie here? Just idiotic. Words cannot describe how dumb this pick was. Just can’t.
These quotes are taken in the moments after the picks, and perhaps that’s unfair. However, there is no real math argument and again the consensus suggested that these guys (Hesketh and Abney for sure) were not value picks and would have been available at the end of the draft.
(Curtis Hamilton photo courtesy Rob Ferguson)
The 2010 draft boasted no major crimes (Jeremie Blain was taken #91 but had some nice things) and the 2011 entry draft was smooth sailing (biggest incident was Dillon Simpson a Bob McKenzie honorable mention). The 2011 walkabout picks–Gernat, Tuohimaa–were after #100 and long shots that worked to the point of pro contracts so that draft should be considered a success on several levels.
The 2012 draft featured the controversial Mitchell Moroz selection (#32, ranked #56 by McKenzie), but for me one ‘organizational’ pick in a few drafts can be forgiven if the club stays the course for the most part. There are also walkabout selections that appear inspired–Jujhar Khaira was #74NA and taken 63rd–and Erik Gustafsson was unranked and was taken by the club inside the top 100. Those selections appear to be on track, but once again the slipping and sliding of the first 100 picks made itself evident in the Oilers war room. Stay. the. course.
2013 AND CLOSE ENOUGH TO JAZZ!
Well. This 2012 edition was a draft that moved the walkabout portion to the walkabout zone–#100 and beyond, where scouts are scouts and the bigwigs are playing Candy Crush Saga on their iphones and yawning. Music!
- Darnell Nurse at #7–Bob McKenzie #9
- Marc-Olivier Roy at #56–Bob McKenzie #59
- Bogdan Yakimov at #83–Pronman #73
- Anton Slepyshev at #88–Pronman #45
- Jackson Houck at #94–Pronman #91
- Kyle Platzer at #96–Pronman #151 (reach)
From that list, only Platzer is a reach, and the Oilers grabbed 5 solid bets inside the top 100. Add that to a crazy grab late (Greg Chase) and the Blue moon’s blue moon (Aidain Muir) and it’s a draft that delivered impressive possibilities.
In the coming days, we’ll look at this year’s prospects but the reality is this: the Oilers made smart bets based on the odds and unless you’re Sam Pollock facing the Oakland Seals you do that all day. ALL day.
Every. Damn. Time.
MacGregor: “Well with Mac, skill is really important to him. That’s something that he’s looked for. Obviously the other intangibles of character, hard work, quality of people and players who are passionate to play the game are important, but he really has a high regard for skill.”
Music. Poetry. Game. Set. Match.