Do you remember the Robin Kovar selection? The Oilers tried to draft him in 2002 when he was ineligible, inspiring the Canucks table to shout “cheaters” because everything about the Canucks is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. To tell the story, I’ll ask USA Today to do the honors:
- No. 123 (compensation, pick later voided): Edmonton receives bonus pick as compensation for loss of Group III free agent Igor Ulanov. Edmonton attempts to use the pick to select forward Robin Kovar from Vancouver (WHL). Kovar was, however, ineligible because he had failed to opt in to the draft. The NHL computer allowed the pick to go through in error, and Edmonton protested. NHL settled issue by awarding 2003 fourth-round pick to Edmonton as compensation for computer error.
Jonathan Willis takes it from there, but I would suggest you steel yourself before reading.
Recently, Rom and Willis posted on the players we discussed yesterday in the D&C Vol 1 post: Evan Campbell, Liam Coughlin and Tyler Vesel (who is in the cover photo for this post). I would like to add Kyle Bigos and Kellen Jones to that group—totaling five draft picks who were 19 or 20 and from a college feeder league at the time of their draft. That’s the family we’re discussing here, the prospects who were passed over several times, still play in a tier 2 league, and are on their way to college.
The point is an easy one to make: in math terms, these are not wise picks. In real terms, the men who have turned pro (Bigos and Kellen Jones) do not have the look of future NHL players.
Rom did a fabulous job of detailing the possible reasons and the pratfalls of the reasoning. One thing he wrote was especially interesting (in regard to success avoidance):
- Rom: Part of the subtext goes like this: what if we get too many good hockey players? where are we going to put them all? we’re only allowed 50 on the reserve list and I don’t like having to rush my decision making!
And considering the large number of players signed from the 2011 draft and who will need to be signed in the year ahead, it makes sense. Edmonton has drafted 26 players 2011-2014, that’s about 9 a year. Not a bad plan to space out the group needing to be signed next summer and the next—Edmonton did a similar thing in 2005, as we discussed yesterday (although we don’t know if it was planned). But you have to get value! Rom also quoted the GM, and this is a big part of the scenario from here:
- Craig MacTavish: For every player that we draft in those mid to later rounds, we want to be able to make a case of why this guy has the potential to be really a top 7 forward, anyone of the 3 top center positions and the four top wing positions, or a top 4 defenseman. If that player doesn’t look like he has the potential to develop into that, then we’re gonna pass and try to find somebody that fits that need.
I think that’s it, right there. I believe the scouts probably looked at Chase De Leo, Michael Bunting, Dysin Mayo, Daniel Audette, Aaron Irving, Reid Duke, Edgars Kulda, Spencer Watson and Jacob Middleton and concluded that these players did not have the potential to be a top 7 forward, anyone of the 3 top center positions and the four top wing positions, or a top 4 defenseman. If Craig MacTavish looks them in the white of their eyes and says ‘do you really believe in this guy?’ and the answer is maybe? Well hell, maybe let the other man have a lash this time.
Watson the perimeter player, Audette the wisp, De Leo good but not Petan, Bunting the tweener, Middleton the backwards traveller. Just a theory, but in a weak draft, we know math did not rule the day.
- 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.”
I think the Oilers are willing to look at the math, but if (as in the case of Spencer Watson) there’s a question mark (perimeter player, owes much offense to linemate) then he’s not on the list. I think we’re spending time discussing the thought process that had Coughlin ahead of Watson on their list, but it’s probable Spencer Watson wasn’t on their list at all. When we talk about the draft next year, we should be hopeful math is in the room but mindful of the mission statement. It is vague enough to exclude a lot of quality in the name of these mysterious intangibles.
Kyle Bigos. Kellen Jones. Evan Campbell. Liam Coughlin. Tyler Vesel: The Kovar collection. I think MacT has to re-set the mission statement, and use the math people way more. Of the three forwards drafted this summer, only Draisaitl and Vesel did well in math. I hope Liam Coughlin beats the daylights out of Spencer Watson as a prospect.
And hope is all I have.