If you are the person who gets angry about your favorite NHL team missing in the fourth round, put down the bong. By the fourth round, NHL teams are drafting players with an 18.9% chance of playing 100 NHL games. Oilers fourth-round picks who have exceeded 100 games this century: Tobias Rieder (154 NHL games) and Chris VandeVelde (197 NHL games). The fourth is the period where distant bells should be reasonable selections. The top three rounds (in most years) should house the quality CHL, NCAA, European league kids—and the exceptional players from tier two leagues (Jost, Fabbro, et cetera).
I’m hopeful we can have a rational conversation about the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round 2008-15. No grand statements on either side, no claims of victory, just an honest assessment of the way things are, the good and bad arrows, and a discussion in regard to useful players coming out of this area of the draft. In order to do this, we absolutely have to agree on some things:
- We can’t judge a drafted player weeks after his selection.
- We can count arrows, and they are a good indicator.
- We cannot expect all of the picks to succeed, that isn’t reasonable.
- We have come to some kind of conclusion about a line in the sand and agree to it (the Cullen grades, 18.9% chance for fourth-round selections)
OILERS FOURTH ROUND 2008-2016
- 2008: Johan Motin (Kevin Lowe) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2009: Kyle Bigos (Steve Tambellini) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2009: Toni Rajala (Steve Tambellini) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2010: Jeremie Blain (Steve Tambellini) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2011: Dillon Simpson (Steve Tambellini) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2011: Tobias Rieder (Steve Tambellini) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2012: Erik Gustafsson (Steve Tambellini) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2013: Jackson Houck (Craig MacTavish) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2013: Kyle Platzer (Craig MacTavish) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2013: Aidan Muir (Craig MacTavish) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2014: William Lagesson (Craig MacTavish) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2014: Zach Nagelvoort (Craig MacTavish) (Stu MacGregor)
- 2015: Caleb Jones (Peter Chiarelli) (Bob Green)
The Oilers’ scouts have in fact identified some useful players in this round, but the general managers have been unable to sign them. I think blame should be placed at the feet of management, although often you will see it deflected with comments suggesting the player refused to sign. A reasonable response is why? Why do these prospects refuse to sign? If the answer is the organization is perceived as being unwinning, then it becomes vital to turn around perceptions. Schnell.
2016 SUMMER (NHL GAMES PLAYED)
- Tobias Rieder 154
- Erik Gustafsson 41
- Johan Motin 1
Rieder reached the Cullen line in 2015-16, marking the first in this group to do it—joining Chris VandeVelde and Liam Reddox in this century. Linus Omark fell short (79 games) but I would include him as a successful selection.
- Productive in Europe: Johan Motin, Toni Rajala
- “It’s Over” arrows: Kyle Bigos, Jeremie Blain, Jackson Houck
- Bad arrows: Aidan Muir, Zach Nagelvoort
- Lukewarm arrows: Kyle Platzer
- Good arrows: Dillon Simpson, William Lagesson
- Very good arrows: Erik Gustafsson, Caleb Jones
- Made the grade, bona fide: Tobias Rieder
ONE BY ONE
- D Johan Motin: A big, stay-at-home defenseman who got into one NHL game before establishing himself in Sweden. He has now played 288 SHL games and another 50 in that league’s playoffs. I rank that as a successful selection.
- D Kyle Bigos: Big defenseman with speed issues, Oilers traded him right before losing his rights. As a pro, Bigos (who is a very big man) has played 8 AHL and 102 ECHL games—and he played for the Edinburgh Capitals in 2015-16.
- R Toni Rajala: Skilled Finn has scored everywhere they put him, including SM-Liiga, SHL, KHL and AHL. Posted another strong year in Sweden in 2015-16 and will now try his luck in Switzerland for the coming year.
- D Jeremie Blain: 61 AHL games and 147 ECHL games so far, he played in both leagues during the 2015-16 season. He has size, is 24, and remains in North American pro hockey, but he is looking for a contract heading into the fall.
- D Dillon Simpson: He is now 128 games into his AHL career, with another year to go in his entry level deal. Simpson has made slow and steady progress since his draft day and may land in the NHL at some point in the coming years. Definitely under the radar as a prospect.
- R Tobias Rieder: He’s a versatile player, has terrific speed, can penalty kill and has skill. A very nice young NHL player.
- D Erik Gustafsson: Two-way defender established himself as a useful player in the SHL, signed with Chicago last summer and made it into half of their games. It looks like he has an NHL future.
- R Jackson Houck: Signed an AHL deal with the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado Avalanche farm). He played as an overager in junior last year scoring 20 goals and 50 points—something he did for four years in a row in the WHL.
- C Kyle Platzer: Has now played 52 AHL regular-season games and has 20 points. No screaming hell, but a better number than many Oilers F prospects in recent seasons (Jujhar Khaira had 10 points in his first 51 AHL games). Platzer has a two-way reputation, we will know more in a year.
- L Aidan Muir: Big college forward went the wrong way in his second NCAA season. Eight points in 35 games means he is either not playing much or getting lots of icetime but not scoring. Neither is a good answer.
- D William Lagesson: Defensive defenseman with good size and mobility. He played very well for Sweden at the WJs—he played a major role—but his college numbers look just average.
- G Zach Nagelvoort: In his three college seasons, the SPs have fallen from .929 to .906 to .893. Final college season straight ahead.
- D Caleb Jones: Posted a strong Draft+1 season, impressing with his offense. Size, mobility and (increasingly) some offensive ability. Signed by the Oilers, one more year of junior to come.