The first time I ever thought to question a general manager over a draft was 1973. Sam Pollock drafted Bob Gainey—who had scored 23 goals for Peterborough—No. 8 overall, leaving two wingers from the same league who had scored 60+ goals each on the draft board. Since that day, I’ve been looking at drafts and wondering if there’s a way to beat the system, Sam Pollock or the man in the moon. It has been a long obsession, expect I’ll be staring at some draft or other in the moment I step away from this lifetime, and can’t say there’s an ounce of regret about it. “Saw him good” to “Dollar sign on the muscle” through “bag of milk” through “million dollar skills, ten-cent head” it’s been a wildly enjoyable experience over 45 years of observation.
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- New Lowetide: If Evan Bouchard makes the team, who is on the outside?
- Lowetide: Oilers 2013 draft: Two NHL players and one crazy trade.
- Lowetide: No. 19 prospect—John Marino
- Jonathan Willis: No. 20 prospect—Tyler Vesel
- Scott Wheeler: The top 50 NHL drafted prospects (Oilers content)
- Lowetide: Top 20 prospects: Forwards outside the top 20
- Jonathan Willis: Are Hayden Hawkey and Phil Kemp underrated gems?
- Lowetide: Tracking Oilers training camp six weeks out.
- Lowetide: Some lingering questions about Oilers 2018 draft and evaluating goalies.
- Lowetide: Oilers training camp: 28 men for 23 jobs.
- Jonathan Willis: Predicting the winners in the top 6 and top 9 forwards.
- Lowetide: The news is out: Youth shall be served.
- Lowetide: Cap decisions of 2017 may continue to hamper 2019 decisions
- Jonathan Willis: Analyzing the Oilers 2018-19 depth chart (including additions)
- Lowetide: Bakersfield Condors could be best Oilers AHL team in ages
- Lowetide: Is Evan Bouchard NHL-ready?
- Lowetide: The maturation of Daryl Katz, or heading down a dangerous road?
Starting in 2015, I began ranking 120 players per draft based on math and a few other things I believed. Beginning that year, I started back drafting my list against the Oilers selections. It’s interesting, if not terribly revolutionary.
THE 2015 DRAFT
- The important one is correct! Connor McDavid is an absolute monster, I’m thrilled to be one of the lucky people watching his career roll out. One of the great pleasures of each winter is witnessing his brilliance live. He is other worldly. Seriously.
- I had Ethan Bear in my second round, so he shows up earlier. That said, Edmonton’s list overall has more prospects who are still pushing (Jones, Bear, Marino plus Svoboda who has signed a pro deal with another team).
- My list doesn’t have a prospect at Bear’s level. Korostolev doesn’t have an NHL contract, Nathan Noel does but played half of his games this year in the ECHL (other half AHL). Vladimir Tkachev is a productive KHL player (40 points in 48 games) and Michael McNiven has an NHL contract with Montreal but isn’t pushing like any of the Oilers kids.
- Edmonton had a better draft than my group, no question about it.
THE 2016 DRAFT
- Again we agree on the high pick, Jesse Puljujarvi was impossible to ignore. He’s 93 games in and we’ll see but there’s just too much talent here.
- I had Alex DeBrincat No. 15, mostly because his NHLE (44 points) was better than anyone’s but Matthew Tkachuk. Both men may have more handsome offensive careers than Puljujarvi, we have to acknowledge that possibility today.
- Tyler Benson has had a healthy run, I have had scouts tell me he has the skill to play top 6F. These are WHL scouts (not NHL) but a pretty smart bunch. Math says third line. We’ll see. I think Filip Berglund, Graham McPhee and Aapeli Rasanen are fine prospects for Edmonton and overall I like their draft.
- My list is better from this draft. DeBrincat is ahead of Puljujarvi at this point, Abramov had a huge final season in junior (45 goals in 56 games), plus guys like Quenneville, Sokolov and Maksimovich have a chance. The Finn goalie finally got drafted.
THE 2017 DRAFT
- I’m not sure anyone knows who will win the Kailer Yamamoto versus Eeli Tolvanen race, I had Yamamoto ranked just behind the Finn on my list. Scott Wheeler has Tolvanen miles ahead of Kailer Yamamoto on his top 50 NHL prospects list.
- Oilers picks from 2017 have all stepped forward save Skyler Brind’Amour. It’s rare to have 85 percent of a draft list with good arrows after 12 months.
- Kirill Maksimov is really looking like something worthwhile. He’s the top sniper in the system, meaning the young man might arrive sooner than anyone expects because of it. He had 227 shots in 62 games (3.66), Alex DeBrincat 309 in 63 games (4.90).
- My list has some nice things, but can’t touch the Oilers group. I like Reedy, Safin and Chmelevski.
- Edmonton wins over my list by a gigantic margin. This is an impressive draft one year gone.
THE 2018 DRAFT
- Miles to go. I like both lists.
- Evan Bouchard and Ty Smith should have solid NHL careers. My bias toward great skaters helped me list Smith ahead of Bouchard. We’ll find out together. Both men have outstanding offensive resumes.
- I think Edmonton did well with Ryan McLeod and Olivier Rodrigue, and Michael Kesselring is an intriguing player who might be a pleasant surprise if he develops (raw, skilled). I’m looking for clues on Patrik Siikanen, but he appears to be the first porridge pick under Keith Gretzky.
- I like all five guys on my list a lot. There were all inside my top 35. Seriously.
Edmonton’s 2015 draft is going to be remembered for Connor McDavid but the scouts were quietly excellent with their depth picks. The 2016 draft saw the organization pick Tyler Benson over Alex DeBrincat and that selection highlights what was a meandering weekend at the draft table. The second round lacked focus, and yet later picks seemed to get it all back. Still, an amateur like myself outperformed them simply by not choosing reach picks like Matthew Cairns and by taking what the board gave me (in DeBrincat).
The 2017 draft shines like a diamond today, one more season like 2017-18 and we may see some graduations from that group. Kirill Maksimov would go much higher in a redraft. This is the first draft for the Gretzky-Green tandem and it was top drawer.
The 2018 draft continues 2017’s excellence save for the last selection (seemed to be a favor to a scout or maybe an excellent tournament). Still, the first three selections were immaculate and the big USHL defenseman has a story to tell.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We are drunk with guests on what should be a highly entertaining show. At 10 this morning, TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Matthew Scianitti, TSN. A wild and crazy CFL weekend, a run of trades and an even crazier week to come.
- Mike Rodak, ESPN. The Buffalo Bills and their QB’s: Will Nathan Peterman level the competition?
- Jason Gregor, TSN. Eskimos win and are at 4-2, can they find consistency against the Roughriders and does it matter?
- D. Orlando Ledbetter, AJC. The Atlanta Falcons won 11 two years ago, 10 last season. Can they keep that pace?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!