Among the men drafted by the Edmonton Oilers this century, Jujhar Khaira is one of the edgiest. He is very strong, is willing to engage and plays an aggressive game. There’s a mean streak. That’s a good thing.
Offense has been a problem, we’ve known that since before Kevin Constantine was his coach (Constantine’s teams typically dump the puck in on breakaways in order to be set defensively when the puck comes the other way).
Edmonton spent much of the early part of this century drafting players once described on this blog as ‘Coke Machines’ due to their size and inability to score. Khaira is not a Coke Machine, he’s an NHL player.
Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. I am proud to be part of The Athletic. Here are the most recent Oilers stories.
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In the early part of the century, the Edmonton Oilers spent at least one pick per season on a big forward. These men usually lacked NHL calibre skill, should have been taken in the 4th or 5th round but the Oilers plucked them 50 slots earlier in order to make certain no one else got them. Bold strategy, Cotton.
Size mattered. I called them “Coke Machines” because they were neither checkers or scorers and they couldn’t be called policemen because John Ferguson (first player I recall being called a policeman) took a regular shift in the Original Six and that was a tough row to hoe. Here are the names of the first set of Coke Machines and the year they were drafted:
- 2000-No. 35-C Brad Winchester, 6’5, 210 [390 NHL games]
- 2001-No. 52-C Eddie Caron, 6’2, 230
- 2002-No. 79-LW Brock Radunske, 6’4, 199
- 2003-No. 51-RW Colin McDonald, 6’2, 190 [148 NHL games]
- 2003-No. 68-LW JF Jacques, 6’3.5, 217 [166 NHL games]
- 2003-No. 94-RW Zack Stortini, 6’4, 225 [257 NHL games]
- 2004-No. 57-C Geoff Paukovich, 6’4, 207
- 2005-No. 97-C Chris Vande Velde, 6’2, 190 [278 NHL games]
Winchester played the most NHL games, but the ‘per 82 games’ boxcars really give you an idea about the most successful NHL player:
- Colin McDonald 11-15-26
- Brad Winchester 8-6-14
- Chris VandeVelde 5-9-14
- Zack Stortini 4-9-13
- Jean-Francois Jacques 4-4-8
McDonald had the size but also enough skill to play in bigger parts of the game. VandeVelde was an extreme defensive center. Stortini was a MacT favourite, Jacques couldn’t find the ocean. Winchester was probably the most memorable, because of that big goal back in 2006.
The scouting staff had some turnover after 2007, there was a lot of unrest surrounding that 2007 draft we discussed yesterday. Kevin Prendergast was out, Stu MacgGregor was in. Edmonton pursued big forwards, but they were closer to Colin McDonald than Jean-Francois Jacques.
- 2008-No. 163- L Teemu Hartikainen, 6’1, 215 [52 NHL games]
- 2009-No. 82- R Cameron Abney 6’5, 205
- 2010-No. 31- R Tyler Pitlick 6’1, 190 [248 NHL games]
- 2010-No. 48- L Curtis Hamilton 6’3, 202 [1 NHL game]
- 2010-No. 166- L Drew Czerwonka 6’2, 192
- 2011-No. 74- C Travis Ewanyk 6’1, 185
- 2012-No. 32- L Mitchell Moroz 6’3, 220
- 2012-No. 63- L Jujhar Khaira 6’4, 212 [218 NHL games]
- 2012-No. 91- L Daniil Zharkov 6’4, 212
MacGregor was aiming higher but there were some flummoxing choices too (the Abney pick might be the poorest top 100 pick in franchise history). Whereas the Prendergast big men averaged 15 points per 82 games, the men who made the show during MacGregor’s watch were all McDonald-level players.
- Tyler Pitlick 14-10-24
- Teemu Hartikainen 10-11-21
- Juhar Khaira 8-12-20
Three men who are similar to Colin McDonald and all deliver at least some offense. Now, we move on to the MacT years, with Bob Green sliding in and MacGregor still in the room. As discussed yesterday, MacTavish overhauled certain areas, including (I believe) the definition of the ideal draft candidate. More skill! If size is part of the resume, more please, but it starts with skill. Here’s the list under MacT:
- 2013- No. 83- LC Bogdan Yakimov 6’4, 227 [1 NHL game]
- 2013- No. 113- L Aidan Muir 6’4, 211
- 2014- No. 3- Leon Draisaitl 6’2, 208 [422 NHL games]
Per 82 games, Draisaitl is delivering 33-49-82, meaning MacTavish and the scouting staff finally reached the peak of Mount Coke Machine. Except it was no longer a pursuit of Coke Machines, but rather quality players who could make a difference in the heart of the game. Leon’s size is useful, but was secondary, even tertiary.
Peter Chiarelli solved the problem by simply not drafting forwards. He picked a 11 forwards out of 27 picks, 41 percent of the time. In the years in this decade previous to PC’s arrival, GM’s chose 26 forwards in 43 trips to the podium, 60 percent. I’d suggest the last true CM was Cameron Abney, chosen in 2009.
What about Ken Holland? Lots of big men (Michael Rasumussen and Jack Adams are 6.06), but they all have enough skill to project as offensive contributors at the pro level. Who was the ultimate Coke Machine? For that answer, I went to AHL points-per-game in rookie seasons. Fascinating.
Points per game as AHL rookies
- Jean-Francois Jacques 2005-06: 65, 24-20-44 [.677]
- Teemu Hartikainen 2010-11: 66, 17-25-42 [.636]
- Tyler Pitlick 2011-12: 62, 7-16-23 [.371]
- Colin McDonald 2007-08: 73, 12-11-23 [.315]
- Brad Winchester 2003-04: 65, 13-6-19 [.292]
- Curtis Hamilton 2011-12: 41, 5-6-11 [.268]
- Brock Radunske 2004-05: 8, 1-1-2 [.250]
- Chris VandeVelde 2010-11: 67, 12-4-16 [.239]
- Jujhar Khaira 2014-15: 51, 4-6-10 [.196]
- Geoff Paukovich 2008-09: 46, 5-4-9 [.196]
- Travis Ewanyk 2013-14: 68, 7-5-12 [.176]
- Zack Stortini 2005-06: 64, 2-8-10 [.156]
- Mitchell Moroz 2014-15: 66, 5-4-9 [.136]
- Cameron Abney 2011-12: 14, 0-0-0
The Abney pick was the nadir of the experiment but the Oilers were consistent in drafting players miles before they were projected because they had a ‘passion’ for the things said prospect brought to the game. How far down draft lists was Abney? Central Scouting had 210 names that year, Abney wasn’t on it. Oilers took him No. 82, Cody Eakin was chosen at No. 85.