Back in 2016, I compared the Toronto Maple Leafs recent drafts to the Oilers, promising to come back in a few years to look at it unless I won the lottery and bought the team. Lucky for you, the lottery Gods did not bless me. Here we are.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Some prospects who are remembered as busts deserve a second look
- Lowetide: Ideal style pairings for the 2020-21 Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: The Oilers and the Calder Trophy: 5 rookies, 1 strong contender
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers defensive prospects are impressive overseas, but what comes next?
- Lowetide: Oilers pick up an intriguing addition in free agent Dominik Kahun
- Lowetide: How close is Ryan McLeod to an Oilers roster spot?
- Lowetide: Jay Woodcroft oversees a spike in Oilers prospect development
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ organizational depth chart: Where does Edmonton stand today?
- Lowetide: Dmitri Samorukov’s KHL impact and what it means to the Oilers
- Lowetide: Oilers extend Kris Russell, solve expansion issue
- Lowetide: Can Kyle Turris centre an outscoring No. 3 line in Edmonton?
- Lowetide: Tyson Barrie’s skills and how Oilers coach Dave Tippett will deploy him
- Jonathan Willis: Can Oilers unlock James Neal’s scoring potential at five on five?
- Lowetide: Why is Ilya Konovalov no longer starting in the KHL?
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
THE TORONTO SIDE
The Leafs had (imo) a dandy 2015 draft, featuring Mitch Marner and a cast of about one dozen. Toronto followed up with No. 1 overall Auston Matthews and most predicted greatness for both men, and the organization. Here are the draft picks from both 2015 and 2016, with draft day NHLE and sorted by NHL GP:
- RW Mitch Marner: NHLE 53 (300 NHL games)
- LC Auston Matthews: NHLE 49 (282 NHL games)
- LD Travis Dermott: NHLE 20 (157 NHL games)
- LW Dmytro Timashev NHLE 32 (44 NHL games)
- RW Carl Grundstrom: NHLE 16 (28 NHL games)
- LC Adam Brooks: NHLE 41 (7 NHL games) (age 20)
- RW Yegor Korshkov: NHLE 19 (1 NHL game)
Marner and Matthews are brilliant players and Toronto had choices aside from Marner. I don’t know how much credit can be given to the scouts and the analytics team for those selections. Dermott played 25 percent of his time against elites, making him a third pairing option who fares well against competition. I like Timashov and Brooks but they didn’t emerge as NHL regulars. Toronto made some good picks not mentioned here like Joseph Woll, JD Greenway and Jeremy Bracco, but the three actual NHL players were obvious to all without math’s help. Someone could emerge but right now it looks like two lottery picks and a No. 5 defender. Edmonton did better 2010/2011.
This is important stuff for me, because I do believe math can guide a draft. That doesn’t mean math exclusively or even math predominantly, but a team using math as a draft tool should be able to beat the odds enough to show value.
THE EDMONTON SIDE
The Oilers had a ton of picks in 2015 but traded most of them, the scouts made great use of what they had left. The 2016 draft saw the team draft Jesse Puljujarvi and he’s still matriculating, so that’s an area the Oilers are weaker than Toronto. Here’s Edmonton’s list, sorted by NHL GP:
- LC Connor McDavid NHLE: 68 (351 NHL games)
- RW Jesse Puljujarvi NHLE: 21 (139 NHL games)
- RD Ethan Bear NHLE: 13 (89 NHL games)
- LD Caleb Jones NHLE: 7 (60 NHL games)
- RD John Marino NHLE: nil (56 NHL games)
- LW Tyler Benson NHLE: 23 (7 NHL games)
McDavid trumps all but the Oilers don’t get credit for the lottery win. In fact, the scouts (or the GM) were unable to grab a Marner in 2016 despite being in the neighbourhood and that may be the tipping point in Toronto’s favour.
That said, the Oilers have three men who are playing bigger minutes than Dermott. Bear played top minutes, Jones was taking over later in the year and Marino played top-4 (32 percent) minutes.
So, what list is better? Matthews, Marner, Dermott? Or McDavid, Puljujarvi, Bear, Jones and Marino? I think we’ll be able to answer better after the coming season. It’ll be year 5 after the draft for Puljujarvi.
I think the Oilers, who aren’t (as far as I know) heavy into using math for the draft, performed well compared to the Maple Leafs.
The Marner-Puljujarvi gap is real but in looking outside top-5 picks (we don’t normally give a lot of credit for those picks as they are mostly automatic) the scouts in Edmonton won the day. The 2017 drafts for both teams favour the Oilers as well.
I may run Tampa Bay and or Los Angeles against the Oilers in the next while just for fun. Math does work. It’s why Andrew Mangiapane should have gone far earlier in the draft and why Lawson Crouse should have gone much later.