|Georges Laraque and... Friends|
Big Georges up there is having a good old time, isn't he? Aside from being a muscular and athletic dude, Georges Laraque also has a decent bank account, which can't hurt with the ladies. That bank account started when he was drafted 31st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 1995. Believe it or not, Laraque is actually one of the best players taken 31st overall in the last 20 years. Here they are:
2010 - Tyler Pitlick (Edmonton)
2009 - Mikko Koskinen (NYI)
2008 - Jacob Markstrom (Florida)
2007 - T.J. Brennan (Buffalo)
2006 - Tomas Kana (St. Louis)
2005 - Brendan Mikkelson (Anaheim)
2004 - Garrett Leslie (Vancouver)
2003 - Danny Richmond (Carolina)
2002 - Jeff Deslauriers (Edmonton)
2001 - Matthew Spiller (Phoenix)
2000 - Ilya Nikulin (Atlanta)
1999 - Charlie Stephens (Washington)
1998 - Artem Chubarov (Vancouver)
1997 - Jeff Zehr (NYI)
1996 - Remi Royer (Chicago)
1995 - Georges Laraque (Edmonton)
1994 - Jason Podollan (Florida)
1993 - Scott Langkow (Winnipeg)
1992 - Denis Metlyuk (Philadelphia)
1991 - Martin Hamrlik (Hartford)
Those boyish good looks of Tyler Pitlick are now Edmonton Oilers' property thanks to the 31st overall selection last year. Pitlick had a fine season - despite some injury problems - scoring 27-35-62 in 56 games for Medicine Hat of the WHL. He may end up as a third liner, but a pretty solid one.
Goalie Mikko Koskinen has apparently struggled since being drafted, and is now 8th in the Islanders' organizational depth chart, according to The Hockey News Future Watch. The same magazine had Florida's Jacob Markstrom ranked #2 of the top 50 prospects outside the NHL last year, but this year the goalie has slipped to #8. Still a solid prospect and potentially a future starting goaltender.
T.J. Brennan and Brendan Mikkelson have a shot to be NHLers, and are knocking on the door, but Tomas Tana was a miss for St. Louis in between those two.
Every 31st pick from 1999-2004 was a bust except for Jeff Deslauriers in 2002. Even then, Deslauriers is a fringe NHLer and the idea that he'll never make it is not that far off at this point. Ilya Nikulin (2000) was an Olympian for Russia in the Vancouver Olympics, but he never played an NHL game. 1999 pick Charlie Stephens did not sign with Washington after being selected 31st by that team, and re-entered the draft where he was selected 196th overall in 2001. He went on to play 8 games in the NHL, all for Colorado.
Artem Chubarov played 228 games before returning to Russia and was a half decent player in that time. He set an NHL record by starting his career with four consecutive game winning goals, but he's probably not coming back to North America.
Every player before Chubarov was a bust except for Laraque; seen here plying his trade of fisticuffs:
In all, 12 of the players here are complete busts. 6 fall into the category of being just okay, fringe NHLers, or have the potential to be alright. Those players are: Koskinen, Brennan, Mikkelson, Deslauriers, Chubarov and Laraque. Laraque is probably the best that this group has to offer.
2 of these players - Pitlick and Markstrom - have the potential to be good NHL players. Seen through the eyes of a fan, and with the selection having been so recent, it's easy to like Pitlick. In the end, he may end up being no better than the others in the "just okay" group. Markstrom, on the other hand, does have the potential to the first very good player taken 31st overall in the last 20 years. It had to happen some time.
Historically, this pick doesn't do particularly well. It has great aesthetic appeal because it's almost a first round pick, and it's as good as it gets without actually being one. That's why the pick has value if the Oilers wanted to trade it. If an Oilers' move at the draft involved moving the 31st pick to get a much better one in the first round, it will probably be a good deal for Edmonton.