a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

05/09/12 Returning to the 2003 Draft

The 2003 NHL Draft was not kind to the Oilers. Players from the class are now helping their teams to advance through the playoffs, while the Oilers are still mired in a rebuild. More than any other draft, this one hurt.

In round one the Oilers selected Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who went on to play 192 games and score just 57 points. Worse, the Oilers traded down from the 17th overall pick to number 22 in order to get the last pick in the second round. New Jersey used the 17th overall pick to select Zach Parise, who is leading the charge to the Eastern Conference Final and has scored 194 goals and 410 points in 502 games. Still available when the Oilers made their first choice were Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Loui Eriksson, Kevin Klein, Patrice Bergeron, Matt Carle and Shea Weber.

The Oilers' next choice was Colin McDonald 51st overall. He played 7 NHL games and scored a goal in 2009-10. Maxim Lapierre, David Backes and Jimmy Howard were all still on the board at that point, and were chosen before the Oilers made their next pick.

The Oilers used the pick they got from New Jersey to select J.F. Jacques, who had 33 points and 123 PIMs in 67 QMJHL games in his draft year. Trading down wasn't worth it, but the blow could have been softer if the Oilers had chosen Colin Fraser instead, who went to Philadelphia between Oilers picks.

The fourth pick in the third round (72nd overall) belonged to the Oilers, and they used it to take Mikhail Zhukov, who never played an NHL game. The 73rd and 74th overall picks were Dan Carcillo and Clarke MacArthur. The Oilers' next pick in the third round was Zack Stortini 94th overall. They didn't have a fourth round pick so they had to make their two third-rounders count. When the Oilers selected Stortini, Jan Hejda, Paul Bissonnette, Corey Potter and Kyle Quincey were all available and went to other teams in round four.

Kalle Olsson went to Edmonton 147th overall and never played an NHL game. The 148th overal pick was Lee Stempniak, who has played 517 games so far. Nigel Dawes is no longer in the NHL, but the 149th overall pick did play 212 games and scored 84 points. Then the Oilers picked David Rohlfs 154th overall (0 NHL games played) with John Mitchell, Brad Richardson Marc Methot, Bruno Gervais, and Nate Thompson still available.

In fact, picks #182 to #186 went like this:

#182: NY Islanders: Bruno Gervais (381 GP)
#183: Boston: Nate Thompson (265 GP)
#184: Edmonton: Dragan Umicevic (0 NHL games played)
#185: Dallas: Francis Wathier (9 GP)
#186: Anaheim: Drew Miller (280 GP)

Three players with 265 or more NHL games played went right around the Oilers' pick, but Edmonton's scouts seemingly couldn't spot the talent. To make matters worse, Joe Pavelski wasn't picked until 205th overall. The Oilers did manage to get the second-best player from the 7th round though, when they took Kyle Brodziak 214th overall. But then they flubbed the very next pick by taking Mathieu Roy with Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien still out there.

The Oilers picked Josef Hrabal and missed out on Shane O'Brien two picks later, as well as Matt Moulson 15 picks later. Jaroslav Halak was available too. Their final pick was Troy Bodie, who played 107 games but none for the Oilers. David Jones and Brian Elliott were still on the board.

Brodziak was the Oilers' only good pick in a draft that was like shooting fish in a barrel. The names that are on this list are a who's-who of cornerstone NHL players and the Oilers missed out on all of them. It's little wonder they struggled so much in the last decade.

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