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

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

12/07/14 In Defense of the Scouts... Again

Last time, I went over the Oilers' recent drafting history and compared the performance of the scouts to what is average in the NHL. Now let's go a little deeper.

This time, I want to focus more closely on the players that were picked. Let's go back to 2008. *screen gets all wavy as we flash back in time*

The Oilers made just five picks that year:

#22: Jordan Eberle
#103: Johan Motin
#133: Philippe Cornet
#163: Teemu Hartikainen
#193: Jordan Bendfeld

Only one of those players worked out (although I would have liked to see more than 52 NHL games from Hartikainen).

Central Scouting had Eberle ranked 33rd among North Americans, so the Oilers had to step up a tad to get him at 22. Johan Motin was ranked 13th among Europeans, which means that grabbing him in the fourth round was a bit of a steal. So too was Philippe Cornet in the fifth round at 133, because he was ranked 80th among North Americans. Teemu Hartikainen was 25th on the Euro list, but the Oilers got him in the sixth round with only 48 selections to go in the entire draft.

Given how most of these players were regarded, it's hard to find fault in the picks. One-in-five working out is actually a great result by draft standards, and Hartikainen could have been a serviceable third or fourth liner.


The Oilers made seven picks:

#10: Magnus Paajarvi
#40: Anton Lander
#71: Troy Hesketh
#82: Cameron Abney
#99: Kyle Bigos
#101: Toni Rajala
#133: Olivier Roy

In Central Scouting's final rankings, Paajarvi was second only to Victor Hedman among European skaters, and The Hockey News ranked him as the fourth-best prospect available. Anton Lander was 19th on that list of Europeans, and Toni Rajala was 11th. Olivier Roy was the second-best North American goalie available. The organization went way off the board with Hesketh, Abney and Bigos, who were picked because they were big and mean. Those three were terrible picks, but they reek of Tambellini.

Lander's development was botched, but there still may be a player there. Paajarvi showed well early but is now struggling, and the rest didn't pan out. Still hard to fault the selections of Rajala and Roy, though.


This is supposedly the first draft of the rebuild, which is why the Oilers were able to make eleven picks.

#1: Taylor Hall
#31: Tyler Pitlick
#46: Martin Marincin
#48: Curtis Hamilton
#61: Ryan Martindale
#91: Jeremie Blain
#121: Tyler Bunz
#162: Brandon Davidson
#166: Drew Czerwonka
#181: Kristians Pelss
#202: Kellen Jones

We know the story with Hall, and I still think he was the right choice. The guy is literally producing like a young Joe Sakic. In Central Scouting's midterm rankings, Pitlick was 21st among North American skaters, Martindale was 24th, Hamilton was 56th, Davidson was 57th, and Blain was 120th. Marincin was 11th among Euro skaters and Bunz was 14th among the NA goalies. 

Pitlick played in four leagues in as many years from 2008-09 to 2011-12, suffered numerous injuries over that time and critically he was also hindered in playing time by the NHL lockout because the Oilers' young stars were in OKC. The same unfortunate fate befell Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale, who both saw limited ice time and injuries with the Barons.

The Oilers chose not to sign Blain, but Davidson and Marincin are trending in the right direction, and sadly the promising young career of Kristians Pelss was cut short by his tragic death.

Once again it's hard to fault the majority of these picks.


In the "second" year of the rebuild, the Oilers made another nine picks. Notably, they had a second first-rounder after trading Dustin Penner.

#1: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
#19: Oscar Klefbom
#31: David Musil
#62: Samu Perhonen
#74: Travis Ewanyk
#92: Dillon Simpson
#114: Tobias Rieder
#122: Martin Gernat
#182: Frans Tuohimaa

Klefbom was sixth among European skaters according to Central Scouting, and Gernat was ranked #106. The Oilers seem to have reached a little with Gernat, which is fine at that late point in the draft and so far he is trending in the right direction. Gernat is in his second AHL season and has time to develop.

Musil was ranked 38th among North Americans, but Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad were ranked 18th and 19th respectively and passed over by the Oilers at #31. This pick is a clear error, especially given how things have panned out since. Ewanyk was ranked 66th, Simpson was 157th, and Rieder was 73rd. The Oilers reached for Simpson but so far it looks to have been a good bet, and they got good value on Rieder in the fourth round.

As for the goalies, Perhonen and Tuohimaa were ranked first and sixth respectively out of the Euro netminders.


Seven more picks.

#1: Nail Yakupov
#32: Mitch Moroz
#63: Jujhar Khaira
#91: Daniil Zharkov
#93: Erik Gustafsson
#123: Joey Laleggia
#153: John McCarron

Yakupov was ranked number one by Central Scouting, Bob McKenzie, ISS, Redline Report and pretty much every other scouting service you can name. Strangely, it seems that the Oilers' scouts wanted Ryan Murray first overall anyway, but were overruled by Daryl Katz.

Either pick is easy to defend as the correct one, though neither has fully panned out so far. Nail Yakupov has played less than 2,000 minutes in the NHL, and by way of comparison, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played over 1,600 minutes last season alone. So to all those who are ready to classify Yakupov as a bust: hold your horses. Ryan Murray has seen his young career derailed by injuries, but he has played well when he has been in the lineup.

Moroz was ranked #72 by Central Scouting, which makes his selection an extreme reach. So was Khaira, who was ranked #74. But the Oilers got very good value on Zharkov, who was ranked #32 among North Americans. The others are more peculiar, especially over-agers Laleggia and McCarron.

Final Thoughts

It's really too early to judge the 2012, 2013 and 2014 drafts, but I wanted to get 2012 into this examination to remind everyone of how highly rated Nail Yakupov was by everyone, and just how little he has actually played so far in his career. I'm not saying he should be handed ice time, but you can't compare him to other first overall picks who had heaps of ice time by this point in their careers.

In the end, management (or ownership in Edmonton, at least) can overrule the scouts' opinions. For the most part, it's hard to argue that most of the picks that have been made are way out to lunch. A scouting staff can only work with what they have seen up to the draft - everything that happens after that is on the rest of the organization.

There are certainly some questionable picks in this bunch, particularly Moroz and Musil, but that kind of thing will happen. 2010 was a strong crop, however circumstances have conspired against many of them. Most important of all, we haven't seen the kind of bizarre, off-the-board selections that used to plague the organization, and we need more time to evaluate the overall performance of these picks.

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