Oilers head of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor reflecting on a a successful Oilers draft. Photo by Lisa McRitchie all rights reserved.
Following the second day of the 2011 NHL entry draft I had the opportunity, along with the rest of the media, to ask Edmonton Oilers head of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor what he thought of a few of his selections and just what made him and his staff make the selections they did. It was obvious that MacGregor could finally breathe and maybe even get a good night's rest. There was a lot of time and effort poured into the preparation for the draft, and according to most readers here, and Steve Tambellini himself, all of that effort paid off.
"You might have to help me along, if I forget what round someone went in or something." MacGregor started off with a joke and a smile, and can you blame the man? Of course not. It's clear that he loves his job and there were a lot of selections for the Oilers.
The first selection of the second day was David Musil. "He's a big guy with great hockey sense. He competes really hard. A player that makes the intelligent smart plays out of his own zone, follows the play with good instincts. Good off of the offensive blue line, just great stick defending, strong, just adds size to our D."
If you felt so highly of Musil, was he in consideration for the nineteenth selection? "Yes he was. We had both of those players right close together on our list." The other player was of course Oscar Klefbom who the Oilers ended up selecting 19th overall.
Frank Musil commented that this whole experience was a lot harder than he thought it might be. "Frank thought it was hard, well it was real hard on us too. It's been an interesting year, three members of our staff had kids that were eligible for the draft: Kevin Lowe, Frank Musil and Scottie Harlow... So it was difficult in lots of ways but they each stepped out of the meeting when we needed to discuss that type of player and any time there was controversy they were gone. Frank wasn't even allowed to come to our meeting last night. So he didn't know what was happening this morning until we made the pick." Clearly, Frank Musil must be thrilled with the end result of missing all of those meetings.
In your opinion does Samu Perhonen have the potential to be the best goaltender coming out of this draft? "I saw Samu Perhonen early in November. That was his first opportunity to ever play at the national team level for Finland. He, to me, in November through February, I'm coming out of there saying boy this guy could be very special. He did have a very difficult under 18 championship but it could have been just wear and tear after that number of games that he's played this past season. Just a real tall skinny guy still and he's got a long way to develop physically. I think he's got tremendous potential."
Stu MacGregor and his staff are not the only ones who think that Perhonen has a lot of potential. Perhonen came in at 23 in the most recent Copper & Blue Top 25 Under 25.
Perhonen indicated that he would like to play another year in Finland and then come over. "We'll let Steve and the development guys decide on those types of things. We're just excited that he would like to come over here to play."
Perhonen mentioned that he admired the play of Pekka Rinne; would you compare Perhonen's play to Rinne's? "Pekka Rinne, I don't know. I never saw Pekka Rinne at that age. He's a Finnish product, so he's a great goaltender. If he turns out to be as good as him, I'll be just thrilled."
You would think that because one of the Finnish goaltenders was selected in the third round, and the other not until the seventh round, that one is better than the other. "Not really quite true. We just thought that with the younger guy, that you needed to get at it, that if you wanted to get him you've got to step up and get him just because he's in his draft year. Sometimes those later aged guys, you can take a little bit more of a chance. I know that [Oilers goaltending coach] Freddie Chabot saw these guys play over in Finland and has watched tape on them. He was really thrilled when I phoned him just before the seventh, just before our pick. I said, 'What if we take Tuohimaa with this one', and he said, 'I'd be really happy.'"
I had tried very unsuccessfully to ask Perhonen about his Finnish military commitments. I thought that Stu may have better insight because he could at least understand the question I was trying to ask. "They may have to, but I think that there are some ins and outs around that. Tuohimaa may have done his, I don't know." So no clear answers, but Mikko Koivu is only just recently dealing with his commitments.
It seems as though you can't go wrong with Finnish goalies? "It appears that way lately. They've done extremely well the Finnish goalies to forward themselves to that high praise." A few years post-draft, the drafting team is almost always thrilled with their Finnish goaltender, and that Pekka Rinne guy isn't so bad either. Suddenly the selection of Perhonen that surprised some of us seems to make a little more sense.
"Ewanyk, gritty edge to his play. Competes extremely hard, has good hockey sense and knows how to fill a role. He did a really great job at the under 18 tournament doing that. The thing that really impressed me with him, especially at the under 18 tournament and in the playoffs, is that this guy will dive in front of the puck. He'll get the puck out of his zone in the last couple of minutes, the last minute or whenever there is a penalty kill. He just does those things that need to be done to win."
Ewanyk was not at the draft, but he is an Edmonton native currently playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings and is ecstatic at the idea of one day maybe playing for the Edmonton Oilers, and in the meantime, being an Oilers' prospect.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins saw a lot of Travis Ewanyk through the season and even the WHL playoffs. Was there any discussion with RNH about Ewanyk? "Players are players; they respect each other. I don't like to put players in that type of position. I know Nugent-Hopkins appreciates what he brings. I know Travis appreciates what Ryan brings. I think that one day, hopefully, they could be great teammates."
What are your thoughts on Martin Gernat? "Watched Gernat a lot. I saw him at three tournaments. He's a big guy, skates extremely well, 6'4", still quite slim, passes the puck very well. Really quite excited about what he might be able to bring. "
What are Gernat's plans, is he going to continue to play in Slovakia or come to the WHL? "Nope, his agent has told us before the draft that he wants to play in the CHL. So if it's the Western Hockey League, that will be great. If it's elsewhere in the CHL, that will be great as well." This fits with what Milan Kytnar had to say when I spoke with him in Oklahoma City. Slovakia just doesn't have the hockey resources that high level players seem to be looking for.
How much does a player wanting to come to play in the Canadian junior hockey system factor into your decision-making? "Well, it's good. It certainly has worked out for us with Martin Marincin. So if it works again as well, that will be fabulous."
Of course MacGregor is not off of the hook until the next draft, or even the start of the next season. No, he will need to continue to be on call in the event of any Oiler trades that may involve prospects, or even trades that involve picks such as the recent trade involving Andrew Cogliano. You have to think that this guy must want to disappear for his vacation time when he finally gets it.
Only a small number of drafted players will have long and successful careers in the NHL. A slightly larger number will have a short career in the NHL and a large number will play just a small number of NHL games or no games at all. Only time will tell where the newly drafted Oilers prospects will fit into those categories.