What If...The Oilers Drafted The Other Guy?

BUFFALO NY - DECEMBER 26: Defenseman John Ramage #5 of USA keeps the puck away from forward Toni Rajala #25 of Finland during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between USA and Finland on December 26 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Parise, Kesler, Getzlaf, Richards, Perry, Backes - the names roll off of the tongue.  The Oilers could have drafted any one of the first five instead of Marc-Antoine Pouliot and David Backes instead of J.F. Jacques.  The 2003 draft remains stuck in Edmonton's collective craw.  I won't rehash the details or the decision-making, I make the point simply to note how much the alternate reality affects hockey fans.  Ask Boston fans about that Zach Hamill choice over Logan Couture.  Or Minnesota fans about A.J. Thelen instead of Drew Stafford or Travis Zajac.  Talk to Florida fans about Petr Taticek rather than Alexander Semin.  The coulda, shoulda, whouldas are overwhelming.  I don't think it's fair to rewrite history and plug any draft pick into the bust's slot -- guys who went in the 4th-7th round did so for a reason.  However, I think it is fair to look at the players taken immediately after the Oilers' picks -- those were rated players available to the Oilers in place of the kid they selected.

I've listed every Oilers' draft pick since 2005 in the list below.  I've placed them next to the player selected directly after each of them.  After the jump, I compare Edmonton's draft record with an alternate reality.

 

 

The first thing that jumps out is the positional balance.  The Oilers drafted 12 centres, 17 forwards, 17 defensemen and 5 goalies.  Alternate reality drafted 7 centres, 21 forwards, 17 defensemen, and 6 goalies.  The breakdowns by draft year follows.

2005 Entry
# Edmonton Pick
Pos
# Alternate
Pos
25 Andrew Cogliano C
26 Matt Pelech D
36 Taylor Chorney D
37 Scott Jackson D
81 Danny Syvret D
82 Phil Oreskovic D
86 Robby Dee C
87 Marc-Andre Gragnani D
97 Chris Vande Velde C
98 Ilya Zubov C
120 Vyacheslav Trukhno L
121 Juraj Mikus C
157 Fredrik Pettersson L
158 Matt Keetley G
220 Matthew Glasser L
221 Myles Rumsey L

 

Cogliano is an NHL regular, Pelech is an AHL brawler. Chorney and Jackson are essentially the same player, though Jackson is a much larger man.  Both are AHL regulars.  Syvret is an extremely successful AHL defender and has had a couple of looks at the bigs while Oreskovich is an AHL regular.  Dee was not offered a contract by the Oilers after completing his career at the University of Maine and is currently looking for work.  Gragnani was called to Buffalo in March and played well, especially in the playoffs on the power play.  Vandevelde is trying to crack the Oilers' lineup after a brief call-up in March while Zubov could never crack the Senators' lineup and went back to the KHL.  Trukhno was let go last season and had his most successful professional season in the ECHL but Mikus never made the jump and he's become a low-scoring centre in the KHL.  Pettersson jumped to the SEL after his time in the WHL, though he came back to the AHL last season with the Chicago Wolves.  Keetley is an ECHL goalie.  Glasser could never find his offense in the NCAA and Rumsey is playing his trade for the University of Manitoba.

Advantage:  Edmonton's picks, though Gragnani could change all of that.

2006 Entry
# Edmonton Pick Pos
# Alternate Pos
45 Jeff Petry D
46 Jhonas Enroth G
75 Theo Peckham D
76 Tony Lagerstrom C
133 Bryan Pitton G
134 David Meckler L
140 Cody Wild D
141 Kim Johansson W
170 Alexander Bumagin W
171 Brian Day R

 

Petry made his professional debut last year and showed signs of being a keeper.  Enroth has been a reliable AHL goalie for three seasons, but made his NHL debut last season.  He wasn't something to write home about.  Peckham is a brusing third-pairing defenseman in Edmonton, Lagerstrom is not yet a .5 P/G player in Sweden's second division.  Pitton has been a very good ECHL goalie but hasn't been called up to the AHL yet.  Meckler is in his fourth AHL season -- his career high in points is 36.  Wild is stuck in the ECHL with injury problems over each of the last two seasons, Johansson has 2 points in 37 games over two seasons in Sweden's second division.  Bumagin is a reliable, two-way winger in the KHL, Day graduated from Colgate last season and had a brief stint in the AHL.

Advantage:  Edmonton's picks, and heavily in favor of Edmonton.

2007 Entry
# Edmonton Pick Pos
# Alternate Pos
6 Sam Gagner C
7 Jakub Voracek R
15 Alex Plante D
16 Colton Gillies L
21 Riley Nash C
22 Max Pacioretty L
97 Linus Omark W
98 Sebastian Stefaniszin G
127 Milan Kytnar C
128 Austin Smith R
157 William Quist W
158 Allen York G

 

Gagner has averaged .59 P/G during his four-year career while Voracek has averaged .56 P/G through his three-year career.  Both debuted too early and for terrible teams.  Plante's development cycle is taking forever but Gillies was rushed to the NHL far too early and has a Jacquesian 8 points in 52 games.  Nash's want to stay at Cornell rather than toil for the worst organization in hockey got him a one-way ticket to Carolina where he was underwhelming in his initial season in the AHL.  Pacioretty has become a lower-tier player for the Canadiens.  Omark had an excellent AHL and NHL debut, Stefaniszin is struggling to find playing time in the German second division.  Kytnar is trying to carve out a niche as a defensive zone wiz in the AHL, Smith has become the go-to goal scorer for Colgate.  Quist was last seen in the Swedish second division, Allen York wrapped up his NCAA career and was signed by the Blue Jackets.  He'll battle for time in Springfield.

Advantage:  Edmonton's picks, if Gagner and Voracek stay within shouting distance of each other. Alternate reality has a ton of work to do to catch Omark.

2008 Entry
# Edmonton Pick Pos
# Alternate Pos
22 Jordan Eberle C
23 Tyler Cuma D
103 Johan Motin D
104 Jordon Southorn D
133 Philippe Cornet L
134 Jacob Legace L
163 Teemu Hartikainen L
164 Nick Crawford D
193 Jordan Bendfeld D
194 Drew Daniels R

 

Cuma is still well-regarded in some circles, but Eberle is beating his draft number by at least 13 places, which is impressive for a second or third round pick, but for the 22nd overall pick, it's incredible.  Motin still has a shot - albeit a long shot - at an NHL career, but Southorn struggled mightily in his pro debut in the ECHL.  Cornet and Legace seem to be mirroring each other in the AHL.  Hartikainen is chugging along and looks like he'll be an NHL regular, but Crawford can't be overlooked.  His professional debut with Portland was very strong and the Sabres could have something there.  Bendfield was a re-draft and is an ECHL regular while Daniels is matriculating at Northeastern in the NCAA.

Advantage:  Edmonton's picks, Eberle has arrived and Hartikainen is not far behind.  Cuma and Crawford represent alternate reality's best hopes.

2009 Entry
# Edmonton Pick Pos
# Alternate Pos
10 Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson L
11 Ryan Ellis D
40 Anton Lander C
41 Zach Budish R
71 Troy Hesketh D
72 Michael Latta C
82 Cameron Abney R
83 Kevin Connauton D
99 Kyle Bigos D
100 Chris Wideman D
101 Toni Rajala R
102 Mattias Ekholm D
133 Olivier Roy G
134 Mark Adams D

 

Paajarvi is an extraordinary talent and will be an excellent two-way forward very soon.  Ellis is also an extraordinary talent but has a slight build and might take time to adjust to the pro game.  Both players are very good.  Lander's SEL performance suggests a future two-way center who will wear a letter while Budish suffered a knee injury in a moped (?!) accident and missed most of the 2010-11 season.  Hesketh lost his offer to Wisconsin and was dumped by the Oilers.  He will probably have to go back to the USHL to resurrect his career.  Latta was one of the OHL's premier middleweights and agitators.  Cameron Abney is best known for his fists, though he rarely fights compared to other CHL enforcers while Connauton scored a few points in his AHL debut season, but struggled in the defensive end.  Bigos and Wideman are diametric opposites -- Bigos is Paul Bunyan on skates, hitting everything that moves, Wideman is small and smart and fleet of foot.  Both are in the NCAA.  Rajala came to the WHL for a season before returning to Finland for his military service.  He's not been the offensive dynamo as expected.  Ekholm had one of the best seasons of any defender in the SEL and he's only 20.  Roy will begin his first season in the pro game next season as Adams plays his sophomore season at Providence.

Advantage:  Alternate reality.  Edmonton's picks win 1 of 7, alternate reality wins 3 of 7 and 3 are up in the air.

2010 Entry
# Edmonton Pick Pos
# Alternate Pos
1 Taylor Hall C
2 Tyler Seguin C
31 Tyler Pitlick F
32 Jared Knight R
46 Martin Marincin D
47 Tyler Toffoli R
48 Curtis Hamilton L
49 Calvin Pickard G
61 Ryan Martindale C
62 Greg McKegg C
91 Jeremie Blain D
92 Sam Brittain G
121 Tyler Bunz G
122 Chris Wagner F
162 Brandon Davidson D
163 Konrad Abeltshauser D
166 Drew Czerwonka L
167 Tyler Stahl D
181 Kristians Pelss R
182 Josh Nicholls R
202 Kellen Jones F
203 Christian Isackson F

 

Hall debuted exactly as we thought he would but Seguin couldn't find a regular role in Boston's lineup.  Pitlick and Knight posted eerily similar numbers in the CHL, though Knight led his team in scoring.  Marincin started like a legend, but ended like a mortal while Toffoli only led the OHL in goals and powered one of the highest scoring lines in the CHL.  Pickard was bested by 5th round pick Bunz in the save percentage race and didn't look like the goaltender with the big reputation.  Hamilton had an excellent season for the best team in the WHL and expanded his game with even more penalty killing duty.  Martindale and McKegg are an interesting duo - both are high-scoring centers, but Martindale is reportedly disinterested and dispassionate.  McKegg is a fiery leader with a nasty disposition.  Blain has developed into one of the better all-around defenders in the QMJHL, but Brittain had an amazing debut with the University of Denver.  Bunz was the cream of the crop amongst WHL goaltenders last season, and Wagner had a decent freshman debut in the ECAC.  Davidson is a raw kid with all of Edmonton behind him, hoping that he turns the corner, Abeltshauser is a giant German defenseman with an impressive physical game, but he was a team-worst -36 on the Halifax Mooseheads last season.  Czerwonka is doing everything he can to make a career of it - he started scoring a bit last season for the first time in his career.  Stahl is a brawling defenseman who reminds me of Theo Peckham.  Pelss came on in the second half of the season, but Nicholls came from out of the blue to post 87 points for the high-powered Blades.  Jones put up a decent season for an underpowered Quinnipiac team, Isackson will begin his career at Minnesota this season.

Advantage:  Edmonton's picks by the slightest margin.

The draft, even under Kevin Prendergast has never been the issue.  Except for 2009, the Oilers have been better than next available in most instances.  While Stu MacGregor has been lauded for his draft prowess, he's also had the benefit of superior draft position over the last three seasons.  It will be interesting to revisit this list next year to see which of these players grow and which fall flat.

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