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Edmonton Oilers 8th Round Picks, Since 2001

This is Yutaka Fukufuji. To my knowledge, he's the only ever Japanese-born and trained goaltender to play an NHL game. He's relevant because he was an 8th round selection in the time period we're looking at. Not by the Oilers, of course, but we'll get to their guys in a second.

Our look at the 9th round draft picks revealed that the Oilers have been tremendously successful with overage Euros. As with the 9th round, a successful pick here is defined by at least 1 NHL game, or, in the case of more recent picks, some positive signs that the guy could have a career. As we move up the draft order towards higher picks, we'll need to redefine what constitutes a "successful" pick, but for now, without further ado:

2001 - Kari Haakana, 248th overall

7/32 players selected from this round played at least one NHL game, and Haakana was one of them. The real gems were Martin Gerber, ANA, Petr Cajanek, STL, Milan Jurcina, BOS, and Ryan Hollweg, NYR. Other than that, Dmitry Bykov interrupted his Russian Super League Career to play 71 games for Detroit, and Tomas Mojzis spent 13 games between Vancouver and St. Louis. This leaves us with Haakana.

Kari Haakana is 6'2, 229lbs, and 28 yrs old on draft day. He's been a stay-at-home defenceman in the Finnish and German leagues, and the season after his draft he would play 6 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs. In 02-03, he split time between Edmonton and Hamilton, playing 13 NHL games and going pointless. The following season he returned to Europe, and this year split time between the top Finnish and Swedish Leagues. As with the 9th round picks, Musil probably should be credited with this one.

2002 - Dwight Helminen, 244th & Tomas Micka, 245th overall

9/31 players selected in this round would play in the NHL, including some real talents. Unfortunately, none of these would be playing for the Oilers. Maxime Talbot is a grinding forward with decent scoring touch currently in his 3rd season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He's averaged 25 points over his last two seasons. Injury-prone speedster Petr Prucha has struggled for the Rangers in this, his third season, but scored 30 goals as a rookie. Defenceman Dennis Wideman spent two years with St. Louis before being traded to Boston for Brad Boyes. He potted 36 points this season. Ryan Craig rounds out the best of the bunch, entering his third season in Tampa Bay. Others who played in the NHL: Yan Stastny, Tom Koivisto, Darren Reid, Tom Koivisto, Jarkko Immonen and Christoph Brandner.

Dwight Helminen was selected from the University of Michigan, and had respectable numbers in college hockey. He was traded along with Steve Valiquette and two draft picks to the New York Rangers for Petr Nedved and Jussi Markkanen. After three seasons with the Hartford Wolfpack, he went to Europe, where he's done very well in a scoring role in Finland. Chris McCarthy is likely the guy who pushed for him, or possibly Brad Davis.

Tomas Micka is probably most notable for being less relevant to the Oilers than his draft pick rights. He was the extra pick that Montreal sent to Edmonton to move up one and select Chris Higgins. The Oilers were comfortable doing this because their guy, Jesse Niinimaki, was sure to be available after they picked. Neither one of these moves reflect well on any part of the Oilers scouting group, the Euro scouts for picking Niinimaki or the North American guys for undervaluing Higgins. As for Micka, two seasons in the ECHL convinced him to return to Europe, where he scored 19 times and assisted just 6 in his last season. He's also 6'5", and has a reputation for hitting. Anyways, going by department, amateur Euros are Kent Nilsson's responsibility, and this one doesn't look good.

2003 - Josef Hrabel, 248th overall

Only 5 players in this round ever skated at the NHL level. The best ones are Tobias Enstrom (an undersized, unheralded, playmaking rookie blueliner with Atlanta), bruising Shane O'Brien in Tampa Bay (an Anaheim pick), and the Georges Laraque-sized Dustin Byfuglien in Chicago. Nathan McIver and Joey Tanute round out the pack.

Hrabel is a Czech defender who's a little under-sized for his position, but who's statistics indicate some offensive ability. Mostly what I know about him comes way of Lowetide's excellent site, but the statistics indicate a solid Euro who never came over to North America to play. He's currently playing for Cherepovets in Russia. Credit for this pick goes to Nilsson.

2004 - Tyler Spurgeon, 242nd overall

As far as bad rounds go, the 2004 8th Round must rank up there all-time. The best player selected is probably Pekka Rinne, with his 4 NHL games and nice looking AHL/Euro numbers. The best story, though, has to be Japanese National Team goalie Yutaka Fukufuji, who has carved out a hell of an ECHL career. He also went 0-3, 4.37GAA and .837sv% at the NHL level, ranking him 5th out of 5 goalies the Kings used in 06-07 (the others were Mathieu Garon, Sean Burke, Barry Brust and Dan Cloutier).

Spurgeon was an assistant captain on the Memorial Cup-winning Kelowna Rockets in his draft year, and later became captain. He's respected as a smallish forward who plays an intense, gritty game, and unfortunately, that's contributed to injuries which have likely had an impact on his career. At this point he's played about equal amounts of time in the ECHL and AHL, but it's certainly possible that an injury free season could elevate him all the way up to reserve-forward status at the NHL level. I wouldn't bet on it, but it doesn't seem like character is an issue, and he did have 8 point is 12 games in the AHL this year. He's also only 22, so it isn't over yet. He is, however, still facing some long odds. This is another MacGregor/Brown pick.

2005 - 07 - None.

(note: I accidently listed Matt Glasser as a 9th round pick when he was, in fact a 7th rounder, as they changed the rules beginning in 2005. Since 2005, the draft has only gone 7 rounds).

In conclusion, only one of the five players picked played any time in the NHL, which probably isn't all that bad an average. Spurgeon still has a bit of time, and it's even possible a team could take a flyer on Hrabel, especially if he has a monster season in Europe. The worst of these picks is probably Micka. I have to confess I'm pulling for Spurgeon.