Major Junior hockey franchises have been in deep in Edmonton for the past 40 years. Success has been rare and longevity non-existent as those Junior teams have come and gone like Oilers' tough guys, with some only lasting as few as 25 games. But since the re-establishment of the latest incarnation of the Oil in 2007-08, the team has not just established themselves in the Edmonton market, they've established themselves as an up-and-coming prospect powerhouse for the NHL Draft.
In 2009, Tomas Vincour was selected by Dallas with pick #129, becoming the first Oil Kings' player to be drafted to the NHL. When Vincour stepped onto the ice in 2010-11, he became the first Oil Kings alumnus to play in the NHL, but given recent trends, it seems as if though Vincour simply opened the floodgates.
Mark Pysyk was selected 23rd overall by Buffalo in 2010, and given his development curve, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in a Sabres sweater in 2012-13.
Though the Oil Kings didn't have another first-round pick during the 2011 draft, they did have four players drafted, Keegan Lowe (#73), Travis Ewanyk (#74), Michael St. Croix (#106), and goaltender Laurent Brossoit (#164)
This year's class has four players inside the top 170 including a first-rounder and probable top ten pick and a fifth ranked just outside the top 210. Those numbers tie the Oilwith the Windsor Spitfires for second in in Major Junior with the most ranked draft-eligible players behind the London Knights (not counting the USA NTDP U18 team).
Best among the 2012 draft class is defenseman Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart is 10th on the consensus list and draws big praise from draft watchers:
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus - Rank: 15 - What separates him from other big defensemen is that he has the puck skills to make people miss, execute all the little plays in tight quarters, and to deliver crisp, accurate passes consistently. Reinhart also has a more aggressive offensive element to his game as he will join the rush and doesn't shy from being creative in the offensive end of the rink.
The Scouting Report - Rank: 15 - He’s got all the tools to be a high-end NHL defenseman, but he needs to use them more consistently.
Future Considerations - Rank: 7 - Reinhart’s decision-making is pretty good and he reads plays well, dissecting the opposing team’s forecheck with his vision and smarts.
Craig Button - Rank: 6 - Big, strong and comfortable playing any way the game dictates.
Bob McKenzie - Rank: 8 - Very few 6-4 blueliners can skate and handle the puck like Reinhart, and those attributes alone will intrigue lots of scouts.
Import Henrik Samuelsson ranks 42nd on the consensus list, and while scouts love his power and aggressiveness, his skating and skills are lacking:
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus - Rank: 39 - Samuelsson is a tremendously advanced physical player, whose body at the least could be NHL-ready in two years if not by next season. He projects as a high-end physical player at the top level due to his strength, grittiness, and the way he protects the puck in battles.
The Scouting Report - Rank: 53 - Samuelsson is a gritty forward who wins board battles and excels at maintaining offensive zone puck possession.
Future Considerations - Rank: 45 - He is physical and willing to both take a hit and dish one out. He is strong on the wall, as well as down low, and uses his size to his advantage by protecting the puck and forcing his way through seams.
In somewhat of a surprise, blueliner Cody Corbett comes in at #100 on the consensus list. Corbett is a strong and skilled player that reminds observers of Tom Gilbert.
The Scouting Report - Rank: 55 - Corbett is strong positionally and for a two-way player, does a good job of battling in the corners and handling physical forwards.
Future Considerations - Rank: 66 - Plays with a muted physical dominance as he uses just enough force to separate the puck or stop an opponent but rarely goes full tilt into a hit. Does many of the little things defensively and in transition that can go unnoticed by most.
Big winger Mitchell Moroz ranks in the bottom third on the consensus list at #161
Future Considerations - Rank: 96 - Goes into the dirty areas and has the knack for finding the soft spot in offensive zone. He is good on the forecheck/backcheck. Is physical, takes the body and isn’t afraid to take a hit.
The longshot in the group is defender Ashton Sautner who ranks 231st on the 2012 list. But even if Sautner isn't drafted in June, he may get another chance, provided his defensive teammates graduate to the professional game
Future Considerations - Rank: 192 - A defensive defender who is buried on a deep Oil Kings team; he needs to play with more consistency.