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A cautionary tale of 2 busts in 5 years

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NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s draft time or, to many Oiler’s fans, the most wonderful time of the year! Our long and painful season is over. Next season looking just as bleak as cap hell is all around us. Draft time might be the most euphoric time of the year for Oilers. Debates of do we take BPA, draft for need or trade that pick!

I think Oiler’s fans are more familiar with drafting than any other fan base. You would think after being gifted one 1st overall after another that we’d be good at this.

WE’RE NOT.

Drafting first overall doesn’t require much skill. I’d suggest drafting top 10 isn’t that hard either. You could literally just get McKenzie’s and Buttons rankings and be close. There are rarely surprises and the next player going is generally obvious.

For example, I won’t be surprised when Hughes goes first and Kakko goes second. You don’t need a high end scouting department to do that. I can make that pick for the Devil’s for free. Was there any doubt when we took RNH, Connor, Nail, Jesse or Hall? Of course not. They were by far the most logical picks at that spot. Bouchard was a steal at 10 and everyone was happy when we took Kailer in the 20’s. I can’t remember the last real controversial first round pick we’ve had?

We have several other issues that we do need to improve:

  1. how to develop the player properly after we draft him
  2. drafting useful players in rounds 2 to 7 in order to surround Connor with cheap ELC’s
  3. rushing prospects into the NHL ‘before Halloween’ (the Oil are the only team in the entire NHL to have their last 3 first rounders in the NHL right away - currently, not one of them projects to be an NHLer for the Oil this year)

Let’s take a look at our last 6 drafts and see what we’re getting in rounds 2 to 7. Please note I’m excluding last year’s draft because it is too early to tell. Every fan thinks last years group of prospects are excellent. Time will tell. I do think Bouchard is a surefire NHLer after spending a full season in the AHL this year. If we hit garbage time (another annual Oiler’s tradition) I’d like to see him called up then and given a lot of ice time and opportunity.

2017:

I was thrilled when we took Kailer. I still think he’s an excellent prospect. He was put in the NHL 2 seasons in a row and then quickly jettisoned out of the NHL to the AHL or Junior. The exact path I would not like to see any prospect go through. Samorukov currently looks to be a third round steal. I don’t see any of these guys putting up points in the NHL this coming season.

2016:

We’re now 3 years removed from the draft. At this point we should start seeing guys contributing at the NHL level. I hope Bensen makes it out of training camp and is in our Top 6. I feel he’s our next homegrown 40 point scorer. Jesse is not coming back. So the best we can hope from this draft is that Bensen makes it as an NHLer. I don’t see anyone else on this list making an impact for the Oil in the NHL this season. I want to be clear that I was thrilled we got Jesse at number 4.

2015:

4 years removed from the draft. Connor is amazing. Caleb might have an NHL impact this year. So might Bear. The problem is, if they don’t, they’re now 5 years removed from being drafted and on new contracts, waiver eligible and potentially blocking spots for younger D in the pipe like Samurokov and Bouchard. We might get 1 or 2 guys in the NHL this season out of this group. Personally, I’m very high on Caleb Jones.

2014:

Drai is a beast! Lagesson is in a boatload of 6/7 D that are indistinguishable from one another. 5 years after being drafted, maybe he makes the NHL this year? 30/70? 20/80? I’m going to predict that, 5 years after being drafted, the only guy that gets an NHL point this season is Leon.

2013:

We are now 6 years removed from the draft! Nurse has developed beautifully. He’s not my style of player but I never want to see him traded. Home grown, never hurt, wants to be here, tough as nails and improves every year. No one else in this class will help the Oil this season.

2012:

7 years after the draft and Nail is so far from the NHL that we may never see his grin again. Khaira is the big steal out of this draft. The best player is actually Gustafsson who has developed into an amazing NHL player and the Dman we so desperately need. We gave him away for free. However, maybe his late blossoming is inspiration for Lagesson, Persson and Berglund. You can never have enough Swede’s on D!

So, 7 years of drafting. Roughly 35 guys drafted. Next season on the Oil we will see Connor, Drai, Nurse, Khaira and maybe some contribution from Jones/Bear/Yamamoto/Bouchard. That is 6 first rounders and only 3 will be on our roster. We only have one guaranteed non first rounder in Khaira. 4 guaranteed contributers in 7 drafts.

I’ve been watching Preston do one awesome draft profile after another. I can’t say I’m excited about this draft because we are truly awful at this. We can’t even draft first rounders properly.

The ‘inspiraton’ for this article came from 2 tweets that were maybe 24 hours apart.

Nail Yakupov has signed for 3 more years in Russia. There is no return to the NHL for him.

Jesse is not coming back. He’ll probably be traded for ‘magic beans’. My article on Magic Beans actually needs updating as we’ve lost even more trades since 2018. I suggested we should trade Jesse for Zacha or HoSang. I don’t think his value is even that high now. Recovering from hip surgery, zero consistent NHL production and now he looks to be making demands (note: this could be a MSM spin to make him look bad as per Oil tradition. Note 2: I don’t blame him for wanting out).

I don’t see a best case scenario for Jesse that helps the Oil. Goes to the KHL - doesn’t help us. Traded for nothing - doesn’t help us. For his sake I hope he ends up in Winnipeg or Carolina. I’m still high on the player but something tells me I’ll be posting this article next year with a link showing that Jesse is going to the KHL!

Optimistic sidenote: I didn’t include last year’s draft. McLeod looks to be a burgeoning bottom 6 player that we desperately need. Bouchard, to me, looks like a sure thing IF developed properly. Samurokov is trending like a rocket ship and could really become a player for us. Yamamoto will become an NHL player one day, I’m just not sure which one. One of Bear/Jones should become an NHL regular for us. The Swedish Trifecta of Lagesson/Berglund/Person could give us 1 good NHL regular as well.

Enjoy the draft everyone!