Saturday, June 27, 2009

Edmonton Oilers Draft Review

So now that the big day is over, how did the Oilers do?

Pick #10 - Magnus Pajaarvi-Svensson

I expected Svensson to be gone by the time the Oilers made their selection as did most more authoritative observers. He was, at the very least, a consensus top ten pick and the Oilers took him at #10. It's hard not to be happy. His age, at 18 years and 2 months, is in the middle of the pack for players in their first year of eligibility, but on the right side of the halfway mark and I find that somewhat encouraging (along with size, age is probably one of the things that saw Jordan Schroeder fall all the way to #22, although I still think Schroeder was an excellent pick by Vancouver). In Robin Brownlee's pre-draft column he had Svensson on the Oilers "wish list," which is usually reserved for players they don't expect to have a chance at drafting. From Brownlee:

"The Oilers like his skill and compete-level. He’s also got some flair, having suggested Canadian players at the World Junior Championship would 'shit their pants' if Sweden scored a couple quick goals."

This is a player that the Oilers wanted. Plus, how can anyone not like that quote from Svensson. It's awesome. Better still, the quote was only one good thing about Svensson's tournament. The part where he actually played hockey was pretty good too (2-5-7 +6 in 6 games). His performance in the Swedish Elite League is a bit less inspiring (7-10-17 -6 (21-27) in 50 GP in 11:13 per night) but it is a very difficult league. I'll assume that he didn't get much time at all on the PP which makes his numbers a bit more respectable still. Svensson has a contract for another year in Sweden so he won't be playing in Edmonton next season and may not spend much time at Oilers camp. From a cap management perspective, this is great news as Svensson's contract saves the Oilers from themselves. Unlike with Gagner, the Oilers won't burn two years to unrestricted free agency on Svensson. Hopefully he's ready to start his NHL career after two years of education in the Swedish Elite League and he becomes a star.

Pick #40 - Anton Lander

The Oilers next took Svensson's teammate with Timra of the Swedish Elite League (the two players are also about the same age, 18 years and 2 months; Lander is twelve days older). TSN had Lander ranked at #50, ISS at #47 and Red Line Report at #64, so at first glance this pick does look like a bit of a reach. ISS described Lander as a "checking forward" but I think that description arises more from his role on Timra's club than his skill set (then again, the scouts actually seen the kid play). Lander's boxcar numbers (4-6-10 in 47 GP in 7:39 per night) are less impressive than Svensson's but if we take ice time into account Lander scored 1.67 pts/60 compared to Svensson's 1.82 pts/60 so the gap in offence really isn't all that large. At the U18 championships, Lander was the captain of the Swedish entry and scored well (2-7-9 in 6 GP). At the very least, Lander isn't a total slouch when it comes to putting up points. I think the description of "checking forward" was mostly a polite way of saying "doesn't play much." Still, in order for Lander to develop, the Oilers will need to make sure he's more than a "checking forward" with Timra where, like Svensson, he's under contract for one more year.

Lander's profile at HF describes him as being "as much of a jokester as Swedes can be." I'll assume the report was (a) written by a Finn, (b) written by someone that didn't hear Svensson talk about Canada shitting their pants or (c) written by Marty Reasoner. Although the pick looks like a bit of a reach, there's nothing about Lander that screams bust and I do like that they took a forward at this point in the draft. Overall, a good selection by the Oilers.

Pick #71 - Troy Hesketh

If Lander was a bit of a reach, Hesketh is a big one. Hesketh is a defenceman who just finished his junior year for Minnetonka high school and has verbally committed to playing college at the University of Wisconsin, which is a good hockey school. Unfortunately, he still has his senior year of high school left to play so he won't be seeing real competition for at least one more year. Frankly, the most important numbers on his stats sheet are his age, weight and height since those are probably the biggest reasons he was drafted - 17 years, 11 months, 6'2 and 180 lbs (it's clear that the Oilers think he has some room to fill out). It's relevant that the boxcar numbers are good of course, but it's hard to glean much from them since the league he's playing in isn't very comparable to any of the Canadian junior leagues, the USHL, the NCAA or anything in Europe as far as difficulty. Gabriel Desjardins puts the NHL equivalency at somewhere between 0.073 and 0.052 for Minnesota high school which would give Hesketh numbers along the lines of 2-3-5 in an 82 game NHL season using the higher figure. His actual numbers do include some extensive PP time which means he's being used in all situations, so at least he'll have that experience.

To be honest, I was underwhelmed by this pick, especially because he'll be in high school for another year. I was hoping that they would draft one of the forwards that was left that may still have been able to make a high level impact. The guys that immediately came to mind here are Toni Rajala (more to come on this one), Alex Hutchings, Benjamin Casavant or Ryan Howse. Still, I can see the argument for drafting a big, young defender that you feel has been overlooked because of the league he plays in.

Pick #82 - Cameron Abney

This pick is beyond terrible. Toni Rajala and Alex Hutchings were both available and good at hockey. Benjamin Casavant would still have been a Coke machine, but at least he knows how to play hockey. Cameron Abney knows how to fight. Cameron Abney scored 1-3-4 in the WHL. Cameron Abney played in 48 of Everett's 72 games this year and, to my knowledge, didn't miss any because of injury. Cameron Abney is 6'4 and fights. In the best case scenario the Edmonton Oilers just traded a third round pick for Steve MacIntyre. What a terrible, terrible pick. Terrible.

Pick #99 - Kyle Bigos

Kyle Bigos is one very big defenceman. He's 6'5 and 230 lbs. and he sailed through his first two NHL entry drafts unpicked. That means, he's pretty old (20 years, 1 month) but would have been young in his first year of eligibility. In my post on where successful picks come late in the draft I found that it's best to draft young defencemen or defencemen that have already passed through the draft in previous years. This second group was especially well-represented. Usually they only make it through one draft, but that's not really here nor there since far fewer players get drafted after getting passed over twice (though I should really look into that to make sure). The point is, I like the fact that he's an older player.

As far as scoring, Bigos put up 8-25-33 in 58 regular season games for the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL. His team won the RBC Cup and he was named the tournament MVP. He also led his team with 126 PIMs, so I'm going to assume that he doesn't mind fighting. I think this is a pretty good pick at #99 and I wouldn't be at all upset except for the fact that the Oilers

Traded Kyle Brodziak

in order to draft him. Brodziak was officially traded to Minnesota along with pick #161 for picks #99 and #133. Brodziak was essentially taking tough minutes all year and although he didn't exactly pass with flying colours, he was doing about as well as anyone else that was in a similar situation. The fact that we wasted a pick on Abney at #82 makes this look all the more foolish since they could have just taken Bigos at #82 or traded down from #82 for Bigos or whatever other plan they thought necessary. Regardless, they didn't do that, they traded Brodziak. I can only assume that Brodziak was asking for too much money (something over a million per) and that he needed to be moved because of it. If Brodziak managed to find a team willing to give him an offer sheet for 1.5 to 2M per season, the Oilers would be in a terrible position and would receive only a third round pick. In the trade they managed to get a fourth and a fifth but had to throw in a sixth, so that seems like a wash at best. I'll make a final decision on this trade once I see Brodziak's contract with the Wild. If it's anything less than a million, this was a really dumb thing to do.

Pick #101 - Toni Rajala

I think that this was an excellent pick. Rajala was ranked #50 by TSN, #31 by ISS and #34 by Red Line Report. This is a case of the Oilers taking, quite literally, the highest rated player left in the draft. Even though an old grandmother who's never seen a hockey game could make this pick (without screwing the pooch on the third round), the Oilers should get some credit for actually doing it.

While with his junior team in Finland Rajala put up 31 points in 31 games. Playing in the SM-LIIGA he had more trouble scoring (only 5 points in 21 games) but, like Svensson, he was playing against men at an early age. At the World Junior Championship, Rajala wasn't particularly impressive, scoring only 2-1-3 in 6 games for the Finns. Given the weight put on that tournament, it's probably one of the reasons that Rajala fell as far as he did. The other reason for Rajala's fall is undoubtedly his small stature. At 5'10 and 160 lbs. Rajala isn't going to be a power forward anywhere but an U14 tournament (non-contact). Despite this, he can still score. And that's a skill with some value. At the U18 tournament Rajala scored 19 points in 6 games. His age is right in the middle of the pack at 18 years and 3 months. This will be a player to follow for the next couple of years and it should be fun to watch him kick ass over Christmas (or bust... but that wouldn't be fun).

Pick #133 - Olivier Roy

Well, he's a goalie and they didn't take him early, so I'm happy. He was ranked second among North American goaltenders by Cental Scouting so I guess that's encouraging. At the end of his 17 year old season he was named QMJHL rookie of the year. Still encouraging. At 17 years and 11 months he's certainly young for his draft year. Okay, okay. His save percentage was only .906 but his backup with the Cape Breton Eagles was only at .892. Well, I think he can be pretty confident that Christopher Holden is not an NHL goalie (and even here I'm a little iffy). Beyond that, we'll see.

Pick #191 Traded to Ottawa for 2010 6th Rounder

I suppose if there's no one you like left, deferring your pick to next year isn't a bad plan at all. It should even be a slightly higher pick so there's that too.

Final Thoughts

Well, that's how the Oilers did. Some good early and some good late but I think Umlauts (origin) and I would agree that the Oilers "shit their pants" in the middle.


Kent W. said...

What a terrible, terrible pick. Terrible.

The Flames did something similar last year with the Ryley Grantham pick, although even he sounds like a sniper compared to your guy.

Still, I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would waste a draft choice on a goon. They are freely available as UFA's every season AND can be had as undrafted free agents. Assuming you think nh NBL team needs a goon, which I don't.

Kent W. said...

*NHL, rather.

Scott said...

Congratulations on Bouwmeester and ditching Vandermeer Kent. I didn't look at Calgary's actual picks too closely other than the first round (not taking Schroeder at #20 was probably dumb) but the NHL moves were all solid.

Kent W. said...

During the draft it absolutely gutted me that the Flames failed to pick Schroeder @ 20 since he was the best value guy available. However, if the Bouwmeester thing does end up happening, I can probably let it slide.

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