Monday, April 9, 2018

Arrested Development

There are a lot of problems plaguing the Edmonton Oilers. Poor roster management, a rich history of losing trades, inept coaching, injuries, the fact that Lucic 100% ran over a gypsy in October, the list goes on and on. As a fan of the Oilers you spend more time arguing about who is MOST at fault for the team finishing in the bottom five of the NHL in any given season than you do actually watching the team play hockey. IT'S VERY FUN AND NOT AT ALL A FRUITLESS EXERCISE I QUESTION MY OWN PARTICIPATION IN ON A DAILY BASIS *continues chewing on vodka bottle*.

At the moment the cause célèbre for Oiler fans and media alike is the development or lack thereof of one Jesse (no middle name given on Wikipedia) Puljujarvi. This isn't what this post is about however; it's both absurd to write off a 19 year old player in his second season of professional hockey, as well as to ignore all the warning signs we're seeing now, that we've seen with numerous other players this team has failed to properly develop over the last decade or so. So I'm just going to focus on that second part!

The Oilers have a well earned reputation for being the Kings Of The Draft. When they're not winning draft lotteries they're drafting guys in the top 5 and all the other fan bases hate them for it, and it's basically the only thing we Oiler fans have had to hang our hats on since 2006. But for every Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl this team drafts, there are a bunch of Magnus Paajarvis, Nail Yakupovs and Tobias Reiders; guys that weren't allowed a chance to develop properly, thrown into the NHL immediately, and then traded away as soon as they inevitably failed to live up to unrealistic expectations (or just straight up traded away before even getting into a pro game). And from what I can tell one of the biggest problems is that the Oilers refuse to use the AHL as a development league.

It wasn't that long ago that the Oilers didn't even have their own farm team; after the Edmonton Roadrunners kept the seats at the Coliseum luke warm during the 04-05 Lockout®, the team was disbanded mostly due to the fact the Oilers were owned by a 50 person ownership group at that time (things were NOT GREAT for a long time after Peter Pocklington fled town) and heading into the 05-06 season the Oilers did not have their own affiliated minor league team. Instead they sent prospects down to Iowa, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hamilton to fight for time against Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens prospects, respectively. As we saw with guys like Jeff Delauriers it wasn't an IDEAL situation. Thankfully they eventually figured THAT out and have had their own development system in place since 2007. The problem with that, though, is that they hardly ever use it as such.

I won't go back through the archives because I'm far too lazy, so let's just look at the current season. Theoretically a team that has been as bad as the Oilers have, for as long as the Oilers have, should have a wealth of players drafted and groomed by the franchise with the end goal of building a competitive team filled with home grown talent. You look at teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles and it becomes a common theme. Unfortunately the Oilers haven't done a ton of that.

I looked at the rosters of both the Edmonton Oilers and their AHL team the Bakersfield Condors. I used a minimum cutoff of 15 games on the NHL roster (slighty more than a cup of coffee. A Grande if you will) and 20 games as part of one of the Oilers AHL affiliates (Bakersfield/Oklahoma/Springfield) and this is what I found.

Players Who Came Up Through Oilers Farm System (Minimum 20 games with Oilers AHL team)

Jujhar Khaira - Oilers third round pick, 133 AHL games

Oscar Klefbom - Oilers first round pick, 57 AHL games

Jesse Puljujarvi - Oilers first round pick, 49 AHL games

Anton Slepyshev - Oilers third round pick, 59 AHL games

Iiro Pakarinen - Panthers seventh round pick, 66 AHL games

Ethan Bear - Oilers fifth round pick, 34 AHL games

Six players, with a combined 398 games with Edmonton's AHL affiliate. 

Out of that group the only guy to play a full season in the minors is Jujhar Khaira, who I think we can all agree has been one of the few bright spots on the Oilers this year, albeit in a bottom six role. Then we've got the Oilers best D-man in Klefbom, who you could probably argue would have benefited from extra time down in Oklahoma, but who overall has had a nice, steady development at the NHL level that I think we're all mostly happy with (horrible injury history aside). Then two bubble players, neither of whom have seemed to endear themselves to the coaching staff, and both of whom probably won't be on the roster next season. Followed by Ethan Bear who has shown glimpses of legit NHL talent as a late season injury replacement, but who clearly needs more time to develop. And the aforementioned Jesse Puljujarvi, who I would argue should have been in the AHL most of, if not all of this season, but this being the Oilers it's no surprise that a top five pick was thrown into the pool whether he was ready to swim or not. 

So two impactful NHL players, two guys who aren't ready for primetime but look like they're solid bets to be within the next season or two, one guy who is an okay but infinitely replaceable bottom of the roster forward (Pakarinen), and one guy who looks like he could be an option as a dirt cheap winger next to either McDavid or Draisaitl, but will more than likely head back to Russia next season because unfortunately he wasn't born in Swift Current or Portage la Prarie. I think it's safe to say this list is less than ideal. Especially when compared to other franchises. 

Let's look at two other teams, who I think are near the top of most people's lists to face each other in the Stanley Cup final in June, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators. 

Players Who Came Up Through Lightning Farm System

Yanni Gourde - Undrafted, 215 games with AHL Syracuse

Tyler Johnson - Undrafted, 137 AHL games

Alex Killorn - Lightning Third Round Pick, 54 AHL games

Ondrej Palat - Tampa Seventh round pick, 117 AHL games

Jake Dotchin - Tampa sixth round pick, 157 AHL games

Slater Koekkoek - Tampa first round pick, 180 AHL games

Cedric Paquette - Tampa fourth round pick, 75 AHL games

Anthony Cirelli - Tampa third round pick, 54 AHL games

Andrei Vasievskiy - Tampa first round pick, 37 AHL games

Adam Erne - Tampa second round pick, 150 AHL games

Vlad Namestnikov (now traded) - Lightning First round pick, 134 AHL games

Eleven players with 1310 combined games with Tampa's AHL affiliate. 

Almost twice the amount of players with close to three times more minor league experience. Gourde and Johnson are Tampa's 4th and 6th leading scorers, and make up 2/3 of their second line. Vlad Namestnikov was in Tampa's top 5 before he was traded at the deadline to shore up the defence for what the Lightning hope will be a run to the Cup. Both third line wingers came up together through the AHL. Dotchin and Koekkoek are 23 year old D-men being used in depth situations rather than being thrown into the top four out of necessity. Basically Tampa is doing everything that Edmonton continues to fail to do in terms of development, and clearly it's paying off for them. 

Players Who Came Up Through Nashville Farm System

Viktor Arvidsson - Nashville 4th round pick, 87 AHL games

Filip Forsberg - Capitals 1st round pick, 47 AHL games

Roman Josi - Nashville 2nd round pick, 74 AHL games

Kevin Fiala - Nashville 1st round pick, 111 AHL games

Matthias Ekholm - Nashville 4th round pick, 59 AHL games

Ryan Ellis - Nashville 1st round pick, 61 AHL games

Colton Sissons - Nashville 2nd round pick, 176 AHL games

Austin Watson - Nashville 1st round pick, 232 AHL games

Miikka Salomaki - Nashville 2nd round pick, 121 AHL games

Anthony Bitetto - Nashville 6th round pick, 186 AHL games

Frederick Gaudreau - Undrafted, 233 AHL games

Juuse Saros - Nashville 4th round pick, 62 AHL games

Pekka Rinne - Nashville 8th round pick, 147 AHL games

Thirteen players with 1596 combined games with Nashville's AHL affiliate. 

Over twice as many players as the Oilers and four times the amount of minor league experience. 
Nashville's two leading scorers, both their goalies, four of their six defensemen and four of their top nine forwards, all came up through Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwuakee. 

Now obviously these numbers are skewed a little when you take into consideration that two of Edmonton's top three scorers are former first overall picks, and the other a third overall pick, and generally those guys go directly to the NHL. And so what, the Oilers have a bunch of good, young players on their roster who skipped the AHL entirely, but that doesn't mean they're doing that with EVERY player, right? Surely a team that has drafted so high for so many consecutive years must have a plethora of later round talent plying their trade in the AHL just waiting for the call-up. MMMMMMMMMM..... 

Bakersfield Condors Leading Scorers

Ty Rattie - Non-Oilers draft pick

Josh Currie - Undrafted, minor league contract.

Joey LaLeggia - Oilers Fifth Round Pick

Brad Malone - Non-Oilers draft pick

Patrick Russell - Undrafted (signed ELC with Oilers)

Grayson Downing - Undrafted

Ryan Hamilton - Undrafted, minor league contract

Zach O’Brien - Undrafted, minor league contract

Dave Gust - Undrafted, minor league contract

Dillon Simpson - Oilers 4th round pick. 

Two, count em, one-two players total drafted by the Oilers, in the top 10 of scoring for the minor league team, BOTH OF THEM DEFENSEMEN!!! (Joey LaLeggia is currently doing the reverse-Burns as the Condors have been using him as a forward for the majority of the year and it's obviously working out for them) It's obviously not bad, per-say, that two of the best Oiler prospects are D-men (and two more in Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones are right outside that top 10). For years the Oilers seemingly drafted nothing but forwards and had absolutely zero defensive prospects, so at least that appears to be have been rectified. But the bigger problem is how many guys there are on minor league contracts. These are career AHL guys, most of which are in their late 20s if not their 30s, and who are more than likely never going to make an NHL roster. They are the BEST PLAYERS ON THE FARM TEAM! That seems like a massive red flag to me. 

Let's compare that with both the Lightning and the Preds;

Syracuse Crunch Leading Scorers

Mathieu Joseph - Tampa fourth round pick

Anthony Cirelli - Tampa third round pick

Mitchell Stephens - Tampa second round pick

Carter Verhaeghe - Non-Lightning pick

Matthew Peca - Tampa seventh round pick

Alexander Volkov - Tampa second round pick

Michael Bournival - Non-Lightning pick

Mathew Bodie - Undrafted

Adam Erne - Tampa second round pick

Jamie McBain - Non-Lightning pick

Milwaukee Admirals Leading Scorers

Emil Pettersson - Nashville 6th round pick

Bobby Butler - Undrafted, minor league contract

Trevor Smith - Undrafted

Harry Zolnierczyk - Undrafted

Frederick Gaudreau - Undrafted

Mark Zengerle - Undrafted, minor league contract

Anthony Richard - Nashville 4th round pick

Alexandre Carrier - Nashville 4th round pick

Frederic Allard - Nashville 3rd round pick

Mark McNeill - Chicago 1st round pick

So two teams who are likely to challenge for the Stanley Cup in a few weeks have rosters chalk full of drafted and developed talent, and have farm teams that are also filled with high end prospects, or at the very least their own drafted players who are big contributors to their farm team.

Meanwhile the Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 years and their best AHL players are a bunch of undrafted long shots to even make the NHL at all. Very cool!!

Gone But Not Forgotten

Another big part of the problem (to go along with the team's comically bad draft record outside the first round) is the Oilers utter lack of patience. I mean it makes sense on one level; the team has been bad for X number of years, they desperately need an influx of talent, and due to a combination of poor roster construction and awful free agent signings they're forced to fill holes with young, unproven talent. So they take a newly drafted 18/19/20 year old, put them directly in the NHL and put the weight of the franchise on their shoulders. Then when they inevitably fail to live up to far too high expectations and/or the team is still bad they get traded for pennies on the dollar, only to go on to solid NHL careers for other franchises. Let's take a quick look over the last 10 drafts;


Jordan Eberle (TRADED) - 22nd overall, 507 games, 382 points with the Oilers.

No one really of note here. They got a ton out of Jordan Eberle before trading him, so I don't count that as he was a firmly established NHL talent prior to the trade. They got 52 games out of sixth round pick Teemu Hartikainen (who I, like a lot of fans REALLY hoped would pan out better) before he washed out and wound up in the KHL, but I would consider that one a slight win.

Three other players drafted, for a total of three NHL games.


Magnus Paajarvi (TRADED) - 10th overall pick, 162 games played, 58 points, and most notably the P in H.O.P.E! He did spend 72 games down on the farm, so the Oilers did put in much more of an effort to properly develop him than almost any other prospect.  Traded for David Perron in the summer of 2013 (good trade) and has since gone on to appear in 224 NHL games with St. Louis and Ottawa (as well as 69 more AHL games), putting up a total of 47 points. I think it's fair to say the Oilers made the correct call on this one, albeit once again they did things in the wrong order as they put Paajarvi in the NHL immediately before giving him some time in the minors, but overall I think they got as much out of Paajarvi as they could.

Anton Lander (LEFT FOR KHL VIA FREE AGENCY) - 40th overall pick, 215 games played, 35 points and most notable for his sick pirate facial hair. To me this is a case of a guy who was a solid scorer at every level BUT the NHL. He spent 178 games in the AHL with various Oiler affiliates, so this definitely isn't a case of the team trying to rush his development. He's close to a point-per-game scorer in the AHL but never seemed to find his touch in the big leagues. I liked him as a bottom six pivot option for the Oilers but clearly Jujhar Khaira was a much better option so again I can't really fault the Oilers here (see, it's not ALL negative!!)

The other five picks after that have zero NHL games combined, but you just never know when Cam Abney might finally break through!


Taylor Hall (TRADED)............... *bursts into one giant tear*

Tyler Pitlick (LEFT VIA FREE AGENCY) - 31st overall pick, 58 games played, 14 points total. Another guy who the Oilers actually did well to try and develop, with 196 games played between Oklahoma and Bakersfield. The problem with Pitlick is that he could never stay healthy. Between 2011 and 2017 he played exactly zero full seasons of hockey, with a high mark of 62 games played in his rookie pro campaign. After that it was a never ending series of injuries that derailed Pitlick at every turn. He was sent off to the land of free agents last summer after having a career best NHL season with 11 points in 31 games, which was then, against all odds, derailed by yet ANOTHER injury. He signed with the Stars and went on to play his first full season of pro hockey, scoring 27 points in 80 games and being generally very effective as a third liner, something the Oilers would theoretically trade away their third best scorer for. Again this one is hard to fault the Oilers for; they played him almost 200 games in the minors and the player couldn't stay healthy for more than 30 games at a time so letting him walk seems like a reasonable decision. Of course this being the Oilers though he immediately had a career year and I guarantee he will go on to to be an incredibly solid bottom six contributor on whichever team he plays for, in the mold of Kyle Brodziak or Andrew Cogliano. But like I said I don't think you can really hold this one against the team TOO much.

Martin Marincin (TRADED) - 46th overall pick, 85 games played, 11 points. Like Lander and Pitlick, Marincin spent plenty of time in the AHL, with 128 games played for the Oklahoma Barons. And like Lander and Pitlick, he's another guy who had an odd run with the Oilers. He's one of those players that puts up solid underlying numbers, but by the eye test looks out of his element a lot. I remember liking him as an Oiler but he never seemed to earn full trust from his coaches, and was traded for a nothing prospect and a late pick that was turned into Eric Gryba. Has since gone on to play 82 games over three seasons for the Leafs. In Toronto he ALSO couldn't earn the trust of Mike Babcock, and once again was a divisive player there, liked by the stats community but chided by the game watchers.
I would argue that he's a much better option for a bottom pair than Eric Gryba has ever been, and would have been a nice backup option to have in a season where the defence was riddled with injuries, like this current one! His game is far from perfect, but he can competently move the puck up the ice, which is something the Oilers struggled with horrendously this season. I'd be hesitant to say the Oilers gave up on him too early, but I do think this falls in line with the Oilers poor pro scouting and their insistence to go with toughness/grit over talent nine times out of ten. This also meets our criteria of a player the Oilers drafted, developed and then traded away for almost nothing in return.

Brandon Davidson (TRADED TWICE)  - 162nd overall pick, 114 games played over two stints with the Oilers, 17 points. 150 games with Oklahoma (plus 11 with ECHL Stockton), Davidson is another guy who the Oilers seemingly did right by in terms of development, but he has now been traded TWICE by the team. The first time they traded him at the deadline for David Desharnais, who didn't do much of anything as an Oiler, but he scored one OT winner in the playoffs so he'll be lionized in Edmonton for the rest of his life probably. He was then claimed off waivers this season, only to be traded again three months later for a third round pick in the 2019 draft. As you can see the Oilers think very highly of this player! Davidson was a fan favorite who beat cancer on his way to fulfilling his NHL dream, so he was very easy to cheer for and I think that may colour our perception of him a bit. But much like Marincin I always felt Davidson was a solid depth defenseman who could have been a decent contributor for years to come, but as always it was not meant to be. Add Davie to the list of players drafted, developed and then traded by the Oilers for virtually nothing. Hey, look, a pattern starting to develop!

Seven other players drafted in this year, two combined NHL games. 


Another decent size draft, with nine players taken total, including two first round picks in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom.

Nuge is a perfect man with great hair and kind eyes, and Gord help me if Peter Chiarelli trades him at some point this summer...

We already mentioned Klefbom earlier, no need to revisit that.

David Musil - 31st overall, four NHL games total, two points. Musil played the entirety of his pro hockey career in the AHL, appearing in 253 games, before signing in the Czech Republic this past season. The reason I'm pointing him out is his dad JUST HAPPENS to be an amateur scout for the Oilers. And the Oilers JUST HAPPENED to draft him as the first pick of the second round, ahead of guys like Boone Jenner and Brandon Saad, and Nikita Kucherov and John Gibson. JUST REALLY STRANGE AND I'M SURE NOTHING MORE THAN A COINCIDENCE THAT THEY USED A SUPER HIGH PICK ON THE SON OF A SCOUT NOTHING TO SEE HERE THOUGH EVERYTHING IS COMPLETELY ON THE LEVEL.

Tobias Rieder (TRADED) - 114th overall, 0 games played for the Oilers. This is the one that always comes to the forefront of my mind when thinking about the Oilers trading away good players for absolutely nothing, and then those players going on to have productive NHL careers for other teams. In all his infinite wisdom Steve Tambellini traded Rieder for *the loudest, longest sigh you have ever heard in your life* Kale Kessey, before Rieder even played a professional game. Now, to be fair to Tambo, Kessey was drafted three spots higher than Toby, and when you have the chance to trade for a guy who at that point had a career high of 29 points in junior, you have to pull the trigger. You can't teach size, and apparently you also can't teach skill as Kessey has almost as many games in the ECHL as he does in the AHL, to go along with zero games in the NHL. Meanwhile Rieder has been a solid depth scorer for the Coyotes, and now the LA Kings, putting up seasons of 37 and 34 points before a bit of a down year this year with 19 points in 58 games for a putrid Yotes squad, before finishing a bit stronger with 6 points in 20 for his new LA team after the trade deadline.
I mean, pretty impossible for me to chalk this up to poor development by the Oilers seeing as they didn't even bother to develop him at all. BUT, yet another guy who was traded for something absolutely worthless, who has gone on to find success at the NHL level for other teams. Weird how this keeps happening!!

Five other players drafted, with three NHL games total (six players with seven NHL games if we count Musil).


Nail Yakupov (TRADED) - 1st overall pick, 252 games played, 111 points. Our dear, sweet Yak. Forever burdened by the scarlet ONE on his chest. He had a very strong rookie campaign during the half-lockout season of 2013. The Oilers immediately fired coach Ralph Kreuger and brought in a guy who made it his mission to turn Yakupov from a goal scoring, offense-only type player into a third line grinder, and he seemingly never recovered from it. There's a lot to unpack with Yakupov; there are tons of stories about him being alienated by his teammates, he had a weird relationship with Dallas Eakins, his agent said a bunch of wild shit in the media, his confidence was crushed by high expectations both from the Oilers and because of his draft pedigree, etc. The list of negative things surrounding Nail Yakupov during his time in Edmonton would be longer than this obscenely long blog post. And once again, here was a player who clearly struggled often in the NHL, but has still, to this day, never played a single game in the AHL. I would say he's by far the most egregious example of the Oilers looking at draft pedigree and refusing anything less than instant success in the NHL. Not all first overall picks are created equal (and that 2012 draft as a whole is pretty awful), but the Oilers threw Yak into the deep end with a bunch of ankle weights, and when he started to drown they blamed him for not knowing how to swim and then walked away. He was mercifully traded away after an 8 goal campaign in 2015-16, for Zach Pochorio (less than nothing) and a pick that ended up becoming Stuart Skinner. He's since gone on to play 98 games between St. Louis and Colorado, getting 25 points over two seasons.
This is another player where it's easy to come to the conclusion that the Oilers got all they were ever going to from the player, and it was time for both parties to move on, which I partially agree with. But again, here's a guy who came in with massive expectations, and the second he started the struggle the organization threw their hands up and decided there was nothing they could do. Yakupov could have potentially been a solid third line contributor in the mold of Tobias Rieder, but we'll never know as the team fumbled his development then threw him away for nothing. THIS! ALL! SOUNDS! SO! FAMILIAR!


Sorry, I'm sorry. That's just one of my all time favorite Awful Oiler Draft Picks. A few Edmonton Oil Kings have gone on to be competent NHL players, and I swear to god one day the Oilers will find one of them!!

Jujhar Khaira - 63rd overall, 94 NHL games, 24 points. As mentioned above, one of the only players to actually be drafted and developed by the Oilers who is currently making a positive impact on the roster. Better than nothing! On track to be a contributor for the Oilers for the foreseeable future.

Erik Gustafsson (TRADED) - 93rd overall, 0 NHL games for the Oilers. I have no idea what happened here. Gustafsson had just turned 22 and was coming off his second straight successful season as a defenseman in the Swedish Elite League, and when it came time renew his contract the Oilers went "NAH, WE'RE GOOD!" I mean the Oilers did have Alex Plante and Colton Tuebert in the pipe, so clearly they were set up for the next decade and MacT had the luxury of freeing up a contract spot!
He went on to sign with the Blackhawks where he's played 76 games over parts of three seasons, putting up 30 points, while spending the bulk of his time as one of the top defensive prospects on the Blackhawk's AHL team. Again, not a world beater by any stretch, but blah blah good depth defenseman, blah blah, Oilers literally let him walk away for free, blah blah should look into keeping good players once in a while.

Joey LaLeggia - 123rd overall, 0 NHL games so far, but 200 games in the AHL with 107 points. As mentioned above Joey Legs was drafted as a D-man, but was converted to forward full time this season to surprisingly solid results. Turns 26 in June and hasn't gotten so much as a sniff at the NHL level so I wouldn't hold my breath, but COULD potentially see him as one of the first call-ups next year. Fifth round pick so getting positive results from him on your AHL team is probably a win overall, but we'll see if he ever gets a shot at the show.

Four other players out of seven total drafted with zero NHL games combined.


Darnell Nurse - 7th overall, 197 games played, 44 points. 13 games total AHL experience, and in a perfect world he have been down there for the entirety of the two seasons prior to this one, but overall has been fine at the NHL level. Looked good for half the season this year before falling behind, and will undoubtably be crushed by the weight of expectations with this being the Oilers and all, but if they pencil him in as the #4 D-man of the future he could be really solid for the Oilers for years to come. Of course all you ever hear is how he's the next Chris Pronger, so it's just as likely that he falters over the next season or two and is traded for a bag of magic beans. I can't wait!! I'd say he's got one foot on the "will be perfectly fine NHL player" side and one foot on the "rushed into the NHL and not properly developed before being traded away" side. Call it a coin flip.

Anton Slepyshev - 88th overall, 102 games played, 23 points. Another one of the six Oilers to play more than half a season in the AHL, but just barely. Benefited from five seasons in the KHL, so arguably he needed much less time down on the farm than your average Oiler prospect. Has shown flashes of NHL talent, but has also dealt with poorly-timed injuries and couldn't seem to gain the trust of the coaching staff this season. I'd put cash money on him bolting back to the KHL this summer. He's a cheap depth player with speed and a good shot so inevitably I'm sure the Oilers will find themselves better off letting him walk away for nothing.

Eight other players drafted, one NHL game between them.


Leon Draisaitl - 3rd overall, 269 NHL games, 207 points. He's great and handsome and yeah he probably makes $2 million more than he would have gotten had his team been run by a competent GM, but I like to think they gave him that money as a peace offering for how fucking badly Craig MacTavish screwed him over in his rookie year letting him drown in the NHL for a half a season and not allowing him to go play in what would have been his final World Junior tournament. He DID play six whole games in the AHL before being called up and never looking back, but as I mentioned earlier it's not uncommon for a top pick to bypass the minors entirely and it obviously hasn't hurt him at all.

Five other players drafted with 0 NHL games, but they're all picks ranging from 91 to 183, and it's only been three years so you never know when one of those guys will eventually figure it out at age 24 or 25.


Connor McDavid - My life, my love, my soul, the biggest part of me. 😍😍😍

Caleb Jones - 117th overall, 58 AHL games, 16 points. Coming along nicely and one of the few players the Oilers seem to be doing right by. He turns 21 in June, and after a solid first full rookie pro season you have to think expectations will be raised going into next season, so we'll have to revisit this in a year or two and see if things are still on track.

Ethan Bear - 124th overall, 18 games played, 4 points. Jones and Bear are part of a young, dynamic defensive duo that a lot of Oiler fans (myself included) putting a lot of hope into. Like Jones he had a solid rookie pro campaign this year, and got a chance to be a regular in the Oilers lineup over the last 20 games of this season, in which he showed well. He's still incredibly raw and would benefit greatly from another half season in the AHL at the very least. But, once again, this being the Oilers I would not be surprised if he made the team out of camp, not on merit, but because there were no other options and the Oilers already have him penciled into the opening night line up right now. He looks to have a bright future ahead so he's the frontrunner in my litmus test of "have the Oilers figured this shit out or will they keep pushing guys too fast, too soon". Time will tell!

Pretty poor looking draft outside of these three, though the Oilers didn't draft in the second or third rounds as they traded away those picks for Griffin Reinhart and the services of Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli. Thank god for Connor.......


Jesse Puljujarvi - 4th overall, 93 games played, 28 points. Again I'm not here to make this a post about Jesse Puljujarvi, but let me just say that everything that has happened so far in his short career reminds me SO MUCH of Nail Yakupov, and that is terrifying me. Much like Darnell Nurse he could clearly use more time seasoning in the AHL, but for all intents and purposes he's a full time NHL player now and next season will be a big test for our precious pizza loving boy. Would you be surprised to hear that I have little to no faith the Oilers will do the right thing for the player and this will probably end up turning out poorly for everyone?

Nine players total drafted in this year, with a few names that stand out. Again way too early to know how this crop of picks will pan out but it looks like it could be the best draft the Oilers have had in years.


Kailer Yammamoto - 22nd overall, 9 games played, 3 points. A destroyer of worlds in Junior, penciled into the top 6 mere months after his draft #BecauseOilers, failed to find his footing at 18, but went back to his junior team and set the league on fire. He's going to be good for the Oilers for a long, long time. Again in an ideal world he probably plays at least half the season in the AHL next year but he's all but guaranteed to make the opening night roster for the second year in a row.

Seven players drafted total. Some decent looking names. Again only time will tell.

To recap; 77 players drafted since 2008, 18 I would qualify as legit NHL players, 10 of whom have since been traded away/allowed to leave via free agency. And that's without including guys like Devan Dubnyk, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Brodziak, all of whom were traded for dubious reasons, for awful returns, and have since gone on to have prosperous NHL careers as players who somehow always seem to fit the exact roles the Oilers roster is missing at any given time.

When you hit on less than 25% of your draft picks it seems like it would be unfathomable to trade away half the guys who DO actually make the NHL, and yet this is what the Oilers have been doing for well over a decade now. It's impressive, really! 

What The Problem Be

The Tampa Bay Lightning have set the standard for development systems as far as I'm concerned, but go through a list of the top teams in the NHL and you see a similar pattern. A combination of top players and depth guys who all spent time developing their game in the minors before coming up to make an impact on their NHL clubs. The Oilers don't have anything close to that. They draft high, immediately put guys in the NHL and if they don't make an impact within the first 2 or 3 seasons they're shipped out to make room for the next batch of 18 and 19 year old tasked with turning the franchise around. And when it's not that they draft poorly and load their AHL team up with career minor leaguers who clog up the pipe and take ice time away from the young players who should be getting it. Basically the entire thing is a huge mess, and in my opinion is near the top of the list of "Things The Oilers Need To Change Immediately If They Ever Want To Be Competitive Before The Sun Burns Out". 

Which brings us back around to Jesse Puljujarvi. He encapsulates everything the Oilers have done wrong with development over and over and over again over the last decade. They penciled him into the opening night lineup purely because of his draft pedigree, despite the fact he was coming off a season in which he clearly wasn't ready for the NHL, and did good but by no means great down at the AHL level. Somewhat unsurprisingly he didn't blow the doors off what little competition there was in training camp and started the year in the AHL. That lasted all of ten games, when he was called up to take the place of Kailer Yammamoto, an 18 year old, freshly drafted rookie who was tasked with playing on the top line with Connor McDavid, and believe it or not he also didn't immediately become an NHL All-Star and was subsequently sent back down to his junior hockey club.
Jesse has shown glimpses of true, high-end NHL talent this season, but struggled mightily for the majority of the season and on almost any other franchise would have been sent back down to the AHL to find his game and gain some confidence with the goal of developing him into a impactful NHL player for years to come. Instead he got to play with Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome and had 12 points in the 46 games since Christmas. Great job everyone!!

There are a ton of problems with the Edmonton Oilers organization, and their entire development system seems to be near the top. There are hardly any high end prospects in the system, and the ones that are there currently are either pushed into the NHL before they're ready, or pushed down the depth chart behind career minor leaguers for..... reasons. If the Oilers ever plan on being a serious contender in the NHL for any length of time this is going to require a serious overhaul. Let's just say with the way this team operates I don't except any changes, any time soon!

It's always great being a fan of the Edmonton Oilers!!


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