Oilers 2009 draft preview

By Andrew SR Cowie

For all the talk about young and upcoming talent on the team, the Edmonton Oilers have to look at the reality of matching their longest playoff drought in franchise history. Going into the 2009 draft, the Oilers have failed to make the playoffs the last three years and fielded a team in 2008-09 that was riddled with undersized players and at times what could be seen as unmotivated players.

The Oilers, now apparently under full control of general manager Steve Tambellini and new head coach Pat Quinn, are looking to add skilled, big and tough players, something not easy to find all in one player. It is yet to be seen if the Oilers will find this in the draft (which they infamously tried in the 2003 draft), or in the free agent market.

Edmonton has the 10th pick at the draft, their second highest pick in the last decade. This will also be the first year that the Oilers have draft picks in each of the first, second and third round since the 2005 draft.

Top 10 Prospects

1. Jordan Eberle, RW
2. Riley Nash, C
3. Jeff Petry, D
4. Theo Peckham, D
5. Taylor Chorney, D
6. Rob Schremp, LW
7. Linus Omark, LW
8. Chris Vande Velde, C
9. Cody Wild, D
10. Devan Dubnyk, G

Team Needs

Any team that fails to make the playoffs three years in a row will have more than a few holes in its line-up. The call of battle coming from the front office regarding their needs has been team toughness and extra size. Considering that the 2008-09 squad had six regulars under six feet, there’s some merit to this, coupled that with the fact that some of these smaller players were easy pickings in a corner battle and you have a team looking at adding extra meat.  Management needs to look at players who are not only big, but willing to get into the battle and muck it up.

Another need is top-end forwards, but acquiring that is easier said than done. Ales Hemsky starts and ends that category, while the other Oilers are either in the realm of dependable forwards or in the section of "potential" top-end skill, like Sam Gagner. But unfortunately, potential doesn’t win games and the Oilers will be looking to finally get some offensive help for the 25-year-old Czech winger. The possibility of that happening is now sprouted up on the headlines with the recent trade demand of Dany Heatley, who would be the sort of player the Oilers have been seeking for years.

One other pressing concern should be goaltending. Roloson is turning 40 in October, Jeff Deslauriers has had all of a half dozen games to show his stuff and Devan Dubynk isn’t ready for the big league. There needs to be a short-term and a long-term solution in net.

Organizational Strengths

While the Oilers don’t have many stand-out talents in any one category, they have a nice level of balance. Both forwards and defensemen have some potential NHL level players.

The Oilers have continued to find good defensemen at various selection points in the draft. Even though neither Taylor Chorney nor Jeff Petry progressed as hoped, both are still very young and have time to get back on track.

Cody Wild has shown signs of being a player with the varied amounts of ice time that he received in Springfield, but the player who has made the most gains has been Theo Peckham. Since being drafted in the third round in 2006, Peckham has constently improved, from honing an offensive game not immediate present in a junior to becoming the go-to prospect in terms of toughness on the farm team.

The Oilers have a glut of forwards in the system, who while they lack the outlook of top-flight talent, they have the look of productive, effective forwards with at least potential bottom-nine looks to them. Riley Nash, Philippe Cornet, Chris Vande Velde and Finnish youngster Teemu Hartikainen all are in this group.

Organizational Weaknesses

Drafting middle to late in the first round most of the time the last 10 years has come back to bite the Oilers has they continue to lack top-end skill that is often found early in the draft.  Potential candidates for that title such as Rob Schremp fizzled out, and the jury is still out on Linus Omark who chose Russia instead of a possible year in the minors. Jordan Eberle is another player who still has more to prove, despite his very good nine-game AHL stint.

The Oilers also have very little in terms of goaltending depth. After Dubynk, the Oilers basically no potential NHL-level talent in terms of goalies and they don’t have a single goalie in the amateur ranks.

Draft Tendencies

The draft philosophy of late for the Oilers has been "buy local" early and import later. The last eight first-round picks by the Oilers have been players based in North America, with six of those players coming from the CHL leagues. Sam Gagner, Alex Plante and Rob Schremp are some of the examples of this practice.

In later rounds the last few years, the scouts have been trying their hand at the Detroit method of picking European players for upside and see them develop into considerable talents. While the picks the Oilers have done the last couple years haven’t had time to turn into NHL talent yet, late European picks Teemu Hartikainen, Milan Kytnar, and Linus Omark are all examples of this continued effort to find a gem late in the draft.

Another selection of size over talent, like in 2003, can not be an option in the first round.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: 10th pick – Scott Glennie C – London (OHL)

Picks (8)

1st Round, 10th overall
2nd Round, 40th overall
3rd Round, 71st overall
3rd Round, 82nd overall
4th Round, 101st overall
5th Round, 130th overall
6th Round, 160th overall
7th Round, 190th overall