After a very disappointing season which saw the Edmonton Oilers miss the playoffs for the third straight year, GM Steve Tambellini and his scouting crew assembled in Montreal armed with a total of seven draft picks. Among those seven was the 10th overall pick, which was eventually used to draft highly-regarded Swedish forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson.
On day two of the entry draft, Tambellini packaged forward Kyle Brodziak with the team’s sixth-round pick in a transaction which saw the Oilers bring in fourth and fifth-round picks from the Minnesota Wild.
“We do need to change our line-up a little bit; we have too many bodies at forward,” he said on the draft floor of the move.
Edmonton also made a minor swap with Ottawa on day two of draft sending the Senators their seventh-round pick in exchange for Ottawa’s sixth-round pick in next year’s draft.
In total, the Oilers drafted seven players. Tambellini added four forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender to a prospect pool that was ranked 16th by Hockey’s Future.
Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, F
6’1 200 lbs, Timra Red Eagles
1st Round 10th Overall
Tambellini made no doubt that there was much pre-draft discussion with other teams regarding moving up from the 10th position. Tambellini likened the amount of talks to trade deadline day, but in the end landing a higher first-round pick proved to be too difficult. It would be wrong to say that the Oilers settled on Paajarvi at the 10 spot. The fact is, Paararvi was ranked higher than 10 by all major scouting services and media outlets, including being ranked fourth by ISS.
“We’re excited,” said Tambellini. “I mean to get Paajarvi at 10 for us was significant.”
Paajarvi is a prototypical Edmonton Oiler forward in that his tremendous speed is one of his primary weapons. He accelerates well and can both handle the puck and finish at speed. Unlike many of Edmonton’s young forwards, Paajarvi is already very mature physically. He has already proven ability to handle physical hockey by playing with men in the Swedish Elite League. He isn’t afraid to drive to the net and is also not shy on challenging bigger, strong defensemen while carrying the puck.
When asked what he would bring to the Oilers, Paajarvi said, “I want to make a great impact and a lot of speed, and want to drive to the net all the time, and want to do things with the puck all the time, and try to make plays, and try to make goals, and just be offensive impact for the team.”
The knock on the young Swede from many people who have followed his career is that he should be putting up better numbers with Timra in the SEL. Last season in 50 games, Paajarvi netted seven goals and added 10 assists. Compare that to the seven points in only six games that he chipped in for Sweden in last year’s U20 World Junior Championships and a conclusion can be made that he struggles offensively among more seasoned players. Whether or not that is the case, it is safe to say that Paajarvi will not be on the Oilers roster come this fall and will remain in Sweden to further improve his game.
Tambellini reiterated this on the second day of the draft by saying, “He’s playing in a great place in Timra, good team and good coaching staff there, Kent Nilson has assured us that he is in a very good hockey development area.”
Anton Lander, F
6’0 195lbs Timra Red Eagles
2nd Round 40th Overall
Not only did the Oilers go back to the Swedish Elite League to select Lander, they picked him from the same Red Eagle squad that produced Paajarvi.
“It’s wonderful, I speak to him before this draft, I was so nervous when Edmonton was going to pick, and to say my name it’s wonderful,” Lander told reporters on day two of the draft when asked about being picked by the same team that drafted his linemate a day earlier.
”I’m a two-way player,” Lander said of his game. “I work hard for the team.”
Lander’s role with the Timra squad is just that, a solid two-way role player who contributes about ten minutes a game. Lander’s best quality might be his leadership skills. He is known for being a good locker room presence and has already served as captain for Swedish National U18 team. Unlike Paajarvi who has great speed, Lander will need to continue to work this part of his game if he is to first crack one of the top two lines with Timra, then make the jump to the North American game later on.
Troy Hesketh, D
6’2 178 lbs, Minnetonka Skippers
3rd Round, 71st Overall
With their third pick in this year’s entry draft the Oilers took high school defenseman Troy Hesketh. Hesketh was unranked by Central Scouting for the draft. Critics of this pick, and there have been many, argue that Edmonton took a flyer on the young defenseman way too early in the draft. But a perceived competition for his services made him the 71st pick.
Hesketh’s biggest asset is his size. At just under 18 years old, the Oilers feel Hesketh has the potential to develop into a hefty 6’4 blue liner. With the Skippers, Hesketh plays in all situations including the power play. Despite the heavy ice time, his numbers are not great given that he is playing at a lower level than many other players in this year’s draft.
One advantage both Hesketh and the Oilers have is that there is absolutely no rush for him to develop. Hesketh has committed to playing his NCAA hockey at the University of Wisconsin, however, he hasn’t yet started his senior year of high school. Hesketh is a boom or bust type prospect that the Oilers will give every opportunity to develop properly.
Cameron Abney, F
6’4 193 lbs, Everett Silvertips
3rd Round 82nd Overall
It is safe to say that the Oilers used their second pick in the third round to fill a need within the organisation rather than to draft the best player available. From all accounts, Abney is a player of limited skill and ability. He does, however, have a big body and is a heavy hitter. In limited ice time last season with Everett of the WHL, Abney managed to gain recognition as one of the better fighters in the league. It is important to note that in the past, Edmonton has successfully drafted this type of player. An example is Zack Stortini who was drafted 92nd overall in 2003.
Kyle Bigos, D
6’5 230, Vernon Vipers
4th round 99th Overall
Tambellini used the first pick he acquired in the Kyle Brodziak trade to draft 20-year-old defenseman Bigos. The California native is a late bloomer, having gone undrafted in the previous two entry drafts. Bigos blossomed into a stalwart blueliner for the BCHL Vipers last season and was named MVP of the RBC Cup.
Besides his impressive size, Bigos is a very capable defender. He uses his size advantage and hockey sense to shut down opposition forwards. Scouts also say he has a hard and heavy shot from the point. Bigos will play for Merrimack of Hockey East next season.
Toni Rajala, F
5’10 163, Ilves Jr.
4th Round 101st Overall
After reaching deep into the potential draftee pool for their previous three picks, the Oilers made a very obvious choice with the 101st overall pick. Rajala was projected to be a higher choice by most services, but his lack of size scared off those doing the actual picking — NHL teams.
“I’m a goal scorer," he said of himself at the draft. "I’m a very good skater and I have good hockey sense.”
There was no doubting Rajala’s offensive skills heading into the draft. In last year’s U18 tournament, Rajala had 19 points in only six games. This offensive outburst beat Alexander Ovechkin’s tournament record. Last season with Ilves in the Finnish junior league, Rajala potted 13 goals and contributed 17 assists in 30 games.
Being so small, he tends to play on the perimeter and doesn’t go into the corners much as he should. Rajala himself understands what he has to do to elevate his game.
“I must get stronger, more powerful,” he said.
Olivier Roy, G
6’0 165lbs, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
5th Round 133rd Overall
Like Rajala, size certainly played a factor in Roy falling so far down the draft. At only 6’0, 165 lbs, Roy doesn’t take up much of the net.
What Roy lacks in size, he makes up for with technique. He is a stereotypical QMJHL goaltender in that he uses the butterfly style and has excellent positioning. He is also a quick goaltender who remains calm under pressure. Last season, Roy posted a GAA of 2.80 and a record of 35 wins and 13 losses.
Roy will continue to mind the net in Cape Breton next season. A strong start could help Roy secure a spot on Canada’s national U20 team who will defend their title in Saskatoon and Regina in 2010.