“Scouting is not an exact science” as former Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs GM once said. Former Oilers GM, Glen Sather said the key to a successful hockey operation is to surround yourself with good hockey people, which include good scouts.
The Oilers drafting record for 22 years can be categorized as both great and poor. Their dynasty teams were built on the “great gems” their scouts uncovered like Messier (3rd rounder), Anderson (4th rounder), Kurri (4th rounder), Moog (5th rounder). But from 1984-1992, no Oiler first rounder played more then 60 games in the NHL.
Glen Sather was the architecht of those great Oilers teams and was GM from 1980-2000 before Kevin Lowe took over. There wasn’t much turn over in the scouting department as Sather remained very loyal to head scout Barry Fraser and his scouting staff. Barry Fraser retired after the 2000 NHL entry draft. Just before the 2000 Entry draft, Glen Sather resigned as President and General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers after 20 years as GM.
Kevin Lowe took over as GM and one of his mandates was to revamp the scouting staff and his first order of business was to place Kevin Prendergast in charge of the entire scouting staff (both professional and amateur scouts). Kevin Lowe also took a more prominent role in the scouting by scouting junior players and professional players in the AHL and NHL.
Some of the older Oilers scouts also retired after Kevin Lowe was promoted as General manager. Bob Freeman, long time Oilers scout retired in 2000. Eddie Chadwick retired in 2001. Scouts Gilles Leger and Harry Howell (professional scouts) went to the Rangers with Glen Sather.
Currently, the Oilers employ 11 professional and amateur scouts. Dave Semenko and Morey Gare scout professional leagues for players and do not scout amateur players. Last year was the first time all the Oilers amateur scouts scouted all the leagues and European players that were draft eligible and the same will continue under Lowe. The Oilers employ 3 scouts in the OHL and 3 scouts in the WHL. One full time scout is employed in Quebec and 2 scouts in the NCAA and 2 scouts in Europe.
Kent Nilson and Frank Musil are the Oilers European scouts and both played a few years with the Oilers. They know what type of players the Oilers need and the character they should bring to the Oilers. Having two former players as European scouts will help the Oilers in the long run and both are young and energetic and bring new enthusiasm to the job with new ideas, which has been needed for a long time. Pete Peeters was hired to become the Oilers full time goalie coach in the organization and also scouts goalies in the amateur ranks.
For many years, the Oilers scouting staff had become stale and didn’t have the time or energy to scout every player like the Oilers do today. In the early days, the Oilers were one of the few teams to scout Europe but after the rest of the NHL caught on and their drafting record went down the toilet.
When Glen Sather hired Doug Risebrough in 1997, one of his mandates was to bring in younger NHL scouts and have a younger scouting staff. Working with Kevin Prendergast, Risebrough hired more scouts (younger people) and a lot of the scouts remain with the Oilers today.
The Oilers have a younger and meaner scouting staff. The Oilers should produce better draft results under Lowe and Prendergast. The Oilers have done a better job of scouting during Sather’s last years in Edmonton with picks like Rita, Chimera, Semenov, Mike Comrie and last year (Lowe’s first draft with input) with Hemsky, Lynch and Markkanen.