Oilers 2004 draft preview

By Guy Flaming





Edmonton Draft Preview

Oilers Top 10 Prospects

  1. Jeff Deslauriers G
  2. Marc-Antoine Pouliot C
  3. Jesse Niinimaki C
  4. Doug Lynch D
  5. Jeff Woywitka D
  6. Matt Greene D
  7. Jani Rita LW
  8. Alexei Mikhnov LW
  9. Tony Salmelainen RW
  10. Colin McDonald RW

 

Team Needs

 

Fortunately for the Oilers, they have one
of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL in the sense that there is a
noteworthy player to fill practically every role a team could have. Where the Oilers fall short is in not having
a sure-fire offensive star who will do nothing but generate offense every time
he is on the ice, a constant threat who can bend twine at a sniper’s pace.

 

“We’ve got a big (organization) so we
could kind of forsake our size mentality for a guy who just puts the puck in
the net and creates offense,” says Kevin Prendergast Edmonton’s VP of Hockey
Operations and head scout.

 

“I think we need people who can score!”
agrees long time Oiler scout Chris McCarthy.
“We need some people who can put the puck in the net because we need to
score more goals to win more games. For
me, it was in the back of my mind that we could use (offense) so I kept a
special eye out for that.”

 

The necessity to find a power play
quarterback is less of a priority then a year ago thanks to the graduation of
Marc-Andre Bergeron to the NHL roster and also the acquisition of collegian Tom
Gilbert at the trade deadline in exchange for Tommy Salo.


Organizational
Strengths

 

With AHL All-Star Doug Lynch and rugged
Matt Greene, the future blueline of the Oilers already looked solid, however,
trades last year also brought Jeff Woywitka and Tom Gilbert into the fold
making the quality of the defensive corps undeniably inspiring. Greene is the hard-hitting, defensive rock
that opposing forwards will quickly learn to fear. Gilbert can control a power play and will provide much needed
offense from the backend. Lynch and
Woywitka possess traits of both of the aforementioned players and but are
already on the cusp of graduating to the NHL and could play there as early as
next year.

 

The forwards in the organization are
plentiful to say the least. Power
forwards like Colin McDonald, J.F. Jacques, Alexei Mikhnov, Jani Rita and Zack
Stortini as well as exceptional checkers such as Dan Baum, Mike Bishai, Nate
DiCasmirro and Tony Salmelainen are all notables.

 

Youngsters with enormous potential
dominate the center ice position.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Jesse Niinimaki could mature into first line
centers while Joe Cullen, Kyle Brodziak and Fredrik Johansson are all coming
off great seasons.

 

Edmonton is not an organization known for
developing stalwart keepers but Chicoutimi goaltender Jeff Deslauriers is well
positioned to become a franchise player in Oilerville. The recently signed masked man will begin
his first professional campaign next season for the Toronto Roadrunners of the
AHL.

 

Character and leadership are qualities
the Oilers are rich in as several of their prospects are, or have been,
captains of their clubs. Stortini,
Pouliot, Jacques, Brodziak, Lynch, Woywitka and Bishai all wore the ‘C’ as
recently as last year or in their last season as an amateur in junior or
college.

 

Organizational
Weaknesses

 

The Oilers are still dependent on getting
scoring from all four of their lines and without a dominant offensive star in
the system, that expectation will have to continue. While the system is loaded with role players and untapped
potential, there are no certainties in the goal-scoring department. In that sense, the Oilers are sort of like a
carpenter with a bucket full of nails but no hammer to finish the job. For Edmonton to correct this and improve in
the coming years, they will need to find an architect capable of leading the
carpenters.

 

Presently, in the crease Edmonton is
guilty of having all of their eggs in one basket, namely Jeff Deslauriers. Behind Deslauriers, Mike Morrison is the
best goalie the Oilers have and most see him as a career AHL player. Edmonton native Glenn Fisher is expected to
be the starter for NCAA champion Denver University in his sophomore year but
being at least three years away, he is anything but a sure thing. Expect the Oilers to address this need by
grabbing at least one goaltender in the upcoming draft.

 

Draft
Tendencies

 

The cost conscious Oilers have always
liked to dip into the NCAA and European talent pools because the need to sign
those players is usually delayed at least two years longer than with someone
from Canadian major junior. The Oilers
have taken players from the QMJHL more frequently than in the years prior to
2001 when the current regime of Kevin Lowe and Kevin Prendergast took control
of the team.

 

The vast majority of Oiler drafts have
been noteworthy for one characteristic above all others: speed. However, Lowe has instituted the policy that
size, character and hockey smarts should hold much more weight in Edmonton then
ever before. The long-standing Oiler policy on draft day has always been to
select the best player available and that will again be the case this June 26th
and 27th as well.

 

“Yeah, that’s what it always is,”
confirmed Prendergast. “The problem
with drafting ‘for need’ is that by the time these guys are ready to contribute
‘the needs’ have changed.”

 

“We’re going to draft the best player
available regardless of position,” McCarthy followed up. “Look at how much our dynamics have changed position-wise
since the start of last year. No Mike
Comrie or Tommy Salo and defensively we’ve added Woywitka and Gilbert. Do we need more big strong wingers? Maybe not, but then again, big centermen are
always on our list.”

 

Kevin Lowe is quite often an active GM on
or around draft day. Eric Brewer was
acquired a few years ago on draft weekend and Jochen Hecht was dealt to Buffalo
in exchange for two second round picks in 2002. Also in 2002, Lowe aggressively pursued Tampa Bay’s fourth
overall pick in order to draft Joni Pitkanen but the Flyers topped the Edmonton
offer and nabbed the Finn instead.
Joffrey Lupul was also in Lowe’s sights that year but Lowe failed to
move up to get him. In 2003, Lowe was
trying to position himself to take a run at Ryan Suter by swapping picks with
Atlanta, but the deal fell through when Nashville grabbed the blueliner earlier
than expected. Last season the Oilers
moved down a handful of spots in the opening round and added a second round
selection in a deal with New Jersey.
With a plethora of NHL capable forwards, the potential is there for Lowe
to be active again this year.

 

Player
most likely to be taken with first round selections
(Hockey’s Future staff mock draft
result): No. 14 Alexandre Picard LW,
No. 25 Lauri Korpikoski LW.

 

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