Oilers CHL prospect update

By Guy Flaming





Oilers CHL Prospect Update

Early on this year it looked as though the Oiler CHL
prospects were going to enjoy an unprecedented level of success. Almost all 12 of them were off to amazing
beginnings in the early stages of their seasons and most of them have actually
built on those hot starts. Recently the
Oilers added one more prospect to the system adding their Canadian based player
total to lucky 13, the highest amount in quite some time.

 

For an additional information and comments on certain
players, look to the recently posted Top
20 Oiler Prospects
HF story.

 

WHL

 

Troy Bodie

Age: 19 Draft:
9th Round 2003 Junior
Year
: 3rd Outlook:
Good

 

For the first six weeks of the year, Troy Bodie was
either on top of the scoring race in Kelowna or a very close second. Not only was the 6’5 power forward leading
his club in offense but he was also among the elite in the entire league. Much of that early success could be
attributed to a better work ethic and line chemistry with fellow Oiler prospect
Tyler Spurgeon.

 

I think we come to
the rink every day with the mindset of working hard and trying to improve
ourselves,” Bodie said in November.
“We’re getting a chance to show our stuff this year and we’re trying to
contribute to the team.”

 

As an 18-year-old, Bodie did not break out until late in the
season and then he really played strong hockey during the playoffs where he
lead the Rockets in postseason goal scoring.

 

Yeah the regular
season was kind of average, but I stepped it up in the playoffs and got a few
points and helped the team quite a bit,” he said. “I just played hard and got some bounces, maybe it was the
intensity of the playoffs but I’m not sure.”

 

I think
he’s really taken his game forward and worked hard; he has really improved,” a
WHL scout told Hockey’s Future. “He has
to pick up his skating but his effort has really come a long way. I think the wear and tear of the season has
caught up to him a little bit but overall he’s been very good.”

 

Statistically Bodie
had tailed off about a month ago but he has begun factoring in on the score
sheet once again and his 27 points are still good enough for third on the
team. With 10 goals already to his
credit, Bodie has established a new WHL career high for himself and with half
the season now completed, the Manitoba born winger has surpassed his career
high 20-point mark of last year.

 

While no one in the
organization is expecting a ninth round draft pick to ever really play in the
NHL, Bodie has definitely increased his value and raised his stock from minor
league fodder to depth player. Who
knows, if his development continues on the steep grade it has been on for the
last 10 months, this really could be a player that comes out of no where and
accomplishes big things as a pro.

 

Tyler Spurgeon

Age: 18
Draft: 8th Round 2004 Junior Year: 3rd Outlook: Average

 

Because he and Bodie are linemates, it shouldn’t come as any
surprise that Tyler Spurgeon also burst out of the gate very strongly
this year. The diminutive center plays
with a lot of gusto and vigor, which often creates turnovers and offensive
opportunities. For many weeks it was
either Spurgeon or Bodie leading the Rockets in scoring and that was something
completely new to the third-year forward.

 

Our role has
changed so we have to be more offensive and step up to the plate to get things
done,” Spurgeon said. The Edmonton
product has already matched his personal best of 24 points in a season and it
isn’t unrealistic to project Spurgeon more than doubling that amount by the end
of the year.

 

As veteran players
like Simon Ferguson (EDM) have graduated from the Rockets, Spurgeon and
Bodie’s line has moved up the depth chart on the team and has slid into a more
offensive minded slot. With the more
ice time and different expectations, the duo paired with Lauris Darzins
(NSH) have stepped up to the task of point production. Recently the Oiler pair has also been
partnered with Justin Keller (TB).

 

“(Bodie) definitely
creates a lot of room out there for me being the big guy that he is and he
comes to play every night,” Spurgeon told Hockey’s Future in November. “(Darzins) understands the game and plays
the system very well and is a skilled guy so we just try to get him pucks.”

 

Spurgeon
has been getting more offensive opportunity this year and he’s a guy that
always produced a lot of points as a kid in minor hockey and this is just the
evolution of him being able to play in those situations now,” said a WHL scout. “He’s a guy that brings a tremendous effort
and character.”

 

The heart and soul player for Kelowna gives a total effort
on every shift and leaves nothing left on the ice after each game. He’s an energy player and an accomplished
forechecker that can hound opposing blueliners into coughing up the puck in
their own end. He might not have enough
skill to challenge for a NHL job in the future but his work ethic will give him
opportunities.

 

Roman Tesliuk

Age: 18 Draft:
2nd Round 2004 Junior
Year
: 2nd Outlook:
Very Good

 

Roman Tesliuk’s dozen points so far is the second
highest total by a defenseman on the Kamloops Blazers this year but it is still
off the pace the Russian had declared for himself in the summer. As a spectator at Team Canada’s summer camp
in Calgary, Tesliuk told Hockey’s Future that he wanted to score between 30-35
points this year so he’s got a bit of work to do in order to match that target.

 

After getting the opportunity to play a very limited role
with the touring Russian team in the ADT Hockey Challenge against a WHL
All-Star squad, Tesliuk felt he might get the chance to represent his homeland
at the World Junior Championships but in the end he did not get the nod.

 

“I think there have been some
outstanding times and there’s been some not as good times; it’s been up and
down,” a WHL scout recently reported.
“Overall, he’s the No. 1 defenseman on his team and he plays against
everybody else’s best players every night so he’s been challenged to do
things.”

 

“He’s been asked to do a few things
to work on getting better to handle on one-on-one play and he’s done that,” the
report continued. “He’s playing really
hard and is trying to take his game to another level with the puck. He probably needs to be a little less high
risk with it but he’s played really hard and he’s competed which is why he got
drafted.”

 

Devan Dubnyk

Age: 18 Draft:
1st Round 2004 Junior
Year
: 2nd Outlook:
Very Good

 

After a forgettable half dozen games to begin the year,
Kamloops Blazer goalie Devan Dubnyk has been reminding people why he was
a first round draft pick last year. The
Blazers are a cellar dwelling team in their division, and one of the weakest in
the entire league, but things would be much bleaker in Kamloops if their giant
keeper weren’t standing tall between the pipes.

 

“One of the stats that amazed me when I saw it was that
after 28 games he’d been one of the three stars 14 times, that’s a pretty good
stat for any goaltender,” said Prendergast in mid December. “That means a lot of the games are being
played in his end.”

 

At the Christmas break Dubnyk had settled in with a .908
save percentage; not great but still good and definitely not bad. Obviously Hockey Canada agreed that Dubnyk’s
seasonal performance warranted an invite to their World Junior team’s winter
camp in Winnipeg and extended such a call to the 18-year-old.

 

Although he didn’t make the team, getting the invite was a
major confidence builder in light of not being chosen to play in the ADT Hockey
Challenge earlier in the month.
Certainly the Oilers felt their prospect was good enough to play in
those games but believe he was hurt by the quality of his club team and their
dismal record.

 

“If you put Devan in (Kevin)
Nastiuk’s or (Jeff) Glass’ place, he would have been there
for sure,” said Prendergast.

 

Pete Peeters, Edmonton’s goalie
coach, was in Kamloops working with Dubnyk when the ADT invites came out and he
was able to help the youngster to realize that it wasn’t the end of the world.

 

“I don’t think he took it that
badly,” said Peeters. “Not everyone is
going to play on the hockey team and some of them should, it happens every
year. Canada’s never been at a shortage
of great goaltending, it’s one of those where you can’t miss.”

 

So like Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers
before him, Dubnyk is another Oiler prospect goalie that attended the WJC camp
but did not get picked for the team.
But he represented Canada at the U18 tournament just over a year ago and
he’s the only invited goalie this year who is still eligible for next year, so
there are things in his favor for next year already.

 

“The first two weeks of the year he
wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be but since then he’s been their best player,”
said a WHL scout. “He’s been their
Player of the Month every month so far because he’s been very good; in a lot of
cases he’s the only reason they’ve even been close.”

 

First and foremost will be to help
backstop the Blazers and try to get them back into a playoff race as the second
half of the season begins.

 

Max Gordichuk

Age: 18 Draft: 6th Round
2004 Junior Year: 2nd Outlook: Average

 

Having been both traded and injured
in the first two months of the year, Max Gordichuk has had his share of
distractions this season. The lanky
blueliner began the year in Kamloops but was dealt to the Vancouver Giants
early in the schedule to address a need on the west coast team’s roster.

 

“Vancouver has been happy with what
he’s done,” the WHL scout said. “I’ve
known Don Hay for years and he’s not going to lie to me and he tells me ‘We’re
very happy with what he’s done’ so you have to take that at face value.”

 

Hay, the Giants coach, told
Hockey’s Future the same thing in November during an Alberta road trip. The question is whether or not there has
been a progression in his game from last year or even from a disappointing
performance at Oiler rookie camp in September.

 

“I’ve seen him play a couple of
times since he was traded,” the scout said.
“His game was OK, I don’t think it was anything extraordinary, I think
his play is about the same as last year.”

 

The complaint about Gordichuk is
that he’s a 5’10 person trapped in a 6’4 body.

 

“He does have good puck skill for a
big kid but I think the problem with Max is that he’s just not a physical,
mean, aggressive person,” the scouting report ended, “Max is a great person but
he’s going to have to decide what he really wants to do.”

 

OHL

 

Zack Stortini

Age: 19 Draft: 3rd Round
2003 Junior Year: 4th Outlook: Very Good

 

As the third player from the Oilers
class of 2003 to be signed to a entry-level contract, expectations for Zack
Stortini
were probably higher than what the Sudbury Wolves captain has
delivered thus far. His offensive
totals are down considerably from last year but as the OHL’s premier pugilist,
Stortini is still getting his job done.

 

“I think what is happening is that
Zack is spending an awful lot of time front of the goalies and he gets
mesmerized,” said Kevin Prendergast.
“His job is to take the goalie out of the game by being a destructive
influence and sometimes he loses sight of where the puck is.”

 

“His point production is no
reflection of his ice time; it’s a hard working team and he’s doing the things
that he needs to do to get to the NHL.”

 

Sixth in team scoring but one of
the club’s leaders in the penalty minute department, Stortini is still playing
with the edge and power that got him drafted by the Oilers. Worth mentioning is the fact that after two
seasons with a combined –35 rating, the big winger is flirting with being an
even player for the first time in his OHL career.

 

“He’s got to work on his skating and we’d like to see him
work on his offensive game to get more goals, but his job is to hang around the
net and get in the goalie’s face all the time,” said a content
Prendergast. “A lot of times goals are
going in and he hasn’t touched the puck at all. He knows what his job will be when he gets here; we’re not going
to have to explain anything to Zack Stortini.”

 

“Nobody wants it or works harder or is a better team guy
than Zack Stortini,” said an OHL scout.
“Zack realizes his value in front of the net and to be a protector for
two highly touted young kids in Benoit Pouliot and Ryan McDonough. I think Zack is so conscious of getting to
the net so these two can get off shots that he forgets that if the puck comes
loose that he should go get it.”

 

Stortini will likely shatter his previous best assist total
but with just half a year left to play he will be hard pressed to reach the
20-goal mark with just six to his credit thus far. However, with the Wolves looking like sure bets to make the
playoffs, Stortini himself would admit that the year has been a success.

 

Bryan Young

Age: 18 Draft: 5th Round 2004
Junior Year: 2nd Outlook: Very Good

 

Character is one of those attributes that you just can’t
teach; you either have it or you don’t.
Anyone who knows him or who has seen him play can tell you, Bryan
Young
has it. Despite a
nagging injury, Young has braved the pain and played through most of it this
year for the Peterborough Petes.

 

“He’s a heart and soul kid who’s gone through injury
problems this year,” said one OHL area scout.
“It’s like a hip pointer except they’re worried about tissue coming off
the bone. They’ve been really down on
defensemen and this kid has been in absolute agony but he can move without messing
it up any worse so he’s been playing through all of it.”

 

As the year continues, onlookers are impressed with the
steady progression in his development since being drafted. Not only is he sound defensively but Young
is also a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the ice.

 

“Physically he has been unbelievable; he kills every penalty
and somebody comes off limping after everyone of them,” the scout
continued. “(GM) Jeff Twohey said they
gave him shit one day for playing so awful and they told him he looked tired
and he said ‘well, I am kind of tired.’
He’ll never offer why or have an excuse and so finally they found out
that he had been cleaning barns for 13 or 14 hours that day before the game
started because his dad was sick. That’s
what kind of kid he is.”

 

The viciously aggressive blueliner from Ennismore, Ontario
has recorded just four points this season but that’s basically on pace for his
expected offensive production. More
importantly is the fact that the 6’1 190lb defenseman is still continuing to
crush the opposition at every possible turn and he’s patrolling the defensive
zone like a shark.

 

Liam Reddox

Age: almost
19 Draft: 4th Round 2004 Junior Year: 2nd Outlook: Very
Good

 

At a time when the NHL pendulum is slowly swinging back to
the point where freewheeling hockey is making a comeback, smaller offensive
players like Liam Reddox are finding ways to make it in a big man’s
game.

 

In his draft year the center from East York Ontario
represented Canada at the U18 Championships and then went on to lead the
Peterborough Petes in scoring despite being a rookie. This year Reddox is again leading his club in scoring but he’s
doing so in a less impressive fashion.
According to onlookers, the second effort and drive they saw in Reddox
last year isn’t as evident this season.

 

“It’s not uncommon after a draft to see a slowdown year;
like a sophomore jinx,” said one scout.
“It’s not like he’s struggling that bad but he’s not doing a lot of the
things that he was doing that made him successful. He’s failing to get his legs moving.”

 

“Lots of kids who are drafted go
through this and Liam is a kid like Mike Ribeiro who has scored at every level
and everybody says ‘yeah but he won’t at the next, he’s too small, this is it
he’s topped out here’,” described the scout.
“Maybe he doesn’t feel he has as much to prove this year now that he’s
drafted but he certainly does; he’s not even close to being there yet but some
kids need to be challenged.”

 

Reddox is scoring but they’re not the kind of tallies that
you would ever hear described as being ‘a goal scorer’s goal’.

 

“I’d like to see him snipe once in a while,” the scout
said. “Liam’s style of scoring is by
playing back door seams or little holes and he scoots himself to the net and
bats in pucks on one time feeds or somebody’s garbage that’s hanging
around. I must have saw him score a
dozen goals last year and I don’t know if any of them were from outside
the hash marks and I’d say 9 out of 10 were scored from inside the edge of the
blue paint. He’s got a nose to find
seams.”

 

Reddox leads the Petes with 43 points, good for 11th
in the entire OHL but if he can get back to being the player he was last year,
he would be able to score at an even more impressive pace.

 

Rob Schremp

Age: 18 Draft:
1st Round 2004 Junior
Year
: 3rd Outlook: Excellent

 

It’s been quite the year already for Rob Schremp. After being chosen in the first round by the
Edmonton Oilers last June, Schremp came to the City of Champions and showed
everyone what all the hype was about.
Then he rejoined the London Knights in time to help lead them to an
amazing 31-game unbeaten streak, setting a new CHL record. A few days later Schremp was off to join
Team USA for the World Junior Championships in North Dakota. Before the year ends, Schremp and the
Knights will continue their quest for the OHL championship and then they’ll
host the Memorial Cup.

 

A dream season indeed.

 

Along with two of his teammates, Schremp has been at the top
of the OHL’s scoring race nearly from day one.
Corey Perry (ANH), Dylan Hunter (UFA) and he have been
sitting 1-2-3 for as long as can be remembered and only the time away in North
Dakota will enable them to be caught by the rest of the league.

 

“Some nights he’s with Hunter and (Dave) Bolland (CHI),
some nights he’s with Hunter and Perry, but they don’t click really well, the
three of them, unless it’s on the powerplay,” one OHL scout told Hockey’s
Future. “On the power play these guys
click unbelievably. I have never
seen a power play like this since maybe 1989 in Swift Current where you
absolutely didn’t take a minor against them because it was a goal. Mostly what (Schremp) is doing is playing a
full two minutes on the power play every time it comes about which, the way
they’re calling the game nowadays is quite often. Other than that he’s been playing with absolutely everybody. The other day he was playing with Jordan
Foreman and Kelly Thomson, two rookies.”

 

Schremp is currently at the World Junior Championships where
the Americans have thus far put together a 2-2 record and will face Sweden in a
quarterfinal match up. With limited ice
time Schremp has scored twice, good for third on the team in goal scoring. The fact that Schremp is there at all shows
how impressive a season he has had to this point because after a lackluster
summer camp, the center wasn’t high on the depth chart for the US.

 

“It was hard for them not to put him on the team with the
way he’s been playing,” Kevin Prendergast said before the tournament
began. “The way he’s playing in London
now is not the kid that played in the U.S. camp in the summertime. Dale Hunter has won him over as to what it
takes to be on a winning team and what it takes to play a lot.”

 

Many in the hockey world are commenting on his improved defensive
play, but he’s not done developing just yet.

 

“Overall I wish Robbie would shoot the puck more, he’s
always looking to make an unbelievable snap pass, which he can do, but
I’d like to see him trying to score from areas where he’s going to have to score
in the pros because he can’t find ice in the same locations that he can now,”
said the OHL scout. “I’d love to see
him start following shots a little bit and get a chance on a rebound. Robbie Schremp has never scored on a rebound
in his life! If Robbie and Liam Reddox
could some how splat into each other like a couple pieces of play-do, you’d
have a 100-goal scorer because Liam would score 50 from in tight and Robbie
will score 50 absolute highlight goals.”

 

To his credit, Schremp showed in Edmonton that he is willing
to put in the extra work needed to become a better player.

 

“I worked a lot with Kelly Buchberger when I was out in
Edmonton and he’d work out with me for about half an hour after every
practice,” Schremp told Jason Gregor of TEAM 1260. “I brought that stuff back here to London and it’s really helped
me out. My defensive game has come a
long way and I don’t think I’m a liability on the ice anymore, last year there
was a lot I needed to learn. I think
I’m a complete player now.”

 

As always there are critics and many now seem to be focusing
on the fact that the one thing Robbie still isn’t able to do is throw his body
around and punish opponents, but to one OHL scout, that’s a ridiculous
condemnation.

 

“Kent Nilsson probably had as great a stick as we’ve ever
seen and nobody ever said that he wouldn’t ever play in the NHL
because he doesn’t check hard enough,” the scout scoffed. “Robbie has put his nose to the grindstone
and is working his ass off.”

 

The hard work has shown and Schremp’s dream season
continues.

 

QMJHL

 

Marc-Antoine
Pouliot

Age: 19 Draft: 1st Round
2003 Junior Year: 4th Outlook:
Excellent

 

In a similar situation as Schremp’s in London, Rimouski’s Marc-Antoine
Pouliot
finds himself in the company of a pair of teammates near the top of
the league’s scoring race. With Sidney
Crosby
and Dany Roussin slightly ahead of him, Pouliot has been
enjoying a return to health this year by piling up the points. With 53 points in 42 games, Pouliot has been
scoring at well over a point per game pace for the last two months.

 

Pouliot is strong in the faceoff circle winning 55 percent
of his draws, which makes him a very valuable penalty killer and power play
skater. He has taken almost double the
number of faceoffs as anyone else on his team and four of Pouliot’s 21 goals
have been game winners, highest amongst Oceanic players. Most importantly for Pouliot, he hasn’t
missed a game all year, which has enabled his development to continue.

 

“Pouliot has improved his speed,”
said a scout. “His slip speed has
improved and he can definitely skate at an NHL level.”

 

Although on the short list for Team Canada roster spot
consideration, Pouliot was not one of the 32 players given invites to the
December camp in Winnipeg.

 

Jean-Francois
Jacques

Age: 19 Drafted: 2nd Round 2004
Junior Year: 4th Outlook: Very Good

 

Few Oiler prospects have surpassed expectations at quite the
same level as the captain of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Jean-Francois Jacques has been nothing short of outstanding
this year by consistently showing an offensive flair that he had only
previously hinted at in years prior.
His 46 points in 37 games is good enough to position Jacques on the edge
of the top ten in league scoring, and those numbers are new career best for the
Quebec born winger.

 

There has been a steady increase in production over Jacques
four-year QMJHL career but nothing like the way he has eclipsed his previous
best was ever expected from Jacques.
Not that the Oilers are complaining, but the numbers certainly come as a
surprise to them too.

 

“He’s just blowing me away,” Prendergast told Hockey’s
Future earlier this season.

 

One eastern scout who has seen Jacques this year raved about
what the big man has been able to do.

 

“That team is absolutely terrible, they have no prospects
for the draft,” began the scout. “This
is (Jacques’) third year in the league and I think it’s just that he’s learning
to use his strength and his size to his advantage. He’s taking the puck to the net or battling in front of the net
to get goals that way. He’s learning
how to be a power forward and I think he’s the go-to guy on that team.”

 

Not only has his hockey skills improved this year, but so
has his grasp of the English language.

 

“He’s the captain of the team because he has
character,” said Prendergast. “He’s
like Stortini in a way, I think he’s got to feel more comfortable with the
environment around where he is.”

 

If learning some English in the offseason to feel more
comfortable in Edmonton is all it takes to produce this kind of successful
development in their players, perhaps the Oilers should be sending dictionaries
to Russia for Alexei Mikhnov and Ivan Koltsov.

 

Jacques and Pouliot would normally have to be signed by June
1st or else the Oilers would lose both players back to the Entry
Draft. However, with this year’s CBA
issues still unsettled, all things concerning the draft are up in the air.

 

“I don’t think anybody knows the
clear answer to that question,” said Edmonton Assistant GM Scott Howson. “If there is no CBA, we will not sign
them by June 1st; you can’t sign anybody unless the NHL comes
out with a new directive on these players which I don’t suspect they will. There’s a great deal of uncertainty on the
upcoming draft but we believe we will still retain their rights and that will
get taken care of when the new CBA gets executed but there are no guarantees on
that, but we won’t be signing them by June 1st without a new CBA.”

 

Zack Stortini was signed last
summer but issues with both Pouliot and Jacques kept those negotiations form
proceeding. Not surprisingly money was
a major factor.

 

“With Pouliot, his injuries
factored into it a little bit and for these types of players who were drafted
higher than Zack, under the old system you would have normally had to pay more
money for them and we just weren’t willing to do that at that time knowing we
still had another year on them,” explained Howson. “With Zack it was more that he had a very impressive training
camp last year and another this year and the dollars made sense so that was why
that was pursued.”

 

Surely the impressive seasons from
both Jacques and Pouliot will make them priorities as soon as clubs are allowed
to pursue signing their prospects.

 

Stephane Goulet

Age: 18 Draft:
8th Round 2004 Junior
Year
: 2nd Outlook: Very Good

 

The other pleasant surprise this
year in the CHL comes in the form of eighth round choice Stephane Goulet
who is having a fantastic season with the powerhouse Moncton Wildcats. His career high 14 points of last season are
a distant memory this year for Goulet who already has 25 at the midpoint of the
schedule.

 

“I think Moncton might be one of the best teams I’ve seen so
far, they’re big, strong, they can skate, and they have four big solid lines,”
said Prendergast. “Goulet’s getting
opportunities because they are putting him out there in all key situations and
his coach is happy with him. He’s got
to work on his skating a bit, to lengthen out his stride, but he has good
hockey sense. Playing on a good club
and playing every night is important too and being a part of that winning
attitude is important for him.”

 

“His skating has improved from last year; he’s using his
size after putting on more weight and strength and he’s playing on a good team
with good guys around him,” agreed another eastern scout. “I knew the trade to Moncton would do good
things for him. He’s keeping it simple
and getting some points. With the
strength he’s added he’s playing with more confidence. All he needed was an opportunity and Moncton
has given it to him as well as responsibility, which is good.”

 

Moncton currently has the best record in the QMJHL and is
ranked third in the nation so a Memorial Cup appearance by Goulet and the
Wildcats is certainly a reasonable scenario.

 

CIS

 

Jordan Little

Age: 23 Draft: 1st Overall (Making the Cut) CIS Year: 3rd Outlook: Average

 

No one was really sure what to make of Bell’s Making the
Cut
, the reality TV show that filmed last summer and was shown on CBC this
fall. The premise was that any unsigned
hockey player in Canada could try out for one of six invites to an NHL training
camp and the hopefuls came out by the thousands. The masses were whittled down to 60-some participants for a
two-week training camp held in Vernon B.C.

 

No one was really sure if they should take this too
seriously or if it was just simply going to be spectacle for Florida GM Mike
Keenan and his head scout Jack Birch. However, the Oilers saw the possibilities
right from the start.

 

There’s always somebody that might deserve an
opportunity and it gives guys who, for whatever reason, felt that they might
have never got a break, it gives them an opportunity to show something,” said
Prendergast when asked about the idea last summer. “It’s our national past time so who knows?”

 

“I know Jack Birch really well and he knows
what type of players it takes to play in the NHL,” Prendergast added. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to get
involved with a player who has worked that hard to get there and give him an
opportunity. Certainly if you go
through the whole country and there’s six players there, there’s got to be
something worthwhile to look at.”

 

The fact that the were a myriad of NHL scouts
involved in the show gave it a certain amount of credibility although the
obvious TV production got in the way of the realistic feel of the camp. Scenes like players being ceremoniously cut
from camp while fully dressed at center ice in a darkened arena didn’t help
erase the fantasy aspect of what was going on.

 

That said, there were several players who
took part that had already been drafted before or played pro hockey at various
levels. Many players involved in the
show can be found playing professionally in the ECHL, AHL or in Europe this
year.

 

In the end, after a ceremony to determine
which Canadian team would pick first from the 18 finalists, the Edmonton Oilers
captured the top choice.

 

The Oilers finally
win a lottery, unfortunately it’s not the Crosby one!” laughed Prendergast
recently. “It was funny because we were
sort of sitting there where we had to go up and pick one of six pucks and when
it comes to gambling, I’m never one who has ever walked out with any money so I
didn’t think it was looking like a very good situation. I was sitting there and I thought ‘well
Kevin Lowe isn’t feeling to good, he wears #4 so I’ll take the fourth puck’ and
that was all I did. (Leafs GM) John
Ferguson said to me ‘You knew it was No. 1!’”

 

So with a
clear path to grab whichever player they wanted the Oilers selected 6’4, 220lb
defenseman Jordan Little. After
a terrific 2001-02 MJHL year with the Winkler Flyers, which included leading
Team Manitoba as the captain at the Viking Cup tournament that same year,
Little opted for life away from hockey.

 

“He played for
Winkler and then he quit playing hockey for a few years to play golf,” said
Prendergast. “Then he went back to the
University of Manitoba because he decided he missed playing and at the same
time he wanted to get an education. He
only decided to go to Making the Cut the day before the tryouts! He’s not in what you would call AHL game
shape but he’s not far off.”

 

As a member of
the University of Manitoba Bisons, Little has been seen by the Oilers this year
no less than seven times so this is definitely a person they were interested
in.

 

“Stu
MacGregor, Lorne Davis, Billy Moores, Charlie Huddy and I had all watched him
and we felt he had an upside,” said the Oilers chief scout. “He’s 6’4 and 220 lbs, he’s a good skater
and he showed some pretty good skills last night in the skills competition.”

 

Little
actually took part in the summer camp held by the Toronto Maple Leafs and was
impressive there as well.

 

“(Leaf scout)
Mike Penny told me that they thought the kid had a chance and so do we. It’s not costing us anything outside of
bringing him in to camp and if we can get a kid his size with some ability who
we understand is very tough too, we might have something that can play for us
with the Road Runners next year.”

 

Don’t get the
idea that they saw something during the run of the TV show though; the Oilers
did their homework.

 

“I didn’t see
anything in the episodes, it’s very hard on TV to catch anything,” Prendergast
said. “Stu went in this summer with a
list of six players we were interested in, he looked at them, we talked
yesterday on the phone to go over them again, and the guy we felt had the
biggest upside was Little. We were
lucky to get him at one; we wouldn’t have at two.”

 

Very few
players have stops in Canadian University hockey on their way to an NHL career
but there are some who have blazed that trail already including Oiler blueliner
Cory Cross, former Washington Capital Mike Ridley and current Anaheim center
Steve Rucchin.

 

“It’s not
impossible, he’s got a really good shot; he had a 97 mph shot last night and he
scored 3 out of 5 goals in the shooting drill so he’s done things I wasn’t sure
he was capable of,” Prendergast said.
“I saw his coach here today from Manitoba and he says the kid works
really hard and he could be a player down the road. We’ve always prided ourselves on our patience with bringing
players along when we felt they had a chance and I think if you go back in the
past we’ve given guys opportunities. Brent
Henley
was one of those kinds of kids, we took him from the ECHL and he’s
worked really hard to play with the Road Runners and has a chance to possibly
play with the big team when they go back to work.”

 

“[Little]’s a
nice kid with a nice family background and like anything else, we’re in the
business of winning and if we can get a free agent to come in and play for us
then great,” the head scout stated.
“Jordan wants to be a player and we’ll do everything we can to make him
one.”

 

So the next
step is for Little to come to Oiler training camp in the fall, provided there
is a camp and a season to train for.
Until then, Little will finish the year off with Manitoba and may even
end the year off with the Edmonton Road Runners of the AHL. Not only will Little be at camp but if the
needs arises, the Oilers have interest in a couple of the other players from
the show as well.

 

“I think there
were ten kids there that could have been selected and could have had an
opportunity. Unfortunately we were only
taking six, but I talked to two of them afterwards and told them that if they
had nothing going to make sure they talk to me in the summertime and we would
give them an opportunity at our camp next year because I was impressed with
them,” Prendergast said. “Not only with
their personality but in some cases we know them from when they played junior
or college and you see the big difference in maturation.”

 

“We have to be
realistic here, he has a long way to go in order to make it to the NHL but he
has the basic talent in that he has size, toughness and he can skate and
certainly we will do everything we can to get him going in the right
direction,” Prendergast summarized.
“The show did a great job, they treated all these young men like pros
but can they make it to the NHL? The
odds are very much against them but from our standpoint we’re looking for a
player that could maybe play for the Road Runners and who knows what could
happen from there. We’ll give Jordan
every opportunity to prove he belongs in our system and work with him from
there.”

 

Prospect Quotes

 

“He and Crosby
are playing on different lines but together on the power play. They’re exciting and fun to watch but Marc
is learning other aspects of the game and being the captain of the team has
been really good for him.”

         
Prendergast on Marc-Antoine
Pouliot.

 

“He’s gone
back and done everything we’ve asked him to do and more.

         
Prendergast about J.F. Jacques.

 

“He’s one of
those guys that others in the league don’t want to fight. There’s younger guys in the league who know
who he is so they stay away from him.”

         
Prendergast on Jacques and why
his PIM are way down this year.

 

“I think he’s
learning that if he goes out and plays hockey and keeps his mouth shut, life’s
a lot easier.”

         
Prendergast on Rob Schremp’s
fine start to the year.

 

“Trying to do
too much and not getting anything done!”

         
An OHL scout half jokingly describing Zack
Stortini’s
lack of offensive numbers earlier in the year.

 

“If they can
pass on a power play guy like that then I’d love to see the team they’re
going to have. If I could have a power
play with Schremp, O’Sullivan and T.J. Hensick on it, nobody would touch them!”

         
OHL scout before Schremp was
named to Team USA although the London forward has been used sparingly at best
so far in the tournament.

 

“Every scout
in the land comes up and tells me what a great job the Oilers did taking him
and how he looks to have turned the corner, but I don’t really know how much of
a corner there was for him to turn.
Nobody wants to play the game like this kid does.”

         
The anonymous OHL scout about Schremp.

 

“You’re never
too good to get benched and maybe I didn’t have a really good start to the
playoffs so he went with some different guys.
There’s not much I could do about that, all I can do is work on what he
told me I needed to in order to play this year and that’s what I’ve done. Our relationship is a lot better, not that
it was really bad; he just didn’t think I was ready to play in those games so I
didn’t play. I can’t hold that against
him; if he thinks I’m a liability then he’s the coach and he gets paid to coach
the team so I have to do what he says.”

         
Rob Schremp comparing this year to last in regards to his relationship with
London coach Dale Hunter.

 

“He never played in the WHL before,
he played tier II junior and then went to the University of Manitoba so it’s
not like he’d gone through the Western League and had been washed through. Here’s a guy who wasn’t too old, he has good
size, he’s strong and he skated pretty well.
He kept the game simple, moved and shot the puck really hard, that sort
of thing. This guy is a big kid and it looked like he had some potential.”

         
Anonymous scout on Jordan Little.

 

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