As we look back at the 2009 NHL Draft, there are a few familiar names that are still active in the Oilers prospect system, but the majority have moved on from their affiliation with Edmonton.
In a somewhat uncharacteristic move for the Edmonton Oilers club, three of the six players drafted in 2009 are European-born. Only two of the six total draft selections, Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander, saw ice time with the Oilers club, but neither are currently on the team’s active roster. Lander and Cameron Abney are the only two players that the Oilers still currently hold rights to, both of which will become restricted free agents at the end of this season.
Magnus Paajarvi, LW/RW, Timra IK (SEL) – 1st round, 10th overall
Status: NHL Player (STL)
NHL Games Played: 194
Magnus Paajarvi was a highly-touted young Swedish winger at the time of his draft, often credited with excellent speed, puck-handling and on-ice vision. In 2010, he played on both Sweden’s World Junior and World Championship teams, chalking up 10 points in six games at the junior tournament and nine points in nine games at the World Championships, finishing behind only Ilya Kovalchuk and Brandon Dubinsky in scoring.
Paajarvi played one more season in the Swedish Elite League following his draft year before signing an entry-level contract in 2010 and making the transition to the NHL. He played the full 80-game schedule with the Oilers in 2010-11, logging 15 goals and 19 assists.
Unfortunately, Paajarvi’s development stalled and he registered only eight points through 41 games with the Oilers and found himself in the press box on a number of nights before he was eventually demoted to the AHL. His point production with the Oklahoma City Barons was respectable, with seven goals and 18 assists in 34 games. In 2012-13, Paajarvi played 38 games in Oklahoma City again, but most were during the lockout in the company of Oilers regulars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Once the lockout ended, Paajarvi saw limited ice time with the Oilers club and shuttled between the NHL and AHL for the rest of the season.
Most recently, Paajarvi was traded by new general manager Craig MacTavish to St. Louis in the summer of 2013 in exchange for David Perron.
Anton Lander, C, Timra IK (SEL) – 2nd round, 40th overall
Status: Fringe NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 79
At the time of the 2009 draft, Anton Lander was a member of Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League where he continued to play until the 2010-11 season. During that final season, he scored 11 goals and logged 15 assists in 49 games. He was an alternate captain on the Swedish team’s bronze medal effort at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where he played with fellow Oilers prospect Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. In early 2011, he signed an entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
In what was arguably the best season of his career thus far, Lander dressed for 56 games with the Edmonton Oilers in 2011-12, filling a lower-line role and playing limited minutes. He managed six points at the NHL level that year, as well as five points through 14 games with the Oklahoma City Barons.
In 2012-13, Anton Lander found himself for the most part out of a job with the Oilers club and spent 47 games at the AHL level, where he logged nine goals and 11 assists. He did receive the call up for 11 games with Edmonton, but suffered an ill-timed broken foot in February 2013.
Anton Lander is still active in the Oilers system and currently finds himself the captain of the Oklahoma City Barons. He played 12 games with the big club so far the season, but a disappointing start mixed roster shuffles in an effort to create some chemistry meant a demotion for the Swedish centerman.
Troy Hesketh, D, Minnetonka High School – 3rd round, 71st overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Troy Hesketh had committed to the University of Wisconsin at the time that he was selected by the Oilers in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft, but it appears that he never made it there. Instead, he played a season in the USHL in 2010-11, then dressed for 19 games with Hamline University in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference during the 2011-12 season.
Hesketh and the Oilers parted ways in 2011. Hesketh was up for grabs again in the 2011 draft but was not selected.
Cameron Abney, RW, Everett Silvertips (WHL) – 3rd round, 82nd overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Abney began his major junior career with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL before being traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings halfway through the 2009-10 season. Never big on point production, Abney’s best major junior season saw him put up a mere 20 points in 60 games for the Oil Kings in 2010-11.
What he is better known for is his physical play, spending a notable 132 minutes in the box in his first professional season with the Stockton Thunder in 2011-12 (the Oilers’ previous ECHL affiliate). Abney played 14 games with the Oklahoma City Barons in that same season, but was unable to register any points. Through 86 games at the ECHL level and 18 games at the AHL level, Abney has only managed 18 points, none of which have come in Oklahoma City.
Cameron Abney is still active in the Oilers system, currently playing for the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL. He is in the last year of his entry-level contract with the Oilers club.
Kyle Bigos, D, Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 4th round, 99th overall
Status: Prospect (SJS)
NHL Games Played: 0
Kyle Bigos is a hulking 6’5, 230-pound defenseman, who was playing with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL in his draft year. That September, he joined Merrimack College of the NCAA, where he played four full seasons. Throughout his college career, he was an interesting case of a prospect that seemed like he had not yet found his calling card – he was huge, but not overly physical; he was crafty with the puck, but not a big point-producer. In his best season with Merrimack (his junior year), he logged 17 points in 34 games, along with 137 penalty minutes.
Toni Rajala was playing in his first professional season with the Ilves-Tampere in the SM-Liiga before being selected by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2009 CHL Import Draft, followed by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2009 NHL Draft, and then signed an entry level contract with the NHL club that summer.
Following up a busy year for Rajala, he made his major junior debut with the Wheat Kings in 2009-10, before returning to the Ilves Tampere for two more seasons, where he chalked up 22 points in 44 games in the 2010-11 season and 29 points in 51 games in the 2011-12 season. He then made the trip back across the pond to join the Oklahoma City Barons, where he had been assigned by the Oilers in the wake of the NHL lockout, but the addition of Oilers regulars to the AHL affiliate forced him to split time between Oklahoma City and Stockton. He played at a near point-per-game pace with the Barons, putting up 45 points in 46 games, and in his 29-game stint with the Stockton Thunder, he managed 38 points in 29 games.
Not seeing NHL ice time in his near future, Rajala opted to return to his home country and was mutually released from the Oilers organization on August 25, 2013. He signed a one-year contract with the Swedish Hockey League club H71 for the 2013-14 season.
Olivier Roy played his major junior career in the QMJHL, earning accolades as the top rookie goaltender in his first season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft by the Edmonton Oilers, then returned to the QMJHL for two seasons following.
He spent most of his rookie season with the Stockton Thunder, the Edmonton Oilers’ ECHL affiliate in the 2011-12 season, logging an impressive .925 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average. The following season, he split time between the starting role with the Thunder and the number-two spot with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, where he occasionally fell victim to bouts of inconsistency, but managed to put up some respectable numbers.