Oilers 2004 draft evaluation

By Andrew SR Cowie

In the 2004 draft, the Oilers had a total of 10 draft picks over the nine rounds, including four in the first 57 picks of the draft. This draft was best known, and possibly always will be known in Oilerland, as the Robbie Schremp draft.

For better or worse, Schremp has been one of the top three conversation pieces, from his dominating days in London, to his Youtube magic tricks, to the constant demotions to the minors. This quiet American has been the focus, and maybe a good synopsis for the Oilers draft as a whole — a lot of potential that has is slowly fizzling into a lot of nothing.

At this point neither of the first rounders are a factor for the franchise and the most dominating player for the Oilers to come out of the draft is a third/fourth line grinder who might not make most teams in the league. Five years later, the 2004 draft for the Oilers can be considered a disappointment at best.

The 10 picks averaged just 7.10 NHL games each, the seventh-worst in the NHL.

Devan Dubnyk, G
1st round 14th overall
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL prospect

Dubynk was the first goalie drafted in the first round by the Oilers since Grant Fuhr in 1981, and if there’s one thing the Oilers have had trouble drafting, it’s goalies. When Jussi Markannen is the best goalie drafted by a team in 20 years, you know there’s some scouting issues in that position.

The lanky 6’5 kid, said to have a little Sean Burke in him if only for his size, was peppered on poor teams all through junior and his stats showed it.  While he never had great numbers, he posted solid ones, though his save percentage decreased. Even with his plateaued stat line, he held his own on those Kamloops teams.

Dubynk was thrown into an unpleasant goalie situation in 2006-07 as the Oilers didn’t have their own farm team, forcing Dubynk to the ECHL Stockton Thunder instead of playing backup in the AHL. When down in Stockton, he posted respectable numbers with a 2.56 goals against average and a save percentage of .921 and he was an ECHL All-Star. His play saw him called up for a few games in the AHL, but he didn’t fare quite so well, with a couple of unflattering games that sank his stats.

Coming into 2007-08 season, he showed stronger signs of playing better positionally, something that is paramount with a body frame like his. The problem though was his ability to be consistent, something that has been noted over his career. He played 35 games with Springfield, with a 3.12 goals against average and a save percentage of .904. But the biggest problem still remained consistency. Soft goals continued to slip in now and again.

In 2008-09 on a terrible Springfield team, Dubynk was able to hold his head above water, slightly improving his save percentage to .906 and his goals against average to 2.97. He’s also showed signs of shoring up the problem of the soft goals slipping through. His positional work has improved, but over the course of the year with him playing so much, that broken down at times due to mental fatigue. While that’s an issue with maturity, it’s also a fitness issue and the Oilers should look at some backup for him next year.

Next season Dubynk will once again be manning the front lines in Springfield as the No. 1, probably with a backup who can give him some time off.

Rob Schremp, C
1st round 25th overall
NHL games played: 7
Status: NHL prospect

Schremp was considered top five in 2004 for pure skill, but perceived attitude problems and poor skating pushed his selection to the brink of the second round.

After being a late cut from the Oilers in 2005-06, Schremp followed that up by demolishing the OHL, posting 57 goals and 147 points in 57 games and another 47 points in 19 games in the playoffs. Some attribute that to the massive amount of ice time Schremp got from coach Dale Hunter.

In the 2006 training camp, Schremp was another late cut and was sent to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins where he started his adjustment to the pro game. Expectations were extremely high for Schremp, who only managed to put up 53 points in 69 games over the year, and in that time was a healthy scratch and benched a few times.

The following summer, in what could and should have been a huge development summer, Schremp tore his left MCL, cutting into valuable workout time to improve on the very aspects of his game he was lacking, footspeed and skating in general. So when 2007 training camp came, Schremp was unprepared and was sent down again.

Schremp was used in Springfield as one of the go-to guys, netting 76 points in 78 games, good for eighth in the AHL. But still grumblings of his level of "compete" and his defensive play arose. Once again Schremp saw limited time in the NHL, playing two games with a meager 13 minutes to show for it.

In 2008-09, after getting sent down again, he picked up where he left off, getting 18 points in his first 18 games. Soon after he was called up to the Oilers where he played a couple of good games, getting three assists in his first two games, but then followed it up with a couple of mediocre games where he was pointless and looked a little slow. Since his call-up was to replace an injured player, he was once again sent back down after the player returned. This was where the wheels fell off for Schremp.

After being sent down, Schremp only contributed 24 points in 51 games. Was it a destroyed confidence from the constant demotions and the grilling coach Craig MacTavish gave him through the press, or was it a player giving up? Another way to look at the situation is the Falcons team itself, which was poorly constcuted, with too much youth and not enough veteran help.

Now Schremp is looking at either a trade to give him a second chance, or Europe is certainly an option if a trade to another squad can’t be made. In any case, he’s at the end of his entry-level deal.

Roman Tesliuk, D
2nd round 44th pick
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Tesliuk was a hard-shooting defenseman, known at the time for his power-play role with the Kamloops Blazers.

some at the time were worried that Tesliuk would get lost over in the CHL instead of staying at home, but he had a few successful seasons in the WHL. But he became more known for his poor attitude and being out of shape come camp time than his talent.

For a player who had a set of tools that NHL teams could have appreciated and used, it was a case of no heart and no will to make it to the better leagues in the world. After this rights expired he re-entered the draft in 2006 and no team picked him up, and he now plays in Russia.

Geoff Paukovich, LW
2nd round 57th pick
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Part of a handful of draft picks over a few years nicknamed "coke machines" (for their big bodies, but the hands of a inanimate object), Paukovich is possibly better known for his dangerous hit that broke the neck of defenseman Robbie Bina.  This hit not only was dangerous and illegal, it stemmed a change of the playing style of the 6’4 220-pound player. He became much more timid after the incident, and the use for a slow huge player that doesn’t play as aggressive as he should is limited.

The season of the hit, 2004-05, he put up 12 goals in 39 goals with 112 penalty minutes with the University of Denver, yet only scored 12 goals over the next two seasons. Whether or not that one hit effected his confidence at doing what slow, big offensive guys are good at (standing in front of the net) is another question, but that is a startling drop for what looked like a promising opening season.

Paukovich has been fairly ineffective in his pro career considering his second round draft status. In his first pro campaign Paukovich put up average numbers on the AA squad, with 13 goals and 13 assists in 70 games. In 2008-09 he got some time with the Falcons in limited minutes, potting five goals and nine points in 46 games. His mobility limits his effectiveness against AHL-level talent. He doesn’t have the speed, skill or conditioning for the big leagues.

Liam Reddox, LW
4th round 112nd pick
NHL games played: 47
Status: NHL prospect

This was the Oilers most succesful picks, and that’s nothing bad against the little ginger hard worker. Every year, Reddox has picked his play up, raising him up the depth charts of the Oilers. In his first pro season, he only put eight goals and 26 points in the ECHL, but responded that the next year by getting 16 goals and 44 points in 65 games with Springfield.

In his second season with Springfield, he put up five goals in only 14 games (compared to a more high-level prospect like Schremp who got seven goals in 69 games) and got the call-up to fill some holes in the bottom six.

Reddox doesn’t have the size, and he doesn’t have an abudance of skill and on a team ripe with small players and small talents, he’ll need every inch he can take to stay on the roster.

Reddox’s career outlook is looking at a variable of possibilities. He could be another Jim Dowd, bouncing around the league, always finding work in whatever role is needed, and in the end, a respectable player. Or he might be another Dominic Pittis who stuck his foot the door in for a brief time before his lack of specific talent rolled him back out on the lawn.

In the past, Reddox has elevated his play to make the next step in professional hockey. The next few years will see if the Red Ox has another gear or if he’s peaked.

Bryan Young, D
5th round 146th pick
NHL games played: 17
Status: NHL prospect

If there was ever a defenseman with no potential on the offensive charts, it’s Bryan Young. Including his time in the OPJHL, OHL, ECHL, AHL and NHL he has five goals in 436 games. What Young is though is a hard-hitting, stay-at-home defenseman who has benefited greatly from injuries the last couple seasons where he got a cup of coffee in the big show where in other situations, it likely wouldn’t have happened.

In his 17 games worth of call-ups over two seasons, his weaknesses were revealed. He’s a little slow for the AHL game, and when a player is slow for AAA league play, he’s a spectator in the NHL level.

Young was well known for being a devastating hitter in the OHL, but big hits can only take a player so far unless they have some other outstanding definable skill that sets them aprt from the others, something he doesn’t have. Young hasn’t regressed in the last two years, but he’s now faced with defensemen his age coming through the ranks that have set him back on the depth chart. This makes his chances of moving up with the Oilers organization limited.

Max Gordichuk, D
6th round 177th pick
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

In pursuit of size and power, the Oilers picked one of the biggest players available in the draft. At 6’6 and weighing in at just under 220, the Oilers staff wanted to beef up their back end with this late draft pick, but nothing ever came of the big man. If Gordichuk ever had his skating down, he might have made something out of his hockey career, but his skating never developed past bad and he never was qualified an offer from the Oilers and he now plays for the University of British Columbia.

Stephane Goulet, RW
7th round 208th pick
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

When the Oilers picked up Goulet, he had just put up 15 points in 54 games with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL as a depth forward. The next two seasons saw his point totals rise, peaking with his third and final season in the Q, when he put up 51 goals for the Moncton Wildcats, good for fifth in the entire league. The fact he was 6’3 made it seem like the Oilers could have picked a later bloomer with some hefty size behind him.

But alas, the list of junior scorers that fizzle in the face of professional hockey is long and Goulet at this point of his career is just another one.

In his third professional year, Goulet is still struggling to maintain a position with the AAA club, seeing himself split time with Springfield and Stockton. He has the legs to keep up, but his offensive abilities don’t translate to anything of substance in the AHL league. He can put up points in the ECHL on a consistent basis (63 points in 93 ECHL games), but he doesn’t have the talent to make an impact in the AHL, let alone anything higher.

His future with the Oilers will most likely be over.

Tyler Spurgeon, C
8th round 242nd pick
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL prospect

Spurgeon is another hard-hustling, heart and effort player who has built up his game from the ECHL to making himself a regular in the AHL.

After a solid sophomore junior season in 2004-05 when he put up a respectable 62 points in 72 games for the Kelowna Rockets, Spurgeon had surgery on his shoulder that caused him to only play 39 games the following season.

After splitting time between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Stockton in 2006-07, he had a disastorous 2007-08 season healthwise where he suffered a shoulder injury followed by a season-ending concussion in Springfield limiting him to just 12 games all year, though he put up eight points in that short period.

2008-09 started well and he made it fairly far into training camp before being sent down. The effort was there. His numbers in the minors this last season are hard to judge, like a lot of the youngsters from that AHL edition because the team in Springfield was just that bad. In 73 games he potted six goals and 20 points, but on a team riddled with poor plus/minus he had a respectable -4.

Spurgeon will need another couple of years working the minors, but there’s a chance we could see Spurgeon in a 3rd/4th line role in a couple years, something the Oilers haven’t had trouble filling in the last few years.

Bjorn Bjurling, G
9th Round, 274th pick
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Bjurling seems to be the prospect that never was, despite the fact that his name comes up almost every year with nothing to show for it.

Drafted older than most at the age of 25, Bjurling has never been closer to being an Oiler than when he was drafted in 2004, but every year there is always some speculation and some possibility that he might make the trip over.

Since being drafted, Bjurling has been a more or less been a constant in the Swedish Elite League , putting up pretty good numbers along the way.  His last two seasons, Bjurling played with a bad squad Södertälje SK, which placed ninth out of 12 teams in 2007-08, but his stats stood out on a this very average team. In 30 games he put up a goals against average of 2.40 with a fantastic save percentage of .928. In 2008-09 though he had a rough year on a team that won only 12 of 55 games, where Bjurling posted a GAA of 3.04 and a still respectable save percetnage of .909.

The question now is where he would sit in the Oilers plans. Dubynk is going to be manning the AHL front, so if the Oilers wanted to bring Bjurling over, they would have to convince him that he not only has to come to camp to fight for a job, but the worst-case scneario is him fighting backup position in the AHL. It’s true that he could jump ship back to Europe if that happens, it is still a big factor for an athlete almost in his 30’s and very doubtful.