Oilers Draft Preview

By John Christie

Scoring, Scoring and More goal scorers: Theme of the Edmonton Oilers 2002 Entry Draft

Ask about 20 chief amateur scouts in the 30 team NHL and they will all tell you that they need another goal scorer or their greatest need is a goal scorer. With the N.H.L diluted in a lot of areas, finding that goal scorer in the Entry draft is every team’s wish. Going into the 2002 NHL entry draft, the Oilers will be again looking for a goal scorer. Like the Edmonton Oilers, every team wishes they will uncover the next Bure or Mogilny with a late round pick. There are no more secrets when scouting junior players. Every team has scouts in every arena in North America and Europe.

The Edmonton Oilers have a few needs going into the 2002 Entry draft but their primary need is to find and develop a goal scorer. They started that process last year drafting Ales Hemsky who by all accounts will make it to the NHL. The Oilers like almost 99% of all teams will draft the best player available and try to build assets. This year, it will be a challenge as many scouts have said that this is a very “weak draft” with no impact players. That being said, you still try to uncover gems. The Oilers main needs include

1) skilled goal scorer

2) Power forward who can pop in 25-35 goals (player in the Guerin, Tkachuk, Leclair mode)

3) Tall playmaking centre

Kevin Prendergast and his staff will try and get a player who will be an NHL’er. This is Kevin Lowe’s 2nd draft at the helm. Last year, he had a lot of input into the Oilers draft and made sure he drafted players with grit and reliability. During the Sather/Fraser years, speed, speed and speed were the main requirements to play for the Edmonton Oilers and while that is the case, Lowe wants players with grit and reliability.

The Oilers have done well with their first picks in 1999 and 2001. Jani Rita had a terrific first year in North American playing in the AHL (as a 20-year-old) and scoring 25 goals in his rookie year. Ales Hemsky is a very skilled and very talented winger who played in the QMJHL. He was challenged a lot there and many expect him to stick with Oilers in 2002/2003. His coach and former GM gave him glowing recommendations.

The Oilers like all teams will be well prepared for the 2002 Entry draft. With Lowe and Prendergast saying that there is not much quality like last years draft, they will ensure the player they select will have to wait a few years before he makes the big club. All the Oilers scouts have seen the top 100 players this year which marks the second time this has happened (last year was the first). Scouting and developing is a mandate for the Oilers.

This could be the year that Edmonton Oilers trade there first round pick. The Oilers have always drafted at the position they were allocated but Kevin Lowe wants an immediate player who can help the team and is willing to dangle his 2002 draft picks. Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Washington, Dallas are the other playoff teams willing to deal there picks for immediate help. Look for the Oilers to keep the pick (stated to pick 14) and draft the best player available.

From what scouts have said and reading different newspaper articles, the following players will not be available when the Oilers pick at 14: Jay Bouwmeester, Rick Nash, Kari Lehonten, Ryan Whitney, Joni Pitkanen, Scott Upshall, Joffrey Lupul, Anton Babchuk, Jiri Hudler, Alexander Semin & Steve Eminger.

There is a slight chance the Oilers may move up in the draft but the price is very expensive with teams asking for a 1st liner and draft picks and since this is not a star studded draft, Kevin Lowe will stay at 14. Here are a look at 5 players that could be available when the Oilers pick @ 14.

Peter Taticek: Big tall centre the Oilers covet. A skilled player who made a great impression with Craig Hartsburg who was his junior coach. He came from the Czexh Republic to play in the O.H.L. The Oilers covet him but many expect him to be drafted in top 12 and scouts are almost sure he will not fall past #12. He is described as a player who will play in any situation and could be a future 2nd line centre for an NHL team.

Denis Grebeshkov: A top 4 defenseman the Oilers could use after trading away Tom Poti. He plays a safe, reliable game and is not flashy. He will do what ever the coaches say. This sounds like a Kevin Lowe type of player. This is a 50-50 proposition that he will be available at 14.

Eric Nystrom: Hard working, gritty, reliable player who will fight through traffic. This sounds like a Kevin Lowe player. If he is half the player his dad was (Islander great Bob Nystrom) an NHL team will be doing back flips. He has great size and plays a physical game. Playing for the Michigan will help his career. He is not known for being a goal scorer and many have him pegged as a future 2nd or 3rd liner. Question is: Will be become a Leclair type or Mike Grier type? Rumors have Washington, Dallas and Edmonton have an interest in him.

Martin Vagner: A defenseman in the Tomas Kaberle mode as described in the Hockey News. The Oilers drafted Vagner’s teammate from Hull (1st rounder Ales Hemsky) last year and the Oilers could ask Hemsky about his personality and once ice demeanor. The Oilers could use a offensive defenseman after trading away Poti and Vagner does see the ice well but is not as physical as some teams would like. He is a talent and a first rounder.

Johnny Boychuk: Edmontonian who plays for the CHL’s Calgary Hitman. A physical defenseman with a powerful shot, he could be a mid-late first rounder in this years draft. Many scouts have questioned his decision-making and think it will be a while before he develops into a full time NHL player. Don’t look for the Oilers to draft him this early but if the Oilers trade down, there is a chance they draft him in the first round.

Kiril Koltsov: Wild card in this year’s draft. He is one year older then a lot of other draft eligible player since his agent did not file the correct paper work last year which made him ineligible for last years draft. A very talented offensive defenseman in the Soviet Union but he has character issues and known as a free spirit. No questioning his talent. An NHL team will draft him in the first round this year.

Who ever the Oilers draft, don’t expect them in the line-up until after the 2004 lock out. The Oilers will be patient with him and let him develop into a complete player. The Oilers have depth at a lot of positions so they can wait until the player in ready for the NHL. Should be an exciting draft in Toronto where rumors will be flying