Oilers 2004 draft review

By Guy Flaming

Edmonton Oilers 2004 Draft Review

Heading into draft weekend, the Edmonton
Oilers were armed with nine picks including four on Day 1 during the opening
three rounds. The team was seeking to
add more offensive threats to its stable but the challenge was going to be in
picking up one of the few players they were focused on with their first
opportunity not coming until the middle of Round 1. The draft was rich in blueliners and goaltenders but thin in
regards to offensively gifted forwards, the type of player Edmonton really


As the draft started the Oilers were
pleasantly surprised to see a few players they had their eyes on slowly
dropping towards their 14th position. Edmonton reportedly tried to make a deal with Florida for the
seventh pick, but even after that failed to materialize, there were four or
five players the Oilers were watching carefully.


“We really wanted (Drew Stafford) but we also thought we might have a shot at (A.J.)
or even (Lauri) Tukonen,” admitted scout Chris McCarthy.


However, all three of those players were
chosen in successive order right before the Oilers turn thus throwing a rather
large wrench into the team’s plans.
What they did next threw everyone off.


Dubnyk (G)

Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

1st Round, 14th


The Oilers took a sharp turn in their draft
strategy and selected towering Kamloops goaltender
Devan Dubnyk with the 14th
overall selection. The 6’5” masked man
was extremely happy to be chosen by the Oilers, the first team that showed any
interest in him all year and the one that made the best impression on him.


“John Stevenson was actually the first
NHL scout I talked to this year, he gave me some pointers and from there I
didn’t talk to a scout for a while so I kept thinking about Edmonton and how
fun it would be to be drafted by them,” said Dubnyk just minutes after putting
on an Oiler jersey. “I talked to the
staff in Toronto and it went well, then I had another interview with them in
Raleigh so I started getting really excited.”


The only other goalie off the table at that
time was collegian
Al Montoya so the decision to go with
Dubnyk raised the eyebrows of those who believed
Marek Schwarz to be the
next in line. For their part, in the weeks leading up to the draft, the Oilers
had been consistent and honest that Dubnyk was the pick of the goalie litter in
their opinion.


“Oh yeah, I think Dubnyk’s the best goalie
available,” McCarthy told Hockey’s Future back in April when asked if the lanky
WHL keeper was in the upper tier with Montoya and Schwarz. “You can’t beat a guy his size because he
goes down in the butterfly and his head is still above the crossbar.“


Perhaps the best reviews Kevin Prendergast
and Kevin Lowe received on Dubnyk came from goalie scout John Stevenson. Stevenson, who is also the goalie coach for
the Kootenay Ice this past season, was a major supporter of Dubnyk.


“He’s the kind of kid that will put in the
four months of offseason work to get better,” Stevenson’s analysis began. “Not only is he a good goalie now but he
also has the mindset to become a great goaltender.”

“He’s a quiet, soft-spoken humble guy with
a great demeanour and attitude,” the goalie scout continued. “I saw him quite a few times and after one
game against our team in Kootenay he came up to me and said ‘Mr. Stevenson, is there
anything that you saw tonight that you think that I could work on?’ He was very appreciated of my help and
afterwards he was always calling me ‘Mr. Stevenson’ never ‘John’, he was always
very polite and quiet, almost shy. He
has a quiet confidence. I saw him play
about six games where he basically single handedly won his team the game.”


Few question the quality of Dubnyk but many
were caught of guard by the decision to draft a goaltender with the 14th
pick, especially since only a couple weeks earlier the team had locked up its
future keeper. But to hear the Oilers
explain the rational behind the choice, the reasoning is hard to argue against.


“When it came time for us to pick at 14 we
knew that it wasn’t going to be the most popular pick but we needed to make
sure that we had two legitimate candidates for goaltending in the future in
case anything happened to (
Jeff) Deslauriers,” explained


You can never have too many goalies and the fact that we got the top
goalie from our list helps us immensely,” added fellow Oiler scout Brad
Davis. “Now we have two guys who can
fight for the No. 1 job and push each other.
If we can get a NHL logo on both of them, one of them becomes a pretty
good commodity to go somewhere else and the other becomes a great
commodity to keep.”


will return to the Kamloops Blazers next season but not before he attends the
annual Team Canada summer camp held in Calgary during August. Of the four rookie goalies invited to the
camp, Dubnyk is the early favorite for the starting job.


Robbie Schremp (C)

Knights (OHL)

Round, 25th Overall


player most Oiler fans were begging their televisions and radios for
when their team stepped to the podium for the 14th pick was
Robbie Schremp. Looking at which offensive
North American forwards were still available at the time, it seemed like a
no-brainer that Schremp was about to go to the Oilers. There was a collective moment of silence in
Northern Alberta when Dubnyk’s name was called instead and with each and every
pick from No. 15 through to number 24, fans were shaking their heads in


who were cursing the Oiler scouts moments before were soon calling them
geniuses when Schremp’s name was called out with the 25th pick in
Round 1.


kept slipping and as it came closer to 25 there were two guys that we wanted,
one of them was him, and as it turned out we almost had to take a time out,”
McCarthy recalled. “For us what it
really came down to was that, talent wise, he was the most talented kid
available on the board and despite all the other things said about him, we
couldn’t pass that up.”


‘other things’ McCarthy made reference to is the infamous bad attitude that
Schremp apparently has. According to
some, Schremp is a selfish player who thinks that everything has to revolve
around him. The problem with that
theory is that no teammates in the past or present have ever confirmed those
accusations. The much talked-about
trade request from Mississauga to the London Knights earlier in the year was
made by Schremp’s agent who had previous bad experiences with the new owners of
the IceDogs. A late playoff dispute
with London brass is also being blamed solely on Schremp where as the truth
made be less harsh on the player than the coaching staff.


are some people out there that think he’s not a team guy, he is a team
guy but he comes across as being cocky and that it’s all about Robbie,”
conceded Davis, the Oiler scout that probably knows Schremp the best. “At 17 years old, I can’t say that when I
looked into the mirror I was any different.
Why we put so much on a 17-year-old kid to say that he’s got to be as
mature as a 25-year-old I don’t know.
Let him be a kid!”


the offseason Schremp takes power skating lessons in Regina from Liane Davis,
Brad’s sister and senior Oiler scout Lorne Davis’ daughter. You can imagine how familiar they are with
this player and his personality and still the Oilers were very eager to snap
him up when he was still available late in the opening round.


“I know
his agent talked to Nashville because he started worrying about Robbie falling
and of course they picked right after us at 15,” Brad Davis outlined. “Nashville told him ‘we haven’t even talked
to him because he won’t get by Edmonton, he’s going 14th’. I think we got him at 25 simply for the
reason that we were the team that passed on him at 14.”


every team knew the Oilers had just signed Jeff Deslauriers so to many of them
the Oilers opting for Devan Dubnyk rather than Schremp appeared to be a sign
that perhaps the infamous center really was too risky. That doubt made sure Schremp was still there
for Edmonton’s second pick. As for the
attitude, sometimes the good far outweighs the potential bad and this is definitely
one of those cases.


“He might shoot his mouth off and talk a
big game but then he goes out and puts on a show. What it comes down to is that we need guys who can put the puck
in the net and create offense and he definitely can do that,” McCarthy
stated. “It’s all on us now as an
organization to help Robbie grow up, help him conform and to tone it down a
little. I think everybody in the
organization will take a hand in that and this kid is going to be all right.”


Schremp is a boom or bust player, no one is
projecting him to be a capable third or fourth line utility man. With Schremp, the Oilers are hoping to have
nailed down a pure offensive threat that will bring a level of potency to their
top line that they haven’t seen for years, and maybe sooner than you think.


“There’s a realistic chance he could play
in the NHL next year,” McCarthy said straight-faced. “If the situation is right, and he does a
lot of the things he needs to do as far as maturing a bit, there’s a real


Robbie is the best
passer I have ever seen in junior hockey, without a doubt,” Davis offered as a
glowing description back in April.
“This kid puts zip on the puck, tape to tape, you don’t even realize
that he has it and it’s gone. Then when
it has to be and 18-inch saucer pass over 65 feet, he finds a way to land it
two feet before the stick. He has such
an incredible touch with the puck and I’ve never seen anything like it.”


As for Schremp, not even the fact that
Edmonton is about as far away from his New York home could deter him from
proving his detractors wrong.


“No way man, I just want to play hockey!”
Schremp said during our radio interview on draft day. “Edmonton seems like a great hockey town, I’ve never been there
but from what I’ve seen on TV it looks like there’s great fan support and as a
player that’s what you want, to play in a place where the fans are behind you
no matter what through thick and thin.
I’m excited to get out there and hopefully crack the line-up next year.”


Roman Tesliuk (D)

Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

2nd Round, 44th


With an offensive forward and a top-notch
goaltender already in the bag, Edmonton then looked to shore up their blueline
in the second round. Edmonton has
exceptional organizational depth at defense already but adding a power play
capable prospect was still of some importance to the club. The selection of Russian born
Roman Tesliuk of the Kamloops Blazers was made with that ability in mind.


Tesliuk is a good two-way puck mover
and he skates well, he can play offensive because he does have a good shot from
the point and he can play power play,” McCarthy described. “He likes talking to people, he’s a great
team guy, he can fight, he’s tough, gritty and chippy and he plays a great
two-way game.”


Talking did not always come easy to Tesliuk
who hails from Murmansk back in Russia.
The defender came to Canada knowing barely any English but picked it up
quickly and now enjoys speaking in his adopted tongue.


“As a Russian he came over here and
couldn’t speak any English and didn’t say much,” confirmed McCarthy with a
smile. “When we interviewed Dubnyk we
asked him about Tesliuk and he told us that once he learned the language and
felt more comfortable you couldn’t shut the kid up.”


“He’s got a little bit of Kevin Lowe’s
nickname in him, a bit of vicious in him.” Davis said. “He’s got strength but he’s got to figure
out the North American game a bit more because he tried the long bomb a little
too much, but he can really pass the puck.
There is no element to his play that we think he really needs to work on
in order to play he just has to keep getting better in all areas, just not a
big jump in any one.”


The Oilers project Tesliuk to be a quality
player on a second or third defensive pairing and like the fact that while he
can contribute to the offensive part of their schemes while not being a
defensive liability.


Geoff Paukovich (C/LW)

USA National U18 Team

2nd Round, 57th


Edmonton acquired the 57th pick
by moving Jason Chimera and the 80th selection to the Phoenix Coyotes
who also threw in a fourth round opportunity.
With the newly gained second round choice the Oilers looked to the US
National Developmental Program for power forward Geoff Paukovich. The 6’4”, 208 lb 18-year-old spent the year
in Ann Arbour Michigan with the National U18 team where early on he was slotted
as the team’s first or second line center.


“The U18 team at the beginning of the year
was in a bit of disarray,” said Davis.
“With his strength he’s starting to learn to play some defense and also
how to be an effective checker too. In
the long run I see him more of a Joel Otto kind of player. He’s got skills but he’s going to do most of
the work with his strength and his size.
If he scores goals they aren’t going to be pretty, they’ll be in tight
where he’s just slapping them in.”


Paukovich represented the U.S. team at the
U18 tournament in Belarus this past spring in a checking role and was very
effective against the top lines from the opposing nations.


“He’s tough to play against because he uses
his size and strength really well,” added McCarthy. “He can play center or the wing and he’s sound defensively in
that he knows his responsibilities and who to pick up. He loves to battle for position in front of
the net.”


There are still areas to improve on though
for Paukovich and his commitment to play for the defending NCAA champion Denver
Pioneers will mean that he will get to develop at a strong school.


“He could still work on his scoring touch
and his skating but going to Denver he’ll be going to a good program where
he’ll get the ice time to work on those things,” McCarthy said. “He’s a good character kid, a good team guy,
a leader and someone the rest of the team can look up to.”


“He’s also got a good mean streak.”


Paukovich projects to be a checking forward
once he turns to the professional ranks but if his skating improves enough, the
Engelwood, Colorado native could develop into more than just that.


Liam Reddox (LW)

Peterborough Petes (OHL)

4th Round, 112th


The second pick coming back to Edmonton as
payment for Jason Chimera was used by the Oilers to grab Liam Reddox from the
OHL’s Peterborough Petes. The Petes’
leading scorer may have slipped under the radar of many teams because of his
listed physical statistics, which were badly outdated. Reddox was described as being only 5’9” but
in reality the shifty forward is closer to 5’11”, something the Oilers knew
well because he had been on their radar for quite some time.


“It seemed this year that whenever I came
out of Peterborough I was on the cell phone calling KP saying ‘I don’t know
what to tell you, I put this kid’s name on the list back in October, and I know
I keep bringing this him up, but every night he’s the best player on the ice’,”
Davis’ recount began. “Every time he
was on the ice for Peterborough the puck was in the opposition’s zone.”


“He’s been a scorer at every level he’s
played at in Ontario during his minor hockey days,” agreed McCarthy. “He’s got a lot speed and good hands, plays
a two-way game and plays well away from the puck meaning he has really good
sense of picking up the right guy. He
has an offensive upside because he had 64 points in 68 games this year and
those are pretty good stats on a team that wasn’t so great.”


In fact, Reddox lead Peterborough in
scoring in his first year with the club and was also the top point producer for
Canada’s U18 team in Belarus. The seven
points totalled by Reddox in Minsk included six goals, an indication that the
forward can definitely score at a high level.


“He’s been a scorer all his life and
although he’s not a pure sniper, he can snipe, but he scores goals from
hard work and by going into tough areas,” Davis described. “If you want to compare him to someone, he’s
like Justin Williams.”


“There’s heart and skill and he’s a
slippery guy who goes into areas and finds little seams and things to be
effective,” Davis continued. “His
skating isn’t something you’re going to look at and notice right away, it’s
actually come along during the season and I think that’s due to increased
strength. He’s not a really mature guy
physically; he’s still a boy. I
wouldn’t call him a speedster although I think he could be. Some people on the Hockey’s Future message
boards have expressed concerns about his skating but I have no concerns
about his skating.”


Reddox is the wildcard amongst Oiler drafts
this year; it will be very interesting to see how he plays in his second season
with the Petes as an 18 and 19-year-old, he’s definitely one for fans to keep
an eye on.


Bryan Young (D)

Peterborough Petes (OHL)

5th Round, 146th


In order to solidify the organizational
blueline depth even more, Edmonton selected tough, 6’1” 191 lb, OHL rearguard
Bryan Young. A teammate of Reddox in
Peterborough, Young is the kind of defender that scouts feel their boss is
really going to be a fan of in the future.


“Kevin Lowe doesn’t really know this kid
yet but he’s going to love him,” Davis predicted. “He’s not brilliant
with the puck but he can really skate and is he ever mean. You don’t go into his end without being
aware of him and he’ll make you pay, sometimes to a fault in that he can get
too aggressive and I’m sure that’s why he fell a bit in the draft. He’s 17 years old and that’s a teachable
thing to correct.”


“Down the road he’s going to be a very good
depth defenseman, not a top 4 guy but he’ll be a good compliment to an
offensive defenseman,” characterized McCarthy.
“He’s a safe pick and one we had rated a lot better than where we got
him. There are really no flaws in his
game, he’s a solid player defensively, he’s not dynamic offensively, he’s just
a good safe defenseman who takes care of the puck and takes care of his own


Often times it is the safe pick that finds
a way to stick because the coach always knows exactly what he’s going to get
when he puts the player out for a shift.
Young hopes that sort of scenario is in his future.


Max Gordichuk (D)

Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

6th Round, 177th


For the third time in the draft the Oilers
pillaged the Kamloops Blazers for one of their prospects and came away with
Roman Tesliuk’s defense partner and Edmonton native
. The Oilers spent so much of the year
scouting Dubnyk and Tesliuk that they couldn’t help notice when Gordichuk was
also on the ice and they obviously liked what they saw in the 6’4” 228lb


“We kept seeing (Max) over and over again
because of Dubnyk and Tesliuk and he never did anything that would make you
dislike him,” McCarthy said. “We felt
that he’s a very good skater for his size, he maybe hasn’t put it all together
yet but he has the potential to do that.”


“Max is another big guy who is good in his
own end and moves the puck smartly.
He’s not going to lead a rush up the ice or anything but he’s a smart
defensive defenseman,” he continued.
“I’d like to see him use his size a little more to his advantage and
maybe become a bit meaner. He still
needs to add some strength and I think when he does that and he becomes a
little more confident you’ll also see him get meaner. I don’t know if he has the mean streak that Paukovich has but in
the sixth round we were looking at a kid who is 6’4”, moves the puck well and
plays a lot of minutes in Kamloops and that makes it a pretty sound pick.”


“He plays his gaps and closes down the
blueline really well, he keeps it very simple,” Davis added. “He’s not overly aggressive but he uses his
span and leverage to control people rather than running them through the
boards, but he still gets the job done.”


Stephane Goulet (RW)

Quebec Remparts / Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

7th Round, 208th


Chalk this selection up to Quebec based
Oiler scout Bill Dandy. Few people
watched the Remparts with Goulet in mind but Dandy had a strong gut feeling
that the 6’4” winger would be worth the gamble for the Oilers to take. Although Goulet had always been a scorer
during his minor league days, the Remparts’ coaching staff apparently decided
to use
in a completely new and strange way.


“(Goulet) played in weird situations when I
saw him,” Davis understated. “He’d play
first power play unit four times in a row, wouldn’t see the ice any other time
— even for lengths of a period, and then with three minutes to go he’d be out
there defending a one goal lead! It was
the most bizarre situation and I don’t know what they were doing with him.”


Just a couple weeks before the draft,
Goulet was dealt to the Moncton Wildcats and that’s a change in scenery that
should be extremely beneficial to his development.


“He was a first round pick in the QMJHL draft
and he’s scored at every level he’s been at,” McCarthy’s description
began. “He was traded to Moncton so
he’ll get more ice time and opportunity to do more things offensively next
year. He’s a good skater with size and
if he gets the ice time to develop his offense, he’ll be a seventh round pick
who has a solid chance.”


“There is an upside to this player and I’m
not sure a lot of people knew about him or even saw him, it’s a great move by
Bill Dandy to step up and see the guy,” summed up Davis. “Goulet could be a real sleeper. Skill wise he could be a first line guy in
Moncton, he was winning scoring races in Bantam and Midget so he’s definitely
got the ability.”


Tyler Spurgeon (C)

Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

8th Round, 242nd


If there is one kind of player that Kevin
Lowe really desires, it is one that doesn’t know the meaning of quit and has a
heart too big for his rib cage. Tyler
Spurgeon of the Memorial Cup winning Kelowna Rockets is exactly that type of
player. As the club’s assistant captain,
Spurgeon played center on the third line and had fellow Oiler prospect
Troy Bodie on his wing.


Off the ice Spurgeon was best friends with
Mike Fogolin, the son of one time Oiler captain Lee Fogolin who died suddenly
in late May. Spurgeon was one of numerous
friends to speak at the recent funeral to pay tribute to his former
teammate. In a nice touch the Oilers
made special mention of Mike Fogolin in dedication prior to making their first
selection of the draft. But don’t
confuse the selection of Spurgeon as some kind of public relations move by


“This has nothing to do with PR, this has
to deal with the fact that Kevin loves guys with grit and who compete and show
up anytime and will fight anybody,” Davis commented. “If you always play hard, then Kevin likes you.”


Bjorn Bjurling (G)

Djurgarden (SEL)

9th Round, 274th


Like pitchers in baseball, hockey teams can
never have too many quality goaltenders in their system so when the Oilers
drafted an overage European, the first and only player from a league outside
North America they would draft this year, it was in support of that theory.


“Kent (Nilsson) really had a good feeling
about this guy,” said McCarthy. “He
talked about him at our meetings in Salmon Arm and also at the draft and said
if we get to the eighth or ninth round (Bjurling) is an overage goalie who is
very solid in the SEL.”


Bjurling played 45 games for Djurgarden
last season and finished the schedule with a respectable 2.31 goals against
average and an impressive .923 save percentage. With a goaltending stable that can now be considered fully
stocked, there certainly is no immediate need for Bjurling but having a capable
goaltender in Europe is definitely a sensible plan.




Some consistent Oiler habits were completely
shattered with this draft in regard to the amount of Europeans, NCAA and
Canadian junior players taken. Since
the Lowe/Prendergast era began four drafts ago in 2001, the Oilers had shown a
great propensity to select Europeans, US collegians and players from the QMJHL,
but that changed a lot this year. Eight
of the 10 players selected join the organization from Canadian major junior,
but only one is from the Quebec league.
The Oilers increased their WHL content within their system from two
active players last season to six (less one for the graduation of
Kyle Brodziak to the AHL). Likewise with the
OHL where
Zack Stortini was the sole organizational
representation, three others will now join him for next year.


The lack of European players in the Oiler
harvest of the draft crop may suggest a shift in thinking but might simply be
explained by the overused ‘best player available’ rationale. More North Americans will definitely mean
that the Oilers will have many more players to deal with two years from now
than after a ‘normal’ draft year.


The most convincing thing a team can reveal
to back up their claim of draft day success is a name bar count. Each team has a certain amount of name bars
at their table that they quickly slap onto the backs of jerseys for the players
they are about to select. Most teams
will be able to get three or four of the players they really wanted in a year
and those are the guys you see on stage or walking around with their names on their
backs. If a team’s first round pick is
without a name bar, it’s a sign that the team really didn’t expect to be able
to draft him.


“As a
scouting staff we’re on cloud nine, I think the name bar thing is proof of that
right there,” Davis said happily.
“Normally you’re looking to put a name bar on your first and second
rounders, maybe your thirds, but we had eight picks with name bars.
Devan Dubnyk did not have a name bar
so that tells you that he’s a guy we didn’t think we’d even have a chance
at. Of our ten guys, we had eight
players with name bars, that’s how good we ended up off our early list.”


‘Steal’ of the draft


Scout Chris McCarthy: “Robbie Schremp at 25, that’s a
steal. A lot of teams backed off and we
stepped up and took him. Of everybody
we drafted, he’s the one that’s got a chance of playing next year.”


Scout Brad Davis: “Robbie Schremp is the steal of the draft, don’t you think? He doesn’t skate, block shots or muscle guys
like (
Alexander) Ovechkin does but, based solely on pure skill,
I think (Schremp) was the most talented player in the draft.”



‘Sleeper’ Pick


“I think Liam Reddox is a sleeper.
He’s a smaller guy but the way the game is being played today there is
more room for little guys. He
definitely has a shot at playing in the NHL.





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