Oilers Finally Developing NHL-Caliber Players

The Edmonton Oilers draft record over the years has been atrocious. From 2000 to 2014, can you guess how many players drafted outside of the first-round played more than 200 games with the Oilers? Would you believe me if I told you just four?

Let’s take a look at the players who actually made it through the system and managed to have an impact for a team that had no idea what they were doing at the draft table for 15 years. I will then take a look at who the Oilers have drafted past the first round recently and see if they have a better shot at becoming full-time NHL players in the near future.

Draft Picks That Beat the Odds

Anton Lander

Anton Lander was selected by the Oilers in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and played 215 games. He was drafted out of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), where he played 177 games for Timra IK before making his way to North America.

Lander split most of his first four season playing for the Oilers and their AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. He always had the tools to be a skilled third-line center but just couldn’t put it together at the NHL level. Every time he would be sent down to the AHL, he would produce well and earn a call-up back to the NHL squad.

Anton Lander
Anton Lander (Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s unfortunate he was never able to stick around. I personally liked him and was always hopeful he could put it together and stay full-time. After 2016-17, Lander made his way back overseas where he has played the last two seasons with the KHL’s Kazan Ak-Bars. It’s safe to say his NHL career is over.

Zack Stortini

Enforcer Zack Stortini was selected in the third round in 2003 and played 256 games for the Oilers. Stortini didn’t hold down a full-time NHL roster spot until he was almost 23 years old. He bounced around between the NHL squad and the minors before finally sticking with the Oilers in the 2007-08 season.

Stortini’s role with the team diminished as fighting started to become less frequent in the salary cap era. He was never going to be a point producer, but the fact that he managed to stay in the NHL for years is pretty incredible considering the role that he played.

Zack Stortini Photo Credit:(Ross Bonander/THW)

I always loved him. He had that long crazy hair and fun outgoing personality, making his fights more entertaining than they might have been. When the Oilers began to fully embrace their rebuild starting in 2009, I was happy to have Stortini around to protect the kids coming up through the ranks. It’s a shame the rebuild went so awry for the team and the players. As an old-school hockey fan, I have nothing but fun memories with Stortini. He played his final NHL game in the 2011-12 season with the Nashville Predators.

Jarret Stoll

Jarret Stoll was drafted in the second round in 2002 and played 286 games for the Oilers. Stoll was initially drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2000 NHL draft but he never signed with the team. He re-entered the draft in 2002 where he was selected by the Oilers.

His time with the team could be seen as good but inconsistent. He had a career year in the 2005-06 season, scoring 22 goals, 46 assists and 68 points. He was also instrumental in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping the Oilers reach the Stanley Cup Final where they fell just short in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. His play eventually dropped off, leading to his trade to the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 2008.

free agent forwards
Jarret Stoll. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Stoll was a player who drove me crazy. I remember on the power play he was always on the point for one-timers, but I’m pretty sure he ended up breaking more sticks in his career than hitting the net with shots. You could tell he had the skill to be an effective second-liner, but each night was a different player. Some nights he was on his game, and others it looked like he was just waiting for the buzzer to sound so he could go home. He eventually went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Kings, so he did manage to find success in his career.

Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry was a second-round pick from 2006 who played 295 games with the Oilers. Petry could be argued as the best player drafted outside the first round out of everyone listed so far. He was always seen as a potential top-four defenseman, but ended up being rushed and playing more minutes than he should have. In five seasons with the Oilers, Petry only hit 20-plus points once. He was a minus-47 combined in his final 139 games for the Oilers before being shipped to the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round and a conditional fifth-round pick.

My memories of Petry are mixed. He was a smooth skater and had decent vision, but he seemed to get hemmed into his own zone too much. He also struggled with board play. Opponents could just dump the puck into his corner knowing he wasn’t going to give them much trouble when going in to retrieve and cycle down low behind the net.

Tom Wilson, Jeff Petry
Washington Capitals Tom Wilson and Montreal Canadiens Jeff Petry chase down the puck (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

I have one specific memory of Petry that has always stuck with me for all the wrong reasons. In a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, Petry fought Matt Calvert. I use the word fought loosely because it was clear from the moment Calvert dropped his gloves, Petry wanted nothing to do with him. He only had one glove off and kept looking for a linesman. He eventually threw a punch (with his glove hand) and then fell to the ice.

I don’t entirely blame Petry. He is not a tough player, so the fact he was even in that situation with Calvert is admiral, albeit a bit embarrassing considering the result. This might sound terrible, but I wanted Petry traded from that moment on. He has since made a name for himself with up-start Canadiens.

Oilers Recent Draft Record is a Breath of Fresh Air

During the first few years of their rebuild beginning in 2009, the Oilers focused all of their attention on young skilled forwards. Their lack of attention on drafting and developing capable defensemen, and then shipping a goalie out of town who was just entering his prime (Devan Dubnyk) are just a few examples of the horrifying nature of management over the years. I don’t need to remind Oilers fans of the past decade, so let’s shift our focus to the present.

The Oilers finally look poised to have a deep prospect pool of players drafted past the first round for the first time in more than a generation. In the next couple of seasons, the likes of Caleb Jones (fourth-round pick), Tyler Benson (second-round pick), Ethan Bear (fifth-round pick), Ryan McLeod (second-round pick), Ostap Safin (fourth-round pick) Dmitri Samurokov (third-round pick) and William Lagesson (fourth-round pick) are all projected to develop and be potential NHL players in the near future. Bear and Jones have even earned NHL call-ups the past two seasons.

As a fan of this team, I look forward to the direction the club is taking, and continued strong draft performance for years to come.