Believe it or not, the Edmonton Oilers pipeline of top young prospects is beginning to run dry.
Known league-wide for their high draft position on a yearly basis, the Oilers have accumulated eight top ten draft picks over the past ten years, four of which have been first overall selections. With three consecutive first overall picks from 2010 through 2012, one would be led to assume that the Oilers have a fairly competitive roster.
Yet, as the years have gone by, the Oilers and their incredible struggles have not only been well documented, but terribly consistent, illustrating that simply drafting high does not always lead to success on the ice.
But why exactly is such the case? On a team loaded with elite young talent, it is hard to determine exactly why the Oilers’ struggles have persisted for so long.
Panning for Gold
One major reason behind Edmonton’s inability to ice a truly competitive team has been their inability to successfully draft future full-time, established NHL players following the first round. As a result, the Oilers have become incredibly over dependent on their top young players to produce at unsustainable rates.
Looking back over the past ten seasons, it is truly remarkable how poor the Oilers have drafted following the first round.
Since the 2006 NHL Draft, the Oilers have selected one single player following the first round who has truly established himself in the NHL. That distinction belongs to Jeff Petry, who was selected by the Oilers in the second round, 45th overall in 2006.
In total, 60 players have been drafted by the Oilers in the second round and beyond since 2006, and just one single player has truly become an everyday player in the NHL. If you really want to do the math, that equates to, well, a 1.6% rate of success.
Not very good, to say the least.
Other notable players selected by the Oilers in the second round or later over the past ten years are names you likely recognize, yet a number of which are no longer with the organization. Namely, these are the likes of Tobias Reider (Arizona), Martin Marincin (Toronto) and Anton Lander, who remains with the Oilers yet has struggled in his first full year of NHL play.
The Pipeline is Running Dry
Unfortunately for the Oilers, their inability to draft successful players past the second round is not only hurting them in the present, but it will also continue
to impair them in the future.
In looking at the Oilers’ current crop of prospects, there are no true stars in the making other than those selected in the first round of the draft, all of which are currently on Edmonton’s NHL roster.
- Laurent Brossoit
Laurent Brossoit, currently playing with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, is undoubtedly the Oilers’ most promising prospect to date. Fortunately for the Oilers, they did not have to draft him, instead acquiring him in a trade with the Calgary Flames.
In all honesty, Brossoit deserves an opportunity to seize the Oilers’ crease, especially so considering his elite level of play over the past two AHL seasons. In 2015-16, Brossoit has consistently been flirting with a SVP% of above .930%, and a GAA of under 2.50, not to mention his three shutouts in his first 15 games of the season.
- Ethan Bear
Drafted by the Oilers in the 5th round, 124th overall in 2015, defenseman Ethan Bear is likely the Oilers’ top prospect drafted after the second round.
A third year defenseman with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, Bear, at 5 foot 11, 200 pounds, is a gifted offensive defenseman, who throughout his season to date has produced at greater than a point per game pace. A gifted skater, Bear could quite well blossom into a quality offensive NHL defenseman.
- Caleb Jones
Selected by Edmonton in the fourth round, 117th overall in the 2015 Draft, Jones, similar to Bear, is also an offensively gifted defenseman.
In his first season with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL following two seasons with the United States National Under-18 and Under-17 teams, Jones has become a reliable, point producing defenseman. Like Bear, Jones shows solid promise, and was incredibly strong in the Oilers’ rookie camp this past off-season.
Assessing the Future
Outside of these three young men, it is tough to say that a significant number of Oilers draft picks will one day become impactful players at the NHL level, particularly those selected in the second round of the Draft and beyond.
With this being said, it is quite clear that the Oilers are lacking depth in their farm system, despite their numerous years of high selection in the NHL Draft.
If the Oilers drafting abilities fail to improve, it is a virtual guarantee that Edmonton will continue its struggle of perpetual irrelevance.
In theory it is quite simple, sure, players such as McDavid, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins will continue to produce throughout their careers, however, they simply can not be expected to carry the weight of an entire team, and in doing so, lead them on a potentially deep playoff run. For this to occur, said star players will need the assistance of depth scorers, grinders and checkers, particularly, those who are typically selected in the second round and beyond.
If the Oilers’ most recent batch of late round picks fail to generate into everyday NHL players who can consistently contribute ice, Edmonton can surely expect to struggle along in the next coming years. This issue will surely become exacerbated in the coming years, as other than the players named above, the Oilers’ organizational depth in terms of prospects is scarcely slim.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.