After spending the 2014-15 season at the bottom of the league standings, the Edmonton Oilers turned to the NHL Entry Draft in hopes of making some moves that would improve the team. They won the draft lottery, and were awarded the first overall selection with which they chose the consensus first-overall pick, Connor McDavid, to give Oilers fans a glimmer of hope. With a new franchise player, the Oilers then needed to address their biggest holes, defense and goaltending. Former general manager Peter Chiarelli worked the phones and was able to acquire Griffin Reinhart and Cam Talbot from the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, respectively.
Later in the draft, the Oilers selected two stud defensemen in back-to-back rounds: Ethan Bear, who has emerged as one of Edmonton’s best players this season; and Caleb Jones, who has been impressive during his stint with the team and will be an important piece on the back end for years to come.
Here is a look at the Oilers’ 2015 draft class:
Connor McDavid, Round 1, 1st Overall
Of course the Oilers were going to take McDavid with the first-overall pick. He finished his draft year second in Ontario Hockey League scoring with 120 points in 47 games.
McDavid is now in his fifth NHL season and is arguably the best player in the league. The 22-year-old has racked up plenty of hardware, with two Art Ross Trophies, two Ted Lindsay Awards, and one Hart Memorial Trophy. He has reached the 100-point plateau three times and with 47 points through his first 26 games in 2019-20, he is on his way to a fourth. Earlier this season, he became the 13th player in NHL history to reach the 400-point mark in 306 games or fewer.
He’s only managed to help the Oilers make the playoffs once, but the team is first in the Western Conference with a 16-7-3 record, and there’s a very good chance that we’ll see McDavid and the Oilers in the playoffs this season.
Caleb Jones, Round 4, 117th Overall
Without a pick in rounds two or three, the Oilers selected defenseman Caleb Jones with their next pick, 117th overall. Jones was a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he recorded 8 points in 25 games during his draft year.
Since being drafted, Jones has spent the majority of his professional career with Edmonton’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. His first season with the Condors didn’t go as he hoped, with 17 points in 58 games and a minus-25. The following season, he found his game and became a solid defenseman for the Condors. He improved to 29 points in 50 games and finished the season with a plus-16. His stellar play caught the eyes of Oilers management and he was called up last December, when recorded one goal and six points in 17 games before returning to Bakersfield.
Jones started the 2019-20 season in Bakersfield, but was recently recalled by the Oilers to replace Brandon Manning who was placed on injured reserve. It is unclear if Jones will stay with the team long-term, but he has been solid on the third defensive pairing with Kris Russell.
Ethan Bear, Round 5, 124th Overall
Shortly after Jones, the Oilers opted for another defenseman, Ethan Bear from the Seattle Thunderbirds. Ranked 97th by NHL Central Scouting, it was surprising that he was still available for Edmonton’s fifth-round selection. He was a solid shutdown defenseman in the Western Hockey League and provided a nice offensive touch when needed.
Following his draft year, Bear returned to the WHL for two more seasons, where he set new career highs in points two years in row, and was awarded the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s top defenseman. He spent some time developing in Bakersfield, and earned an NHL call-up during the 2017-18 season, when he scored one goal and added three assists in 18 games with the Oilers. He was later returned to the AHL, where he spent all of the 2018-19 season.
Bear has carved a spot for himself on the Oilers’ roster this season, and is there to stay. He’s been a huge addition on the back end, and is logging serious minutes on the second defensive pairing with Darnell Nurse. He has just eight points so far, but don’t let that fool you. Bear’s presence on the ice and the impact he’s had on the season should make him a legitimate Calder Trophy contender.
John Marino, Round 6, 154th Overall
With their sixth round pick, Edmonton selected John Marino from the South Shore Kings of the United States Premier Hockey League. Marino had four goals and 28 points in 49 games during his draft year and, like Bear, the Oilers were able to select him after he fell multiple spots from his original draft ranking. He played three seasons for Harvard University, with 42 points in 101 games.
He didn’t intend to sign with the Oilers and was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the offseason for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2021. In 22 games with the Penguins this season, Marino has two goals and nine points.
Miroslav Svoboda, Round 7, 209th Overall
Svoboda had a strong draft year, and was select 209th overall by the Oilers in his third year of draft eligibility. He suited up in 37 games for the Czech Republic’s HC Ocelari Trinec U-20, and posted a .937 save percentage, along with a 2.19 goals-against average. He never signed with the Oilers and was picked up by the Nashville Predators in April 2018. He has yet to play a game for the Predators, and is currently with HC Vitkovice of the of Czech Extraliga.
Ziyat Paigin, Round 7, 209th Overall
The Oilers used the pick they acquired from the Rangers to select Ziyat Paigin from Kazan Ak-Bars of the Kontinental Hockey League. Paigin caught the Oilers’ attention when he had a strong showing with the Russian U-20 team that lost the gold medal to Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championships. He stayed in the KHL for three seasons following his draft year, then made the the jump to North American hockey in 2017. He failed to record a single point in 12 games with the Bakersfield Condors and mid-way through the 2017-18 season he returned home to play in the KHL.
Oilers Acquire Griffin Reinhart from the Islanders for the No. 16 and No. 33 Draft Picks
What seemed like a strong trade at the time turned out to be one of the Oilers’ worst moves in recent memory and a black mark on Peter Chiarelli’s tenure as general manager. The Islanders used the 16th pick to select Mathew Barzal, who won the Calder Trophy in 2018 and is quickly becoming one of the NHL’s best play-makers. New York then traded their 33rd and 72nd picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the 28th overall selection, where they picked Anthony Beauvillier, who has recorded 104 points in 240 career games so far.
Related: Worst Trades in Oilers’ History
Reinhart played just 29 games for the Oilers, with one assist. The Vegas Golden Knights selected him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, but he never suited up for them and was sent to their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
He spent two seasons in Chicago but was unable to find a spot on the 2019-20 roster. In October, Reinhart signed a one-year deal with Kunlun Red Star of the KHL.
Oilers Acquire Cam Talbot and Pick No. 209 from the Rangers for the No. 57, No. 79, and No. 184 Picks
Edmonton traded the 57th (Jonas Siegenthaler), 79th (Sergey Zborovskiy), and 184th (Adam Huska) overall picks to the New York Rangers in exchange for Cam Talbot, and the 209th pick of the draft. Siegenthaler is in his second season with the Washington Capitals, where he has recorded one goal and six assists in 51 career games. Zborovskiy was unable to make the Rangers roster, and was placed on waivers on June 20, 2018. Huska has spent the past two seasons with New York’s AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack, and signed his entry-level contract last March.
Talbot was one of the Oilers’ best players during the 2016-2017 season and a very important piece in their playoff run, when they came within one win of reaching the Western Conference Final. Talbot was never able to duplicate the success he had that season and was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers last season in exchange for Anthony Stolarz.
Talbot became a free agent at the end of last season and signed one-year deal with the Calgary Flames. In six games with the Flames this season, he has 3.23 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage.
Oilers Send Pick No. 86 to the Sharks as Compensation for Todd McLellan
The San Jose Sharks fired Todd McLellan on April 20, 2018 and nearly a month later, the Edmonton Oilers signed him to a five-year contract worth $5 million per year. As a result, Edmonton had to give up their third-round pick as compensation. The Sharks used that pick to select goaltender Mike Robinson who is in his third season with the University of New Hampshire WildCats and looks to be a few years away from cracking the Sharks’ roster.
In the 2016-17 season, McLellan helped the Oilers to their first playoff appearance since 2006. The next season, they found themselves near the bottom of the standings once again and were heading towards the same fate in 2018-19.
McLellan was fired by the Oilers on Nov. 18, 2018, after a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. He landed the head coaching job in Los Angeles, but has been unable to lead the team to any real success so far.
Oilers Acquire Brad Ross, Pick No. 107 from Maple Leafs for Martin Marincin
Ross never played a game for the Oilers and currently plays for the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. They immediately traded the 107th overall pick to the Ottawa Senators.
Oilers Acquire Eric Gryba from the Senators for Pick No. 107 and Travis Ewanyk
The Oilers’ time with the 107th pick didn’t last long as they quickly sent it to the Senators along with F Travis Ewanyk in exchange for Eric Gryba. Ottawa used the pick to select Christian Wolanin from the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. Wolanin has recorded 15 points in 40 career games with the Senators. Ewanyk failed to make the Senators and spent the next five seasons bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. He has spent the past two seasons in Germany with the Krefeld Penguins.
Gryba played parts of three seasons with the Oilers, as well as three playoff games in 2017. On June 21, 2018, the team placed him on waivers with the intention of buying out his contract. He was picked up by the New Jersey Devils and played 10 games with them before being sent to the Binghamton Devils to finish out the remainder of the 2019-19 season. After failing to make the Flames on a PTO in September 2019, Gryba decided to hang up his skates and focus on things outside of hockey.
Josh Vold covers the Edmonton Oilers here at TheHockeyWriters.com