Oilers Best Sleeper Picks in Franchise History

The Edmonton Oilers hold just five picks in next month’s National Hockey League Draft: 19 (first round), 115 (fourth round), 179 and 185 (both sixth round), and 211 (seventh round).

Looking at the 2000 to 2009 NHL Draft classes, DobberProspects found that 37.1% of first-round picks, 10.9% of fourth rounders, 7.5% of sixth-round selections, and 5.5% of players taken the seventh round had suited up for at least 100 NHL games as of the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.

So while there is a solid chance that Edmonton’s first selection has a lengthy career in the NHL, the Oilers will have beat the odds if they are to procure a future NHL regular with one of their later picks.

Related: THW’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide

But while Edmonton has a spotty track record with their first-round choices, the Oilers have unearthed several late-round gems in their NHL history. So with a mind towards this year’s draft, here’s a look at five of Edmonton’s best selections made at No. 115 or lower.

Andy Moog

In 1980, Edmonton used the 132nd pick to draft Moog, a 20-year-old goaltender who had played junior with the Billings Bighorns of the WHL.

With Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr, Moog formed one of the greatest goalie tandems in NHL history. In each season from 1982-83 to 1986-87, Moog played between 38 and 50 games, while Fuhr played between 32 and 46. Edmonton reached the Stanley Cup Final four times during this five-year span, winning three (1984, 1985, 1987).

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As a member of the Oilers, Moog was a two-time All-Star (1985 and 1986). He was second in the NHL with 33 wins in 1982-83 and won at least 22 games in each of his six full seasons in Edmonton.

At the 1988 trade deadline, Moog was dealt to the Boston Bruins for Bill Ranford and Geoff Courtnall. He had been playing with the Canadian Olympic team after asking for a trade the prior summer.

“I didn’t think I was being challenged and I didn’t think I was developing as a player. I had to let everyone know that it was time that I got to be moving on. I wouldn’t have been any help to the team, and I sure wouldn’t have been any help to myself.”

(from ‘Moog To Face Former Teammates Tonight’, The Los Angeles Times, 5/18/88)

Moog helped Boston reach the Stanley Cup final in 1988 and 1990, both of which saw the Bruins lose to Edmonton. He was an All-Star with Boston in 1991 and with the Dallas Stars in 1997. Moog played his final season with the Montreal Canadiens in 1997-98 before retiring.

On the Oilers’ all-time list, Moog ranks fourth among goalies in games (235) and wins (143), and he has the best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history. He has the 18th most NHL career wins, with 372.

Kelly Buchberger

With the 188th pick in 1985, the Oilers selected Buchberger, an 18-year-old forward coming off his first junior season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.

Buchberger made his NHL debut in the 1987 Stanley Cup Final, playing three games in Edmonton’s 4-3 series victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. He also won the Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1990.

Mark Lamb John Muckler Kelly Buchberger Edmonton Oilers
Kelly Buchberger (right) celebrates after winning the Stanley Cup in 1990 with Mark Lamb (left) and John Muckler (middle). (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Over seven seasons from 1991-92 to 1997-98, Buchberger suited up for all but three Oilers games. He was given the team’s Top Defensive Forward award for five straight seasons, from 1992-93 to 1996-97. Buchberger’s career highs of 20 goals and 44 points came in 1991-92.

On Oct. 6, 1995, Buchberger was named the ninth captain in Oilers NHL history. He wore the ‘C’ for four seasons until he was selected in the 1999 expansion draft by the Atlanta Thrashers.

”This usually goes to guys who score 40 or 50 goals a year. To be a grinder and have the opportunity to be captain is a big honour.”

(from ‘Captain Kelly’, The Edmonton Journal, 10/7/95)

Buchberger spent one season, 1999-00, in Atlanta, serving as the franchise’s inaugural captain. He went on to play for the Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins. Following the 2003-04 season, Buchberger retired with 105 goals and 204 assists in 1,182 career NHL games.

Over a dozen seasons (1987-88 through 1998-99) with the Oilers, Buchberger played 795 games, scoring 82 goals and adding 158 assists. He is Edmonton’s all-time leader with 1,747 penalty minutes.

Fernando Pisani

The Oilers selected Pisani, a 19-year-old forward who had played three seasons with the St. Albert Saints of the AJHL, with pick No. 195 at the 1996 Draft.

The Edmonton native spent the next four years at Providence College, then played his first two seasons of pro in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs before finally making his NHL debut with the Oilers at age 26 in 2003.

Pisani played 402 games, notching 80 goals and 73 assists, over parts of seven seasons with the Oilers, but he’s revered in Edmonton for his playoff performance in 2006.

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That postseason, Pisani scored an incredible 14 goals in 24 games as the Oilers went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes. In Game 5, with the Oilers trailing the series 3-1, Pisani became the first player in Stanley Cup Final history to score a short-handed goal in overtime, staving off Edmonton’s elimination.

“When I look back, I think me being from Edmonton and being in that situation, was part of it. That year, things seemed to start to click and to go my way and pucks started going in for me.”

(from ‘Calling the Next Fernando Pisani’, The Edmonton Sun, 05/17/21)

The six-foot-one Pisani was named Edmonton’s Unsung Hero in 2005-06 and its Top Defensive Forward for 2006-07 and 2007-08.

As a free agent, Pisani signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on Aug. 18, 2010. He played his final NHL season, 2010-11, in the Windy City.

Jason Chimera                 

At the 1997 Draft, Chimera became the property of his hometown NHL club when the Oilers selected the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) forward, who had recently turned 18, at No. 121.

Chimera played one game for Edmonton in 2000-01 and three in 2001-02 before becoming a regular with the Oilers. He had 14 goals and nine assists in 66 games in 2002-03, and four goals and eight helpers in 60 games in 2003-04.

During the 2004 NHL Draft, seven years after calling his name in the fifth round, Edmonton traded Chimera to Phoenix in a deal that included multiple draft picks changing hands.

“I think they traded me because they didn’t know what kind of player I’d become. The first year with the Oilers, I had 14 goals. The next, I didn’t play so much. You don’t think you’re going to get traded, then all of a sudden on the draft floor, they’re calling me and I’m thinking, ‘What the heck?’”

(from ‘Oilers traded Chimera before he developed into a solid role player’, The Edmonton Journal, 1/21/15)

Chimera never played for the Coyotes, who dealt him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005. He spent parts of five seasons (2005-06 to 2009-10) in Columbus, then played parts of seven seasons (2009-10 to 2015-16) for the Washington Capitals, before closing his NHL career with stints on the New York Islanders and Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

A six-foot-three left winger, Chimera had three 20-goal seasons, coming with the Capitals in 2011-12 and 2015-16, and Isles in 2016-17.

Jason Chimera, New York Islanders
Jason Chimera joined the New York Islanders in 2016. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Chimera retired in 2018 after suiting up for 1,107 NHL contests, tallying 186 goals and 229 assists. He ranks fifth in regular-season games played among 1997 draftees.

Kyle Brodziak                    

With the 214th overall selection in 2003, Edmonton took a shot on Brodziak, a 19-year-old center who had led the Moose Jaw Warriors with 32 goals that season after being passed over at the 2002 Draft in his first year of eligibility.

“… I went through one draft as an 18-year-old where nobody took me, and was a seventh-rounder the next one when I re-entered. I had a really good year and it opened the door again. But to be honest I wasn’t even sure I’d get drafted at all.”

(From ‘Kyle Brodziak calls it a career after over 900 NHL games as a seventh-round pick’, The Edmonton Journal, 9/12/19)

Brodziak made his NHL debut in 2005-06, getting into 10 games with the Oilers, and played six times for the Oilers in 2006-07. He was a fixture in Edmonton’s lineup in 2007-08 and 2008-09, appearing in 80 games and 79 games, respectively.

On Day Two of the 2009 Draft, Brodziak was packaged with Edmonton’s sixth-round pick and traded for the Minnesota Wild’s fourth and fifth-round picks. Brodziak spent six seasons (2009-10 to 2014-15) with the Wild, missing only three games over the first five.

After three seasons with the St. Louis Blues (2015-16 to 2017-18), Brodziak returned to his original team, signing a two-year contract with the Oilers on the first day of free agency in 2018. He suited up 70 times for the Oilers in 2018-19.

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A lingering back issue forced Brodziak to hang up the skates before the 2019-20 season. The Oilers placed Brodziak on the Long Term Injured Reserve List, then traded his rights to the Detroit Red Wings in February 2020.

Brodziak played 917 NHL career games (129 goals, 167 assists), including 245 (32 goals, 36 assists) with the Oilers. He has appeared in the second-most games among all players drafted in the seventh round since 2000.

The Next Ones?

While their NHL careers are just getting rolling, a trio of defenceman selected by the Oilers in the latter half of the 2015 Draft could one day each have a resume worthy of this list.

Ethan Bear Edmonton Oilers
Ethan Bear was drafted by Edmonton with the 124th pick in 2015. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Caleb Jones (117th pick) has played 93 games with the Oilers, while Ethan Bear (124) has already been in Edmonton’s lineup 132 times. John Marino (154) has appeared in 108 NHL games, but all with the Penguins, who acquired the blueliner from Edmonton via trade in July 2019.

In return for Marino, the Oilers received a future draft pick: Pittsburgh’s sixth-rounder in 2021, which has turned out to be No. 185. Edmonton would be doing well to use that selection to acquire a player on par with Marino, who has been so impressive the Penguins inked him to a six-year contract extension worth $26.4 million.

And certainly, Oilers fans would be ecstatic if the team can land itself the likes of a Moog, Buchberger, Pisani, Chimera or Brodziak in the latter portion of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The Oilers have done it before, now the pressure is on to do it again.

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