Oilers Hope to Have Found Hidden Gem in Late Round Draft Picks

After making waves on Thursday (July 7) in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft by trading down from the 29th overall selection to No. 32, where they chose promising Seattle Thunderbirds power forward Reid Schaefer, the Edmonton Oilers had to wait and hope for some good fortune on Day 2.

Related: 5 Things to Know About Oilers’ First-Round Pick Reid Schaefer

Without a pick until late in the fifth round Friday (July 8), Edmonton faced long odds in drafting a prospect that could ultimately become a significant player for the franchise.

Since the Oilers joined the NHL in 1979, they had made 134 picks at No. 158 or lower, only half a dozen of which have had NHL careers that last beyond a couple of seasons. On Friday, Edmonton’s brain trust returned to the draft floor at Montreal’s Bell Centre with the 158th, 190th, and 222nd picks at their disposal.

So if the Oilers’ trio of late-round picks included the likes of a Kelly Buchberger (188th overall, 1985), Fernando Pisani (195th, 1996), or Kyle Brodziak (214th, 2003), it will be because of astute scouting, savvy drafting, and, frankly, just a whole lot of luck. Here’s a look at Edmonton’s draft picks from the second day of the NHL Draft in Montreal.

Samuel Jonsson (5th round, 158th overall)

Jonsson is coming off his first full season in the J20 Nationell, the highest level of junior hockey in his native Sweden. In 31 games with Brynas, the goalie posted a 9-20 record with a 3.25 goals-against average (GAA) and .883 save percentage.

Previously, Jonsson played in the J18 Elit, where he led Sweden’s top under-18 league in 2019-20 with a sparkling 2.01 GAA. The 18-year-old stands 6-foot-4 and tips the scale at 204 pounds, measurements that caught the eye of the Oilers.

“Big goalie,” Edmonton’s director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright said during a post-draft media availability. Jonsson was the 11th goalie taken in the draft, which saw just two netminders selected through the first four rounds.

“We liked some goalies … He was obviously one of our targets, and I think that we lucked out getting him where we did,” said Wright. “Time will tell.”

Jonsson is expected to remain in the J20 Nationell, moving from Brynas to Rogle for the 2022-23 season. There have been just four Swedish goalies to play a regular-season game in Edmonton’s NHL franchise history, led by Tommy Salo, who ranks third all-time among Oilers netminders with 147 wins.

Nikita Yevseyev (6th round, 190th overall)

Yevseyev split the 2021-22 season between Bars Kazan in Russia’s second tier of pro hockey and Irbis Kazan in Russia’s Junior Hockey League. A defenseman from Almetyevsk, Russia, Yevseyev totaled two goals and three assists in 37 games with the latter and recorded a goal and six assists over 12 appearances for the former.

The 18-year-old, who NHL Central Scouting ranked No. 80 among European skaters, was championed by Oilers amateur scout Alexander Naurov.

“Alex is (in Russia) right now, and we’ve been in constant talks and discussions, and this is the one guy that he really wanted to draft,” Wright told media following the draft. “Alex was pretty adamant about stepping up and taking him.”

Wright added that Yevseyev is bigger than his listed measurements of 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds. NHL Draft analyst Steve Kournianos calls the blueliner “highly physical.”

Joel Maatta (7th round, 222nd overall)

The Oilers have had success In recent years drafting NCAA players (most notably Dylan Holloway, who was taken 14th overall in 2020 and made his NHL debut with Edmonton during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs) and hope to continue that with the selection of Maatta, a 20-year-old centre who is coming off his freshman season at the University of Vermont.

Joel Maatta University of Vermont
Joel Maatta, University of Vermont (Image: University of Vermont)

Maatta played 32 games for the Catamounts in 2021-22, recording three goals and three assists, and at season’s end, received the Torrey Mitchell Award as the team’s top two-way forward. He is reported to have impressed Oilers scouts with his defensive acumen and a willingness to engage in the dirty areas.

The native of Helsinki, Finland, represented his country at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships in Edmonton, notching a goal and two assists in two games before the IIHF canceled the tournament because of the pandemic; the World Juniors 2022 will now take place at Rogers Place in August.

Vermont’s men’s hockey program is quickly turning into an Oilers pipeline. Maatta’s teammate, defenseman Luca Munzenberger, was drafted in the third round by Edmonton last year before beginning his freshman season. The Catamounts’ head coach is Todd Woodcroft, brother of Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft.

Nothing jumps off the page about the Oilers’ Day 2 selections, but then again, if there was anything exceptional, they probably wouldn’t still be available so late in the draft. Perhaps the most intriguing thing is how little is known about these three prospects, meaning there could be some very pleasant surprises for the Oilers. It won’t be in 2023 and probably not in 2024, either. But there could be a time down the road when these players suit up in orange and blue at Rogers Place.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.