To say the 2012 NHL draft was not kind to the Edmonton Oilers would be an understatement of grand proportions. That summer started as an off-season that was supposed to signify a lucky turn of events for a team still looking to rebuild its core. Instead, the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has now become a point of contention for a franchise that may be looking to rid itself of any reminder that draft ever took place. The latest episode in a series of 2012 draft disasters is the demotion of highly-touted defensive prospect Griffin Reinhart to the AHL.
2012 NHL Entry Draft
The summer of 2012 brought with it good news for the Oilers. The NHL Draft Lottery win by then-general manager Steve Tambellini meant a third straight year of the Oilers drafting first overall. In the drafts prior, Edmonton selected Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This third lottery win gave Edmonton the right to draft dynamic winger and prolific goal scorer Nail Yakupov, thus potentially creating a formidable top line.
Yakupov was the consensus first overall pick by most experts, but there was contention amongst Oilers brass that defenseman Ryan Murray, was in fact, the better choice for a team that sorely needed defensive help. Word is that closer to the draft, management and scouts had actually settled on Murray as the choice for the Oilers, but Tambellini’s announcement as such was rumored to be overruled by Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz.
and we also don’t know if it gets tweaked after presented to management. DID Daryl Katz pick Nail Yakupov? Who picked Musil? We don’t know.
— Lowetide (@Lowetide) January 8, 2015
Did Edmonton want their dynamic winger? Or, did the Oilers know that Yakupov was potentially overrated and a product of playing alongside Sarnia Sting center Alex Galchenyuk, thus Murray made sense as the better choice?
Yakupov’s first season was a good one. In the shortened lockout year, he led rookies in goal scoring and looked to be the dynamic player Edmonton hoped he’d be after they’d drafted him. He had 31 points in 48 games and it appeared as though the Oilers had found a top-line right-winger. Meanwhile, Murray suffered an injury after being drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets and wasn’t a factor in the 2012-13 NHL season.
Since that season, Yakupov has been a shell of his 2012-13 self. His production has dropped every year, he’s been demoted, seen the bench and the press box, his agent has requested a trade and most recently been on the forefront of a series of trade rumors.
Related: Where to Deploy Nail Yakupov
Despite having 111 points in the NHL, the latest is that Yakupov is headed out of Edmonton to any NHL team that will take him. He’s had some jump in his game this preseason, but he’s not scored a goal. He’s not a failed NHL prospect, but it hasn’t changed the fact that Edmonton has options at right wing they prefer or that Yakupov’s market value around the NHL is virtually nil.
If the Oilers do in fact move Yakupov for nothing more than prospects or a virtual bag of pucks (likely having to retain some salary in the deal), it will signify a complete washing-of-the-hands by the Oilers of a draft selection who at one time had excited the entire fanbase with his potential.
Unless you were a fan of the Edmonton Oil Kings, it’s not likely you’d know much about Mitch Moroz. Moroz was a gritty player with a little skill for Edmonton’s WHL hockey franchise. He was a key piece in the Oil Kings 2012 WHL Championship and a factor in their contention for the Memorial Cup that season. As a result, Moroz was drafted at No. 32 overall in the second round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, likely higher than he should have been.
To date, Moroz hasn’t played a single game in the NHL. He had a good return season in the WHL after being drafted in 2012 but has been completely underwhelming in the AHL with the Barons and the Condors. For a high second-round selection in 2012, he has to be viewed a draft selection miss by the Oilers.
It is extremely likely that Moroz becomes nothing more than an AHL pro, potentially moved one day as part of a trade or bigger package of players sent away in a deal out of Edmonton’s system.
Khaira was selected in the third round at No. 63 overall. He’s likely the lone light at the end of the tunnel for the Oilers in 2012. He’s been a decent prospect for the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL and played 15 games for the Oilers in the NHL. All that said, he’s not moved out of prospect status into a position as a potential regular in the NHL and is consistently among the Oilers earlier cuts each preseason.
Khaira offers a combination of size and skill and he’s got the makings to be a contributor in the NHL. He has the feel of a prospect who can keep pace at the NHL level, but he appears to lack the skill needed to separate himself from the pack.
“I like his physicality, his size, and I think there’s more there,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I think he has to get his confidence up. We’re playing him like we really believe in him and he’s got to believe in himself a little bit more because I think there’s more there. He’ll learn situations a little bit better, but his size offset a little bit of their size tonight.”
Khaira has the attention of his coaches, but he needs to progress if he’s going to keep that attention. Edmonton has been adding depth at numerous positions and prospects who are potentially future bottom-six forwards in the NHL are gaining ground and passing Khaira on the depth chart.
Reinhart wasn’t a selection by the Oilers in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but they did like him as a prospect that year. A product of the Oilers WHL Oil Kings team, Reinhart was drafted fourth overall in that draft by the Islanders. It was a strange set of circumstances that saw Reinhart get drafted and eventually come to the Oilers.
The Oilers were not looked at favorably for the trade that brought Reinhart to town. Edmonton paid a steep price by giving up a first and second round pick and to date, Reinhart has struggled. He’s played 37 games in the NHL, so the jury is still out on what he has the potential to become in the pros, but so far it’s not looking promising.
On Friday, Edmonton sent Reinhart down to the AHL Bakersfield team after struggling in all of his 2016 preseason showings. For a prospect as highly touted as Reinhart was in the 2012 draft, he’s been surpassed on Edmonton’s depth chart by a number of prospects and his career with the Oilers may be in jeopardy. He runs the risk of being mentioned in the same conversations as players like Yakupov, who the Oilers may choose to dump in trades for little to no return.
No surprise Griffin Reinhart was sent down. Am surprised he hasn’t developed more. Always thought he could be a #4 D. Needs to want it more
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) October 7, 2016
The 2012 NHL Entry Draft has been a total disappointment for the Edmonton Oilers. A draft that started on such a high note, with the Oilers winning the lottery and over time acquiring two of the top four selections in that year’s draft, has turned into a showcase of under-developing prospects on the verge of disappearing from the Oilers hockey system.
There are some glimmers of hope and still a shot that some of these players from the 2012 class work out for the Oilers. It’s particularly not fair to completely write-off either Nail Yakupov or Griffin Reinhart as NHL talent. The question becomes, will they work out in Edmonton or will they see success somewhere else and on another NHL team? If they are moved, what will the Oilers have left to show from that 2012 draft after a series of moves that may take these prospects out of Edmonton?
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”