It’s been a little while since we’ve looked into this series, but the 2008 Edmonton Oilers draft class might be the most underwhelming group of the 2000s — and that’s saying something. Of all the players, only Jordan Eberle went on to become an NHL regular.
In this series so far we’ve looked into the Oilers 2010 and 2009 drafts, both of them being less than stellar. The 2010 class netted the Oilers three NHL regulars in Taylor Hall, Tyler Pitlick and Brandon Davidson. In 2009 just Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander would turn into fringe NHL players, both struggling to gain full-time duties.
The 2008 NHL Draft was Kevin Lowe’s last as Oilers general manager (GM) before his promotion to president of hockey operations. Steve Tambellini was named Oilers GM a month later and the team continued to restructure their front office as both Kevin Prendergast and Rick Olczyk moved into bigger roles.
A lot of blame for the Oilers’ poor performance at the 2008 NHL Draft lies with the Dustin Penner offer sheet. Penner was a restricted free agent (RFA) coming off a 29 goal, 45 point season and was an emerging member of the Ducks offense, playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Brian Burke was the Ducks GM at the time and wanted to sign Penner to an affordable bridge deal, but Lowe signed Penner to a $21.25 million, five-year deal instead.
In return, the Ducks received the Oilers’ first, second and third-round picks in that draft. In retrospect, the Oilers shouldn’t have picked until the fourth round, 103rd overall that year. But it gets better. Previously, the Oilers had traded Chris Pronger to the Ducks and one of the conditions of the deal was that if the Ducks won the Stanley Cup, they’d send Edmonton their 2008 first round pick (22nd overall).
What’s also of note is the Oilers at one point held picks in the second round but traded them during the season. Those picks eventually became defensemen Justin Schultz and Travis Hamonic.
Here’s how the 2008 draft played out for the Oilers:
|22||1||Jordan Eberle||R||Regina Pats (WHL)||
|103||4||Johan Motin||D||Bofors IK (Swe-1)||
|133||5||Philippe Cornet||L||Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)||
|163||6||Teemu Hartikainen||L||Kalpa Jr. (Finland)||
|193||7||Jordan Bendfeld||D||Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)||–||–||–||–||–|
As Bob McKenzie (TSN) put it, the Oilers were rumored to be looking to draft a scoring forward and narrowed it down to three: Greg Nemisz, Nicholas Deschamps and Jordan Eberle.
The Oilers picked the more dynamic of the three in Eberle who drew comparisons to Joe Mullen and his quick release.
For trivia purposes, Nemisz went 25th overall to the Calgary Flames and was projected to be a power forward. Instead, he has played just 15 NHL games and is currently playing in the Carolina Hurricanes system with their AHL affiliate in Charlotte. Deschamps fell to the second round (35th) and went to the Anaheim Ducks, then bounced around and played just three NHL games with the Washington Capitals. Deschamps is currently playing in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league.
Eberle, 26, is currently 14th in Oilers all-time scoring with 357 points and could enter the Oilers top 10 in the near future. Of all the Oilers who’ve played a minimum of 200 NHL games, Eberle ranks 13th in career points-per-game (0.763). A five-time, 20-goal scorer, he’s under contract for another two seasons and has more or less been a top-three scorer for the Oilers during his career.
The Rest of the Class
103rd overall – D Johan Motin – There was a boom of Swedish defensemen coming through the NHL draft and the Oilers jumped at an opportunity to snag a steady defensive defenseman in Motin, who they hoped would develop into a decent pick. He left a lot to be desired offensively and had an average skill set. He played just one NHL game and spent parts of three seasons playing for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate before returning to Sweden. He’s currently playing for Orebro HK in the SHL as a third-pairing defenseman.
133rd overall – L Philippe Cornet – A consistent point producer in Junior, Cornet was a former second-overall pick in the QMJHL draft but his development stalled in the AHL. Cornet played 289 AHL games over five seasons amassing 144 points. He bounced around between four different organizations before moving to Europe. He’s currently playing for HPK in Finland’s Liiga in a top-six role.
163rd overall – L Teemu Hartikainen – Hartikainen got the nickname “Thor” from Oiler fans and was developing into a top-nine NHL forward, but he wasn’t an excellent skater. He was heavy on the stick and played a physical style, but he was odds with management. Hartikainen wanted to be an NHL regular and the Oilers wanted him to spend more time developing. Eventually, he was traded to Toronto and is now playing in the KHL for Salavat Yuleav Ufa. He’s currently second in team scoring behind another former Oiler, Linus Omark.
193rd overall – D Jordan Bendfeld – Originally an (Arizona) Coyotes fifth-round pick in 2006, the Oilers took a flyer on him in the seventh round after the Coyotes failed to tender an entry-level contract (ELC). A bigger defenseman, the Oilers were hoping for a tough, gritty defenseman from the WHL. Bendfeld struggled to adjust to the pro game and after three seasons mainly in the ECHL, retired from hockey.