by Lisa McRitchie on 06/26/12 at 08:30 PM ET
Edmonton Oilers’ head of amateur scouting Stu Macgregor was glad to speak about the teams picks in rounds 2 through 7 of this past weekend’s NHL entry draft. MacGregor knew that this year’s draft class looked much different than last year’s but also knew that GM Steve Tambellini’s ambitions were to fill needs rather than draft a balanced set of players to add to the team’s depth.
The majority of players selected were power forwards with big bodies and even bigger heart, but it was the second round pick that seemed to have surprised hockey fans the most.
Stu MacGregor following day 2 of drafting
Playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings, left winger Mitch Moroz was projected to be in the vicinity of a late second round pick, but due to familiarity and a bit of the kid’s personality, the Oilers were not willing to let Moroz slip through their fingers. The team had already missed out on Henrik Samuelsson and knew that if they didn’t select Moroz with the 32nd pick, he simply wouldn’t be there in the third round. They just liked him that much.
According to MacGrgeor “You always have to step up if there’s a player that you like. We liked him, we’ve followed him and his development curve is on its way up. And he provides some, not just toughness. but he’s a good hockey player. He takes the puck to the net real hard, he shows a little bit of touch around the net. He’s only played one year of junior and I think that he’s got an opportunity with continuous development and drive, he’s got a good chance to be a good player for us.”
Moroz was just another face in a talented Oil Kings roster, but it was an Oil Kings roster that took the WHL championship and made a trip to the Memorial Cup. That means that Moroz knows what it takes to win. That means that he has a lot of positives to bring to the Oilers, especially if he should make the roster in time.
In the third round the Oilers selected Jujhar Khaira another left winger of the BCJHL. Khaira has the option to play in the WHL, but has already committed to playing with Michigan Tech. (we will have a look at the Michigan hockey system a little later this summer)
“He’s going to need a couple of years no matter what,” MacGregor said of Khaira’s development and whether or not the team would rather he play in junior than the college system. “I don’t think that he’s even grown into his body yet. And will continue to develop physically. I’m always of the belief that if you’ve chosen a path, don’t change that path. Don’t waiver back and forth unless that path you’ve tried isn’t working. So we’ll have some conversation with him, but I believe that you should continue in the phase that you were looking at because that’s where your best interests are and where you believe in.
For the second third round pick, Daniil Zharkov, the man who made the media laugh out loud MacGregor had a glowing review. “Those Russians are outgoing guys!” he commented after hearing what we had been told by yet another left winger.
“Here’s another young man that’s come over and extended himself” MacGregor continued. “I really think that it’s a credit to those guys to just come over here and plant yourself into North America because you want to play here. To me, that’s a great checkmark beside their name.”
Zharkov made it crystal clear in his media address that he has no intentions of leaving to play in the KHL and must have had similar comments for the Oilers’ scouting staff. MacGregor related “He said ‘I like playing in Canada, I want to play where it’s important.’ And I like guys that have that passion.” Or as Steve Tambellini tends to call it, character. You will see more of Zharkov’s personality in the coming days.
The descriptions of course got shorter as you got to the final rounds, but so did the crowds as many of these players don’t make the trip to the draft because they don’t know if they will be selected.
Swedish defenceman Erik Gustafsson was the Oilers 4th round pick and MacGregor was clearly excited about adding this player to the list “Offensive skilled defenceman plays with Djurgårdens IF last year in the Swedish Elite League. Again a puck mover that hopefully we can fit in with the rest of our group to make us some puck movers and some size.”
Joey LaLeggia a Canadian defenceman was the Oilers 5th round pick and according to MacGregor “Joey LaLeggia is not a big guy but he skates well and moves the puck intelligently. He’s a smart guy, a quick pass guy, get’s the puck up the ice, real good hockey sense.”
And rounding out the Oilers’ picks was John McCarron, an American born right winger. “John McCarron is a big body, has great hands, a right winger. Very strong on the puck, takes it to the net, has a good shot, strong around the net. Another guy that, you know, could be a couple of years in college and then we can look forward to him making a challenge for our team.”
To hear MacGregor speak, he fully expects each of his picks to challenge for a roster spot throughout their time with the team. That is of course, only if they maintain their drive, work and determination that got them to the point they have already reached. But it’s not exactly out of the question, after all, 7th round pick Kristians Pelss signed an entry level contract this spring.
MacGregor did go for the bigger forwards purposely this past weekend saying “I read the newspapers too and see that we need to get a little bigger, and so that’s what we’re trying to do is add some size to your forwards so that you can be strong in front of the net. The game seems to be played inside of that 10 foot area. And we have lots of skill, so let’s surround them with some guys that are going to be able to compete and help them get the puck and open up space for them.”
This draft was also an opportunity for the Oilers to draft some older players, and the team did select a couple of 20 year old players. With these players the team should have a better idea what their final size will be, and perhaps what type of player they have in the near and long term. “I just think that it tells you that the development curve isn’t always the same,” MacGregor explains. “It says hey, that some guys are a further more ahead at 18 and a few guys need that extra year or two to get to that same level of competence.”
There is never a good way to grade the team’s draft picks because it is only a snapshot in time. A variety of things will affect the growth and development of each of these players and we will never be able to see what those factors are ahead of time. Sometimes it just comes down to a gut feeling, but usually MacGregor’s gut is right. Now it comes down to the players themselves and maybe a little bit of dumb luck.
The prospects will have the opportunity to learn from the Oilers’ development team now, and even participate in the Oilers development camp this week in Sherwood Park. And so now, it’s just a matter of waiting and watching.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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