by Lisa Brown on 05/30/12 at 11:00 PM ET
Friday marks the deadline for teams to sign their 2010 draft prospects, as well as earlier draft picks who were in school up until the end of the last semester. What this means is that teams need to have come to their final decisions on who they see in their system going forward. For the Oilers with the signing of Kristians Pelss in April, it was an early sign that they are going to pass on left winger Drew Czerwonka, but there was very little indication of their plans concerning defenceman Jeremie Blain. Now, Jason Gregor of the Team 1260 is reporting that the all indications and conversations behind the scenes indicate that the Oilers are not looking to sign either player.
For Czerwonka, the decision for the Oilers likely came down to Pelss or Czerwonka and after an injury plagued season luck just wasn’t on Czerwonka’s side. But after conversations had with Czerwonka this season I couldn’t help but think that this was not what Czerwonka was hoping for, but it was what he was expecting. None the less, Czerwonka wants to go pro this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of him signing in the ECHL, AHL or even with a team in Europe. And why? Because you just never know. It takes a lot of hard work and luck to get drafted, luck because you never know if you are going to have a good night when the scouts are in the building or not, and you never know how the other players in your age group will work out. And then with an unlucky season your future can change.
Perhaps after time in the ECHL or the AHL Czerwonka will catch the eye of a scout and once again find himself on the radar of an NHL team, but this time as a free agent.
It wasn’t injury that ended up hurting Blain’s chances of a future with the Oilers, but may instead have been a racial slur uttered during a game in December. Blain received a two game suspension but more importantly, it may also have cost him his chance at an NHL contract. You will never hear the Oilers say that, but with the concerns over public opinion and even the image the team has and their ability to attract free agents may have the Oilers concentrating more than ever on the personalities of their players both on and off of the ice.
Which also means that the NHL combine interviews will be the deciding factors in who the team selects at this year’s draft.
Some Oiler fans have expressed concern that the Oilers may pass on Blaine because the team decided to sign Pelss, and while I cannot believe that that is the reason the contracts worked out the way that they did, you have to let the scouts do their job when it comes to extending entry level contracts and leave it at that. Besides while the Oilers may not have a plethora of top NHL defencemen at their disposal currently, there are some interesting prospects in the waiting.
Gregor also reports that the Oilers are in contract negotiations with defenceman Brendan Davidson, who would have played with the Oklahoma City Barons during the offseason had it not been for an unfortunate shoulder injury. And then there is also Swedish defenceman Oscar Klefbom who is yet to be signed.
Klefbom was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NHL entry draft and is currently under contract with his Swedish Elite League team Färjestad. Reports this spring were that his signing was imminent but no contract has been signed. The Oilers do no need to worry about losing Klefbom for another year, and perhaps the trip to Sweden was to assure Klefbom that the team sees him in their future plans, but not add him to their list of 50 professional contracts until he is ready to come to North America, as they did with Anton Lander last season.
While your favourite prospect may not be signed it can be frustrating, there may be reasons beyond their on ice production. There may be issues that are not usually reported on, or in other rare circumstances, there is always the possibility that a player may not want to sign with a particular team, just like what we are seeing in Anaheim with defenceman Justin Schultz.
lthough the Oilers may take a pass on a few prospects this season, there will be a whole new crew ready to take their place at this year’s entry draft. And the circle of hockey life goes on.
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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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