Edmonton Oilers Drafted: Looking Back at 2012


Welcome to another addition of Edmonton Oilers Drafted. This will be a look back at the highly touted prospects selected by the organization and a look into a when did they leave the Oilers and where are they now. I would mainly like to focus on drafts that still have current Oilers roster players to shed some light on how the Oilers acquired each respective player. Today, we will look at  the exciting and hopeful yet Draft Class of 2012.

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The 2011-12 NHL hockey season featured a struggling Oilers squad, in at that time early in the rebuilding phase. The Oilers, yet to qualify for the post-season in six consecutive years, featured a growing Oilers squad under the leadership of General Manager Steve Tambellini and Coach Tom Renney. The Edmonton Oilers were led by embattled veteran captains Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky but also featured the rookie seasons of current Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Anton Lander. This season also saw contributions from members of the Edmonton Oilers 2008 Draft that I wrote about recently; Jordan Eberle, Philippe Cornet and Teemu Hartikainen made NHL contributions. However, the Edmonton Oilers ultimately won the NHL Draft Lottery and were primed to select first overall for the third consecutive season in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft held in Pittsburgh.

Round 1

Mar 25, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Nail Yakupov (10) looks to make a pass against the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1st round, 1 st overall – Nail Yakupov. Heading into the 2012 NHL Entry draft there was plenty of buzz surrounding Nail Yakupov, a Russian offensive weapon from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Yakupov was rated the highest among North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting and rivaled only by the offensive defenceman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips (WHL). There were many factors that projected Yakupov to be the riskiest first overall pick and plenty of people to this day think that the Oilers should not have drafted Yakupov. There was the Russian factor; that Yakupov was going to leave for the KHL, as well as arguments that as a offensive weapon he wasn’t forced to play defense etc. However, the amount of offensive instincts, talent and overall skill convinced GM Steve Tambellini to draft him first overall in 2012.

Currently, Yakupov has emerged as one of the most entertaining offensive weapons on the Oilers roster, a treat to see when he gets the puck. My fellow writer Sammi Silber covered Yak in a recent player in review article here.  You can read all of our player reviews by scrolling through this page. Last season Yakupov benefited immensely from the veteran leadership of center Derek Roy and lower level of competition by playing reduced minutes. This season Yakupov could emerge as one of the go-to offensive weapons in the Oilers top six forward group as well as be a deadly shot on the power-play.

Rounds 2-3

Forward Mitchell Moroz as a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings. Photo by Andy Devlin

2nd Round, 32nd Overall – Mitch Moroz. Having such a high pick in the second round gave the Oilers an opportunity to draft a player that may have slipped down in the draft, a potential first rounder. However, the Oilers elected to draft a gritty scoring winger of the WHL in Mitchell Moroz. Moroz was projected as a power-forward that could use his physical stature to lean on defenders and chip in offensively.

Now there is still a level of controversy surrounding the Moroz pick largely due to the closeness and familiarity that the Oilers have with the Edmonton Oil Kings and the pick is treated a little like a homer pick, meaning that rather then take a shot at another top prospect Tambellini went with a safer bet in Moroz. For example, a projected first rounder, skilled winger Sebastian Collberg slipped out of the first round and was drafted shortly after has significantly more offensive skills than Moroz. Oh well.

Moroz currently is developing in the Oilers minor league system after enjoying a highly successful junior career as part of the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings. Moroz finished his junior career winning a the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup Championship and joined the Oklahoma City Oil Barons for his first full pro season this past year. At the pro level, Moroz has been serving in the bottom six of the farm club in an effort to develop his strong physical game and mature as a 21 year old. While I personally believe he won’t live up to the expectations demanded by the nature of being selected in the second round, Moroz can still develop into a power-forward type player.

3rd Round, 63rd Overall – Jujhar Khaira. Originally drafted as a winger from the Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) Khaira played an outstanding two seasons, posting 79 points in 54 games with the Spruce Kings. Prior to being drafted, Khaira committed to attending Michigan Tech hockey program (NCAA) but was ranked 74th among North American skaters prior to the Draft. When Khaira signed a three year entry-level deal with the Oilers, Khaira would forego his remaining college eligibility and join the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. Khaira is another current Oil Barons forward, developing and adjusting to the pro-style game.

3rd Round, 91st Overall – Daniil Zharkov. Another skilled Russian winger that played junior for the Belleville Bulls (OHL) and was also part of the Russian World Junior Championship team. As a skilled two-way player with size, there was a bit of a knock on Zharkov for not utilizing his size to his advantage. Zharkov enjoyed a moderately successful junior career but opted to try his hand at the Russian style of hockey, signing a two year deal with Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL. While the Edmonton Oilers still hold the signing rights to Zharkov it is becoming increasingly clear that the dreaded “Russian Factor” as taken its course and Zharkov will not be returning to the North American hockey scene any time soon.

Rounds 4-7

4th Round, 93rd Overall – Erik Gustafsson. As an offensively skilled, smaller framed defenceman Gustafsson was originally drafted by the Oilers but has went unsigned and entered unrestricted free-agency. Entering the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, he was not ranked among the 120 listed European prospects by NHL central scouting but played alongside professional players in the Swedish Elitserien (SHL). Having a successful stint with Djurgardens it was clear that at an early age Gustafsson could forego the high level of professional hockey and has steadily improved. A bit of a head scratch-er to me as to why the Oilers let him walk unsigned. His offensive and puck moving instincts at the pro level should have at least warranted a look at the AHL level. However, the Chicago Blackhawks seen something special in Gustafsson, having signed him to a two year entry level deal after posting his best pro season to date with Djurgardens.

Denver defenceman Joey LaLeggia, Photo Credit to Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

5th Round, 123rd Overall – Joey Laleggia. After spending three seasons with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, Laleggia accepted an offer to join the University of Denver (NCAA). After his first season he enjoyed a standout rookie season posting 38 points in 43 games, earning him considerable recognition with the NCAA Ice Hockey National Rookie of the Year. Oilers pounced on the opportunity and selected him in the 5th round. However, Laleggia remained committed to the Denver Pioneers and finished his post-secondary education rather than opting out and signing an entry-level deal. This proved to be most beneficial to the hockey development of as he obtained the NCHC Player of the Year, NCHC Defenseman of the Year and the NCHC Offensive Defenceman of the Year for the 2014-15 season. Currently the Oilers have signed Laleggia to his entry-level deal and he appeared in five games in OKC last season. He will play his first full pro season as a member of the new Bakersfield Condors (AHL) farm team in California.

6th Round, 153rd Overall – John McCarron. Another College hockey boy, McCarron just finished his Senior year at Cornell University. In his years at Cornell, McCarron posted a respectable 74 points in 131 games and played more of a two-way game. With a deadly combination of hockey intelligence (he is an Ivy Leaguer) and a 6’2″, 225 lbs frame he could definitely play at a high professional level. However he has gone unsigned to this point and if the Oilers do no sign him this August 2015 he will become an unrestricted free agent and could sign a pro deal anywhere. With the amount of bodies at the AHL level for the Oilers it’s tough to predict whether or not this deal gets done.

Next: Edmonton Oilers: A Case For Darnell Nurse

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