Let’s take a look at the 2015 NHL Draft class of the Edmonton Oilers
It was 5 years ago that then-GM Peter Chiarelli – a terrible GM overall who did very well in this 1 particular area – did what no other GM before him had the balls to do – see the Oilers terrible drafting record for what it was and do a housecleaning of the scouts.
Traditionally most draft picks take on average 5 years to make it to the NHL if they make it at all. Thus, we can honestly now take a look at how that revamped scouting department is doing for us. Although they haven’t hit on every pick they’ve made – scouts never do – what you’ll see in this series is the Oilers drafting has become significantly better, and with a GM of Ken Holland‘s ilk now in charge, who built his previous team on draft hits of hidden gems in the late rounds, look for that to be even better now.
So, to start with let’s take a look at what the first draft in this series looked like with a new scouting staff in place.
Round 1, 1st overall – Connor Mcdavid
If you say you’re an Oilers fan and you don’t know who Connor Mcdavid is, what rock have you been living under? Generational talent, 469 points in 351 regular season games, 18 points in 17 playoff games, 4-time all-star, 2 time Art Ross and Ted Lindsay award winner, and 1 Hart trophy and Mario Lemieux award each, all before he’s even hit his prime producing years. Yeah, I’d say he covered the bet, but don’t give the staff too much credit on this one as a monkey would’ve picked Connor Mcdavid. Everyone knew we were taking Connor Mcdavid the second we won the draft lottery.
Going forward: Connor Mcdavid is already scary good, and to think he’ll be even better is mind-blowing. The sky is the limit for him. Could he be the first NHLer since Gretzky to put up 200 points in a season? If anyone can do it, he can.
Bet: Covered in spades
Round 2 – no pick
Round 3 – no pick
Round 4, 117th overall – Caleb Jones
Left defenceman Caleb Jones spent 2 years with the USHL and 2 years in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. He didn’t start out too well in those 2 seasons in the USHL but did very well in the WHL, putting up 55 points in 72 games in his first season and 62 points in 63 games his 2nd season. In his first season in junior he got a 3 game cup of coffee with Bakersfield, producing no offence. That’s OK, though, because he played his first full season in Bakersfield in 2017-18, producing 2-15-17 and 43 PIMs in 58 games with an ugly -25 – but hey, rookie pro season, right? No biggie, he followed that up in 2018-19 with 6-23-29 in 50 games. PIMs were down to 28, but offence was up and that bodes better for his career.
More importantly, his +/- went up to +16, a huge improvement. In the playoffs for Bakersfield, he put up 0-3-3 and 6 PIMs in 10 games, which is not bad. It was in that season that he earned a cup of coffee in the NHL due to injuries, putting up a decent 1-5-6 in 17 games with 6 PIMs and a -9. That’s when his profile increased in the organization. He started this season in Bakersfield, but when he lit up the minors with 3-8-11 in 14 games with 4 PIMs and a -5, and with the big league team once again running into injuries, he put up 4-5-9 in 43 games with 10 PIMs and a -1, pretty good for a rookie D. He made it into 2 playoff games and didn’t produce any offence in those games.
Still, though, Jones has done pretty well for a 4th round pick. Scouting report is here.
Going forward: He wasn’t sent back down to Bakersfield after Kris Russell became healthy again, which to me says that they plan to keep him around for the long term now. He has NHL and pro athlete pedigree as he’s the brother of Seth Jones, and his father was an NBA player. I fully expect Ken Holland to trade Kris Russell before his contract is up – preferably in the offseason – and give Jones a permanent spot on the bottom pairing, and to see him earn his way into the top 4 in a couple of seasons from now.
Round 5, 124th overall – Ethan Bear
Right defenceman Bear took a more traditional route than Jones did to the bigs. He spent 5 seasons in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds, with his offence improving every year to the point where he put up 70 points – 28-42-70 – in 67 games all with a +34 and 21 PIMs. How this guy fell to the 5th round is a mystery to me.
That same year he lit up the WHL playoffs, going 6-20-26 in 17 playoff games for the Thunderbirds with 12 PIMs to boot. He graduated to the AHL in 2017-18, getting noticed in the organization as a rookie pro by going 6-12-18 in 37 games with a -8 and 12 PIMs, pretty solid numbers for a raw rookie professional.
He got his first callup to the Oilers that same year due to injuries and put up 1-3-4 in 18 games with 10 PIMs and a -11. Again, solid numbers for a callup.
He spent all of 2018-19 in Bakersfield, and in that season he really flourished, going 6-25-31 with a +14 and 34 PIMs. In 8 playoff games for the Condors that season, he finished with 2-2-4 in 8 games and another 4 PIMs.
Fast forward to 2019-20 and he won a spot on the team out of training camp in October, and within short order was trusted with 20 minutes a night and a spot in the top 4 alongside Darnell Nurse and time on the 2nd unit PP. He finished the season with 5-16-21 in 71 games, with a -4 and 33 PIMs. He played 4 games and produced no offence or PIMs in the playoffs, but I tend to overlook that for now since he just finished his first full season as an NHLer.
Fantastic progression for a 5th round pick. Hands up, how many of you would like to draft a top 4 D in the 5th round? I know I would. The scouting report is here.
Going forward: Scouting report says he’s where he’s going to be his entire career, but you never know with these things. We still don’t know exactly what we have with this guy as he’s only played 89 NHL games.
Round 6, 154th overall – John Marino
Like Caleb Jones, Marino took a rather unorthodox route to the NHL. He started out in the USPHL. I can’t gauge exactly what kind of league it is, whether it’s amateur or semi-pro or what, but that’s where he started for 2 seasons. He then did 1 season in the USHL before playing hockey for 3 seasons at Harvard University in the NCAA.
Here, he didn’t do very well, with years of 15, 16, and 11 points, all between 33-35 games. 1 thing that did stand out for him, however – the 1st 2 seasons there he produced +/- scores of +20 and +21, then cratering to -3 in his last year. His PIMs there were 24, 10, and 20 respectively.
Here’s where things get interesting. The Oilers offered him a contract to graduate to Bakersfield – if I had to guess I’d say a 2 way contract between Bakersfield and Wichita. He refused to sign here. It took me a while to find out why, but then I found this article here – another blog that states that Marino looked at the defensive depth on the team and decided there was too much risk of him getting buried and did something rarely ever seen from prospects by turning down the contract. I can’t seem to find a news site to confirm this so we’ll just go with that.
So, hindsight being 20/20 we can’t really blame Ken Holland for what he did next with this player last year – faced with a declining asset that refused to report for development elsewhere in the organization. Plus a time crunch to get him signed, Holland traded away his negotiation rights to Pittsburgh for a conditional 2021 6th round pick. The condition being that if Marino signed an entry-level contract with Pittsburgh prior to the 2021 draft, or if Pittsburgh traded away his neg rights elsewhere, then the Oilers received their 6th rounder in 2021.
Well, as it turned out, Marino DID sign an ELC with the Pens so the Oilers get that pick, and have 2 6th rounders for the 2021 draft. You decide if that’s good asset management. Here’s where the story gets REALLY weird, though – without any time whatsoever in the AHL, KHL, Europe, or anywhere else, Marino makes the Pens roster this year out of nowhere and has a really good season.
He went 6-20-26 in 56 games for the Pens, with 20 PIMs and – get this – +20. This is a kid who looked a gift horse in the mouth with the Oilers and managed to master the hardest skill in the hardest position in the NHL for a rookie with another team. Incredible. The scouting report is here.
Going forward: Whether he can maintain the momentum he started with the Pens this year is another story, but I’d say he’s arrived where he could spend his career. It’s true that the Pens defence is lacking, so if that continues to hold true and Marino maintains or improves his production then I’d say the sky’s the limit for him.
Bet: Covered, but unfortunately not with the Oilers
Round 7, 208th overall – Miroslav Svoboda
Svoboda was a goalie the Oilers took a flyer on in the 7th round. He’s had a weird career. He played 1 game in the Czech league in 2014-15 where he let in 6 goals in the game. Ouch. Then he didn’t play hockey at all for another 3 seasons before resurfacing with a different Czech league team to rebound to put up a .925 sv% and 2.10 GAA.
He came over to North America the next season to the ECHL and put up rather pedestrian numbers of a 3.14 GAA and a .910 sv% in 14 games. After that he went back to Europe, where he bounced around for 4 seasons straight, until this past season when he wound up back in the Czech league – again, for a different club – posting a decent 2.87 GAA and a .920 sv%. Now he’s an RFA. The scouting report is unavailable, but do you really want to read one on him anyway?
Going forward: Any chance he gives North America another shot? Probably not, considering he was a rather average ECHL level goalie. He’s not getting anywhere near an NHL roster. Even if he was NHL capable, within the next 2 seasons the Oilers will have 3 legit prospects they’re all pretty high on in goal, and they wouldn’t have room for him anyway.
Bet: Not covered.
Round 7, 209th overall – Ziyat Paigin
Left defencemen Ziyat Paigin was a Russian the Oilers took a flyer on. He started out in the KHL for Kazan Ak-Bars and never put up more than 1-2 points in his 1st 2 seasons. He had a couple of PIMs along the way too – only 2 in both seasons – and the only bright spot for him was he finished at +3 and +2. Seemed like a stay at home guy, until next season – 2015-16 – with Sochi HC when he put up 9-18-27 in 37 games with 8 PIMS and a +3. He maintained that momentum with Kazan Ak-Bars the next season when he put up 1-3-4 in 17 games with Kazan Ak-Bars, and although he had 4 PIMs his +/- dipped to -7.
Nonetheless, the Oilers brought him over to Bakersfield after that where over the next 2 seasons he played in 12 games for Bakersfield and produced no offence at all, 6 PIMs total, and -3 and -4 in those 2 seasons respectively.
That same season – 2017-18 – the Oilers sent him back to the KHL where he’s been ever since. After that, he never put up more than 12 points in a season over there.
Going forward: He’ll probably spend the rest of his career as a 6th-7th d-man in the KHL. I can’t even find contract information for him now. All I know is he won’t get close to an NHL team. His offence doesn’t translate, which is fine because he’s not the first European player who can’t play here and he won’t be the last.
Bet: Not covered
Overall impression of the 2015 NHL Draft
This draft will go down in Oilers history as the best draft haul since the early 80s when the Oilers drafted most of their core players in the dynasty years in 1981 and 1982.
In this draft, the Oilers got a superstar forward, 2 top 4 d-men, and 1 d-man who for now is on the 3rd pairing. The only 2 picks that were misses were both of the 7th rounders – which is fine because those picks are unlikely to become NHL players anyway. It produced 2 d-men that are on our roster today who we sorely needed to shore up an area that prior to was a sore spot for the team in both roster makeup and drafting. We also gave the Penguins one of their top 4 d-men, which I’m sure they thank us for.
Most astonishingly to me is we hit on our 4th, 5th, and 6th round picks. That’s an incredibly rare thing to do as even in a deep draft the surefire NHLers drop off after the 2nd round. But to manage to find 3 guys in the later rounds? That’s legendary drafting.