Digging for gems on draft day

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

RALEIGH -- Winning makes his job a lot more difficult, but that's a trade-off Edmonton Oilers chief scout and vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast and his staff will take every time.

Playing in the Stanley Cup is hockey's ultimate goal, but the rub for the scouting staffs of teams that get their names engraved on the Cup is that it means picking late in the first round - and the Oilers don't even have that this year because they dealt their first-round pick to Minnesota for Dwayne Roloson.

More work for the scouts. Happy work.

"Winning is what this game is all about," said Prendergast.

It goes without saying Prendergast would rather watch Oiler draftees play for the Stanley Cup every season and take a late pick in the Entry Draft than be on the outside looking in when the post-season begins with a top-10 pick as a consolation prize.

"Absolutely," he said.

As it stands now, the Oilers won't have a selection until the second round in Vancouver this week because they dealt their first pick to Minnesota for Roloson at the trade deadline. They pick 45th.

"We've worked hard at it," Prendergast said. "As a staff, we work as a team. We have a boss who had given us an opportunity to do our job and we take chances on players because we have feelings about players.

"For a lot of years this team didn't have a lot of success with second-round picks, but we've been pretty good in the last few years."

The Oilers got Jarret Stoll 36th in 2002. They plucked Matt Greene 44th overall in the same draft. In his first draft as Oilers GM, Kevin Lowe got Brad Winchester 35th in 2000 at Prendergast's urging.

"I think what we have done over the last five or six years is establish a pretty good base of young players who are showing they're going to be able to play here for a long time," he said.

"We've had a lot of success with second-rounders and picks in the later rounds, so it's not as if we rely only on our first-rounders to make the organization better.

"Obviously, it's an important pick, but we have a pretty staff as far as identifying the talent and bringing in players. Look at some of the players who have contributed this year."

Lowe and the Oilers might opt to move up from 45th pick in Vancouver via a trade, but that'll only happen if there's a chance to move into the top 10. The 2006 crop of prospects isn't deep.

The way Prendergast reads the field, the Oilers can likely get the same quality of prospect with the 45th pick as they can with anything in the first round once you get beyond the first 10 selections.

"When you look at the nucleus of the hockey club and what some of the kids, like Matt Greene, have done, we have some good prospects here and more on the way."

"We can continue to add good prospects, be it with the 30th, 40th or 60th pick. We just have to find a way to do our job."


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