OKLAHOMA CITY - It was Saturday June 26, 2010, Day 2 of the NHL Entry Draft in the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
It may turn out to be one of the greatest days in Edmonton Oilers history.
All year, all anybody talked about was Taylor versus Tyler. Hall or Seguin. Who do you take No. 1.
Anybody can pick Taylor Hall. But the true measure of a team at the draft table and as a development organization is who makes it from second-round selections.
And it’s starting to show soon now Stu MacGregor and the Oilers scouting staff did that day.
It may be ballistic.
“If you get two guys who make it to the NHL, that’s a real good draft,” said MacGregor. “Three is exceptional. Any more beyond that is off the charts.”
It’s starting to look like 2010 could be off the charts.
“At this point, it’s starting to look like it could be,” said MacGregor via cell phone from somewhere out there tracking down the class of 2013.
“Taylor Hall is there already. Now we watch as they sort out the rest.
“There is a chance, a real good chance, the 2010 draft could be of huge impact. If it develops into the depth we think it can, we think it could be the basis of the long-term goal of the Oilers becoming a playoff team, and then more than a playoff team.”
On the second day of that draft, the Oilers opened proceedings by selecting Tyler Pitlick 31st overall and were back at it twice more that round, choosing Martin Marincin 46th and Curtis Hamilton 48th.
Then they took a flyer on Ryan Martindale at 61st, the first pick of the third round.
By the time they were down to 121st, it was the pre-planned time to take a goalie and they chose Tyler Bunz.
Then they threw a dart and picked Brandon Davidson 162nd and then went so far off the board it was ridiculous and took a kid named Kristians Pelss at 181st.
“We were very fortunate that year. We thought it was a very good draft to fill in spots. On the second day of the draft we were concentrating on size and good hockey sense,” said MacGregor.
With the exception of Bunz, last year’s WHL goaltender of the year who they want to play 60 games with Stockton in the ECHL, they’re all here this year, they’re all members of the Oklahoma City Barons.
In 2010 GM Steve Tambellini gave MacGregor the bullets. It was essentially the year Tambellini and staff put together the development model to take the Oilers to a place they’d never been before, one only the Detroit Red Wings had ever aspired to become, and realized, as an organization.
“That’s one draft we all feel pretty good about already. We’re extremely pleased with that draft,” said Tambellini, here watching them develop before his own eyes during the lockout.
“We filled a lot of different spots with a lot of different players. I think Stu is right. That draft has a chance to be off the charts.”
Barons GM Bill Scott said it’s already off the charts.
“It’s extremely rare to get that many guys to the AHL from one draft, much less than to have them all there at the same time so soon after the draft.
“Put it in context. Teams are only assigned seven players from a draft. To have three picks in the second round and to find somebody like Pelss in the seventh round …
“It’s not an exact science picking players in the first round,” he said.
Exactly. In 2007 the Oilers had three picks in the first round and took Sam Gagner who made it, Alex Plante, who was the worst player on the ice here in each of the last two games, and Riley Nash of the Charlotte Checkers.
“It’s a crapshoot in the later rounds but those are the picks where you build depth. And these guys are all different and they all have a chance,” said Scott.
“It’s pretty unusual to have this many guys with the potential to make the NHL,” said coach Todd Nelson.
“You certainly have to give the scouting staff credit.”
It was the job of MacGregor to find them. It’s the job of coach Nelson to develop them. Accompanying this column are their observations on the Class of 2010 from scouting to selection to where they were, where they are and where they’re going.
Stu MacGregor: “We went for size in Pitlik. We just saw a big kid at 6-foot-2 with a real good wrist shot. We thought he was a player who could be developed. I’m very pleased with the way I’m told he’s progressing now.”
Todd Nelson: “Last year Tyler was trying hard to find his way. He picked it up in the second half of the season and had a good playoffs. He came to camp this year a much more confident player. He still needs to find consistency, but I see him as an NHL player. I really do. I can see him being an impact player in the NHL.”
Stu MacGregor: “We got the pick in a trade for Riley Nash and with that pick we were really hoping to get a defenceman. Our European scout Frank Musil was pushing for him. We’d seen him as a 17-year-old at the World Junior in Saskatoon. He was tall and slender and could skate well and had real good sense with the puck. A lot of the decision involved the knowledge he planned to come to North America to play junior as an 18-year-old.”
Todd Nelson: “His body has to mature. As long as his body keeps maturing, he’ll be able to sustain the game at the NHL level. He’s rangy and green still, but there’s tremendous upside. Everybody is looking for 6-foot-5 defencemen with offensive ability. I think he has great opportunity to see games in the NHL.”
Stu MacGregor: “Hamilton’s selection was totally about size and real good hockey sense. It’s been a struggle for him. He missed a lot of games in junior because he broke his collar bone twice. As a result he hadn’t developed the way he should have. But he happened to make the World Junior in Buffalo as an extra forward and became a pretty important cog on that team.”
Todd Nelson: “Last year he was like Pitlik, really tryiing to find his way. Like Pitlik he came on in the second half of the season. Curtis, however, suffered a knee injury. He’s a smart player and it’s really up to him. It’s an important year for him.”
Stu MacGregor: “Again, he was a big kid. Our Ontario scouts, Kent Hawley and Brad Davis, both felt good about this guy. They felt he had a real good feel for the game. I was happy to see he had a couple assists his first game. The reports I’ve read say he had a really good training camp.”
Todd Nelson: “It was a bit of a wake-up call for him to spend most of the season in Stockton in the ECHL last year. From the time we sent him down to when we called him back up, his development in terms of maturity had really changed. He was a different person, a much more mature person. He’s leaned out, lost 20 pounds and 4% body fat. His speed increased.”
Stu MacGregor: “That’s the pick we’d decided ahead of time that we intended to use to get a goalie. What we liked about him then was that he really battled and was really competitive. That’s what drew us to him. He was all over the place at that time. In his development he really calmed down. I love how he’s developing. I think we have a real prospect there.”
Todd Nelson: “He has tremendous upside. He’s a big goaltender. He’s a horse. I project him as a starter at this level and a starter in the NHL. He is definitely a part of the Oilers future in net.”
Stu MacGregor: “He didn’t make it to the WHL until he was 18. When you’re picking 162nd, you’re looking at real long shots. We stuck with looking at guys who could think the game and had real passion in their play. It looked like there might be something there. I’m really pleased for him to be in OKC. He’s worked really hard.”
Todd Nelson: “He’s just developing into a hockey player. He’s not a pretty player but he gets the job done. He battles like a warrior. He’s a strong kid in the corners. What he lacks in skill he makes up in heart and desire.”
Stu MacGregor: “Now, he’s interesting. I think he could fit into the Oilers plans in a role as a high energy guy who can skate. I was at the World U-18 with Oil Kings general manager Bob Green when we both saw the kid. Frank Musil did some clandestine work to see if he’d come over to play for the Oil Kings. Knowing that, I figured ‘Let’s take a swing at this guy.’ We even had to add him to the Central Scouting draft list so we could pick him. When you do that he only appears on your list.”
Todd Nelson: “He’s way more responsible defensively that I gave him credit for. He has tremendous speed but part of his game that I didn’t know he had was his grit. He has to play and get the minutes but I think he has an opportunity to be a third- or fourth-line penalty-kill role player in the NHL.”
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