After a year without a first-round pick, the Edmonton Oilers roared back onto the draft scene in 2007 with three opening-round selections. One of those picks was Sam Gagner
who surprised everybody, including the Oilers brass, by making the NHL and playing a key role on the team.
RELATED: Take a look at every Oilers draft choice from 1979 to 2007 SAM GAGNER, Centre (6th overall)
|Forward Sam Gagner, center, poses after being selected by the Edmonton Oilers during the first round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, June 22, 2007.(AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz,CP) |
At sixth overall, it doesn't get much better than Sam Gagner
- at least in this short a time span.
"It's like winning the lottery with the way Sam came in. We knew he was an outstanding player but to do what he did for our team last year was extraordinary," gushed Oilers VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast.
It's hard to believe that one year ago, Gagner wasn't even a part of the Oilers organization. As an 18 year old and the youngest player in the NHL in 2007-08, Gagner had 13 goals and 49 points in 79 games - the majority of which were collected in the latter-half of the season.
"From our standpoint, the scouting staff, we're ecstatic. We feel the other guys we took in that round are going to be good players too but when you get a young player step right into your lineup like he does it's a bonus for everybody."
ALEX PLANTE, Defence (15th overall)
While Gagner was a real success story, it was a tough campaign for defenceman Alex Plante
The lanky defenceman was taken midway through the opening round in 2007 and the Oilers had plenty of expectations that he would improve on his 38 point season in 2006-07. But a series of injuries limited him to only two points in 36 games for the Calgary Hitmen (WHL).
"Last season was a tough year for him but he's erased that and is ready to move on," Prendergast noted. "He looked very good in the two weeks in California. Chad Moreau and Scotty Hoyer were very happy with his training. You can tell by just looking at him, he's getting bigger now."
Having just turned 19, Plante has the ability to rebound and looks poised to do just that in 08-09.
"His skating on the ice has been very very good. He's looking forward to the future and forgetting about the past." RILEY NASH, Centre (21st overall)
The Oilers went a little off the board when they traded their 30th and 36th picks to Phoenix in exchange for 21st overall. But they got the player they wanted all along in that position - Riley Nash.
"We drafted him because he has all of what you want in a potential pro player. He's smart at both ends of the ice, he has great hands, he thinks the game, is not afraid of the physical aspect of it," said Prendergast.
Nash progressed from the third line to second and ultimately made it to the top line for Cornell. He ranked second on the team in scoring as a freshman with 32 points in 36 games. For his efforts, Nash was named ECAC Rookie of the Year.
"We'll have a close look at him in Cornell again next year and see whether maybe at the end of next year it's time to bring him out. We certainly feel he's going to be a big part of the Oilers for a long time."
LINUS OMARK, LW (97th overall)
Oilers fans got a brief look at Linus Omark
earlier this month when he arrived from Europe to take part in the team's Development Camp.
"It was his first foray into North America and it went well. We really like him," said Prendergast. "He reminds us a lot of what Cogliano brings to the table. He's explosive, he's small, he's able to score and make things happen."
At only 19 years of age, Omark was only a few points off the pace of highly-touted prospect Fabian Brunnstrom.
"He played in the Swedish Elite League this year and had 34 points which is very good for a 19-year-old player."
The Oilers look to have Omark in their long term plans but for now, he'll stay in Europe.
"He's got one more year on his contract over there and then we'll have a serious look at bringing him over next season." MILAN KYTNAR, Centre (127th overall)
Edmonton's selection of Milan Kytnar
at 127th overall last year had some members of the media scrambling to find him in the draft guide book.
However, the Slovakian made himself easy to find this past season. After attending Oilers Rookie Camp in Yellowknife, he spent the season playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.
"He's got a little work to do on his skating but here's a kid who's going to stay in North America and train this summer. He's got to get a little bit stronger," Prendergast remarked.
The VP of Hockey Ops added that it was an adjustment for Kytnar to play the North American game.
"Had one season in Kelowna last year. It was a little eye-opener for him." WILLIAM QUIST, Left Wing (15th overall)
William Quist also came over for Rookie Camp last year but did not make an appearance at Development Camp.
"He didn't come over. He's got a contract to play in Sweden this year," Prendergast noted.
Quist had six goals and 13 points in 17 games for Tingsryds in Swedish Division I but the Oilers hoped for more.
"A little disappointed in his development last season but he had a great camp for us last year. We'll see what happens in September if he wants to come back over to training camp we'll have another look at him. If not, we'll follow him throughout the course of the season."