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Decision time for Oilers scouting staff

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor (left) looks over the 2008 NHL Entry Draft list as the scouts deliberate their final choices.

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There's no exact science when it comes to selecting players at the NHL Entry Draft but the Oilers' tight-knit scouting staff has nailed down a method that has had some success over the years with a few tweaks here and there each season.

The final chapter of the 2009 Edmonton Oilers NHL Entry Draft Battle Plan will be drawn out this week beginning with scout meetings in Montreal that start on Tuesday and will run regularly until the morning of Friday's draft day.


"We consider the top seven, maybe eight to be A+ players. There's a little drop after that, probably in the next five to six range," said Oilers Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast.

"We know at 10 we're going to get a good player. We're going to have our pick we think of probably two or three players - it's just a matter of separating the ones that we think are going to be best-suited for the Oilers."

Whoever the Oilers get at 10th overall (if that's where they ultimately end up picking) won't be the type of player to provide an immediate impact and Prendergast made sure to make that point.

"We're not going to get a Crosby or an Ovechkin at 10 but we'll take the best player available," he said. "We're not interested in position. The player coming out at 10th for us this year is probably not going to help the club for three or four years.

"We have no idea what our team is going to look like in three or four years. We'd be foolish not to take the best player available."

On the optimistic side, last year, the Oilers picked 22nd overall - 12 spots lower than they are slated to choose this season - and walked away with a gem of a pick in Jordan Eberle.

"This is a good draft. We thought last year was a good draft. We came out of our meetings hoping Eberle would be our guy at 22 and we got him."

While still difficult to predict, when the team does its rankings they should be able to more precisely determine which players will be available when it's time to make their selection due to the earlier choice.

"We think at this point going into this draft there's three players that we really like at 10 and we know we're going to get one of them. It's just we're not sure which one.

"Hopefully we get to meet them at the draft and simplify it from there."


Narrowing down their choices is a process that began a year ago but enters the final stages beginning tomorrow.

"We have a meeting Tuesday night and we'll probably meet with a couple players on Wednesday then we'll meet again Thursday night - and again Friday morning before we go over for the pick," remarked Prendergast.

Initial preparation for this year's draft began when the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa ended. Head Scout Stu MacGregor and the scouts then put together a list of the top prospects projected for the following year. Close tabs are kept on the players before the scouts come together during the season to discuss rankings.

"We have two conference calls over the course of the year and two meetings - a midterm meeting and a final meeting," noted Prendergast.

The meetings and conference calls during the season help the scouts focus on certain players. With hundreds available it's certainly beneficial to keep that list narrowed down.

"(The team's midterm ranking) is not as comprehensive as the final list, obviously, but we try to break it down," said Prendergast. "We concentrate our efforts on looking at those guys until the end of the year."

The players the team concentrates on includes top prospects John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene even though those three will be long gone should Edmonton's first choice remain in the 10th overall position.

"We want to make sure in case there's trades or we move back or up in the draft that we're pretty much on top of the top 60 players for sure."

At the end of the season, the scouts, Prendergast, MacGregor, Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe get together to try and come up with a ranking for a good number of the draft eligible players.

"We put our list together, put 150 guys on our list and let the guys hash it out," said Prendergast.

That final meeting took place several weeks ago as the Oilers brass gathered in Kelowna, BC. The rankings were determined but there will be some movement this week over several days of meetings in Montreal.

"We give them a couple weeks to think about it then we'll meet back in Montreal on the Tuesday before the draft and give us three days to finalize from there," he remarked.

"We make sure we spend a lot of time looking over the little things. We give them a couple weeks to look at the list and they always come back with 'maybe I was too hard on this guy or too soft on this guy' and we'll change it from there."

The discussions can get pretty heated as certain scouts favour certain players and it can be difficult to come to a consensus.

"There's a lot of talk, a lot of cursing but it's a good staff," Prendergast chuckled. "They've worked together a long time, they understand each other."

In the end, for the second year, the absolute final ranking comes down to MacGregor with Prendergast overlooking the process.

"I oversee it. I try to see as many top-end players as I can so I have an opinion on those guys. Over the course of the year I get to see different players in Europe and it's good to see where they fit in on the overall list., Prendergast said. "I use Stu as a sounding board. He's seen them all, I've seen some of them only once or twice."
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