As the Edmonton Oilers prepare for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft this Friday evening, we look back at how the team did one year ago at the 2006 draft.
The dynamics between the draft this year and last are very different. The Oilers have four picks in the first 36 this year while last year they didn’t choose until 45th. Still, Oilers V.P. of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast was happy with the results one year ago and is satisfied with the progress of the team’s five picks.
A look back at the five draft choices of 2006:JEFF PETRY - D
Round 2, 45th overallJeff Petry
made great strides this season for the Des Moines Bucaneers of the USHL. After a 2005-06 campaign that saw him score once and add 14 assists in 48 games, the Oilers took a flyer on the 6’2” defenceman.
“Going into last year’s draft when we left our meetings the one player we all had a consensus on that we hoped we’d get our hands on is Jeff Petry
and that’s the player we got at 45. It was a long wait but we certainly feel that we got a diamond in the rough with him,” Prendergast said.
The choice paid off in spades as Petry was outstanding this past year, scoring 18 goals and racking up 45 points in addition to being a defensive force for the Bucaneers. For his efforts, he was named USA Hockey’s Junior Player of the Year. The Oilers couldn’t have been happier with his progress.
“When we left our meetings last year, he was the consensus pick that we had our fingers crossed. We had to sit there for a long time but he was the kid we wanted,” he said.
With Petry moving on to Michigan State, the Oilers hope that his development will continue on the same upward path.
“I like everything about the kid. He’s got hockey sense; he plays tough, has a great shot. He has great pedigree – his dad played for the Tigers,” Prendergast noted. “He’s going to Michigan State, defending national champions. He’s going into a system, which I think is really suited for him because they think defence over there. They produce very good defensive hockey players and him being a defenceman we think it’s great for us.”
Petry wasn’t in Vancouver on draft day but he was thrilled to be chosen by Edmonton.
“I really didn’t know where I was going to be picked. I heard anywhere from late first to third. We were in Windsor – me and my parents – and I got the call from my advisor,” Petry said. “He was saying I got picked 45th overall by the Oilers. I didn’t figure it out until the next day when I was looking at it that it was their first pick and that meant a lot.”THEO PECKHAM - D
Round 3, 75th overall
The Edmonton Oilers got a pleasant surprise with the emergence of Theo Peckham
as a player who can contribute both offensively and defensively. Peckham, chosen in the third round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, made huge strides in his breakout 2006-07 campaign.
“We thought he had it (in him),” stated Oilers V.P. of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast.
With Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League, Peckham put up 10 goals and 35 points in 53 games – more than doubling his career-high output of 15 points set in 67 games the previous season.
“I had a good chance to work on my skills and develop more as a player,” said Peckham of his success.
Heading into what will be his first pro campaign in 2007-08, Peckham has set the bar even higher. Despite the improvements the 6’2” 216 pound defenceman made, he knows he can still get better.
“I had a couple of injuries and suspensions – the injuries weren’t really avoidable but the suspensions were,” he said. “I got off to a really good start but they kind of slowed me down.”
Prendergast has those same expectations for the bruising rearguard.
“He’s a lot more confident than he was last September,” noted the Oilers’ V.P. of Hockey Ops. “We certainly expect him to be a big part of our team in Springfield.”BRYAN PITTON - G
Round 5, 133rd overall
The Oilers third pick was a goaltender – Bryan Pitton of the Brampton Battalion. Pitton played in only 24 games in 2005-06 but Prendergast said he liked what he saw from the butterfly goaltender.
“When we drafted him he was the backup in Brampton, he didn’t play a lot. He came in last year as a starter and had his ups and downs. He had some nights where he played very well,” he said.
This past season, Pitton played a ton of games in Brampton, appearing in 61 of the team’s 68 games.
“It was an up-and-down season. I was fortunate enough to get into 61 of the 68 games because my backups were hurt or getting traded away,” he said. “It was a good learning year for (this) year where it really counts. We’re going to have a really good team together and make a good run at it.”
Prendergast feels that if Pitton can improve his strength, he has a future in the NHL.
“He’s very athletic and certainly has the ability to get better. With goaltenders you need more patience with them than any other position. He came a long way last year. He’s got to get stronger to play the amount of games we want him to play.
“This is a big year for him. I think he’ll have a much better team in Brampton this year than last year. The opportunity to be the full-time number one again with more confidence, he’s one of those players we expect big things from this year.”
Pitton remembers draft day well, although he was far away from Vancouver when the Oilers’ pick was made.
“On draft day, my dad took me fishing. He thought it would be a good way to take my mind off the draft,” Pitton said. “We got home just in time to watch the first round. I didn’t really know what to expect – I didn’t know how high I was going. I was hoping for the best and when I saw the Oilers pop up there I couldn’t ask for anything better – coming to a great Canadian team, great fans and a great place to play. I was ecstatic. CODY WILD - D
Round 5, 140th overall
After an injury-plagued sophomore year with Providence College, the Oilers hope Cody Wild will bounce back next season.
“Cody played a lot of this year in Providence hurt with a hip problem. He had it operated on at the end of the season,” said Prendergast.
Wild is the type of offensive defenceman that every NHL team covets. The third blueliner taken by Edmonton out of five picks, he can also skate in addition to handling the puck.
“Even on one leg he was a lot better than a lot of guys on two legs. He’s one of those defencemen who can go get the puck, he can lug it out and carry it plus he likes to shoot it.”
Wild made an appearance at Oilers prospect camp several weeks ago and the team has high hopes that he’ll be able to contribute at the pro level after two more years of college.
“He’s an offensive-type player. He has two more years of school in Providence but he’s a young player. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to get better. He’s playing in a good program there in Providence and I certainly feel he has a chance to be a good NHLer down the road.”ALEXANDER BUMAGIN - F
Round 6, 170th overall
Late picks are a gamble, and in 2006 the Oilers played a wild card with Russian Alexander Bumagin
. The only forward taken by the Oilers in 2006, he showed flashes of brilliance this past season.
“We feel the sky’s the limit for this guy. He’s got nothing but talent but he’s got to understand he has to work harder at becoming a pro,” said Prendergast.
Bumagin struggled somewhat in the Russian Superleague with only two goals and five points in 41 games but playing with his peers he excelled with eight points in six games at the World Junior Championships.
“He plays in the Elite League in Russia and had an up-and-down year there. I think he’s got some maturing to do. Frank Musil spent a week there with him, his coaches and his trainers,” continued Prendergast. “He’s elected to stay in Russia for one more year, which is fine for us. I think he understands the situation a little bit more since Frankie spent that time with him.”
With the possibility of harnessing his talent, Edmonton is investing a lot of time in the development of Bumagin.
“We sent him videos of how we play here with the Oilers and I think that went a long way with him,” Prendergast said. “He’s one of the players next year we’ll be spending a lot more time with and hopefully have him over for the following season.”