There are always some players that slip through the cracks. Some that develop slower than expected. Or just some that might be good but don’t quite fit in with the organizational plan and depth chart.
In the past few decades, the Edmonton Oilers have seen a few of these players come through the system. Prospects and younger players who weren’t quite given a long enough chance to make an impact with the team or were shipped off in the hopes that the return would be more impactful. Often times, that was not the case. The player who left the Oilers went on to have a successful career elsewhere, and the return did not.
Here are six former Edmonton Oilers draft picks and prospects that the team gave up on just a bit too quickly.
Rucinsky quickly made an impact within the organization, spending just a few months in the AHL before making his NHL debut in January of his post-draft season. But he played just two games with the Oilers before being traded to the Quebec Nordiques.
That move was a huge mistake in hindsight. The returning players, Ron Tugnutt (29 games) and Brad Zavisha (2 games), played a combined 31 games with the Oilers and both were out of the organization by the end of the 1993–94 season.
Rucinsky, on the other hand, went on to enjoy a lengthy and successful career, though he was a bit of a journeyman and played for seven organizations during his 16 year career. He played in 961 games, recording 612 points. And his playstyle as a hard-nosed, physical forward would have been beneficial and appreciated on some Oilers teams through the 1990s and early 2000s that may have needed a bit of extra grit.
In the 1992 NHL Draft, the Oilers selected Kirk Maltby in the third round, 65th overall. After spending one season in the AHL, he quickly made his way up to the big leagues and became a fairly regular player in the Oilers lineup. Over the next three seasons, he played in 68, 47, and 49 games respectively, with a total of 38 points.
But in the middle of this third season, the organization decided they needed to fill a different need and Maltby was the player deemed expendable. The Oilers needed a defender and in came Dan McGillis in this swap.
McGillis played in just two seasons with the Oilers before being traded out.
Maltby, however, spent the next 14 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, helping them win four Stanley Cups as a gritty, physical, agitating forward. He was never the most offensively impactful NHLer, with just 260 points in 1072 games, but he made a huge impact with the Red Wings. A much bigger one than McGillis made in Edmonton.
Miroslav Satan is yet another example of a player the Oilers got rid of in an attempt to save money. The Slovak winger, selected 111th overall in the 1993 NHL Draft, came over to North America for the 1994–95 season and immediately made an impact. Part of his performance that season included 40 points in 25 games with the Cape Breton Oilers of the AHL.
Satan quickly got bumped to the NHL, where he spent just under two seasons with the Oilers. He had 63 points in 126 games in Edmonton. Fairly respectful numbers for a young player in the mid 90s. But maybe just a bit too promising as he was shipped off to the Buffalo Sabres before he needed a new contract.
Satan did significantly better. He enjoyed a 14-year career in which he played 1050 games with 363 goals and 735 points. During his eight seasons in Buffalo, he would end up becoming one of the top 10 scoring leaders in franchise history. He won multiple awards as captain of the Slovakian team at the World Championships and played in four Olympic Games.
Although Jeff Petry was a bit older when he was shipped out of Edmonton, the context and stage of his career makes this a huge loss.
Petry was selected in the second round, 45th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the next four seasons playing university hockey in the U.S. before finally turning pro at the end of the 2009–10 season.
Before he had even played a full season in the AHL, Petry was called up to the Oilers in the middle of the 2010–11 season and immediately took on a huge role on Edmonton’s defence, averaging over 20 minutes per game right off the bat.
Playing parts of five seasons with the Oilers, Petry seemed to hit a ceiling at this stage as he struggled to break past a 20-25 point pace over a full season. And at the trade deadline in 2014–15, he was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second and fifth round draft pick.
This was a bad trade at the time, and one that former GM Craig MacTavish regretted from the start as he knew they might be trading the team’s best defender. And in hindsight, it remains a bad trade and one of his biggest regrets was not signing Petry to a long-term deal.
This one is still a bit early. But it is on track to be one of those players that the Oilers will likely regret not holding on to.
John Marino was the 154th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He spent his post-draft seasons playing for Harvard University until the Oilers traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 for a sixth round draft pick in 2021.
The pick, used to select Shane Lachance, has not given the Oilers anything they can use. Marino, however, immediately signed with the Penguins and made the team the following season, playing in 56 games during his rookie season.
Since then, he has become a consistent 20-25 point, right shot defender and is playing on the second pairing for the New Jersey Devils. Considering the Oilers have a bit of possible hole to fill in that particular spot in the lineup, they might be regretting trading away Marino right about now.
Which draft picks or prospects would you add to this list? Drop a comment down below!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire