As the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of a spectacularly bad start, there are a lot of knives out and everyone has a theory. I’ve written several articles now saying that the main problem is Ken Holland and how he built this team around McDrai. He has two premiere players on his roster and very good cap hits (both signed by former GM Peter Chiarelli). He has not built a good enough roster around them. Currently, our goalies are Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard in Holland’s fifth year. Jack Campbell is being destroyed in the AHL. Connor Brown is about to take over $3M of our cap next year for playing his 10th game—something I would highly advise against. Cody Ceci is in our top four.
The Brown cap hit is not Holland’s problem but it is an Oiler problem next year. While there is no official confirmation, it seems pretty clear that this is now the Jeff Jackson Era. Holland would appear to be riding out his contract and going into the sunset to be celebrated as a HOF GM. He signed Campbell and then fired Jay Woodcroft who got “goalied”. Woodcroft was probably the last person who was to blame for this whole mess. In fact, he’s the most winning Oiler coach in history.
His regular season and playoff records are both very good. However, coach is usually the first to go. My guess is Woodcroft will be back in the NHL and will be successful. Time will tell. How he wasn’t afforded a “bold” trade for a new defenceman or goalie is beyond me though.
Holland’s most recent missteps
Today is about Holland and another huge mistake he has made. Before Holland we had Chiarelli and he was famous for rushing players. You get drafted in June and you are in the NHL by Halloween. It rarely worked and was a bad strategy. Holland was the exact opposite of this. Holland is an over riper! He keeps the prospects in the AHL for too long and they eventually become great AHL players but not great NHL ones. I’d argue neither GM is doing it right and they are both equally terrible at drafting and developing.
Ken Holland is now in Year 5. He has been at five drafts and has almost nothing to show for it. We will not have one Holland drafted player in the lineup in our next game. We do not have a roster that is supplanted by second to seventh rounders. We don’t have a roster that is benefitting from elite first rounders either. In fact, if you told me the NHL took away all our draft picks the last five years then I’d argue our roster would be almost the same as today. Not good enough. Building through the draft is a trait of highly successful teams. For example, the Boston Bruin’s “perfection” line was a late first, second, and third rounder. The closest the Oilers would have to that would be Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod, and Jujhar Khaira. Far from perfection. The other reason building through the draft is because those players are much less expensive while they are on their ELCs.
So let’s look back at all of Holland’s drafts. To be fair, I will only use his first three drafts as the most recent two drafts are too soon to tell. They don’t look promising but you never know.
Holland’s draft history
Holland’s first draft was 2019.
At this point. These players should be making NHL impacts. They are 22 to 23 years old and, if they are NHL players, they should be making an impact. Goalies may be an exception to this rule. Holland’s first draft has 12 NHL points. One for Dallas and 11 for us. Raphael Lavoie has yet to get a point and is miscast in the bottom six playing less than ten minutes a game, shuttling back and forth between the AHL and NHL or a healthy scratch. Philip Broberg himself was sent to the AHL due to waiver issues. However, he was called back up and healthy scratched. He has lost his job to Vincent Desharnais who is a very questionable NHL player himself. Players taken after Broberg include Trevor Zegras, Matt Boldy, and Cole Caufield. Goalies include Dustin Wolf, Spencer Knight, and Pyotr Kotchetkov.
Next draft was 2020.
Dylan Holloway has one point in 14 games this season. He is, again, out with a longer term injury. Some will argue he was “coming along nicely” but I’d argue one point in 14 games three years after being drafted isn’t very good. Love the player but it’s not going well. Dawson Mercer and JJ Peterka are notable players taken after Holloway. No notable goalies (today) taken in later rounds in the draft.
2021 is the last draft I will use.
Xavier Bourgault is doing ok in the AHL. He has not really demonstrated elite offensive skills and may end up being more of a bottom-six grinder. He has five points in 10 games in the AHL. However, he was playing with Sam Gagner when he got four of them. There is still time and maybe it gets better, but he’s not lighting the world on fire and I’m not sure when, or if, he’ll ever be a full time NHLer for us in the top six (which is where you’d like your first-round winger to end up). Matvey Petrov may be a steal but time will tell. He has one point in 10 games in the AHL. Luca Munzenberger may become a decent NHL defenceman one day but it won’t be soon. He has had no points in six games in his third season in the NCAA.
It is worth mentioning that we had Jesper Walstedt fall into our laps and traded the pick away. Walstedt seems to be well on this way to being an NHL backup and then starter in the next few seasons. He won’t be an NHL starter this season and he wouldn’t fix any of our problems today. However, he may make his NHL debut before Bourgault does. I’d give it very high odds that he will also be a much more impactful NHL player. Worst case scenario? He’d be a much more valuable trade chip today. It’s never a problem to have too many good goalies. Wyatt Johnson was the next pick and already has 54 points in the NHL.
Too soon to analyze recent draft picks
I don’t think it is fair to use the last two drafts as it is too soon to tell. I will post them though and say that I don’t think there is an NHL superstar in this group. Reid Schaefer may be the best Holland pick in five years. He was part of the brilliant Mattias Ekholm trade. Beau Akey seems promising but has picked up season ending shoulder injury which is a tradition for promising prospects in Edmonton.
At this point, Holland hasn’t drafted one impactful player on the roster today. None of them have high trade value either. 21 NHL points in five years of drafting. My first move would’ve been to fire Holland and not Woodcroft.