Oh Oilers, why do you have to hurt me so? I am a lifelong Edmonton Oilers fan. Doing research on articles like this re-open old wounds and just rubs salt in them. The Edmonton Oilers were one of the greatest dynasties in NHL History. They crushed the New York Islanders drive for five straight Stanley Cups.
The team went on a run of its own winning five cups of their own from the mid-80s until 1990. After their last cup win, the whole team imploded. Many of the stars were moved before that last cup win and the team was just never able to reload properly. The team struggled to draft properly, and no free agents wanted to come to the great white north of Edmonton. The team really needed to hit every 1s round pick out of the park and they failed miserably.
The times they did well was few and far between. For every Ryan Smyth that excelled there was always a Jason Bonsignore that struggled to even make the NHL roster. The Edmonton Oilers have done a better job as of late but the team struggled mightily from the late 80s until the late 00s.
So let's take a sad trip down memory lane and look at the Top 15 Draft Mistakes The Edmonton Oilers Should STILL Be Embarrassed About.
15 Tyler Wright
Tyler Wright was the 12th overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers back in 1991. The Oilers were still a competitive team at the time, so striking out on a pick so spectacularly hurt them. They were on the verge of selling off whatever was left of their Stanley Cup core, so missing on draft picks began to really sting.
Wright had a decent NHL career(613 GP, 79 goals and 70 assists).With the Oilers however, he only played 41 games over four seasons and struggled with only 3 goals and 1 assist in that time. The Oilers traded him to the Penguins for a 7th round pick. His career was revived by the expansion draft but he was a failure with the Oilers. The Oilers missed out on players like Alex Kovalev, Ray Whitney, and Markus Naslund.
14 Rob Schremp
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1000"] via edmontonjournal.com[/caption]
Rob Schremp was a player that was full of potential. He was a top scorer in junior and the Oilers mad him the 25th pick in the 2004 NHL draft. He showed flashes of brilliance in the AHL but couldn’t crack into the NHL with the Oilers. He played in just seven games over 3 years, only having three assists. He played for the Islanders and the Thrashers but was out of the NHL at the age of 24.
Cory Schneider was selected just one pick later by the Vancouver Canucks. He has become one of the best goalies in the NHL, and the Oilers struggled to find a long-term solution in nets for the longest time. Meanwhile Schremp plays in the Swiss-A league in Europe.
13 Jason Soules
The Oilers were looking to bounce back after the offseason from hell back in 1989. The year before, the Oilers made the most unpopular trade in the history of Canadian sports, so it was important that they strike gold on a draft pick or make some sort of big splash.
The Oilers had the 15th overall selection and they chose defenseman Jason Soules. Soules ended up being nothing but a huge disappointment for the Oilers. He failed to even make an impact in the AHL. He got into 52 games at the AHL level where he chipped in 9 assists. He was out of North American hockey by 1992. The Oilers missed out on players like Olaf Kolzig, Bobby Holik, and the NHL's journeyman Mike Sillinger.
12 Magnus Paajarvi
Magnus Paajarvi has to be one of the biggest draft busts of the Edmonton Oilers in recent history. He was selected 10th overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft. He struggled to crack the lineup of a very weak Oilers squad from 2010-2013. His first season was decent as he had 34 points in 80 games. Sadly that is also his career high. He was moved to the St. Louis Blues along with some picks for David Perron. Over four seasons with the Blues he only has 35 points. The Oilers missed out on budding star defenseman Ryan Ellis who was selected with the pick after Magnus. They also could have taken Nick Leddy, who went six picks later. It was yet another miss in what was a terrible GM tenure by Steve Tambellini.
11 Joe Hulbig
Joe Hulbig was selected 13th overall in the 1992 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Hulbig was a huge failure on the Oilers roster. He made his NHL debut during the 1996-97 season. Hulbig only lasted three seasons with the Oilers. During his time with the club, he had 2 goals and 2 assists in 24 games. He moved on to the Bruins in 1999 but he struggled there as well. He played a couple years in the AHL before ending his North American career after the 2003-04 AHL season.
NHL star defenseman Sergei Gonchar was selected just one pick after Hulbig. The Oilers' decline was in full swing, as by 1992, virtually their whole dynasty core was torn apart and they kept whiffing on draft day.
10 Alexei Mikhnov
Alexei Mikhnov was the 17th pick in the 2000 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. He seemed to be exactly what the team needed. A big winger with size that could add some team toughness to a weak Oilers team. Instead, Mikhnov wouldn't even make his NHL debut until the 2006-07 season. He only got into 2 games before running back home to Russia. Even in the KHL, he has struggled to be anything more than a depth winger. It wasn't a star-studded list of players that the Oilers missed out on.
Granted, the 2000 NHL Draft wasn't exactly stacked with talent. However, players like Justin Williams and Nicklas Kronwall were all still on the board when the Oilers struck out on Alexei Mikhnov.
9 Michael Henrich
Michael Henrich is one embarrassment the Oilers will never be able to get rid of. He was selected 13th overall in 1998. He is the only player selected in the 1st round to never play a game in the NHL. He couldn’t even make in the AHL. He first went overseas in 2002 and after one more season in the AHL, he moved overseas for good in 2004. Let's face it, the Oilers had an awful draft record in the late 90s and it spilled over into the early 2000s. For a market that can't attract free agents, that is just brutal.
As for Henrich, he has been a perineal 20 goal scorer in leagues like the DEL and Italy-A. The Oilers missed out on players like Brad Richards, Simon Gagne, and Mike Fisher.
8 The 2007 NHL Draft
The 2007 NHL Draft is the perfect example of Edmonton’s decades long struggle at the draft table. After a rough year in which the club had lost Chris Pronger and went from a Stanley Cup Final to being out of the playoffs altogether, this was supposed to be their chance to reload. The Oilers had three first round picks that year and they squandered each one of them. Sam Gagner (6th), Alex Plante (15th) and Riley Nash (21st) all failed to make a big impact with the club. Gagner showed flashes of brilliance having 295 points in 481 games with the Oilers. Nash and Plante were both Epic Failures. The Oilers missed out on a depressingly large amount of talented players. Jakub Voracek was selected right after Gagner. Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban went after all three of these picks.
7 Nail Yakupov
The 2011-12 season became known in the media as the Oilers campaign to "Fail for Nail". Nail Yakupov was the fast, hard shooting Russian playing junior hockey in the OHL. After the draft however it came out that most of the scouting department voted in favor of selecting defenseman Ryan Murray. The Oilers management group overruled the scouts and selected Nail. Nail became one of the biggest busts of the 2010s thus far.
He failed in Edmonton and now struggles to get into the lineup for the St.Louis Blues. Ryan Murray is showing signs of being a solid top 4 defenseman which the Oilers desperately have needed for years. Other notable players the Oilers could have taken include Filip Forsberg, or if they really coveted a defenceman, Morgan Rielly.
6 Scott Allison
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] via edmontonjournal.com[/caption]
Scott Allison was a colossal failure for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were the defending Stanley Cup champions and selected Allison 17th overall in 1990. Like several other of their first round picks of the 90s, Allison would never play a single game in the NHL. He struggled in the minors bouncing between the AHL and the ECHL. He made the jump overseas in 1997 and his career was over after the 2004-05 season.
The Oilers missed out on some truly legendary players like future captain Doug Weight, Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, and power forward extraordinaire Keith Tkachuk. Can you imagine how strong the team would have been with Brodeur in net? These draft failures make it easy to explain why the Oilers went into such a long drought after their last Cup.
5 Marc-Antoine Pouliot
The 2003 NHL draft is regarded as one of the deepest in NHL history. So many players who are stars of the game today got their start in this draft. The Edmonton Oilers were picking 22nd overall and were looking to make a big addition. They selected Sidney Crosby’s junior linemate, Marc-Antoine Pouliot. Pouliot struggled at the NHL level. They gave him numerous chances, finally giving up on him and trading him for a 7th round pick in 2011. Pouliot has been playing over in the Swiss-A league since 2012. NHL stars such as Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler were both selected after Pouliot.
4 Steve Kelly
The Edmonton Oilers had the ultimate PR opportunity in 1995. The NHL draft was being held in Edmonton and Halkirk, Alberta native Shane Doan was available as the Oilers made the 5th overall pick. The crowd was pleading with the Oilers to go with the local boy. So of course the Oilers selected….Steve Kelly. The fans booed the club wanting the hometown Oilers to select the hometown boy.
We don't have to remind you Doan went on to have an amazing career with the Jets/Coyotes. Had he been taken by the Oilers, he easily could have been their captain all these years. Doan was one of the few impact players taken in '95 so the Oilers would have come out big winners. Steve Kelly on the other hand flamed out of the NHL and was quickly playing overseas.
3 Michel Riesen
Another 90s draft and another failure by the Oilers. Michel Riesen was drafted way back in 1997 and the ramifications affect the team to this day. Reisen went 14th overall and failed to make an impact in the NHL.
He had solid seasons in the AHL but in 2000-01 he scored all of one assist with the Oilers. After this season Riesen fled back home to Switzerland, never to return. He played for some great teams in the Swiss-A league but the Oilers expected him to star for them. In picking Riesen the Oilers missed out on players like Brendan Morrow, Brian Campbell, and Roberto Luongo. Once again, the Oilers passed on a future elite goaltender.
2 Jason Bonsignore
Jason Bonsignore was one of the worst selections in Edmonton Oiler history. Back in 1994 the Edmonton Oilers had not only the 4th overall pick but also the 6th pick. With the 6th selection, the Oilers hit a home run selecting the future heart and soul of the team Ryan Smyth.
That 4th overall pick however was wasted on Bonsignore. He only lasted 21 games with the Oilers, where he only scored 1 goal and added 2 assists. 1994 wasn’t the deepest of draft years but players such as Patrik Elias, Chris Drury, and Daniel Alfredsson were all still available. The Oilers really could have used this draft to establish their next generation of players, but they only struck gold on one of two picks.
1 Jesse Niinimaki
Jesse Ninimaki was yet another draft pick that never played a single game in the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers selected him 15th overall in the 2002 NHL draft. He not only failed to make the NHL, he barely made it into any games in the AHL. He was a huge embarrassment to the club, made worse by the fact that by picking Jesse the Oilers missed out on some great talent. Alexander Steen and Cam Ward were both selected later in round one. Duncan Keith and Johnny Boychuk went off the board in round 2.
For a team that suffered on defense and in net for most of the last decade the fact they missed out on these players hurt.