Well-Oiled Euro Scouting Fueling Edmonton

Dobber Sports

2009-02-14

 

The Edmonton Oilers have always been a team to watch when it comes to Europe. From being one of the first to cash in on under-scouted gems to pioneering the tactic of stashing players in overseas leagues to cut costs, players like Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Martin Rucinsky, Miroslav Satan and David Vyborny gave the team a strong reputation throughout the 90s. While European scouting under the Lowe era started off on the wrong foot, the last two draft classes have yielded some of the most intriguing prospects overseas.

If there's one way to kill a team, it's by missing on draft picks. When Kevin Lowe took over as General Manager on June 9th, 2000, the Oilers couldn't have been more destitute on the farm. While Finnish phenom Jani Rita, hulking Russian blueliner Alexei Semenov and speedy Tony Salmelainen still had the sheen of new prospects, Edmonton had not selected an NHL-calibre player with their first pick since 1993.

With virtually no preparation time, Lowe was forced to use ex-GM Glen Sather's scouting list for the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. At the top of his list was another Euro, 6'5 center Alexei Mikhnov. Hyped as a potentially devestating goal-scorer thanks to his size and skill, Mikhnov was considered a hot property at the '00 draft table. While Lowe would make his mark the next year by taking QMJHL star Ales Hemsky in his very first 'own' draft- not a bad pick- he's return again to Europe for a potential home-run shot in Finnish center Jesse Niinimaki. Isles GM Mike Milbury was said to react in anger when the 6'1 center with 'Forsberg-esque' skill went 15th overall.

History now tells us that neither Mikhnov nor Niinimaki were very good picks. In fact, of the seventeen European-trained players select by Lowe and his staff from 2000 to 2005, only one of them broke 100 games in the NHL- backup goaltender and 2005 Finals hero Jussi Markkanen.

At the 2006 Draft, the Oilers selected just one European, sixth round pick Alexander Bumagin. However, since 2007, Edmonton has once again had Europe high on their scouting list. In the past two drafts, the team has selected no fewer than five Euros.


HOT

Linus Omark, LW

Ht/Wt: 5'9, 168 lbs
Born:
2/5/1987 (22)

2008-09 Team: Lulea (Elitserien)
2008-09 Stats:
49 GP, 20-30-50, 58 PIM

Summary:
The star of last year's Elitserien season was a young man named Fabian Brunnstrom. Coveted by half of the NHL, the-then 22 year-old netted 37 points in 54 games with Farjestad. The bidding- and the hype- was simply through the roof. It's probably a lucky thing, then, that 5'9 Linus Omark is already drafted. If Brunnstrom's numbers were cause for fans to ferverently compare him to Daniel Alfredsson, Omark's statline i