When Edmonton Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson announced the resignation of GM Peter Chiarelli on January 23, he also discussed the organization's need to improve the development of its prospects. Despite all its faults, Chiarelli built a stronger stable of prospects than the franchise had in years. However, the Oilers continue to commit the mistakes that plagued them for more than a decade, taking the leading prospects to the NHL before they are ready. That should change for this team to improve.
"We want our younger players to develop further in the American Hockey League," Nicholson told Oilers TV. "We have some good prospects. I think we often bring them too soon in the hope that they will be ready when they are really close.
Related – Kailer Yamamoto wants to stay with lubricators
"I think we need to let them down, until they're ripe and that's a change we have to make here. We ship Kailer Yamamoto down. He is about to form the team, but he has to play for many minutes. We believe in this player and we have to do this with more assets going forward. "
History of Oilers Development Repeats
Of course, there are some players to whom this rule does not apply. When you make a general draft four times in six years, those players are expected to be ready for the best league in the world at age 18. I believe all Edmonton's first overall choices were NHL as teenagers, except for Nail Yakupov.
Looking back to 2007, when the first Oilers' rebuild began, they ran for Sam Gagner (6th overall, 2007) in one of the six biggest roles after a stellar performance at their first NHL training camp. Gagner finished with 49 points as a rookie, but never equaled the total for the next six seasons in Edmonton.
The Oilers allowed Jordan Eberle (22nd general, 2008) to spend two additional seasons at the WHL before giving him a place in the ranking, but probably led Magnus Paajarvi (10th overall, 2009) to North America an earlier season. Like Gagner, Pujujarvi's rookie season was his best in Silk Oilers.
Edmonton had his time with Darnell Nurse (7th overall, 2013), but the real problem is with the rapid advancement to the prominent role. And it was exactly what they did with Leon Draisaitl (3rd overall, 2014) before sending him back to the middle of the debut season.
Then Jesse Puljujarvi (4th overall, 2016), Kailer Yamamoto (22nd overall, 2017) and Evan Bouchard (10th overall, 2018) all saw time in the NHL at age 18. Fortunately, Yamamoto and Bouchard were sent back without burning a year in their entry offerings. But both players were only with the big club because they lacked capable veterans in the squad.
Bouchard has the potential to be a top scoring champion in the future, but the book is still with Puljujarvi and Yamamoto. The two players are still only 20 years old, so it's too early to write one, but there was no clear development plan for any of them during the time in Edmonton.
The Oilers are certainly feeling a sense of urgency to become a rival team quickly, with Connor McDavid approaching their major scoring years. That said, they can not afford to stop the growth of their top candidates by asking them to play a role for which they are not prepared.
Development of jets should be model of Oilers
Paraphrasing Steve Jobs – good copy organizations, big organizations steal. If the Oilers want to steal a draft and development model from the entire league, they should look at the Winnipeg Jets. Like the Oilers, the Jets made only one playoff appearance from 2010-11 to 2016-17 before rushing to the final of the conference last season.
But unlike the Oilers, the Jets built one of NHL's best reserves of prospects during the tough tough years. The Jets devised skillful players, did not inject them into the line until they were ready and are now reaping the benefits.
Edmonton has some quality prospects of 19 and 20 years playing in the CHL and AHL, including Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod and Kirill Maksimov, but the organization still has a lot of work ahead to reach Winnipeg.
Related – Oilers 2018 NHL Draft Review
During his pressure, Nicholson also assured the fans that interim GM Keith Gretzky will not change the choice of the first round of 2019 to a rental player. The Oilers are still recovering from the disastrous draft floor agreement in the summer of 2015 when Chiarelli sent Griffin Reinhart's 16th and 33rd overall pick to New Yorkers.
Reinhart played only 29 games for the Oilers before being claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Islanders received NHL all-star Mathew Barzal with the 16th choice. How good would Barzal be in the McDavid ward?
The strength of the Oilers pipeline is in defense, so devising attackers with skill, speed and hockey sense should be the top priority in the 2019 NHL draft. Identify the right players who can help you win in the modern game and give the time needed to increase their offensive confidence.
The last thing Oilers fans want to have preached to them is patience, but that's really the best option.