Lowetide: How will Tyler Wright’s time with the Oilers be remembered?



One of the most difficult things to do for hockey fans is to evaluate their favourite team at the draft table.

All agree that drafting is not an exact science and most agree that waiting several years (five is a good number) before making the call is the best approach. An example would be the 2018 draft, which is now safely in the books with one or two stragglers.

Tyler Wright arrived as scouting director after the 2019 draft. He inherited a staff who had delivered quality for much of the 2010s, with only two draft events (2012 and 2016) considered fails.

The decade produced exceptional talent, most of it coming from No. 1 overall selections (Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and top-10 picks (Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard).

The club also drafted well outside the top 20 overall (Tobias Rieder, Jujhar Khaira, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Stuart Skinner, Ryan McLeod) but left talent on the table due to unsigned prospects (Erik Gustafsson, John Marino) who would later flourish elsewhere in the NHL.

Wright’s dismissal last week frames his draft success in a negative light. Is this fair?

We’re limited in assessing his work through a lens that offers a full five seasons of work.

With that as a limitation, here’s a look at how Wright’s work will be regarded in the future.

Expectations, by round

The drafts between 2000 and 2009 produced 59.8 NHL players per year, or two per team. In that decade, over two-thirds of the NHL population was chosen in the first three rounds (source for both facts is here) and that brings us to the first item of business in evaluating Wright.

In his four draft seasons, Wright had just five (of a possible 12) draft picks in the first three rounds. If we are to fairly evaluate Wright’s work, that piece of information is vital.

Evaluating the five “early” picks

History teaches us that a threshold of offence must be reached by a prospect if they are to advance to the next level, There are people who don’t believe this to be true, but over many years the numbers confirm it. Here’s a quick example using CHL forwards drafted by Edmonton in 2011.

Player Selected Pts-Game NHL GP

1

1.54

801

74

0.38

0

114

0.75

478

Travis Ewanyk was a respected checking forward in the WHL leading up to the 2011 draft. He played for the U18 national team in his draft year. Math foretold his lack of NHL success, and predicted Tobias Rieder would emerge from the pack from later selections.

Let’s look at the five selections during Wright’s run with the Oilers.

Player League Selected Pts-Game

Big-10

14

0.49

QMJHL

22

1.38

WHL

32

0.88

OHL

56

0.71

German Jr

90

0.5

Dylan Holloway’s offence since his draft day has been similar to Xavier Bourgault and Kailer Yamamoto as Oilers prospects. Both Holloway and Bourgault project as middle-six offensive performers at this time should they establish themselves in the NHL. Bourgault would appear to have more room to grow, part of that may be due to injury troubles suffered by Holloway.

Reid Schaefer’s output is a little shy compared to the two earlier picks, but he’s a power-forward winger and that may mean more chances in the top six with the Nashville Predators.

Defenceman Beau Akey shows well here, his offence and foot speed make him a strong selection where he was taken.

The final name, Luca Munzenberger, is the only real outlier. Munzenberger performed well in junior hockey in Germany, but hasn’t scored much since graduating to higher levels. He is a shutdown defenceman but will need to bring some skill to pro hockey in order to make it.

Four of Wright’s early (first three rounds) selections are on track to play in the NHL.

What the list lacks, and it may have been Wright’s downfall in the role, is an impact offensive player. When Holloway was selected, the most substantial offensive player still available (Dawson Mercer) was passed over. Mercer has two full NHL seasons on his resume and is tracking as a truly valuable NHL player.

Wright’s draft model did not aim high enough in the first round.

On defence, it’s very early for Akey and he has some chaos to overcome, but the pick was inspired based on math and skill set.

Wright and his team didn’t have much to do early in these drafts but performed well save for the lack of an offensive driver.

Evaluating the later picks

Outside of the first round, where he appears to have pursued athletes over hockey players, Wright’s strength as scouting director came in recognizing offence as a future indicator of pro success. The numbers here reflect Edmonton’s recognition of past errors (Ewanyk) and thus give the team a far better talent pool than a decade ago.

Player League Selected Pts-Game

Carter Savoie

AJHL

100

1.83

Jake Chiasson

WHL

116

0.87

Tyler Tullio

OHL

126

1.06

Maxim Berezkin

MHL

138

1.06

Matvey Petrov

MHL

180

0.72

Shane Lachance

NCDC

186

0.6

Nikita Yevseyev

MHL

190

0.5

Max Wanner

WHL

212

0.24

Matt Copponi

H-East

216

0.78

Joel Maatta

H-East

222

0.19

There are several quality players taken outside the first three rounds in the four Wright draft seasons. Perhaps the best way to frame this group of picks is to highlight the prospects who are currently among the top 10 prospects in the system.

Player Rank 2022-23 season

Matvey Petrov

3

93 points in 65 OHL games

Maxim Berezkin

5

26 points in 52 KHL games

Max Wanner

6

30 points in 44 WHL games

Tyler Tullio

8

26 points in 63 AHL games

Nikita Yevseyev

9

7 points in 48 KHL games

Carter Savoie

10

8 goals in 44 AHL games

There’s good work here, pure skill is added in the depth of the draft at every turn. Players who are chosen this late have some flaws, so the selection of multiple skill forwards recognizes it and addresses it with quantity.

Outside of the first three rounds, Edmonton was doing it right at the draft table.

Final thoughts

In the book “On The Clock”, I wrote about the importance of drafting the best skill player available with each selection, without regard to position. If a player is 5-foot-6 but posted 100 points in a good junior league, draft him. If a pure scorer dominated his league but has slow boots, draft him.

Wright’s exit is a surprise but his template should live on — with a tweak. Edmonton must get back to drafting the best skill player available when they select in the first round. The last time it happened (Evan Bouchard) the organization was rewarded handsomely.

Imagine the current Oilers roster with Dawson Mercer added to it.

Beyond the first-round foibles, Wright’s demise isn’t easily identified. Scouting directors normally have a longer shelf life than his four seasons with the team, but Jeff Jackson’s arrival signaled change and Wright was a candidate for replacement.

Up next: A long look at the new scouting director.

(Photo of Ken Holland and Tyler Wright: Michael Bobroff / NHLI via Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top