Comparing Keith Gretzky’s scouting work to that of the Edmonton Oilers

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 2:09 am by Jonathan Willis

Keith Gretzky is the new assistant general manager of the
Edmonton Oilers. Prior to signing on in Edmonton, Gretzky was the scouting director
of the Boston Bruins and the Arizona Coyotes. It’s far too early to judge his
work with Boston, but in his time in Arizona he was a contemporary of Kevin
Prendergast and Stu MacGregor of the Edmonton Oilers.

How does Gretzky’s work compare to that of
MacGregor/Prendergast over the same period?

Gretzky ran the Arizona drafts from 2007-11, a five-year
span. That’s the period we’ll consider here.

First Round Picks


These comparisons are the toughest, since they’re heavily
influenced by exact draft position.

Year Pick Player Comments
2007 3 Kyle Turris Career highs: 26 goals, 64 points
2009 6 Oliver Ekman-Larsson Absolute home run. Best pick of Gretzky’s tenure.
2008 8 Mikkel Boedker Career highs: 19 goals, 51 points
2010 13 Brandon Gormley 58 NHL GP
2011 20 Connor Murphy Averaged 20:30 per game as 22-year-old
2010 27 Mark Visentin 1 NHL GP
2008 28 Viktor Tikhonov Career highs: 8 goals, 16 points
2007 30 Nick Ross 0 NHL GP

The Coyotes landed four good players with eight picks,
including one truly great one (Ekman-Larsson). Three of the eight picks have
yet to play 100 games in the NHL.

Year Pick Player Comments
2010 1 Taylor Hall Career highs: 27 goals, 80 points
2011 1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Career highs: 24 goals, 56 points
2007 6 Sam Gagner Career highs: 18 goals, 49 points
2009 10 Magnus Paajarvi Career highs: 15 goals, 34 points
2007 15 Alex Plante 10 NHL GP
2007 21 Riley Nash Career highs: 9 goals, 25 points
2008 22 Jordan Eberle Career highs: 34 goals, 76 points

The Oilers landed four good players with seven picks (I’m
here excluding Nash and Paajarvi, though both of those players have topped the
100-game mark and are still in the league). Only one of the seven picks has failed
to play at least 100 NHL games.

Looking at the lists, I’m inclined to call Ekman-Larsson the
best pick of the lot, but also to favour Edmonton’s work overall. However, I’d
also suggest that the fairest comparison is further down the draft list.

Second Round Picks


Year Pick Player Comments
2007 32 Brett MacLean 18 NHL GP
2007 36 Joel Gistedt 0 NHL GP
2009 36 Chris Brown 23 NHL GP
2008 49 Jared Staal 2 NHL GP
2011 51 Alexander Ruutu 0 NHL GP
2010 52 Phil Lane 0 NHL GP
2011 56 Lucas Lessio 41 NHL GP
2010 57 Oscar Lindberg Career highs: 13 goals, 28 points

Lindberg has injected some life into a list of Arizona picks
which looked about to go 0-for-8. Three of the eight selections have not played
in the NHL at all, and with the exception of Lindberg and perhaps Lessio it’s
difficult to find a player with much hope of substantially improving his

Year Pick Player Comments
2010 31 Tyler Pitlick 27 NHL GP
2011 31 David Musil 4 NHL GP
2007 40 Anton Lander Career highs: 6 goals, 20 points
2010 46 Martin Marincin Averaged 16:46 per game as a 23-year-old
2010 48 Curtis Hamilton 1 NHL GP

All of Edmonton’s players have appeared in at least one NHL
game, and only Hamilton would seem to have no chance to improve upon his

Marincin would be my choice at this juncture as the best of
these 13 selections, followed by Lindberg. Edmonton has got more out of its
five selections so far than Arizona has out of its eight.

Top 100 Picks


Year Pick Player Comments
2008 69 Michael Stone Averaged 22:27 per game as a 25-year-old
2008 76 Mathieu Brodeur 0 NHL GP
2011 84 Harrison Ruopp 0 NHL GP
2009 91 Mike Lee 0 NHL GP
2009 97 Jordan Szwarz 35 NHL GP
2008 99 Colin Long 0 NHL GP

Barring the emergence of Dillon Simpson, which is still possible,
the most significant player on either list is Michael Stone, a homerun
hit by Arizona’s scouting staff. 

Year Pick Player Comments
2010 61 Ryan Martindale 0 NHL GP
2011 62 Samu Perhonen 0 NHL GP
2009 71 Troy Hesketh 0 NHL GP
2011 74 Travis Ewanyk 0 NHL GP
2009 82 Cameron Abney 0 NHL GP
2010 91 Jeremie Blain 0 NHL GP
2011 92 Dillon Simpson 0 NHL GP
2007 97 Linus Omark 79 NHL GP
2009 99 Kyle Bigos 0 NHL GP

The next-best guy on either list (based on work
so far) is Linus Omark.

Arizona’s work is pretty solid here with a low number of
picks. About Edmonton’s work, the less said the better. Picks like
the Abney and Hesketh selections were hard to defend on the day they were made,
and the overall record for these five years is not good at all.

Outside the Top 100


Year Pick Player Comments
2010 138 Louis Domingue 15-18-4, 0.912 SV% last season
2007 153 Scott Darling 12-8-3, 0.915 SV% last season
2007-11 N/A 10 players 0 NHL GP

Arizona found two players with a dozen picks outside the
top-100 in this five-year span. Darling has been a solid backup for two years
in Chicago (after an absolutely bizarre career path) while Domingue’s ceiling
remains an unknown. For now he’s a backup but may end up as more than that.

Year Pick Player Comments
2008 103 Johan Motin 1 NHL GP
2011 114 Tobias Rieder Career highs: 14 goals, 37 points
2010 121 Tyler Bunz 1 NHL GP
2007 127 Milan Kytnar 1 NHL GP
2008 133 Philippe Cornet 2 NHL GP
2010 162 Brandon Davidson Averaged 19:11 per game as a 24-year-old
2008 163 Teemu Hartikainen 52 NHL GP
2007-11 N/A 9 players 0 NHL GP

Edmonton found seven players with 15 picks, but only three
of significance. Rieder and Davidson are both excellent young players, while
Hartikainen played 50-odd games before chasing after KHL money.

Again, I’d favour the Oilers work overall.

On Balance

It will be up to each reader to judge for himself how to
factor in the number and quality of picks.

There’s a case to be made either way in the first round,
particularly if we ignore the first overalls and place a lot of emphasis on
Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With five picks outside the top-10, however, the Coyotes
landed one player of any real significance, while the Oilers added two NHL’ers
with only three picks.

Outside the first round, the results can be interpreted in
multiple ways. Arizona had a serious advantage in terms of second-round picks,
while the Oilers had more third, fourth and late-round selections.  

The Coyotes landed Michael Stone, easily their best player.
Aside from him, Oscar Lindberg had an impressive rookie season last year in a
depth role, while Louis Domingue and Scott Darling are both at least backup goalies.

Edmonton got Martin Marincin, Brandon Davidson and Tobias
Rieder. Mileage may vary (I’m not particularly bullish on either Lindberg or
Domingue), but to my eye that’s three of the four best players found be either
team outside of the first round over this period.

I’d say that the Coyotes under Gretzky were out-drafted by
the Oilers under Prendergast/MacGregor over the same time period.