6 best players Oilers just missed drafting in the last 20 years

May 26 2023, 7:20 pm

Thanks in large part to some lottery luck, the draft has helped the Edmonton Oilers turn things around in recent years.

While they were able to win the lottery that gifted them Connor McDavid back in 2015, this team has made its fair share of draft-day blunders.

Here are six selections in particular that will cause Oilers fans to cringe looking back on.

Ryan Kesler/Mike Richards (2003)

Who the Oilers picked instead: Marc-Antoine Pouliot

The Edmonton Oilers found themselves with the 22nd overall selection in 2003 in what is arguably the deepest draft the NHL has ever had. As deep as it was, however, the Oilers missed completely, taking Marc-Antoine Pouliot.

Making matters even worse was that the Vancouver Canucks selected Ryan Kesler immediately afterward. Kesler went on to log 1001 career games in the NHL, and at his peak was one of the best two-way centremen in the game, proven by his Selke Trophy win in 2011.

It wasn’t just Kesler the Oilers missed out on, either. With the very next pick at No. 24, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Mike Richards. During his prime, Richards was a point per game player with the Flyers, and also played an integral part in the LA Kings winning Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.

Corey Crawford (2003)

Who the Oilers took instead: Colin McDonald

As if missing out on both Kesler and Richards wasn’t bad enough, the Oilers also went on to just barely miss out on a franchise goaltender in the very next round of the ’03 draft. That goalie is Corey Crawford, who the Chicago Blackhawks selected 52nd overall, just one spot after the Oilers took Colin McDonald.

McDonald was able to carve out a brief NHL career, logging 148 regular season games split between the Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and the Flyers. While respectable, it pails in comparison to Crawford, who at his peak was a bonafide No. 1 goaltender that helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to Stanley Cup victories in 2013 and 2015.

Cory Schneider (2004)

Who the Oilers took instead: Rob Schremp

Crawford wasn’t the only franchise netminder the Oilers missed out on in the early 2000s,¬† as they also whiffed on Cory Schneider by just a single pick the very next year. Picking 25th in the 2004 Draft, the Oilers elected to go with Rob Schremp, while the Vancouver Canucks grabbed Schneider immediately afterward.

In the Oilers’ defence, they had already grabbed Devan Dubnyk several spots earlier at No. 14, and he went on to have a very good career himself. That said, most would agree that at their peaks, Schneider was the superior of the two.

As for Schremp, he was known for his extremely high skill level but also his poor defensive play and, at times, lack of effort. He ended up playing just 114 games at the NHL level.

Max Pacioretty (2007)

Who the Oilers took instead: Riley Nash

The Oilers entered the 2007 Draft with a chance to set themselves up for success moving forward with three first-round picks. With their first selection, they took Sam Gagner at No. 6. The next selection didn’t go as well, as they grabbed defenceman Alex Plante with their 10th pick. The most painful of all, however, came 11 selections later at No. 21 overall.

With the 21st pick, the Oilers selected forward Riley Nash. This pick was by no means a bust, as the 34-year-old has suited up for over 600 games in the NHL. What makes it frustrating, however, is that the Montreal Canadiens selected Max Pacioretty a spot later.

Pacioretty has been regarded as a top-end goal scorer for a number of years, backed up by his 326 goals in 855 career games. Safe to say, the Oilers would like a do-over here.

Matthew Tkachuk (2016)

Who the Oilers took instead: Jesse Puljujarvi

In a draft that featured Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine as the top two picks, public consensus was that Jesse Puljujarvi would be picked third. Instead, however, Pierre-Luc Dubois was selected in that spot, and the Oilers couldn’t run to the podium fast enough to nab Puljujarvi with their fourth selection.

As it turns out, there may have been a reason the Columbus Blue Jackets chose to pass on Puljujarvi. The 25-year-old was never able to turn into the player the Oilers had hoped for and wound up being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a marginal prospect in Patrik Puistola.

While missing that badly with the fourth pick already hurts, making things worse is that the Calgary Flames were able to pick Matthew Tkachuk just two spots later. The 25-year-old has recorded back-to-back seasons of over 100 points and has played a huge role in helping the Florida Panthers reach this year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Trevor Zegras (2019)

Who the Oilers took instead: Philip Broberg

Things could change given his age, but at this point in time, the Oilers taking Philip Broberg at eighth overall only to see Trevor Zegras go ninth to the Anaheim Ducks is a tough pill to swallow.

Broberg has logged just 69 games at the NHL level and hasn’t been trusted much by the Oilers’ coaching staff when in the lineup. Zegras, on the other hand, is not only one of the Ducks’ best offensive weapons but one of the more skilled forwards in the entire league.

Colton PankiwColton Pankiw

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