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Last year, Lachute’s own Kevin Lowe began checking in with Main Street to keep us up to date with the news in Edmonton. Once again, he has taken time from a very busy schedule with the Oilers to share his thoughts with The Voice of Sport.
The Oilers struggled through injuries last season and found themselves at the bottom of the standings and in the hunt for the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. While they would have preferred to have more W’s in the win column, having the opportunity to select a future star kept Lowe, General Manager Steve Tambellini, and the organization’s scouting department very busy behind the scenes.
“The people that put in all the leg work and hours and time on the road are the scouts; guys like Steve and myself in upper management, we put as much time in as we can, but it pales in comparison to what those guys do,” Lowe explained.
“Last year, hopefully it was a bit of a rarity for us that we got to pick first, but we knew for some time that we would have that chance. We were able to really hone in and focus a lot of attention on the number one pick. Having said that, that doesn’t mean we don’t put that kind of attention and time into every year. There is so much room for error that you have to do everything possible in terms of asking the right questions and doing the research.”
“There are no guarantees that whoever you draft, that they are going to become NHL players. You want to try to minimize the potential for error because the draft is so critical to the lifeblood of the organization. If you want to have sustainability you have to draft well, if you want to try and win a championship you have to draft well; everything revolves around the drafting.”
With that number one pick, the Oilers selected Taylor Hall, a junior star with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League and a two-time Memorial Cup winner. What was it about Hall that made him stand out from the other eligible players?
“His ability to rise in the toughest of situations; when the game is on the line, he’s the guy that appeared to be unafraid of the moment,” Lowe said. “He’s still a very young man but he has had a lot of success. When we got to meet him, he appeared to have a real genuine love for the game. Most kids do, but hockey really seemed to be his first and only focus. That really separates the great ones from all the others.”
Personally, it seems like only yesterday that I was watching Lowe lift the Stanley Cup with the Oilers, so it is hard to believe that his son Keegan, a 17-year-old defenceman with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League will soon be eligible for the NHL Draft. A long-time executive with the Oilers, Lowe could be attending the draft as a hockey dad.
“Hopefully that’s the case, he’s coming along nicely and starting to get some attention,” the proud father said. “He hasn’t made the first few lists (scouts rank the top draft eligible players), but I know that is not going to infringe or get in the way of his desire to play.”
“At the end of the day, if there was one thing that the hockey organizations could track that would be most beneficial, it’s heart and desire. If we could have a way of tracking that amongst these young players, I’d bet on the ones with the heart and desire that they will eventually find their way to the NHL. I enjoy watching Keegan’s games and it brings a special added interest for me, no question.”
Looking ahead, the Oilers are starting to accumulate some great young talent in their organization. With players like Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi, they have a solid foundation of skilled players moving forward. In a few years, with a few more key additions to the organization, they hope to bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton.
“We have a very knowledgeable fan base and they are very supportive, they can see the future is very bright,” said Lowe. “We had a very good draft last year and our second round picks are all playing very well in the Western Hockey League. Then we have guys in the minors that are all coming along nicely, guys like Linus Omark, Jeff Petry, and Alex Plante.”
“We have all of our picks this year and we know that there are some challenges in the near-future to stay competitive, but these guys are learning on the job. Hopefully, the fans can see what we are scripting out here, in terms of an overall plan. If we look at Chicago, and in some respects Washington, that is obviously the main template, and the final part of Chicago's plan culminated in them winning the Stanley Cup. If we fast-forward over the next 5-7 years that is what we hope we will be doing.”
“Everything is looking really good actually. You want to try and win more hockey games, but we’ve had enough nights in this season that really make us feel that we are on the right track.”
The template is in place and the future does look bright in Edmonton - since our conversation, the Oilers have won five of their last seven games, proving that the organization is indeed on the right track. As always, a very special thank you to Kevin Lowe for sharing his time with The Voice of Sport.