NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Edmonton Oilers best draft class.
Edmonton Oilers Best Draft Class: 1979
The Edmonton Oilers have had a rich history coming from the World Hockey Association that includes their drafting abilities. The Oilers have a trend of classes that either include at least two elite players or absolute nobodies over the years.
1979 NHL Draft
Only four seasons before the Oilers ran off three Stanley Cup wins in four years, they had their strongest draft class that helped carry that ’80’s dynasty. Now Edmonton did have the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, to build around but the 1979 draft helped establish their core.
Kevin Lowe, First Round, 21st overall
With their first pick in the ’79 draft, and the franchises first ever draft selection, the Oilers secured one half of their top defensemen for the next 10-plus seasons in Kevin Lowe. He was never the point-getter that the D-man the Oilers took the following year was. (We’ll get to him later.) Lowe had 86 points in 68 games with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts the year the Oilers took him at 21. Like many first round picks at the time, the Lachute, Quebec native made the immediate jump from juniors to the NHL after being drafted.
Lowe was the prototypical defensive defensemen that excelled alongside his offensive counter parts. He let them generate offense and focused primarily on shutting down the other team. He was an integral part of the Oilers ’80’s dynasty that saw them rattle off the three straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances. Lowe played more regular season and playoff games in an Oilers uniform than anyone in franchise history. (This works out to 1,037 regular season and 172 playoff games). He also scored the first NHL goal in Edmonton Oilers history. Obviously, it was assisted by the Great One. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2020.
Mark Messier, Third Round, 48th overall
Mark Messier, who is the only man Wayne Gretzky did not want to have see him cry, was an absolute steal of a pick for the Oilers. “Mess” was a fierce, tough competitor whose fiery leadership in the dressing room was as important as the goals he scored on the ice. He was drafted as a winger but switched to centre in the 1984. Messier gave the Oilers one of the greatest 1-2 punches down the middle in NHL history.
Messier was the perfect running mate for Gretzky as he brought both the physicality and the scoring touch. This helped give the Great One even more room to run around on the ice. He won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers, including the 1990 Cup. This was the team he captained after Gretzky was famously traded two years prior. The Edmonton native had 392 goals and 1,034 points as a member fo the Oilers over 12 years and 851 games. In 2007, Messier was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, his first year of eligibility, and in 2017, he was named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players” in history.
Glenn Anderson, Fourth Round, 69th overall
Five Stanley Cups, 417 goals and 906 points as an Oiler makes Anderson one of the more decorated alumni. As a behind (and sometimes in) the net power forward, he excelled at driving the net. He also liked to stay behind it and pass to his teammates out front. If it hadn’t been for Gretzky playing on the same team, behind the net may have been Anderson’s office.
What really excelled Anderson in his tenure with the Oilers was his tremendous ability in clutch moments. Anderson’s 72 regular season game-winning goals with the Oilers puts him first all time in franchise history. Add in his 12 game-winning goals come playoff time and he’s been a massive part of the Oilers franchise success. His 183 playoff points are fourth all-time in franchise history. His 126 power play goals are the most in Edmonton history.
Anderson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 10, 2008. His number 9 was retired on January 18, 2009, by the Oilers before a game against the (then) Phoenix Coyotes. The date for his number retirement was specifically selected because his former Oilers teammates, Wayne Gretzky and Grant Fuhr, were serving as the Coyotes’ head coach and goaltending coach at the time.
Other Draft Classes
There were a lot of strong candidates for the Edmonton Oilers best draft class. Another one that would feature multiple Hall of Famers. The next year almost took the cake and had one less name.
The defenceman with the second-most points in NHL history and a 600-goal scorer were the headliners in the ’80 draft. Edmonton picked up D-man Paul Coffey and winger Jari Kurri in what could easily be the best draft by any other franchise. Both were a part of the Oilers run of three Stanley Cup wins in four years. They have their numbers hanging in the rafters in Edmonton.