On Friday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers announced a move that many didn’t think much of at first glance. The club named Vaclav Burda the new director of European Scouting, announcing that he will report to Bob Green.
Prior to joining the Oilers, Burda had spent 13 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, starting in 2004-05. During that time, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli was working for Ottawa, so it is safe to assume that Chiarelli was able to see at least some of Burda’s work first hand.
According to the official press release, Burda served as a European scout for the Sens for four seasons before being promoted to the club’s Director of European Scouting, a position he assumed in 2008.
A Change Was Needed:
Since Peter Chiarelli took over, the Oilers have drafted beter and done quite well with NCAA and junior free agents. The arrows from Chiarelli’s two drafts that have had time to develop are strong, and many experts were quite pleased with Edmonton’s haul this past June.
It appears that the club has righted the ship at the draft table and has started to find useful junior players to develop and turn pro. This fall we will see the first batch turn pro led by defenders Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear, both late round picks under Chiarelli and Green.
The club has also had success with NCAA free agents. Drake Caggiula and Matt Benning both joined the Oilers from the college ranks and impressed in their rookie seasons, while Nick Ellis did the same in the AHL. It’s an area Edmonton tried to procure in the past, but struggled to find NHL options from. That’s changed under Chiarelli and Green.
The one area that’s still been lacking? European picks and free agents. Ziyat Paigin has shown well, but will he be able to produce in North America? We’ll find that out this season. Jesse Puljujarvi’s rookie season was far from ideal, while professional additions Jere Sallinen and Eetu Laurikainen fell flat on their faces on this side of the Atlantic.
Edmonton has gotten much better drafting and signing out of the CHL, USHL and NCAA recently, but they are still lagging behind when it comes to Europe. They needed a proven scout to handle that area, and Burda is exactly that.
The Track Record:
Burda took over the Senators’ European Scouting department prior to the 2008-09 season, meaning he likely had a large hand in the 2008 NHL entry and beyond. The Senators used their 1st round pick in ’08 on a European skater, selecting Erik Karlsson 15th overall. Not a bad first selection from the European side for Mr. Burda.
The club would select two more established NHL’ers out of Europe in 2009 under Burda’s watch, picking Jakob Silfverberg 39th overall and Robin Lehner 46th overall. Marcus Sorensen would go 106th overall to Ottawa in 2010, and even though he didn’t make it with the Sens he has established himself in San Jose as a prospect of interest.
Mika Zibanejad (6th overall) and Frederik Claesson (126th overall) were the only two Europeans selected by Ottawa in 2011, but both have emerged as NHL’ers. Claesson still resides in Ottawa on the blueline, while Zibanejad has established himself as a top-six forward with the Rangers.
Ottawa hasn’t had much Euro talent push through from the draft since, however, only spending a 7th round pick there in 2012. 2013 Euro picks Marcus Hogberg (78th) and Tobias Lindberg (102nd) have not emerged, with Lindberg now playing in the Toronto organization and Hogberg just coming to the AHL for three games last season.
2014 2nd rounder Andreas Englund (40th overall) could be Ottawa’s next Euro-drafted regular. He made his NHL debut last season and scored ten points in the AHL for Binghamton in his rookie season. The 6’3” rearguard is well regarded and is a player to keep an eye on in Ottawa the next few seasons.
Ottawa didn’t really harvest this area during Burda’s time at the helm of Euro scouting, but two signings do stick out to me and are positives. The club signed Tom Pyatt after two seasons in the Swiss-A league. He registered 9-14-23 for the Sens this season and earned a contract extension with the club.
Andre Benoit never emerged as a consistent NHL’er, but he had two stints in the Ottawa organization and spent time in Europe both before and after. It’s fair to assume that Burda and his scouts had a least some input in Benoit, who played 41 games over the course of two seasons for the big club.
Outside of these two, I couldn’t find a substantial European free agent added by the Senators during Burda’s time running the European Scouting Department. Is that an indictment? Possibly, but it is also possible that the Senators did not make European free agency a priority, as is the case with some teams around the NHL.
Europe has consistently produced some great hockey players over the years and I don’t think that trend will be stopping anytime soon. Outside of Oscar Klefbom and Anton Slepyshev, the Oilers have not drafted a European player (Out of Europe) in recent memory that was able to consistently stay in the lineup.
Jesse Puljujarvi will get there, but even then the Oilers need to do better in Europe. Vaclav Burda’s track record suggests someone who has a good eye for talent and who can help the club at the draft table. His staff consistently provided solid picks for the Senators and outside of Zibanejad, they weren’t top-ten selections. That’s a solid track record in my mind.
Will Burda’s presence suddenly make Edmonton a factory for European players? No, it is going to take time, but it is fair to connect the dots here and say that the club’s scouting department got a much needed boost in the Euro department. If Burda can help find the Oilers some of the gems he found in Ottawa, then the club is in a better spot.
I don’t see a negative to this hire. Burda’s track record at the draft table is strong and he has the trust of his new GM. I don’t think you can ask for more. If Burda turns out like Bob Green has to this point, then the Oilers are in good hands each and every June.