Visualising the development of Edmonton Oilers draft picks made by Peter Chiarelli

The Edmonton Oilers are now two drafts removed from Peter Chiarelli’s influence. As the last two NHL entry drafts have had current general manager Ken Holland at the Oilers’ helm, his fingerprints are starting to show in the Oilers’ prospects system. Still, Chiarelli’s impact on the Oilers will still be felt for years to come.

Much to the dismay and detriment of Edmonton, Chiareill’s breadth of work with the Oilers is universally agreed upon simply as being really, really bad. With questionable decisions being made throughout the organisation, the eventual departure of Chiarelli was a welcomed sight for many Oilers fans alike.

The former GM was around for four entry drafts from 2015 through 2018 before he was fired in early 2019. From those four drafts, the Oilers added 27 prospects into their system. Of course, no GM story line was bigger than Chiarelli starting his tenure as Oilers GM with the selection of Connor McDavid.

Continuing the series where I visualise the development paths of a team’s NHL prospects as selected by a GM, Reddit user toxicnacho requested I breakdown the development of the prospects that Chiarelli brought onto the Oilers.

Be sure to check out the other posts in the series:

Visualising the development of Calgary Flames draft picks made by Brad Treliving

Visualising the development of Vancouver Canucks draft picks made by Jim Benning

The data visualisation tracks the progress of every pick by Chiarelli between the 2015 draft through to the 2018 draft. A player is labelled based on where the league they played the most games within a season and their year-by-year progress is then shown. This allows for a high-level look at how prospects have developed after being selected by Chiarelli and the Oilers.

How to read the visualisation

To see the progression of every pick, I made a modified alluvial diagram with the x-axis showing years. The first column indicates the league a drafted player played in prior to being selected by the Oilers. Every sequential column thereafter shows where the Oilers’ picks played in the following years.

While every player is technically represented, they were grouped based on year-by-year progression. The leagues were roughly arranged based on typical development paths, with the NHL being placed highest as it’s the ultimate goal. The order does not reflect any definitive ranking between leagues, but rather serves as a means to simply label different subsets of leagues.

The AHL, KHL, and ECHL were listed first as players tend to develop in these leagues after being drafted. CHL leagues are grouped altogether, followed by the NCAA, and European leagues such as the SHL, Liiga, HockeyAllsvenskan, etc. making up the European subset. Lower leagues in Canada, the United States, and Russia make up the last sets of leagues.

Note: For Edmonton, zero prospects have spent a majority of a season in any lower Russian league, thus the Russia label is not seen in the chart.

Each player’s path is traceable by moving across each column horizontally and following the path. Whenever a path truncates, that indicates where the most recent season was played (i.e. 2019-20 seasons).

All prospect data was retrieved from, and the visualisation was created with R and modified with Adobe Illustrator. The R “tidyverse” and “ggalluvial” packages were used to create the visualisations, and the colour palette was adapted from Carto.

Observations from the dataviz

The visualisation can be used to discover where the Oilers tend to select their players, where their prospects tend to develop, and which picks became successful in their pursuit of becoming full-time NHLers.

This is what can be said about Chiarelli’s draft picks based on the visualisation.

  • The Oilers tend to select out of the CHL, but have had a good balance in selecting players from European leagues and American leagues.
  • Among Chiarelli’s picks, five players played a majority of their games in the NHL last season. Other than McDavid, the other four all had their first majority NHL years in 2019-20.
  • McDavid was the only draft pick to immediately went from the CHL to the NHL after being picked. He was followed by Jesse Puljujarvi who made the jump in his D+2 year. However, Puljujarvi’s storied start to his career saw him go back to Europe to play in Liiga, a Finnish league in his D+4 year.
  • Kailer Yamamoto became a full time NHLer in his D+3 year after continuing in the CHL for a season and playing another season in the AHL.
  • Three other Oilers finally made the NHL in their D+5 years, which include Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear who are still with the Oilers and look to both be fixtures in the Oilers’.
  • The remaining player was John Marino, who developed in the NCAA and made his NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins after being traded for a sixth round pick in the 2019 offseason.
  • The Oilers parted ways with Ziyat Paigin in 2017 after giving him a couple stints in the AHL. Despite playing a handful of games with the Bakersfield Condors across two seasons, he still spent the majority of every season playing in the KHL.
  • More than half of the prospects that came from the CHL have at least made it to the AHL or even the NHL. Markus Niemelainen currently plays in Europe and Dylan Wells in the ECHL. All other CHL picks have seen time with the Condors or Oilers, with the exception of Olivier Rodrigue, who’s was selected in 2018 and is still in the CHL (currently on loan playing in the Austrian Hockey League).
  • The Oilers seem to avoided selecting players from Russia when Chiarelli was in charge, as Paigin was the only Russian pick. Zero picks came from lower Russian leagues at all.
  • Goaltending prospect Miroslav Svoboda’s path was a weird one to say the least. He was selected in 2015 and spent much of his development in Europe. Eventually the Oilers moved on from him, and he ended up signing with the Nashville Predators in 2018. He played in the ECHL in his D+4 year and was called up to the NHL when Pekka Rinne was injured, but saw no playing time in either the NHL nor AHL that season. Ultimately, he went back to Europe the following year and is still there today.

These are just some of the observations that can be made by looking at the chart. Try and see what you can determine for yourself. If you’re interested, the data used to create the visualisation can be downloaded here:

Admittedly, I may have made some mistakes in the evaluations of some lesser known prospects as I’m not as familiar with the entire Oilers’ organisation as I am with the Flames, so please point out any errors as they appear and I will fix them and give credit!

Every Chiarelli seed knows its time

While Chiarelli is long gone and out of the Oilers organisation, he undeniably changed the trajectory of the Oilers with his body of work. The past season luckily saw more of Chiarelli’s 2015 picks finally take steps in advancing up to the NHL level.

His legacy with the Oilers leaves a sour taste for many, but there may still be hope for Oilers prospects drafted under his tutelage. In a few more years, we will see how many more are able to develop into NHLers. In the not so distant future, Chiarelli’s picks will all be determined, and it’ll be the group of draft picks made by Holland that will garner all the attention.

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