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04-30-2004, 01:49 PM
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Just as part of the Parise debate, here is an excerpt from Guy Flaming's article about why the Oilers selected Pouliot over Parise.

At the last draft held in Nashville, the Oilers made what has become somewhat of a controversial decision to many Oiler fans. Reminiscent of the 1995 draft decision not to take Shane Doan, in 2003 the Oilers passed over Zach Parise who, although small, appears to be one of the better prospects in his age group in the world. Instead of choosing Parise when it was their turn to select a player, the Oilers opted to trade their pick to New Jersey in exchange for the Devils’ first and second round selections. New Jersey opted to take Parise and the Oilers used their two new picks to take Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who they would have taken ahead of Parise anyway, and Jean-Francois Jacques.
It’s a decision that has been criticized by many people especially after Parise recently led the United States to World Junior Championship gold and was named the tournament MVP.

“Here’s a guy whose character is tremendous,” McCarthy described talking about Pouliot. “Unbelievably terrible team, 36 games in a row they lost and he never gave up, and he never stopped working the whole year. He can skate, score, he’s got hands, he’s very cerebral as a player, the guy has size and he’s got a lot of character… not that Zach Parise didn’t have any of that.”

What Parise doesn’t have though is something that the Oilers have searched desperately for over the past few seasons.

“Size,” stated Prendergast without hesitation.

“We had them neck and neck,” said Edmonton’s chief scout. “As a staff we felt we had a lot of small players and we needed a bigger centermen and there were things on Pouliot that we saw at the end of the year in a poor situation where he responded and played very well.”

Pouliot did not partake in the World Junior tournament in Finland because of injuries. There was a good chance that the Rimouski forward would have represented Canada in the competition if not for the abdominal pain that had hampered him all year.

The differences between the two forwards on draft day according to Oiler scouts were miniscule but Parise, a Hobey Baker finalist last year as a freshman, had one knock on him that could not be ignored. By the end of the NCAA schedule Parise was visibly tired and rundown despite a light game load in comparison to that of Pouliot. While Parise played in 39 games for the University of North Dakota, and also in several games for Team USA, at his size and age, scouts did not expect him to have tired so quickly.

“What it came down to was that they were very similar players but there was one difference as far as I was concerned,” summarized McCarthy. “I watched (Parise) play a lot at the end of the year for North Dakota, and when I saw him go into Wisconsin he looked exhausted.”

“I think the fact that he was worn down at 5’10” was a factor and it can be something that small that determines who you take. I can’t say 100 percent for sure what was in everyone else’s mind but I think it was something minute like that which said we want this guy ahead of that guy and that’s sometimes how you make your list.”

Even so there is no denying that Parise could go on to have a distinguished career in the NHL, a possibility that McCarthy freely admits.

“I know the ‘boo birds’ are now seeing through their 20-20 hindsight vision that we should have selected Parise,” argued McCarthy recently. “Zach Parise is a hell of a player, and a great individual with a lot of character, but I think we got ourselves a great player in Pouliot; someone the whole staff liked and someone who will answer the questions of our needs up the middle. He'll bring size, hands, grit, character, determination, and talent to our lineup in the near future.

“I love Zack Parise and I wish we could have taken both of them. He’s going to play in the NHL but I think Pouliot’s going to play too.

It is far too early to say whether this scenario will play out the same way the Doan/Kelly story of 1995 did but the important thing to remember is that this was a decision made by the scouting staff as a whole and not just by one or two people at the top of the ladder.

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