For the past three seasons, the Edmonton Oilers haven’t had to do a ton of research in the first round of the NHL entry draft. They held the first overall pick for each of the last three years, and they knew pretty early which prospect they wanted. This season, however, the pick won’t be so much of a no-brainer. The Oilers sit at number seven, and according to the latest rankings by central scouting, that spot is held by Swedish forward Elias Lindholm. The six foot centerman at his best has been compared to Henrik Zetterberg, but more realistically to a Rich Peverly. He needs to work on his skating and add some weight, but he’s great in all three zones and has some offensive flair.
Ranked at number six is defensman Darnell Nurse. A defensive defenseman, Nurse is big at six foot four, and he’s exactly the kind of player the Oilers need. They already have offensive minded blueliners, and would do well selecting a shut-down type player. But if you really want some size on the blueline, look no further than number nine ranked player Nikita Zadorov. The six foot five, 230 pound defenseman played in London in the OHL so he understands the North American game. He is more likely to be available for the Oilers at seven than Nurse, and is probably the guy they should seriously consider taking.
If the Oilers want a bigger forward, ninth place ranked centerman Sean Monahan is a good fit. He’s got size at six foot two and has a lot of offensive upside. A lot may depend on what’s happening with Sam Gagner since Shawn Horcoff is likely on his way out and if they can’t sign Gagner they need to go for another centerman. The Oilers could go off the board with their pick, or even trade it if the price is right. Craig MacTavish is an aggressive GM and he will do whatever it takes to improve his hockey club. Choosing first overall is easy. But anything out of the top five can be a challenge. How have the Oilers fared in past first rounds?
In 2000, Edmonton chose Russian winger Alexi Mikhnov at number 17. He played two NHL games.
Moving on to 2001, the Oilers choose Ales Hemsky 13th overall. Hemsky has been a great player for the Oilers, and is probably one of the most skilled players in the league. Injuries have plagued him over his career and he is likely on his way out of Edmonton.
In 2002, the Oilers chose Finnish centerman Jesse Niinimaki at number 15. He never played in the NHL.
In 2003, Marc-Antoine Pouliot was the Oilers selection with the 22nd overall pick. He’s been mostly a fringe NHLer over his career.
In 2004, Edmonton chose goaltender Devan Dubnyk at number 14. He’s currently the team’s starter, and has shown some real promise with increased ice time. The jury is still out on his status going forward, however.
In 2005, the Oilers selected Andrew Cogliano with the the 25th overall pick. He is finally finding his place in the league and had a break-out season this year. With the Anaheim Ducks.
In 2006, the Oilers didn’t have a first round pick, their highest selection was in the second round, 45th overall with which they chose defenseman Jeff Petry. He is becoming a mainstay on the Oilers blueline and has shown a lot of progression.
In 2007, Sam Gagner was chosen at number six overall. He was arguably the Oilers MVP this past season. He was rushed into the NHL at age 18, but is starting to show now why he was selected so high. Hopefully Edmonton will be able to hang onto him this summer.
In 2008, Jordan Eberle was a steal at number 22 for the Oilers. He is so highly skilled and an extremely hard worker. He was blowing up the AHL during the lock-out and looks poised to become a star in the NHL.
In 2009 the Oilers chose Magnus Paajarvi at number 10. He was a very highly touted prospect, but it’s taking some time for him to really find his niche in the NHL. He had a strong season in 2013, and the Oilers hope that’s a sign of things to come.
Choosing players in the first round isn’t as easy as it seems. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. The 2013 is said to be one of the deepest in years, and assuming Edmonton hangs onto their pick they’ll get a good player. Which one will be pulling on an Oilers jersey, however remains quite the mystery.