The Edmonton Oilers have left Vancouver and the NHL Entry Draft with a big, speedy defenseman and five other prospects. The reviews are mixed in terms of what the team did, but for the most part, there is faith in Edmonton that the man behind the wheel knows what he’s doing.
Ken Holland has had tremendous success at the NHL draft, finding gems in the later rounds and turning those gems into legitimate NHL stars. So, when Holland decides to draft a Swede blueliner when some pretty good fowards were available, he gets the benefit of the doubt.
But, that praise won’t be unanimous and there will be some who question the rest of the work he did on Saturday following the first round.
The Philip Broberg Selection: No. 8 Overall
There’s a saying, ‘you can never have too many good defensemen.’ Ken Holland is about to test that theory in a major way.
The need at forward was strong for the Oilers heading into the draft, and there were some good ones still available (namely Trevor Zegras) when the team picked at No. 8 overall. But, championships are won with strong defense and good goaltending. The Oilers have a strong pipeline of blueliners that just got even stronger.
Adding Broberg to a group that already consists of Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Caleb Jones, William Lagesson and Ethan Bear, can’t hurt. Plus, the Oilers already employ Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. This blue line group could be the strongest part of the Oilers game in two to three years.
This is also probably a sign; a sign that the Oilers main focus will be to cut down on goals against and have contributions from their back end. They must also believe they can grab a forward in free agency or trade a whole lot easier than they can get a future top-four d-man.
Why Not Trade Down?
There was some debate as to why the Oilers didn’t trade down to grab Broberg when he was ranked lower than the Oilers took him. But, if you look at what 30 other NHL teams were unable to do, you’ll realize quickly that almost no one traded down. The draft was too deep and too uncertain and NHL GM’s weren’t willing to take chances.
The knock on Broberg is his hockey IQ but he’s fast, big, and skilled and projects to be a top-four, maybe a top-two defenseman in the NHL. He’s nota bad pick at No. 8 even if the Oilers could have gotten him at No. 14 or 15.
Remember, Holland has success in drafting Swedish defensemen. Maybe he knows a thing or two most of the fans (many of which who have not watched Broberg play) do not.
Raphael Lavoie at No. 38
This pick was universally commended by fans and based on the numbers and where all the draft experts had Lavoie slotted, this is a steal for the Oilers.
The second Lavoie was announced, it put a bit of breath back into those who didn’t like the fact the Oilers took a d-man at No. 8. And, maybe the Oilers breathed a sigh of relief as well because getting a forward with such a potentially high ceiling after Round 1 was either well planned or extremely lucky.
Many had Lavoie ranked inside the first round and this kid is a shooter. He posted 206 shots in 62 games, an average of 3.32 shots per game. While he won’t be ready for the NHL next season, he’s a pick that a couple of years down the line could turn out well for Edmonton.
Not your prototypical “Power Forward” but Lavoie has high-end puck skills and a wicked release.
Ilya Konovalov at No. 85
At the No. 85 spot, the Oilers took a goaltender. But, by most accounts, this is not just an average goalie. The Oilers picked the KHL Rookie of the Year who turns 21 on July 13 and has two years left on his KHL deal. He went 25-15-1 with a .930 save percentage and 1.89 GAA with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.
Ironically, he’ll be playing under the watchful eye of Craig MacTavish next season and the running joke is that with this pick, the Oilers essentially created a KHL farm team.
Like their depth on defense, the Oilers have a lot of goalies in their system now. But, this is not a pick that will see time in Edmonton for a while.
As for the remainder of the picks, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not familiar enough with their games nor their background to offer a fair grade on the selections. That’s what often happens in the later parts of the draft.
Overall Score: B
As a whole, I’m a bit surprised by the lack of action at the NHL Entry Draft this year. Only three noteworthy trades took place and both came on the second day. The Oilers weren’t involved in anything and while patience is good, there is still a lot that needs to be done with this team and free agency likely won’t be where they do it.
But, there needs to be some trust with Holland and he put it best when he said, “The people who don’t watch the games seem to have all the answers today,” he said. To his credit, he’s watched these players far more than I.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”