The Edmonton Oilers selected 11 players in the first round of the National Hockey League Draft in the 2010s—including four first- overall picks. Some of those first-rounders have become true stars in the league, while others aren’t even in the NHL anymore. I am going to rank those 11 picks based on their success in the league and how much they contributed to the Oilers success and/or failure.
11. Nail Yakupov
2012, 1st Overall
Nail Yakupov was the third of three straight first-overall picks that the Oilers had from 2010 to 2012 and he is undoubtedly the worst. When Edmonton selected him first overall from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, they thought that they were getting the next big offensive superstar, but as we know, that didn’t turn out to be the case and Yakupov will go down as one of the biggest busts in NHL history.
Yakupov performed well in his rookie season that was shortened by the 2012 lockout, tying Jonathan Huberdeau for the rookie scoring lead with 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 48 games. He only managed to reach the 30-point once more in his career, when he recorded 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 81 games in 2014-15.
After four seasons in Edmonton, Yakupov was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Zach Pochiro and a conditional third-round pick in 2017. He spent just one season with the St. Louis Blues before signing with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2017 offseason. He was not offered a qualifying offer by the Avalanche at the end of the 2017-18 season and eventually made the decision to return home to Russia and sign a two-year contract with St. Petersburg SKA of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Yakupov will certainly go down as one of the biggest busts in league history, but hey, at least he provided us with a very memorable goal celebration.
10. Jesse Puljujarvi
2016, 4th Overall
After another year of finishing at the bottom of the league standings, the Oilers were awarded the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Edmonton already had a good amount of talent up front so their plan was to select a defenceman with that No. 4 pick. However, plans changed after the Columbus Blue Jackets had selected Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall, allowing Jesse Puljujarvi to fall right into Edmonton’s lap. He was the best player available so there was no way that the Oilers were going pass him up.
Puljujarvi was supposed to be the perfect winger for Connor McDavid, and some fans even went as far as saying that they could become Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri 2.0. But he was never able to live up to the expectations. He couldn’t carve himself out a permanent spot on the Oilers roster and spent most of his North American career bouncing between Edmonton and the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.
He made it clear this past offseason that he was unhappy in Edmonton and wanted a fresh start somewhere new. On Aug. 27, he signed a one-year deal with his former Finnish League club Oulun Karpat. The contract featured an out clause that would have allowed Puljujarvi to return to the NHL if a deal was in place before Dec. 1, but as we know, he never signed a deal and opted to finish out the season in Finland.
It’s unclear when, or if we’ll see Puljujarvi in the NHL again, but after a strong performance in Finland this season, he may have attracted the attention of a few NHL teams. He currently sits third in SM-Liiga scoring with 50 points (22 goals, 28 assists) in 51 games.
9. Philip Broberg
2019, 8th Overall
Philip Broberg had a solid draft year with AIK of the Swedish Allsvenskan League recording 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 41 games. His offensive numbers didn’t really jump out at you, but it was his excellent skating and playmaking ability that made him a highly ranked prospect. The Oilers liked what they saw and went onto select him eighth-overall.
Following his first training camp with the Oilers last summer, he announced that he would be returning home to Sweden for the 2019-20 season to further develop rather than joining the Ontario Hockey League, where the Hamilton Bulldogs own his rights. He joined Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League and while he hasn’t put up great offensive numbers (0 goals, 6 assists) he has been solid on the team’s third defensive pairing and has been able to hold his own against older, tougher opponents.
Broberg has the potential to become a top-pairing defenceman for the Oilers and he will be a big part off their success in the future. However, it will still be a couple of seasons before we see him an Oilers jersey, he’ll likely need to spend a couple of seasons with the Condors in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.
8. Evan Bouchard
2018, 10th Overall
Like Broberg, we haven’t seen a whole lot of Evan Bouchard at the NHL level yet. He has only played seven career games for the Oilers so far, where has one goal and zero assists.
Bouchard had a monster draft year with the London Knights of the OHL that saw him put up 87 points (25 goals, 62 assists) in 67 games. The Oilers liked what they saw with him and went onto select him 10th overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.
He has been very impressive for the Condors this season, with 33 points (7 goals, 26 assists) he is third on the team in scoring. He earned a call up to the Oilers earlier this month after it was announced that Oscar Klefbom would miss the next two-to-three weeks with injury, but he didn’t play a single game and was returned to Bakersfield on Feb. 22.
A little more time in the AHL will do Bouchard some good, and he will be ready to join the Oilers full-time for the 2020-21 season.
7. Kailer Yamamoto
2017, 22nd Overall
Heading into the 2017 NHL Draft, the Oilers were fresh off of their best season since the 2006 Stanley Cup run. Edmonton finished the regular season with 103 points (47-26-9), and they came within one win of reaching the Western Conference Final, but ultimately lost the to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the second round.
They ended up with the 22nd overall pick in the upcoming draft—the first time since 2008 (Jordan Eberle) that they had a first-round pick outside of the top-ten. With that pick, they selected Kailer Yamamoto from the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League. Despite his 5-foot-8, 153-pound frame, Yamamoto was an offensive machine in the WHL and finished sixth league scoring with 99 points (42 goals, 57 assists).
After a couple of seasons in Bakersfield fine-tuning his game, Yamamoto earned the call up to the Oilers earlier this season, and it looks like he is there to stay. He has 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) since joining the Oilers on Dec. 27. He has spent his time playing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they have quickly become one of the best lines in the league. He has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, but he is expected to be back soon and he’ll ready to play an important role for the Oilers in the playoffs this Spring.
6. Darnell Nurse
2013, 7th Overall
The Oilers were fresh off three-straight first overall picks, so when it was announced that they had the seventh overall selection in 2013, they found themselves in some unfamiliar territory. They had drafted forwards with those three first overall picks, so they decided that it was time that they address their weak defensive core. So with the seventh overall pick, they selected Darnell Nurse from the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.
Nurse didn’t become a full-time NHLer until the 2015-16 season, and it still took a little while after that until he really found his footing in the league, but now he has established himself a true top-four defenceman in the league. He has 26 points (5 goals, 21) points so far this season and has been Edmonton’s best defenceman at times. Recently he has had to assume a bigger role on the blue line in Klefbom’s absence. He brings a great combination of grit and skill which will allow him to play an important role for the Oilers in the playoffs this Spring.
5. Taylor Hall
2010, 1st Overall
After finishing with a league-worst 62 points (27-47-8) the Oilers were awarded the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. Leading up to the draft it was ‘Taylor vs Tyler’ (Taylor Hall vs Tyler Seguin) but the Oilers ultimately decided to use their first overall pick to select Hall from the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Hall posted 106 points (40 goals, 66 assists) in his draft year and helped the Spitfires win back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships in 2009 and 2010. The Oilers felt that Hall was the player to kick start their rebuild and help lead them back to Stanley Cup glory.
However, that didn’t turn out to be the case and despite Hall’s best efforts, he wasn’t able to bring the Oilers to the playoffs, he wasn’t even able to bring them out of the bottom of the league standings. However, it wasn’t all his fault, he had a pretty poor supporting cast, and management didn’t do a whole lot to fix it.
Despite not having any team success, Hall still put together a pretty solid Oilers career, recording 328 points (132 goals, 196 assists) in 381 games. He led the Oilers in scoring three times, with his best season coming in 2013-14 where he scored 80 points (27 goals, 53 assists) in 75 games.
After the Oilers had selected Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid in back to back drafts, it was clear that Hall wasn’t going to be ‘the guy’ in Edmonton for much longer. In June 2016 he was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson—who has become an important piece on the Oilers’ blue line.
While in New Jersey, Hall posted a new career-high in goals (39), assists (54), and points (93), and was awarded the Hart Trophy in 2018. He spent three and a half seasons in New Jersey before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes earlier this season.
4. Oscar Klefbom
2011, 19th Overall
Not only did the Oilers have the first overall selection in 2011 NHL Draft, they also had the 19th overall pick that they acquired when they traded Dustin Penner to the L.A. Kings on Feb. 28, 2011. With that pick they were able to select Oscar Klefbom from Farjestads BK Karlstad of the Swedish Elite League. Klefbom’s above-average skating and knack for jumping into the rush made him a very intriguing prospect for a number of NHL teams.
After being drafted, Klefbom stayed in Sweden for two more seasons, and eventually made the jump to North America for the start of the 2013-14 season. He spent most of that season in Bakersfield, but he did manage to earn a 17-game call up with the Oilers where he recorded a goal and two assists.
Fast forward to the present day, and Klefbom has become just about everything that the Oilers wanted him to be when they drafted him in 2011. He has taken the role of the No. 1 defenceman on the Oilers and he has run away with it. Whether he’s quarterbacking the power play or making a timely defensive play to prevent a goal, Klefbom makes an impact every time that he is on the ice. With 33 points (5 goals, 28 assists) this season he sits fourth on the Oilers in scoring. He also leads the team in blocks (172), and ice time (25:36).
He’s currently out with a shoulder injury, but he’ll back before playoffs and he’ll be ready to play a big role in helping the Oilers compete for the Stanley Cup.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2011, 1st Overall
Despite selecting Hall first overall in 2010, the Oilers found themselves dead-last in the league for the second year in a row at the end of the 2010-11 season, and they were once again given the chance to select first overall at the upcoming draft.
With that pick, they selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Nugent-Hopkins – who was best known for his outstanding vision and playmaking abilities – finished third in WHL scoring in his draft year with 106 points (31 goals, 75 assists) in 69 games.
He had a pretty slow start to the 2019-20 season, followed by a hand injury in November that caused him to miss six games, but he was able to find his offensive game after joining forces with Draisaitl and Yamamoto. In 58 games this season he has 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) which is good enough for the third on the team in scoring.
Nugent-Hopkins is now in his ninth season in Edmonton, which makes him the longest-serving Oiler on the current roster. With 432 career points (165 goals, 267 assists) he sits 12th on the Oilers all-time list, and he’ll move into the top-ten early next season. He has been through seven different coaches, five general managers, and a handful of bottom-five finishes—if anyone on the Oilers deserves to win a Cup, it’s him.
2. Leon Draisaitl
2014, 3rd Overall
Other than Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers weren’t very deep at center, so they came into the 2014 Draft with plans to address that need.
They finished the 2013-14 season in 28th place with only 67 points (29-44-9) and ended up with the third overall pick and used that pick to select Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders. Draisaitl made a name for himself in junior with his high offensive IQ and elite playmaking abilities. In his draft year, he finished fourth in WHL scoring with 105 points (38 goals, 67 assists) in 64 games.
Draisaitl is now in his fifth full season in the league and he has established himself as one of the top players in the game. He took his career to new heights last season when he posted a 50-goal, 105-point campaign. He joined Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin as the only players in the league to reach the 50-goal mark.
He turned his game up another level this season and is only one point shy of reaching the 100-point mark for the second-straight season. With 99 points (37 goals, 62 assists) in 64 games, he appears to be the favorite to take home the Art Ross in June, he currently sits nine points up on Boston Bruins star David Pastrnak who is second in the scoring race.
Draisaitl has been in the Hart Trophy conversation all season long, but after McDavid went down with a quad injury a couple of weeks ago he became the favorite. In the six games that McDavid missed, Draisaitl posted 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) and the Oilers went 3-2-1.
Like I mentioned earlier, the line combination of Draisaitl, Yamomoto, and Nugent-Hopkins has been one of the best lines in hockey and they will be very dangerous for the Oilers come playoff time.
With 411 career points as an Oiler (162 goals, 249 assists) Draisaitl sits 13th on the all-time points list, and like Nugent-Hopkins, he’ll move into the top-ten early next season.
1. Connor McDavid
2015, 1st Overall
The Oilers finished the 2014-15 season 28th in the league, but they beat out the 29th place Arizona Coyotes and the 30th place Buffalo Sabres at the Draft Lottery and were once again awarded the first overall pick. At this point, the Oilers were no strangers to the first overall pick—it was their fourth in six years, only this time it wasn’t your average first overall pick. This time it was Connor McDavid who was a generational talent and was the best prospect since Sidney Crosby.
Before being selected first overall by the Oilers, McDavid spent his junior career with the Erie Otters of the OHL. He recorded 120 points (44 goals, 76 assists) in his draft year, which was good enough for second in OHL scoring. He likely would have run away with the scoring race had he not missed 21 games with a broken hand.
McDavid is now in his fifth season with the Oilers, and he has lived up to every bit of hype that he had surrounding him coming into the league. Whether he’s dancing through defenders en route to a nifty goal or effortlessly making a perfect cross-ice pass on the power play, he finds himself on the highlight reel on almost a nightly basis.
In his short time in the league he has already won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the Ted Lindsay Award twice, and the Hart Trophy once. Despite missing time with injury this season, he still sits third in league scoring with 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists). It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to pass Draisaitl for the Art Ross, but there’s still a strong chance that he could take home the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in June. The individual awards would be nice, but right now the main thing on his mind is getting the Oilers to the playoffs and doing everything he can to help them make a deep run this Spring.
McDavid is ninth on the Oilers all-time points list with 459 career points (159 goals, 300 assists), and he will be approaching the top-five within the next couple of seasons.
Josh Vold covers the Edmonton Oilers here at TheHockeyWriters.com