The NHL draft lottery is now a recent memory, so teams will start looking more seriously at what they should do with their picks at the upcoming entry draft. The 2016 NHL Entry Draft takes place in Buffalo on June 24th and 25th. The Montreal Canadiens are probably unsurprised that they’ll be drafting at number nine since the odds of them moving up in the draft were pretty slim. Though this year’s top-10 is filled with potential star forwards (which the Habs need), they may be interested in moving up in the draft, and they may have a suitable trade partner in the Edmonton Oilers.
Rumors have linked the two teams together for the last few years. The Oilers have an abundance of offensive talent, but are missing pieces on the back-end, while on the other hand, the Habs need help up front. The missing piece in a deal between the two teams in the past was probably the lack of young defensive depth on the Habs. Had the Habs been willing to part with someone like Nathan Beaulieu, a deal between the teams would likely have been more conceivable. But now, with the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft, the Habs have something that the Oilers could use. The Oilers fell out of the top-3 at the draft lottery, and they now hold the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Let’s take a look at Bob McKenzie’s draft rankings for the top-10 projected selections based on information collected from scouts around the NHL.
- Auston Matthews (F) – 2. Patrik Laine (F) – 3. Jesse Puljujarvi (F) – 4. Matthew Tkachuk (F) – 5. Pierre-Luc Dubois (F) – 6.Alex Nylander (F) – 7. Olli Juolevi (D) – 8. Mikhail Sergachev (D) – 9. Jakob Chychrun (D) – 10. Clayton Keller (F)
If nothing is to change before the draft, the Oilers will have to decide whether to select yet another forward early in the draft. This wouldn’t address their current needs, and frankly wouldn’t be the smartest plan of action. The alternative for the team would be to draft a defenceman higher than their projected ranking. But why waste a top-5 pick on someone who you can get later in the draft? Sure, moving down five spots isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it can put the Oilers in a position to draft a player that would address their needs, and that would be selected at the appropriate time. As for the Habs, drafting a top-5 ranked offensive player would be just what the doctor ordered.
How Would the Canadiens Benefit?
The Habs aren’t as far away from being a solid NHL team as some may think. They need to find a way to balance their scoring and to help complement their young core. This year’s draft could provide exactly what the Habs need. With such a high selection in the draft, there’s no doubt that the team will bring in a talented player, though they may have their eyes on someone who is expected to go a little higher than ninth overall.
The Habs would like to add someone who can contribute as soon as possible since their core consists of a group of players ready to make a deep playoff run. With key guys such as Carey Price, Max Pacioretty & Co. still under contract for the next few seasons, the Habs would like to do some damage in the playoffs as soon as possible. They’ll likely target a player who they feel can make an almost immediate impact on the roster. Someone like Matthew Tkachuk (shown above) fits the bill.
Matthew Tkachuk-2016 having a decent postseason. 16 goals, 33 points and 64 shots on goal in 14 games.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) April 28, 2016
Tkachuk (the son of former NHL star, Keith), has the tools that many young players lack when they try breaking into the league. Not only does the power-forward have size — he also has strength, weight, and speed. These are valuable assets to have if Tkachuk is to make an impact upon being drafted. In addition to this, these are attributes that the Canadiens are (and have been) looking for. The Habs are continually looking to build on their size and strength as an organization, so this youngster would absolutely fit the bill. The interesting thing to note about Tkachuk is that he is slated to be drafted fourth overall, which is the pick that the Oilers currently hold.
It’s not like Tkachuk would be the Habs’ only option if they were to trade up. It would make sense if the team also had a significant interest in projected fifth overall selection, Pierre-Luc Dubois (shown on the right). A Quebec native, Dubois brings the size and skill that the Habs covet so much (on top of being a home-province player). The Habs could address their scoring and size issues with either of the two options.
Why wouldn’t the Habs want to stay at number nine? Well, as mentioned earlier, the team will be able to draft an impact player either way, but drafting earlier gives them that extra skill and more notably, the extra size that they’re looking for. Assuming the team goes for a forward with their first pick, they’d most probably have a selection between projected tenth overall selection, Clayton Keller, or projected eleventh overall selection, Tyson Jost. Both of the centers are a little undersized. That should play into the team’s decision on whom to draft. The Habs could also look at projected thirteenth overall pick, Logan Brown, as he stands at six feet, six inches tall, though this would involve them drafting a player that is ranked four spots lower than where they are currently selecting.
How Would the Oilers Benefit?
The way in which the Oilers would benefit is much more cut and dry. The team could select a defenceman with the fourth overall pick (which would arguably be too high), they can select yet another forward, or they can trade down, gain some value, and draft around number seven, eight or nine to get the player that they desperately need. For Oilers GM, Pete Chiarelli, the decision should be simple. It doesn’t make sense to draft another forward, so the team will look to draft a defenceman. Looking at the top-10 players available, Chiarelli should try moving down to draft anywhere from seventh to ninth or tenth overall. But why would Chiarelli care to trade down? Well, since his pick is higher than the one that he’d be trading for, he can gain some additional value and draft the same player that he would have drafted at number four. Doesn’t this seem logical?
While this is probably a gross oversimplification, a deal would absolutely make sense for both sides. The Oilers would move down to draft one of the three high-profile defensive prospects (Juolevi, Sergachev, or the projected ninth overall pick, Chychrun) while the Habs would move up to address their team needs.
What adds fuel to the fire, is the fact that the Habs and Oilers have been linked in numerous trade rumors for a very long time — especially since former first overall pick, Nail Yakupov reportedly asked for a trade a little while ago.
Speculation continues to swirl about what the two teams will do heading into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Habs could swerve all of us and draft a defenceman (since GM Bergevin has always said that the team can never have too many defencemen) while the Oilers may even draft another forward in the first round. These intense rumors are all based on a premise that makes a lot of sense, though this doesn’t guarantee any trade action between the two prior to the entry draft in June. On the other end of the spectrum, the way that things have aligned could bring forth a pretty big deal on draft day. All that fans can do, for now, is wait.
One thing is certain: after the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, both the Habs and the Oilers will have improved with their new additions.
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.