Last night’s NHL draft lottery made it official. The Edmonton Oilers will not be selecting first overall this summer. The Colorado Avalanche are the lucky recipients this season, winning the draft lottery over the Florida Panthers. The projected number one pick is defenseman Seth Jones, but don’t feel too badly for the Panthers. The second best prospect is center Nathan MacKinnon, and some feel he deserves to be chosen first.
For the past three seasons, the Edmonton Oilers were the first to the podium on NHL draft day, as their futility won them three number one overall picks. In 2010 they chose Taylor Hall, in 2011 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and in 2012 Nail Yakupov. All highly skilled, all fairly small. This year, the Oilers were slightly less bad, and didn’t even finish in the bottom five. Come draft day in New Jersey, and barring any trades of course, new general manager Craig MacTavish will call out a name with the seventh overall pick.
The draft is fairly deep this year, and any player chosen in the top 10 is projected to be a good one. But the Oilers will have their work cut out for them. The final rankings released by central scouting have 6 foot left winger Valentin Zykov sloted at number seven. TSN reporter Bob McKenzie, however, had center Sean Monahan at the number seven position. Monahan is 6 foot 2, and has a little more size than the majority of the top six forwards in Edmonton. Selecting a centerman may also facilitate the possible trade of Sam Gagner.
If the Oilers want to stick with the trend of choosing small forwards, 5 foot 10 winger/center Hunter Shinkaruk may be available at number seven. Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin is also an interesting possibility. His ranking has been climbing all season long, but his contract with the KHL may deter teams from taking him with a high pick, meaning there’s a good chance he could still be on the board for Edmonton.
The sleeper pick of the top 10 is defenseman Darnell Nurse, who’s stock has rose dramatically. McKenzie has him ranked at number 10, and central scouting actually put him 4th among North American skaters. Nurse is big at 6 foot 4, and size is pretty much a necessity for the Oilers at this point. Winger Frederik Gauthier is ranked at number eight. He’s 6 foot 3 and 193 pounds. Definitely has the makings of a power forward.
There are a lot of great choices available for the Oilers. They aren’t necessarily slam dunks, but they are quality players, and with a lower top 10 pick like the Oilers have, they should be looking to fill a need. And their needs are simple: size and girt, both on defense and at forward, and goaltending depth. It would be a long shot, but Edmonton is probably keeping their eye on top ranked goalie Zachary Fucale of Halifax. Taking him at seven might be high, but you never know what MacTavish might do. Edmonton has some holes to fill, and without the pressure of having to choose the best player available, they have a lot of options to help their franchise moving forward. And they definitely need some help.