As it stands with just a week left in the regular season, the Florida Panthers are currently holding down the 30th spot in the NHL with 32 points. The 29th place Colorado Avalanche have 37 points, and as more Panthers seem to do down with injury (Dmitry Kulikov being the latest), it doesn’t look like Florida will budge from where they are. All non-playoffs team have the chance to get a lottery pick, but the Panthers have the best chance at number one.
Scouts believe that WHL defenseman Seth Jones is the best prospect available. He is the kind of player every team wants in their line-up. He’s big, he can skate, he’s physical and he’s got offensive upside. Halifax forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are also expected to be in the mix for the top selection. The draft is very deep this season, with a lot of solid players near the top.
The Edmonton Oilers currently sit in 25th place, though that could very well change before the season is over. But the prospect of “earning” another first overall pick is likely out of the question. However trading to get that pick, is not. Florida is no stranger to trading their first overall pick. They did it in 2002, trading the first overall pick to Columbus. The Blue Jackets ended up selecting Rick Nash. The Panthers choose Jay Bouwmeester at number three. He’s no longer with the team. They did it again in 2003, this time trading with Pittsburgh. The Penguins selected future Stanley Cup winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the top pick. The Panthers took Nathan Horton third overall. He’s no longer with the team.
It would be interesting to see whether or not Florida would forfeit their top pick again. But if the package was right, maybe they would. Enter the Oilers. Stocked with small, skilled forwards, Edmonton could certainly use a physical force on the back-end, especially one who could control the play as well as Seth Jones. The Oilers struggles have been well documented, and since the hiring of new GM Craig MacTavish, many feel a big trade may be on the horizon. Would they part with Nail Yakupov? Maybe Sam Gagner? It seems as though not even the big three of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are safe.
The problem with the Oilers is that all of their top forwards are the same kind of player: small, fast, skilled, no physical presence. Ideally, they would need a Milan Lucic type player, a big power forward who can skate and create space for the smaller guys. But how often is a Lucic available? Obviously there is a case to be made that the Oilers don’t need more draft picks. They need established, experienced NHL players who can help right away. MacTavish is an aggressive guy, and you can be sure he’ll be on the phones trying to get such a player onto his roster.
But if the Oilers do indeed covet Seth Jones, there are certainly are some options to tempt whoever holds the first pick. Imagine for a moment a blueline that features Jones and Justin Schultz as the top pairing. It may be worth the price of what they’d have to give up.