With the NHL’s regular season winding with a close, the draft lottery looms for those teams near the bottom of the standings. For the third consecutive year, the Edmonton Oilers are in contention for the 1st overall pick. The had the number one selection for the past two years in a row. In 2010, they chose power forward Taylor Hall, and last season they took slick playmaker Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The two forwards joined 2009 first round pick Jordan Eberle and formed quite a deadly trio of offense. But injuries and overall team struggles derailed a promising season for the youngsters, and the Oilers face yet another year without postseason hockey. In the area of stockpiling young talent, the re-build in Edmonton is going to plan. They have a ton of promising prospects in their system like Colten Teubert, Oscar Klefbom and Anton Lander. But, for all their hopeful talent, there have been no results on the ice, which makes this years draft a key one for the future of this team.
When an organisation has the chance to draft in the top 3, there’s always the question of choosing the best player available, or choosing a particular position that your team is in need of. Nail Yakupov is the consensus number one pick this year, and while the Oilers won’t finish dead last, they still do have a chance to pick first. Yakupov, while being the best player available, is also an offensive minded forward, something the Oilers have plenty of. Obviously, while the idea of adding the skilled Yakupov to an ever improving deadly core of forwards is certainly tempting, he will do very little to help the teams biggest weakness, which is on defense. Oilers General Manager isn’t giving much hints as to what he will do should he get the first pick again. Would he go with Yakupov, or a much needed defenseman? Would he consider trading that pick for a player who could help him now? A smart GM won’t tie his hands by committing one way or the other, so don’t expect Tambellini to tip his cards anytime soon.
The most likely scenario for the Oilers is that they will get the second overall pick. If Columbus, who has the best chance of getting the first pick, goes with Yakupov, that will leave the Oilers with a plethora of choices. Most mock drafts have selected a defensman for the Oilers, either Matt Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels, or Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips. Dumba is likened to a Paul Coffey type of blueliner, whereas Murray has more of the all around ability. Either one would be a much needed help on the back-end for the Oilers, which is where they desperately need that help. But what about the other explosive offensive talents that would be available like forwards Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko? Defenseman normally take longer to develop than forwards do, and perhaps the player who is most NHL ready would be the better choice.
Whoever the Oilers pick will be another building block in the re-build, but management is ready (and maybe even desperate) for some on ice success. Would trading the pick for say, a Ryan Suter type be more in the Oilers best interest? Maybe trading for a highly touted young goaltender already in the NHL like Cory Schneider or Jonathan Bernier? Lots to think about. Yes, the Oilers won’t be in the playoffs this season. But rest assured it will still be a very interesting summer of decisions in Edmonton.