Will The Oilers Take The Best Player Available At The Draft This Summer?

Jonathan Willis
March 07 2012 11:01AM

While virtually every club around espouses “best player available” as their draft strategy, there’s no doubt that the Oilers pay attention to the position played by the guys they’re drafting. If there was any doubt of that, the last episode of Oil Change should have removed it.

First, there was this exchange on the draft floor at the Oilers’ table before the Oilers made the 19th overall pick in 2011:

Tambellini: “More offense on [Oscar] Klefbom?”
MacGregor: “Pelly likes Klefbom better, Robert thinks they’re really even.”
[Unclear]: “We want a ‘D’”
MacGregor: “Yeah, you know, those three guys are all very close. We had him ranked higher anyhow, so he’s the guy to go with.”

Which three players were the Oilers looking at? We can’t know for certain, but the next four defensemen taken were Connor Murphy, Joe Morrow, Stuart Percy, and David Musil.

Speaking of Musil, here’s what was said before the Oilers drafted him in the second round:

MacGregor: “31. If we don’t take one of those D’s, the guys you’ll be looking at, they’ll likely go.”
Bob Brown: “I thought we had enough forwards, and you never have enough defense. I’ve always said David [Musil]’s going to play. He might be one of the smartest guys on the back end.”
Unidentified scout: “He’s kind of the whole package in a defenseman that’s gonna be an anchor for a while.”
Unidentified scout: “I think that they will force him to [inaudible] that and I do think it’s an issue.”
Kent Hawley: “Total opposite. I think his feetwork will improve; his positioning, his gap, and his stick and his hockey sense, I just don’t see it being a concern.”
MacGregor: “[Oilers skating and skills coach Steve] Serdachny says his skating can get better.”
Tambellini: “So, you agree with character?”
Brown: “Character, leadership.”
MacGregor: “We may need to take defensemen, but… it’s very close. Very, very close. Good discussion.”

Again, we can’t know which forward might have been in the discussion, but we do know that St. Louis drafted Ty Rattie (63GP – 53G – 57A – 110PTS in the WHL this season) with the next pick.

Those discussions are interesting given the choice the Oilers have to make at the Entry Draft this summer. As it stands, they’re likely to finish with the second overall draft pick, and the top two prospects on most publicly available lists are Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko. The two likely best defensemen – Ryan Murray and Matt Dumba – are a little further down, more in the third-to-fifth range.

We don’t know who the Oilers are going to pick, or even where they’re going to select, but we can guess that the positional needs of the organization are going to be discussed.

(Photo above a screenshot from Oil Change.)

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Oil Dude
March 07 2012, 09:46PM
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I for one am not worried at all about this pick. The way I see it Tambi is playing with house money right now.

The rise of Eberle has now given us potentially three franchise players to build around. I am far more concerned with who Tambellini picks up at free agency than I am about some young guy picked up at the draft.

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#52 Dave Lumley
March 07 2012, 10:19PM
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Oil Dude wrote:

I for one am not worried at all about this pick. The way I see it Tambi is playing with house money right now.

The rise of Eberle has now given us potentially three franchise players to build around. I am far more concerned with who Tambellini picks up at free agency than I am about some young guy picked up at the draft.

He is not picking anybody of importance in free agency. He has said that all along, we need to develop from within because the cost of a first class free agent coming to Edmonton is way to expensive (as history has proven).

That is his plan like it or not. If nothing else he has been very consistent with this.

Pick the "D-man", if he is not turning out then move him with one of the many addons we have and a draft pick for your stud D-man.

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#53 speeds
March 08 2012, 08:32AM
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Dave Lumley wrote:

He is not picking anybody of importance in free agency. He has said that all along, we need to develop from within because the cost of a first class free agent coming to Edmonton is way to expensive (as history has proven).

That is his plan like it or not. If nothing else he has been very consistent with this.

Pick the "D-man", if he is not turning out then move him with one of the many addons we have and a draft pick for your stud D-man.

He has been consistent with that until now, but that may have more to do with the stage they were in the rebuild.

I'dbe surprised if the Oilers wouldn't sign Suter this summer if they could get him inked at a somewhat reasonable price and term, whatever they consider that to be.

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#54 speeds
March 08 2012, 08:39AM
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I don't really agree with the consensus that D is the area of need for the Oilers at the draft.

The D may be more in need of help on the current team, but that doesn't mean that the prospect area of need is D. Different people might rank the Oilers prospects differently, but when you look at the prospect pool, coulddn't it be argued that the D prospects, as a group, are looking better than the F prospects?

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#55 RexLibris
March 08 2012, 12:18PM
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speeds wrote:

I don't really agree with the consensus that D is the area of need for the Oilers at the draft.

The D may be more in need of help on the current team, but that doesn't mean that the prospect area of need is D. Different people might rank the Oilers prospects differently, but when you look at the prospect pool, coulddn't it be argued that the D prospects, as a group, are looking better than the F prospects?

I couldn't agree more.

Taking into account that this team is in a stated process of rebuilding, a look at the depth chart of prospects reveals quite quickly, in my opinion, that the greatest area of need is at the wing and center.

When the Hemsky-to-Detroit talk was going I was hoping they would target either Tomas Jurco or Tomas Tatar as part of the return to help bolster our forward prospects.

This draft is deep in defencemen, but out of the Oilers first two picks I wouldn't take a d-man until the 3rd round where I'd be happy if they could walk away with Cody Corbett.

The only reason I can see to take a defenceman in this year's draft is if they select Griffin Reinhart in the late 10s, if only to keep him away from the Flames and break their fans' hearts.

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#56 Dave Lumley
March 08 2012, 12:29PM
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@RexLibris

"The only reason I can see to take a defenceman in this year's draft is if they select Griffin Reinhart in the late 10s, if only to keep him away from the Flames and break their fans' hearts"

You make my day with that positive attitude!

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#57 Chris.
March 08 2012, 06:34PM
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Drafting the BPA is always the best policy assuming your GM has the stones to make trades, or the ability to round out the roster via free agency. How many pure hockey deals do we see anymore?

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