Is there any reason the Edmonton Oilers can’t address the defense with their second pick?

Jonathan Willis
May 17 2012 12:08PM

In recent years, the Oilers have a pattern of addressing defense relatively early in the draft. With Nail Yakupov far-and-away the consensus choice for first overall, is that something they should look at doing again, perhaps with their second round pick?

While there have been some critical words about the 2012 Draft, one thing it isn’t short of is defensemen. Red Line Report, for instance, lists eight of the14 best prospects as defensemen in its latest bulletin. Over at NHLNumbers, Derek Zona has a consensus draft list updated for May, and finds six of the top 11 prospects on the blue line.

An interesting thing happens on Derek’s list around 30th overall, though. Of the five players ranked between 28th and 32nd, four of them are defensemen. Assuming that the Oilers a) take Yakupov first overall and b) want to address the blue line early in the draft, who might they be interested in? Here are some possibilities:

Damon Severson, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

  • Stats: 56GP – 7G – 30A – 37PTS, +6, 80 PIM
  • Vitals: Born August 7, 1994; 6’2”, 198lbs.
  • Consensus rank: 28th overall.

Over at Copper & Blue, Derek Zona has already profiled Severson, interviewing Dan Lizee of The Scouting Report. It’s an interesting interview, and Severson comes across as a good prospect, but with a skillset similar to Oscar Klefbom or David Musil. Lizee compares him to Eric Brewer with a chance at more offense; he’s a horse at the WHL level, playing in all situations, but it’s fair to ask how much he’ll add to the attack at the NHL level. Red Line Report has him ranked at 27th overall, and in October described him as making “quick, intelligent decisions” and playing with “flawless positioning.”

Michael Matheson, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)

  • Stats: 53GP – 11G – 16A – 27PTS, 84 PIM
  • Vitals: Born February 27, 1994; 6’0”, 170lbs.
  • Consensus rank: 29th overall.

Matheson, a Quebec native, would be playing in the QMJHL except that he has opted to go the college route. The Pipeline Show has had him as a guest blogger at times this year, and describes him as “a solid skater with strong passing skills and a calm, mature demeanor on the ice.” Size is a question mark, and I mean that literally – he’s variously listed between 6’ and 6’2”, and between 165lbs and 180lbs.

Ludvig Bystrom, Modo (SEL)

  • Stats: 20GP – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, 8 PIM
  • Vitals: Born July 20, 1994; 6’0”, 187lbs.
  • Consensus rank: 30th overall.

Bystrom’s puck skills, skating and hockey sense are what raise him on this list. His physical play is what knocks him down. Draft expert Corey Pronman profiled Bystrom for Hockey Prospectus and noted that the physical questions aren’t so much due to a lack of effort as they are to size – Bystrom just doesn’t have the frame and the strength needed to be above average in those areas. My favourite line of Pronman’s review was this one: “He has a very low panic threshold and really knows how to evade checkers, find his outlets through tight steams, and if he has a short window to make a play, he normally is able to execute.” Of note: Bystrom ran up flashy totals in Swedish junior hockey, where he got more minutes – he was a hair under the point-per-game mark, and had over 100 PIM.

Jordan Schmaltz, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)

  • Stats: 54GP – 10G – 31A – 41PTS, +19, 29 PIM
  • Vitals: Born October 8, 1993; 6’2”, 190lbs.
  • Consensus rank: 32nd overall.

Schmaltz has dropped a bit on most lists since the start of the year, and has been tagged as something of a project. That’s not a crippling label – Schmaltz has his heart set on college hockey, so he has a few years to round out his game. The Scouting Report gives him credit for improving defensively, but questions whether he’ll be able to combine a reliable defensive game with offensive production. Meanwhile, Corey Pronman writes that he’s a “high-end puck mover, averagish at best everywhere else.”

Dalton Thrower, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

  • Stats: 68GP – 18G – 36A – 54PTS, -4, 103 PIM
  • Vitals: Born December 20, 1993; 6’0”, 195lbs.
  • Consensus rank: 35th overall.

Despite Thrower’s very respectable offensive totals and small frame, there’s no question about what makes him really attractive as a prospect. Red Line’s capsule on him back in October used the phrases “hard-nosed,” “prototypical WHL blue-liner,” “plays with an edge,” “physical,” and “in-your-face” before concluding “Really strong on his skates and makes the big open ice hit. Also a willing combatant who will drop the mitts and can throw ‘em pretty well.” The questions on Thrower generally relate to hockey sense and vision – Red Line describes the latter as “good enough” and The Scouting Report says that he “needs to continue to show that he can make quick decisions and show improved decision making.”

Any of these players could be Oilers on draft day, and the odds that one of them gets picked improve if Edmonton does the expected thing and chooses Yakupov with the first overall selection. There’s something to like or dislike about all of them, but in each case these are picks made for the long-term – Bystrom needs time, the college players need time, and Severson and Thrower are both primarily defensive players who likely need time too. If the Oilers go this route, these are players that aren’t going to solve defensive problems immediately.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 dawgtoy
May 17 2012, 12:15PM
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BPA

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#2 Archaeologuy
May 17 2012, 12:34PM
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Take Thrower, sign Schultz, Yakupov 1st, Hemsky plays the wrong side like he did during some games last season near the end. Presto Chango, Bob's your Uncle, and the Oilers have sick depth at Forward and the young D-men start making their pro debuts in the Fall of 2012.

Schultz is an Oiler in October, Marincin is a Baron, Klefbom eats Lingonberry all winter, and Gernat wins another WHL title.

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@jw

I don't know if BPA gets murky, you just knock names off your list and when it's your turn you take the guy that is top of your list.

I also don't know that drafting a defenseman really makes any difference this year. We have a lot of d prospects, we need guys that are ready to step in this year or next.

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#5 Toro
May 17 2012, 01:48PM
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I say try and grab a goalie with the next pick , but maybe that's just me? Subban or the Russian goalie.

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#6 Rama Lama
May 17 2012, 02:25PM
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All the players described are not inspiring,.......or what we need. It seems that the only option is trading to get another first round pick and then select a defenseman that best suits our long term need.

The only problem with that is it requires a imaginative GM with a flair for making deals.......and Mr. Dithers has never shown this skill set.

Expect another Foster dressed up as a Keith Duncan and Sold to the fan base as what this teams needs.

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#7 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 17 2012, 02:44PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

BPA gets pretty murky by the end of the first round.

How about this for an article suggestion:

grab some comprehensive list of lists of last-call pre-draft scouting reports and see how often the players pegged as BPA through the rounds turned out?

Did that make sense?

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#8 vetinari
May 17 2012, 03:09PM
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Thrower is a sure fire second round keeper... can score and has a nasty streak... plays like he gives a damn every shift and is not afraid to take chances... needs to be careful about giving up odd man rushes which at the NHL level could burn him badly... would be my choice of the four profiled if he's still available at #32.

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#9 misfit
May 18 2012, 11:55AM
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Kelowna seems to pump out defensemen like LSU does with defensive backs. I would have a hard time finding fault in the Oilers taking Severson at 32 (or 31 if New Jersey decides to give up this year's first).

Though, with Musil, Marincin, Klefbom, Gernat, and Davidson in the system, I don't relly think we have to spend a high pick on a defenseman unless that's who's at the top of their list when the Oilers go on the clock.

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#10 slopitch
May 18 2012, 03:22PM
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I think the better question would be what we could get as an NHL player for that 2nd round pick. Too speculative to write an article on but they have a lot of prospects. If they can get a good 3/4 guy for a 2nd that would be idea.

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