MACGREGOR: THIS YEAR HAS BEEN MORE DIFFICULT

Jason Gregor
June 21 2012 09:30AM

Last year in Minnesota Stu MacGregor said the decision to take Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was an easy one. In 2010, when he chose Taylor Hall over Tyler Seguin, he said the same thing, but this year has been much different. I chatted with the Oilers head scout about how different this year's first overall selection has been compared to the previous two, and got his thoughts on drafting by position, and projecting a player's future.

"This has certainly been a more difficult process. There has been more players involved in the decision (first overall pick) this year than we've had in the past, for they've stayed in the discussion for a longer period of time. It's been a longer process than the previous two years, and I think some players have risen," said MacGregor.

"There has been the consensus amongst the public of Yakupov being the player, but I think some of the players from behind have closed that gap considerably, and that's why it has been more interesting."

Every scout will tell you that when they are drafting a player, they are doing so on the basis of a projection of the kind of player he will be in five years. It's not a simple task, so I asked MacGregor what are the main variables he uses when trying to project what the future holds for a player.

"I think you are trying to see which player is going to improve the most, which one has the most growing to do, the most potential growth as a player and a person, physically and experience-wise. I think that is what everyone tries to do anyhow, and that is part of our job regardless what draft you are involved in. This year is more interesting because of the number of people. You are trying to see how where they are going to be in three, four or five years from now.

"Who has the most potential is really what you are trying to find."

Out of the top prospects Oil Kings D-man, Griffin Reinhart, has made the biggest jump from October until now. MacGregor chimed in on why he feels Reinhart has climbed the rankings over the past nine months.

"It's almost like he got a bit more determined and decided he was going to show people he is a high-end prospect. Not to say that he wasn't, but he's growing into his body and now he's getting that physical strength that young kids with his size don't always have right away because they are tall and lanky," MacGregor said.

DOES POSITION MATTER?

JG: A lot of people say that a centreman is more important than a winger. If you had two guys who were graded out the same and one was a winger and one was a centre, would you give the edge to the centreman, based solely on his position?

SM: I think centre is one of the more important positions in the game. If you look at the teams that are strong in the NHL they have strong centres and good depth at centre, so that is one thing you have to take a long look at it. If you don't have depth at centre, you will probably try and take the centre because a centre does so much for the team.

Obviously I was going after the Yakupov/Galchenyuk angle with that question, and while I know it is rare that two players will grade out exactly even, if they were close I'd lean towards the centre. It is clear the Oilers lack a big centre, and if one of Galchenyuk or Grigorenko or is rated close or on par to Yakupov, I wonder if the Oilers would take the centre.

The Oilers met yesterday and will meet again today for a final time before making their decision. In years past the decision was essentially made before they came to the draft, and while it is possible they've already made their decision this year, it is clear that this week's meetings are more intense than previous years because, as MacGregor admitted, there are more players involved.

Whether it is Yakupov, Galchenyuk, Grigorenko, Forsberg or  Murray it seems that amongst the Oiler scouts, and other scouting staffs, there isn't one slam dunk first overall pick this year.

I've stated for months that if I was picking I'd take Galchenyuk, and I sense that the Oilers are down to three guys; Yakupov, Galchenyuk and Murray. My gut says they will take Yakupov, but I honestly think they could surprise some people and take Galchenyuk.

Murray is a hell of a D-man, but I wouldn't draft a D-man first overall. The Oilers can't afford to be like the St. Louis Blues in 2006 when they took Erik Johnson and passed on Jordan Staal, Jonathon Toews and Nicklas Backstrom.

Today is the Top Prospects availability, and I'll try to find out if any of them feel they will be an Edmonton Oiler by tomorrow afternoon.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Steve
June 21 2012, 09:32AM
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I don't see it being very hard. Trade first pick and Hemsky to the Habs for Subban and the third. Take Galnychuk with the third and win lots of Stanley Cups... Seems easy enough no?

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#2 franksterra
June 21 2012, 09:36AM
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I really am on the Yak train...but Galchenyuk is the only other player they could take first and I wouldn't pound my fist on the table as they announced it.

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Judging what Brownlee just put up about Murray it's clear Murray isn't the guy in Stu's book.

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#4 Archaeologuy
June 21 2012, 09:38AM
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It's interesting that the Organization has admitted that Yakupov is the clear cut public choice. Lets see if they think they're smarter than everybody else.

It is my sincerest desire that if Yakupov ISNT selected the crowd starts to chant DOAN! DOAN! DOAN!

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#5 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 21 2012, 09:40AM
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Prospects always get way over rated with the alure of "potential" .... we always seem to assume they will be great becasue we don't know yet.

Galchenyuk is getting an extra dose of this as he basically didn't even play in his draft year... not only do we not know if he will be an excellent NHL'er (just like the other potential draftees) We don't even know if he would have been an excellent 17 year old CHL'er.

Having him in the conversation for 1st overall is essentially giving him credit for something he didn't do.

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#6 Archaeologuy
June 21 2012, 09:41AM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

Angelo Esposito WISHES he ripped his knee up in his draft year

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#7 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 21 2012, 09:42AM
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@ Arch

It seems almost EVERYONE is on board with Yak being the clear #1.... if anything this should be the easiest of the three 1st overalls as their was big debate between Taylor/Tyler and last year between 2 or 3 guys.

This year theirs only 1 elite prospect and then a bunch of lesser tier guys or a guy that hasn't even proven to be an elite CHL player.

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#8 book¡e
June 21 2012, 09:43AM
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The one thing I appreciate is that they are doing the hard work behind making the decision. It's important to consider physical and skill trajectories and not just 'Who is the best player today'.

I am ok with trusting Stu to do his job.

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#9 Giant Squid Overlord
June 21 2012, 09:44AM
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Gregor, A little off topic, but I was wondering if you've seen the guys from Aquila Productions around the draft filming for the next series of "Oil Change"? There was an article a while back saying with the uncertainty of the looming CBA negotiations that it might not go and was wondering if they are there filming. thx in advance.

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#10 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 21 2012, 09:45AM
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@ Arch

Exactly! their are piles of guys that put up strong seasons for a 16 year old and then didn't progress like you would assume they would/want them too.

Don't give Galy credit for something he didn't actually do!

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#11 OilerLand
June 21 2012, 09:53AM
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I just realized how weird it could be for tambo to announce..."from the sarnia sting..." then Yakupov stands up, everyone cheers, "....Alex Galchenyuk"...

Awkward.

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#12 OilerLand
June 21 2012, 09:55AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

@ Arch

It seems almost EVERYONE is on board with Yak being the clear #1.... if anything this should be the easiest of the three 1st overalls as their was big debate between Taylor/Tyler and last year between 2 or 3 guys.

This year theirs only 1 elite prospect and then a bunch of lesser tier guys or a guy that hasn't even proven to be an elite CHL player.

My thoughts too. Seems like this should be the easiest decision, but I suppose there's so much we don't know. With the injuries this year, maybe the polls and rankings and "clear no. 1" sentiments are skewed.

Maybe it's not as easy as we're all lead to believe.

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#14 Archaeologuy
June 21 2012, 10:04AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

They'd be dumb to go off what fans and media think, when most of those haven't watched the kids play. Trust their scouts not what fans or media want would be best. The Oilers could pick Yakupov, but expecting them to annouce it early won't make much sense. Also many have Galchenyuk 2nd, and most admit his injury is reason he isn't on par...Lots of things to consider.

DOAN! DOAN! DOAN! DOAN!

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I like where this is going.

Add this: some people think Galchenyuk would be in the running for 1st overall had he played all year.

Using the same logic: had Galchenyuk played all season, Yak would have had 1,000,000 points!

And why isn't anyone talking about Yak breaking Stamkos' (REPEAT: STAMKOS'!!!!) 16 y.o. scoring record for the Sting?1?

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#16 DieHard
June 21 2012, 10:08AM
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Strength down the middle. That's what good teams have. I want Yakupov but I'd take Galchenyuk. I think Yakupov starts in the NHL right away while Galchenyuk would probably go back. That would be a good thing.

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#17 I'm a Scientist!
June 21 2012, 10:08AM
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Stauffer just tweeted that the Oilers are chosing between two picks for #1. Who are the two i wonder... Yak would be one, but is it Murray or Gally that takes up the second spot?

I think Gally is too risky to take at #1. Too bad though, because it sounds like he will be a pretty awesome player.

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#18 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 21 2012, 10:10AM
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@ Jason Gregor

But they'd be smart to go off what 99% of the hockey world thinks.

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Oh and I'd like to point out just one more detail:

Landeskog sold his soul to the devil and won Rookie of the Year last night. This "winger" finished the year with a +/- of +20, while the closest full time center, O'Reilly, finished with -1. I'm sure this is the reason why Landeskog crushed my NUGE in the voting!

Anyway, if these so called "wingers" don't have the same impact on the game as centers, how is this possible? Did he just get good at jumping on the bench when the play went the other way??

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#20 Archaeologuy
June 21 2012, 10:20AM
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Yakupov is the easy choice. If one of the other candidates ends up better in 5 years its incredibly easy to justify the pick.

Unanimous best 18 year old player by all major scouting services. Pedigree of excellent play.

Other options were: Guy who played 2 games, Defenseman with no offense, Swedish kid who couldnt score in men's league, and another Russian who wasnt bringing it every night in his draft year.

Not difficult at all to justify if Yakupov doesnt pan out.

They're comparing him to Pavel Bure for Pete's sake.

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#21 Robin Brownlee
June 21 2012, 10:21AM
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"But they'd be smart to go off what 99% of the hockey world thinks."

By hockey world are you including fans who think the Oilers could trade Omark, Paajarvi and a bag of asscrack fuzz gathered from the dressing room for a top-2 D-man?

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#22 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
June 21 2012, 10:23AM
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@ Robin Brownlee

I'm including every rating agency I've seen as well as snippets from a handful of career hockey guys like Bowmen.

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#23 dano
June 21 2012, 10:24AM
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I know lots of people are high on Galchenyuk, but at this point he is way too unproven to risk taking first overall. To my eye Yak is the ONLY clear cut player with number one potential, not too say he will be the best of this draft class, only that he is the only guy who at this point in time is clearly in that echelon of players.

The only scenario where I don't take Yak is if either Subban, or Gardiner (and subsequently Schultz) comes the other way. With a swap of picks I would take the highest rated centre available (Gal, or Grigs). At that point I would even be okay with trading Gags to get another top ten pick to acquire a highly touted d-man who will most likely go back to junior next year. The cupboards are stocked, our D improved, and at center we won't be any worse off in two years time, maybe even better.

But that's a lot of things that has to go right. My take, draft the Yak. The offense will figure itself out, and we can get a D-man via trade or free agency.

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#24 vetinari
June 21 2012, 10:26AM
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I'm sure that they will go with Yakupov at #1, but don't forget, the scouts have to have an opinion on the other players in case a trade is made.

A number of top 10 teams may be willing to part with their pick this year and in case Edmonton does swing a trade, they need to know who they would be prepared to take at what draft position.

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#25 book¡e
June 21 2012, 10:35AM
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A lot of this talk is probably because Stu like to run things by testing alternative choices. I like this approach. In a meeting, I would tell my staff to 'take a few minutes and do your best to convince me that we should take Murray'. I would do this starting with Yak being my number one choice and probably ending with Yak being my number one choice, however, by forcing the discussion and trying to serious consider an alternative pick, you help to ensure that you are making the best choice.

In some ways this year is more difficult because you do not have one single obvious alternative. So, you end up talking about more individuals.

And they you take Yakupov.

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#26 Truth
June 21 2012, 10:42AM
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They better take Yakupov first overall. However, if they decide another player is superior to Yakupov they better trade down. I would approximate that 95% of every credible resource from NHL scouting service/scout/hockey mind I have read this year says that Yakupov is the best in the draft. Not taking the consensus best player at #1 is just bad asset management.

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#27 Maverick
June 21 2012, 10:47AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"But they'd be smart to go off what 99% of the hockey world thinks."

By hockey world are you including fans who think the Oilers could trade Omark, Paajarvi and a bag of asscrack fuzz gathered from the dressing room for a top-2 D-man?

Thanks Robin, I just spilled my morning coffee! Burst out laughing from your reply, "a bag of asscrack fuzz, classic!!

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#28 Quicksilver ballet
June 21 2012, 10:49AM
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Edmonton is still in a difficult situation. They need a kid who's ready to play now. Both Yakupov and Murray appear ready to go in the fall.

This should be an easy decision for Tambellini, does he take the soft D'man with limited elite potential, or the BPA in this draft who fits into that elite talent category much moreso than Murray does.

There are still too many holes on the roster to start selecting based on needs. Take the BPA and leave regret behind.

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#29 Talbot17
June 21 2012, 10:53AM
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I'd still swap that 8th overall pick for Gagner is available. Use 1st on Yak and 8th on Grigorenko...

then you get your big 2nd line center, go after D via free agency (Shultz, etc.) and use your 2nd round pick on a solid D cause you know someone is going to drop to that pick.

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#30 HallFever
June 21 2012, 10:56AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Yakupov is the easy choice. If one of the other candidates ends up better in 5 years its incredibly easy to justify the pick.

Unanimous best 18 year old player by all major scouting services. Pedigree of excellent play.

Other options were: Guy who played 2 games, Defenseman with no offense, Swedish kid who couldnt score in men's league, and another Russian who wasnt bringing it every night in his draft year.

Not difficult at all to justify if Yakupov doesnt pan out.

They're comparing him to Pavel Bure for Pete's sake.

Totally with you there Arc. Well said.

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#31 Quicksilver ballet
June 21 2012, 10:58AM
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@ Robin ["But they'd be smart to go off what 99% of the hockey world thinks." By hockey world are you including fans who think the Oilers could trade Omark, Paajarvi and a bag of asscrack fuzz gathered from the dressing room for a top-2 D-man?]

The game of hockey is best played with heart and passion. These so called professionals (scouts) can't see what's in these kids hearts anymore than we can. With the information readily available to us all, we would have the same track record or better in this crapshoot called the draft.

Please, Stu MacGregor has only given us Jordan Eberle on his 4 yr watch. If he's going to go against the grain and select Murray, then we're all pucked.

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#32 HallFever
June 21 2012, 10:59AM
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This all comes down to Yak's injury and how he performed afterwards and in the playoffs. Did he come back to early? Was he playing injured? If he would have been healthy all season this wouldn't even be a discussion.

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#33 Maverick
June 21 2012, 11:00AM
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I have been on the Yakupov and Galchenyuk train for sometime now, posting here and other site (LT) and either pick would be fine.

Yes, the Oilers have holes in their roster currently, but we have to stop thinking that the draft is where Tambellini can improve the club today. The draft is about tomorrow and 2-3 years down the road, the GM job for improving today is packaging picks and players to trade for a seasoned player either defense or 3rd line forward or signing better UFA's who can help the team now. The frustration is that Tambellini and his pro staff have done a poor job in their choices but the amateur scouts have done theirs well.

If tomorrow at 5:30pm after all the TSN hype has faded and the draft begins and we all hear Steve Tambellini or MacT say "The Edmonton Oilers proudly select from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL .......(insert either Yakupov or Galchenyuk)"

I will be a satisfied fan.

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#34 Quicksilver ballet
June 21 2012, 11:04AM
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Amen to that Maverick. If they like Ryan Murray that much, make a deal and make it so. Any GM can make the soft/easy decisions, but to this day, it's the difficult decisions that makes your team a winner or a loser.

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#35 Wäx Män Riley
June 21 2012, 11:06AM
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You know what I think will be fun?

Watching the !st overall line of Hall-RNH-Yakupov

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#36 Archaeologuy
June 21 2012, 11:14AM
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Wäx Män Riley wrote:

You know what I think will be fun?

Watching the !st overall line of Hall-RNH-Yakupov

The Orange Aces ©

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#37 oilers2k12
June 21 2012, 11:16AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

They'd be dumb to go off what fans and media think, when most of those haven't watched the kids play. Trust their scouts not what fans or media want would be best. The Oilers could pick Yakupov, but expecting them to annouce it early won't make much sense. Also many have Galchenyuk 2nd, and most admit his injury is reason he isn't on par...Lots of things to consider.

So it would be smart to pick someone who didnt even play in his draft year and base it on what u think he wouldve done even when as a 16 yr old he got outscored by 20 points by is linemate whos ppg improved the year after playing without a top center.

U ever seen galchenyuk play gregor?

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#38 Clyde Frog
June 21 2012, 11:16AM
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I'm on the first for Strome (and the 4th) bandwagon now! (With add-ons to be determined later)

Come on Tambo! Go get K-lowe and have him teach you the horrible secret he holds over Garth Snow's head... And get this trade done!

Its a fit on both sides and would give us the Gagner flexibility.

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#39 manny
June 21 2012, 11:21AM
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I remember four or five Oilers fan whining that we have too many 3rd or 4th liners on the team.....and we don't have elite talent. Now hockey gods gave us gift this year for suffering all these years. Oilers orgnization can't decide to accept the gift(Yakpov).

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#40 vetinari
June 21 2012, 11:23AM
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True, we could refer to Hall-RNH-Yakupov as "our first liners" and sadly, mean it more ways than one.

It could also be like putting all our eggs in one big fragile basket. Hall is the most physical of that group but he is no means ready to throw 25-35 year old men out of the way on a nightly basis to free up room for his teammates.

I suspect you'll only see those three together from time to time on the pp or on nights where we are down by a goal and taking a faceoff in the offensive zone. But even then, I think I'd prefer to see Eberle playing with RNH and Hall in those situations.

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#41 Bucknuck
June 21 2012, 11:26AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"But they'd be smart to go off what 99% of the hockey world thinks."

By hockey world are you including fans who think the Oilers could trade Omark, Paajarvi and a bag of asscrack fuzz gathered from the dressing room for a top-2 D-man?

I would quite concerned if they weren't working this hard to decide. When you see a team of people being diligent like they are, it makes you have faith (as a fan).

When I watched the combine, and saw Galchenyuk almost break the bike with his awesomeness I was impressed. To hear numerous reports of his superior dedication to fitness and the game also impresses. He is not Angelo Esposito (IMO), that would be Grigorenko. This guy reminds me of Steve Yzerman.

I'm glad they are taking a long hard look at that.

By the way, trading a player for "asscrack fuzz" has to be one of the funniest things I have ever heard. I am going to use that term going forward. Much more more original and edgy than "bag of pucks".

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#42 steelymac
June 21 2012, 11:27AM
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Check out the Krueger write up at sportsnet

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#43 Will
June 21 2012, 11:32AM
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If they take Gal, and announce a blockbuster trade deal involving one of our centers other than Nuge that yields back some good defense, then I'm fine with it. In one swoop we got more size at number 2 center, and upgraded on defense. True, we may look at the team that took yak and see what kind of a player he becomes, but the Oilers become a deeper more solidified team than if they took another scoring winger.

Having said that, I still think they should draft Yak. I just want to see him play on a line with Hall so much. If hat everyone says is true, and he plays like Hall, watching a double Hall line would just be so much fun.

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#44 Lochenzo
June 21 2012, 11:34AM
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I think the other part of it is that the scouting staff need to be prepared in case Steve trades down. It's a bit of a rat maze in terms of who will draft whom in the top 10. Lots of different contigencies you'd better be prepared for if you do trade down.

I'd be happy with Galchenyuk, but given that he's a little more risky given the limited sample of major junior games played, so I think you should trade down a couple of spots if you are targeting him and net an asset.

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#45 Walter Sobchak
June 21 2012, 11:35AM
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I have long advocated that Yakupov the best player the consensus #1 throughout the year be chosen, he has the best upside of all the players in the draft and have even read that he will be better then Hall.

I also believe the Oilers can no longer sit around and just pick one guy who can play per summer and call it a success.

I also agree with what Gregor said to a point about centers, I truly think that Galchenyuk has potential to be a great second line center, at this point of the rebuild just finish off the top 6 and concentrate on defense after the draft.

The Oilers should go and move heaven and earth to get Galchenyuk as well, dare I say even at the thought of one more year of suckvile.

Besides Krueger will love this kid.

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#46 Rick
June 21 2012, 11:36AM
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I love how the fan's faith in Stu Macgregor is inversely proportionate to how far away the Oilers are from announcing his call on the draft floor.

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#47 Gary L
June 21 2012, 11:39AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

The Orange Aces ©

How bout the Oil Aces?

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#48 EL PRESIDENTE
June 21 2012, 11:59AM
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Hall+Nuge+Nail and Petry+Schultz kid = a full house

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#49 Walter Sobchak
June 21 2012, 12:01PM
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The Fantastic Four

Hall-Eberle-Nuge-Yakupov

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#50 TKB2677
June 21 2012, 12:02PM
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If you are a team that has the #1 overall pick in the draft, YOU HAVE TOO DRAFT AN IMPACT PLAYER!!

Murray sounds like he is going to be a very good NHL Dman. But I keep hearing "good skater, smart player, calm with the puck, makes sound decisions, good first pass". I hear nothing about being a dominant physical player. I hear nothing about being a dynamic offensive threat from the blue line. I've heard nothing about him being a great puck rusher.

So where exactly in all that description is IMPACT PLAYER that warrents a #1 selection? NO WHERE!! Do the Oilers need defence at this exact minute? Yes. But they also have dman depth coming up in the system so in a couple of years, they are going to be LOADED with Dmen.

If you are going to be drafting a Dman, that Dman better be a Norris trophy candidate, impact, change the game like Chris Pronger or even a Drew Doughty is. He is just a kid so it is tough to tell at this point but from every scout, every analysit and any GM that I have heard on any talk show. Not one of them has said he is a gamer changer. He isn't even a #1 Dman. They all say a probable top pairing guy. So are you going to use a #1 overall draft pick for a "probably top pairing guy" who does everything good but nothing spectacular over a for sure at the very least top 6 forward? That's just stupid if you ask me.

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