Valeri Nichushkin just did the Edmonton Oilers a big favour

Jonathan Willis
May 22 2013 11:02AM

The x-factor at the top end of the draft this year was, without question, the status of Russian prospect Valeri Nichushkin. Playing in the KHL and under contract for time to come, there were significant red flags for any NHL team interested in picking a guy who most rate with the top four (Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov) in terms of talent.

Nichushkin made it easier for everybody today by telling a Russian newspaper he’s leaving the KHL for the NHL next year, and further that his team, Moscow Dynamo, was willing to release him from his contract. In so doing, he also made the draft much more interesting for the Edmonton Oilers.

Nichushkin’s Comments

Via the delightful Google Translate, here are Nichushkin’s comments about leaving:

I had already decided that leave in the NHL - said Nichushkin. - In the" Dynamo "calmly reacted to this: I was told that I could leave if I want. No legal problems there. Contract with" Dinamo "will terminate, and I'm going free agent. was lucky that I went to the club to make concessions. We agreed that they would let me go, but if the ocean something goes wrong, I'm right back to them.

It’s always a little dicey using Google Translate to find out what Europeans are saying in the European press, but the message here seems clear enough: Nichushkin wants to play in the NHL next year, Dynamo is okay with that, and he’ll only be back in the KHL next year if he doesn’t make a major league roster.

Later in the piece, Nichushkin specifically mentions Tampa Bay and Carolina as teams with possible interest in him. Tampa Bay isn’t a big surprise – Al Murray, their director of scouting, raves about Nichushkin – but Carolina hasn’t drafted a Russian in ages, and certainly not so early. Talent-wise, it’s understandable why the Hurricanes would be interested, though.

The Situation

The top tier of the draft at this point is basically the five names above, but Nichushkin had major slide potential given his contract status in the KHL. After those five, Elias Lindholm is generally seen as the consensus number six, Sean Monahan the number seven, and then a group of defencemen (Darnell Nurse, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen) and winger Hunter Shinkaruk.

The Oilers are rumoured to be after centre Sean Monahan, but prior to today perhaps the most likely scenario was the top four being drafted in order, followed by Lindholm, followed by Monahan, leaving the Oilers with a choice between Nichushkin and a bunch of blueliners.

Now, not only is it more likely that the Oilers still have the option of picking Monahan when pick number seven rolls around, but if Nichushkin somehow does slide he should be more attractive both to them (long-term, a 6’4” winger with high-end talent certainly could be a fit on the Oilers’ depth chart) and to other teams if they decide to trade the pick down as general manager Craig MacTavish has suggested.

All in all, this is a very good day for Edmonton.

Streakcred

Don't forget that it's never too late to play StreakCred - the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

One of the things that's always fun to watch for is good young players falling out of favour in other NHL cities. That's exactly what Thomas Drance is doing and in Three Young Forwards the Canucks Should Target he identifies a trio of talented young players that might be ripe for trade:

Trading for former first round picks is demonstrably a risky game, but it's a risky game the Canucks should be willing to try their hand at this summer. Here's a list of three young forwards, with top-ten pick pedigree who, for whatever reason, appear to have fallen out of favour within their organizations. These players won't come free, or even cheap, but could help the Canucks jump-start a youth movement going forward.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some recent pieces here at Oilers Nation:

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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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#1 DieHard
May 22 2013, 11:46AM
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Will wrote:

Would anyone give any legitimacy to the notion / rumour that Malkin might not be a Pen for too much longer? Just saying Nichushkin, Malkin, and Yak would simply be a powerhouse line of unstoppable Russian amazement. Oh, you shut down that line, send out the wonder kids.

Now that is starting to sound like the dynasty we all know and love.

Can we please just stop with the "wonder kids" and "fab 5" descriptions. We are sounding like idiots.

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#2 RomZ
May 22 2013, 12:59PM
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@OilersBrass

Well heres hoping peter griffin, and the flames faithful pull another jankowski out of their proverbial hat come draft day

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#3 tsg
May 22 2013, 05:17PM
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I think people have a tendency to underestimate just how good Yakupov is.

He led the team in goal scoring.

He scored at a full season pace of approximately 30 goals in his rookie season.

He did this while often playing 3rd line minutes, and without being a feature on the first line powerplay for much of the year.

Wicked good player.

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#4 Will
May 22 2013, 11:08AM
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YES! This is great. THough I was kind of hoping the Oilers were going to take this kid after all the other teams let him fall to us, but now it looks like at least one of Lindholm or Monahan will be on the board. Not as high on Lindholm as he is a bit smaller than Monahan.

Or, an even better scenario is if Calgary Jankowski's their draft pick again, and takes "the player that will end up one day being the best out of the entire draft." Then there will be some significant names on the board in case the Oilers want to trade their pick for a significant roster player.

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#5 Walter Sobchak
May 22 2013, 01:49PM
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The Oilers have been given a huge opportunity here.

Time to take some risk, be bold and move up in this draft.

There is a deal there with Carolina or Nashville time to take some risk get Barkov!

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#6 Taylor Gang
May 22 2013, 05:02PM
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Smokey wrote:

Say the Oiler were dealing Yakupov for 2nd or 3rd pick. Would you do it if your target was McKinnon or Druin or Barkov? I've wondered how Yakupov would do in this years draft. I think he would go 3rd or 4rth.

So you'd trade an established first overall pick scorer for a player one year behind in development? Are you kidding me?

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#7 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 11:52AM
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Question guys, why does everyone think that just because a player is 6 foot it's a bad thing?

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#8 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 12:04PM
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RomZ wrote:

Size is nice but I'm of the belief it comes down to the player himself. You can't really instill a mean streak in someone who just doesn't have it. I like Paajarvi and he's a pretty big body, but watching him play you can see hes timid out there and doesn't use his size to his advantage. Could you imagine if a brad marchand was the size of a Lucic? he would be a dominant, he plays hard everynight, if he had weight to throwaround nobody would mess with him.

True, it does come down to the player himself. I've just noticed everyone here thinks if a player is 6 ft or 5' 11" (regardless of how aggressive they are), that they're going to be useless.

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#9 TigerUnderGlass
May 22 2013, 12:51PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Carolina hasn’t drafted a Russian in ages

I think they had a good experience with Semin in their lineup this season and could picture this kid playing the other wing.

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#10 Wax Man Riley
May 22 2013, 04:10PM
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striatic wrote:

The Oilers don't have the Cap space for that. Not even close.

~Especially not with Weber here.~

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#11 jonnyquixote
May 22 2013, 08:15PM
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Smokey wrote:

McKinnon got compared to Sidney Crosby too. Seth Jones is a stud. Barkov is producing big time in a mens league, and Drouin maybe as a good as Yakupov.

Just because Yakupov is great doesn't mean that these players are any less. Barkov and McKinnon Jones and Drouin have all the tools to be outstanding and be able to contribute next season too.

The major advantage with Yakupov is that he is a lot more 'proven' at the NHL level. That one season is massive when it comes to 'assessing risk.'

We're almost certain now that Yakupov is going to be an impact player. We know - KNOW - he can handle the speed, the rigor, and the physicality of the NHL game. We know that he is, at the very least, a productive 2nd line goal-scorer and since it is highly unlikely that he tops out in his 18 year old rookie year, we can probably say for certain that a career similar to... Kovalchuk... is not just very likely, but probably close to minimum expectations. He'll probably be that good. He might be much, much better (Stamkos? Bure?)

And while pro scouting at the top of the draft has gotten very, very, very good, until those newbies show something at the NHL level, the odds of them turning into significant disappointments like Barkers or Weisses, or modest successes like Hortons, EJs or Kessels.

You don't want to turn your solid bet for an elite goalscorer into something that still has a very good chance of becoming Bogosian (or, jeez, Filatov). Not to mention trading a year of development and prolonging the rebuild along those lines too.

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#12 Will
May 22 2013, 11:19AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Let me be the fist to say.......draft Valarie should be the order of the year! Big, strong, left wing, and would give Yaks a partner for the long term.

Trade what ever players necessary ( outside of the fab five ofcourse) to find a true second line centre with size and attitude.

This is only a good thing if the Oilers Brass figure out a way to take advantage of what Nichuskin said.

I agree that if they took this kid, and could go out and find a big centre that played with some size and grit (not the easiest thing to come by), then instead of the stupid three scoring lines idea, we'd have a dominant top line, with a large balanced second line loaded with skill. Kind of like a 1A 1B type of lines.

I think we have the prospects, or could make the trades to have a very decent, highly mobile third shut down line that can win important draws, kill penalties, and maybe even get in on the forecheck depending who'd on it. And then have enough spare parts to have a tough energy banging fourth line. This is the forward corps I envision for the Oilers. If we can add / upgrade our D even a bit, this would be a whole new team.

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#13 Will
May 22 2013, 11:33AM
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Would anyone give any legitimacy to the notion / rumour that Malkin might not be a Pen for too much longer? Just saying Nichushkin, Malkin, and Yak would simply be a powerhouse line of unstoppable Russian amazement. Oh, you shut down that line, send out the wonder kids.

Now that is starting to sound like the dynasty we all know and love.

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#14 RomZ
May 22 2013, 12:16PM
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@OilersBrass

Size certainly helps if you know how to use it. Ultimately I won't write off a player just because they are not 6ft+ I tend to gauge a players value in terms of intangibles like leadership, compete level etc.

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#17 HardBoiledOil
May 22 2013, 12:34PM
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^can't blame them can you? at #5 you are guaranteed either Barkov or Nichuskin....ask yourself...would the Oil trade down if it were them in this position?

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#18 Ducey
May 22 2013, 12:41PM
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I am a little concerned about Monahan.* Because he did not have useful team-mates he was rumoured to be playing up to 30 minutes a night. Its likely he played the majority of PP opportunities as well.

This is what happened to MAP. He played on a very poor team. Once his minutes and PP time came back to reality, and he had to make the adjustment to pro, he became a below average top 6 player without the physical play to allow him to play bottom 6.

He is 28 today, BTW.

* Have not seen him play - don't know much about him.

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#19 GVBlackhawk
May 22 2013, 01:11PM
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I particularly like the highlight of Nichushkin pyloning Seth Jones. Wow!

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#20 Smokey
May 22 2013, 01:18PM
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RK wrote:

If you were a fan of Edmonton taking Nichushkin at #7 without the news, there was a good chance he would be available . Now unlikely.

What I see is Barkov could move down not to #7 but possibly 5th or 6th

Barkov falling to seventh is a dream senario. Im not convinced there is any difference in talent from McKinnon, Drouin, or Barkov. The only way I'd see him drop would be a bad performance at the Combine or someone said he competes like Grigorenko. Neither would happen. I think the news just tells us we will get Monahan, Lindholm, or the Big N. Oilers pick at seven will get a ton of interest from other teams. If the Oilers aren't convinced that Monahan or Lindholm are not much better then Horvat or Lazar and were willing to trade down I'd want to know what other asset they could get?

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#21 vetinari
May 22 2013, 01:37PM
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Nichushkin complicates matters but it seems to me that he may be looking for some commitment to guaranteed playing time and a roster spot to stay in North America.

At this point, it may be unrealistic for the Oilers to commit to those terms because we already have a significant number of forwards projected in our top 12 who will all be under the age of 24 at the start of our season and what we really need is quality NHL players in their prime (ages 25 to 30) who can show the kids how to win.

Trade up or trade down (or even go for a centre or a defenceman with that pick), but don't take a flyer on a high risk kid like Nichuskin if you can't guarantee him a roster spot for the whole season. I could see him gone by New Year's if the team is struggling and he's sitting on the bench more nights than not.

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#22 Old Soldier
May 22 2013, 02:16PM
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WISHFUL THINKING POST

MacT makes the world stand on end and finds a way to trade for Nsh/Car 1st rounder, without using their own, and end up drafting both Barkov and Nichushkin.

2015 Oilers 2nd line Yak/Barkov/Nich....size, speed, skill.

Short of the top 5, I would move anyone on the Oilers to do that, lol, which is why it wont happen.....

sorry to interrupt

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#23 Quicksilver ballet
May 22 2013, 02:46PM
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Old Soldier wrote:

WISHFUL THINKING POST

MacT makes the world stand on end and finds a way to trade for Nsh/Car 1st rounder, without using their own, and end up drafting both Barkov and Nichushkin.

2015 Oilers 2nd line Yak/Barkov/Nich....size, speed, skill.

Short of the top 5, I would move anyone on the Oilers to do that, lol, which is why it wont happen.....

sorry to interrupt

With Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Petry, N.Schultz, Marincin, Musil, Gagner, Gernat, Hemsky available, along with draft picks in 2014. Why can't something like that be done? Neither Nashville or Carolina are in rebuild mode. They be receptive and probably listen to getting help now as well. Absorbing some of Hemsky's salary makes him a little more attractive. Just 83 and 89 would get their attention i'd have to believe.

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#24 OilersBrass
May 22 2013, 02:59PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

With Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Petry, N.Schultz, Marincin, Musil, Gagner, Gernat, Hemsky available, along with draft picks in 2014. Why can't something like that be done? Neither Nashville or Carolina are in rebuild mode. They be receptive and probably listen to getting help now as well. Absorbing some of Hemsky's salary makes him a little more attractive. Just 83 and 89 would get their attention i'd have to believe.

What makes you think all of: Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Petry, N.Schultz, Marincin, Musil, Gagner, Gernat, and Hemsky are all available?

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#25 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
May 22 2013, 03:03PM
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Interesting.

Tuesday: Dynamo's head coach says Nichushkin, and others, aren't guaranteed roster spots, and that they'll have to earn them.

Wednesday: Nichushkin announces he's terminated his KHL contract and is headed to the NHL.

Something fishy is going on there. Not too ecstatic about the possibility of nabbing this kid at 7.

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#26 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
May 22 2013, 03:21PM
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@bwar

The rebuild doesn't end by drafting kids.

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#27 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
May 22 2013, 04:02PM
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@bwar

I get what you were saying. But even the top picks need time to become real difference makers in the NHL.

They may score at a decent pace but via sheltered minutes. Guys like Crosby and Ovechkin made a real difference in their rookie seasons. It's not likely to happen with any of the kids in this year's draft.

The rebuild (hopefully) ended when Tambellini was let go. Move up or down or stay put in the draft, it doesn't matter. Just draft smart and don't sit on your hands like Tambellini.

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#28 Taylor Gang
May 22 2013, 08:57PM
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jonnyquixote wrote:

The major advantage with Yakupov is that he is a lot more 'proven' at the NHL level. That one season is massive when it comes to 'assessing risk.'

We're almost certain now that Yakupov is going to be an impact player. We know - KNOW - he can handle the speed, the rigor, and the physicality of the NHL game. We know that he is, at the very least, a productive 2nd line goal-scorer and since it is highly unlikely that he tops out in his 18 year old rookie year, we can probably say for certain that a career similar to... Kovalchuk... is not just very likely, but probably close to minimum expectations. He'll probably be that good. He might be much, much better (Stamkos? Bure?)

And while pro scouting at the top of the draft has gotten very, very, very good, until those newbies show something at the NHL level, the odds of them turning into significant disappointments like Barkers or Weisses, or modest successes like Hortons, EJs or Kessels.

You don't want to turn your solid bet for an elite goalscorer into something that still has a very good chance of becoming Bogosian (or, jeez, Filatov). Not to mention trading a year of development and prolonging the rebuild along those lines too.

You have hit the NAIL on the head!

Too forced?

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#29 Rama Lama
May 22 2013, 11:11AM
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Let me be the fist to say.......draft Valarie should be the order of the year! Big, strong, left wing, and would give Yaks a partner for the long term.

Trade what ever players necessary ( outside of the fab five ofcourse) to find a true second line centre with size and attitude.

This is only a good thing if the Oilers Brass figure out a way to take advantage of what Nichuskin said.

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#30 Archaeologuy
May 22 2013, 11:26AM
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Very excellent news. A lot of scouting staffs from 4-10 probably just had to re-jig their thinking.

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#31 Sliderule
May 22 2013, 11:34AM
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I believe Valerie played some center in KHL and at u18 WJC .

If he made NHL next year with whatever team drafts him he will surely play wing .He does have the potential to be worked into center.

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#32 MarcusBillius
May 22 2013, 11:40AM
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Isn't Nichushkin with Traktor Chelyabinsk?

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=162486

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#33 striatic
May 22 2013, 11:43AM
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Even if the Oilers don't take him, the talent pool in the top 1 through 10 just increased, and a Lindholm or Monahan might fall down a spot as a result.

Terrific news.

Still, I think the most likely result though is being at 7, seeing Monahan go to Calgary anyway, then trading the pick to NYR or PHI so they can pick Nichushkin.

Opens up the trade possibilities for 7OV considerably!

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#34 striatic
May 22 2013, 11:44AM
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Will wrote:

Would anyone give any legitimacy to the notion / rumour that Malkin might not be a Pen for too much longer? Just saying Nichushkin, Malkin, and Yak would simply be a powerhouse line of unstoppable Russian amazement. Oh, you shut down that line, send out the wonder kids.

Now that is starting to sound like the dynasty we all know and love.

The Oilers don't have the Cap space for that. Not even close.

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#35 Frank
May 22 2013, 11:49AM
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This what changes, it helps if Edmonton wants Lindholm, if not Calgary still will take Monahan.

Col–Jones

Florida- MacKinnon

TB- Drouin/Nichushkin

Nash- Barkov/Drouin

Carolina- Nichushkin/ Barkov

Cal- Nichushkin/Monahan/ Lindholm

EDM- Nichushkin/Monahan/ Lindholm

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#36 RK
May 22 2013, 11:53AM
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If you were a fan of Edmonton taking Nichushkin at #7 without the news, there was a good chance he would be available . Now unlikely.

What I see is Barkov could move down not to #7 but possibly 5th or 6th

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#37 RomZ
May 22 2013, 11:55AM
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This certainly changes the top 10 teams drafting strategy. I was a big fan of this kid before he announced his intentions of playing in the NHL. I was hoping he would fall to us at #7 but with this his value skyrockets having top 5 talent written all over him.

Either way this helps the Oilers as other prospects may now fall to us at #7 or the trade value of our picks becomes more enticing to help address other holes in our roster.

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#38 Todd
May 22 2013, 11:58AM
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striatic wrote:

The Oilers don't have the Cap space for that. Not even close.

Not even if they buy out Horcoff, Hemsky and Kevin Lowe???

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#39 RomZ
May 22 2013, 12:00PM
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OilersBrass wrote:

Question guys, why does everyone think that just because a player is 6 foot it's a bad thing?

Size is nice but I'm of the belief it comes down to the player himself. You can't really instill a mean streak in someone who just doesn't have it. I like Paajarvi and he's a pretty big body, but watching him play you can see hes timid out there and doesn't use his size to his advantage. Could you imagine if a brad marchand was the size of a Lucic? he would be a dominant, he plays hard everynight, if he had weight to throwaround nobody would mess with him.

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#40 FSD
May 22 2013, 12:00PM
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@RK

JW,

I could a scenario Barkov going #5 wonder if Edmonton would consider trading up?

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#41 Rama Lama
May 22 2013, 12:07PM
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RK wrote:

If you were a fan of Edmonton taking Nichushkin at #7 without the news, there was a good chance he would be available . Now unlikely.

What I see is Barkov could move down not to #7 but possibly 5th or 6th

NO WAY...........Barkov drops to seven. He is still in the top four with VN probably going number 5.

I would move heaven and earth to get VN as he looks like a Malkin type of player. I would settle for Barkov but we would need to be in the top five drafting order to get either one..........finally something to talk about.

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#42 Gaz
May 22 2013, 12:08PM
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Until there is confirmation from the KHL club, this is all nice to hear, but ultimately not worth much.

Once Dynamo puts pen to paper, you've got action.

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#43 madjam
May 22 2013, 12:26PM
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Crap - there goes my idea of drafting Nicushkin first and Slepychev second to play with Yakupov .

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#44 HardBoiledOil
May 22 2013, 12:30PM
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i doubt the 'Canes pass on Nichuskin at #5 now....big, talented forward that could end up playing full time in the NHL next season. the Oil will now have to try to trade up to get him if they want him.

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#45 Will
May 22 2013, 12:34PM
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DieHard wrote:

Can we please just stop with the "wonder kids" and "fab 5" descriptions. We are sounding like idiots.

Less typing than Hall Nuge Eberle every time. Do you have an alternative suggestion? I don't like the pipeline very much so...

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#46 Quicksilver ballet
May 22 2013, 12:36PM
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This has little affect on the Oilers. They're on the outside looking in as far as these top 5 are concerned. Oilers will get one of the best (3-5 yrs from now) of what's left in that 7 slot, if they don't do something stupid and move down for an even iffier selection.

It would certainly take a motivated buyer to get into that top 5. Motivated, and the Oilers haven't been seen in the same sentence for a lot of years. Our Oilers are more like a handicapped child seated at the side of the road watching the parade go by these last 5 yrs. Scratching a living off of the minimum due to them each yr.

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#47 RomZ
May 22 2013, 12:36PM
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JW,

Would you rank Valeri talent wise ahead of Barkov?

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#48 Fish
May 22 2013, 12:37PM
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I don't disagree with the standard ranking i'm seeing out there. I just have a hard time believing it'll go Jones, and then so many forwards in a row. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Canes take or a D, or be interested in moving down. In this sense, I see both of Lindholm and Monahan being there. Ideally, we'd move into the Canes pick in exchange for both 2nd, or some combo of picks/prospects/players abd let them get their D.

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#49 RomZ
May 22 2013, 12:42PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

This has little affect on the Oilers. They're on the outside looking in as far as these top 5 are concerned. Oilers will get one of the best (3-5 yrs from now) of what's left in that 7 slot, if they don't do something stupid and move down for an even iffier selection.

It would certainly take a motivated buyer to get into that top 5. Motivated, and the Oilers haven't been seen in the same sentence for a lot of years. Our Oilers are more like a handicapped child seated at the side of the road watching the parade go by these last 5 yrs. Scratching a living off of the minimum due to them each yr.

I too hope that we make moves at the draft either for established roster players or moving up in the draft order.

Now that the era of futility under tambo has come and gone, I hope the MacT regime can at least make things interesting instead of the same old weve been fed the past 5 years.

Avatar
#50 Will
May 22 2013, 12:44PM
Trash it!
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trashes
Cheers
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cheers
Fish wrote:

I don't disagree with the standard ranking i'm seeing out there. I just have a hard time believing it'll go Jones, and then so many forwards in a row. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Canes take or a D, or be interested in moving down. In this sense, I see both of Lindholm and Monahan being there. Ideally, we'd move into the Canes pick in exchange for both 2nd, or some combo of picks/prospects/players abd let them get their D.

I also agree that the draft is never this cut and dry of teams taking players right where they are ranked. Gregorenko for example fell to 15 last year.

I think somewhere in the top six, there will be a shake up and someone other than Barkov, Jones, Mckinnon, Drouin, Nishkuchnin, Lindholm, or Monahan will be selected leaving one of those mentioned players available to the next team in line. This should have enough of a domino effect that the Oilers are able to select an important and impactful player with their numebr 7 selection, or be able to trade that pick nearly outright for an established roster player that the Oilers desperately need.

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