Big name hunting

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I said it before and I’ll say it again—Kevin Lowe’s focus at the 2008 Entry Draft in Ottawa Friday will be on making a trade for an established first-line forward, not on moving up from 22nd in selection order.

If you’re the betting type, wager that the Edmonton Oilers GM will spend more time taking and making calls about a package of players including Joni Pitkanen to swing a deal than he will studying his scouting staff’s draft list. Whether he pulls it off is another matter.

While there’s a good chance the Oilers will get a keeper with the 22nd pick in a deep draft—history suggests Lowe won’t move up in order—names called Friday won’t be factors for two, three or even four years.

Here and now, Lowe covets a player who can complement Ales Hemsky. To that end, Pitkanen can be had. So can add-ins like Raffi Torres, Jarret Stoll and suspect prospect Rob Schremp. If it takes more, that’s do-able, too—if the name coming back is right.

Lowe made waves in his first draft as GM in Calgary in 2000 when he dealt Roman Hamrlik to the New York Islanders for Eric Brewer, Josh Green and a pick that turned into Brad Winchester.

Of course, the big splash doesn’t always come off. Lowe tried to get the Islanders No. 1 pick in Cowtown, but couldn’t. He quietly shopped Mike Comrie at the draft in Nashville without success before a nasty break-up with Little Mikey went public.

Even if Lowe can’t get something done until later this summer, bet the farm he’ll be pitching in Ottawa.

THE WISH LIST

Based on educated guesswork and conversations with Kevin Prendergast and his scouting staff, here’s four prospects the Oilers would love to get a crack at with the 22nd pick.

KYLE BEACH, EVERETT WHL, CS RANK 7

Centre. Shoots Right. 6’3″, 203 lbs. Born: North Vancouver

  • Finished second overall in goals and third overall in points (27-33-60) on the Silvertips in 2007–08.
  • Was the only player in the WHL in 2007–08 to average a point per game while averaging over three penalty minutes per-game (3.7).
  • Awarded the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 29 goals (29-32-61) during the 2006–07 season.

Central Scouting’s Blair MacDonald:

“Beach is one of the top forwards in this year’s draft and is probably the most competitive—from the blue line in there is no one who competes like him. He’s feisty, he’s got a reputation for being physical and agitating a little bit and is the power forward in this year’s draft. He has good scoring skills and a very accurate shot, and from the blue line in, once he gets the puck, he almost owns it.”

THE WAY I SEE IT: Even with questions about attitude and maturity, there’s no way Beach will drop out of the top 10, and certainly not as far as 22nd. No chance unless the Oilers move up to get him.

COLTEN TEUBERT, REGINA WHL, CS RANK 18

Defence. Shoots Right. 6’4″, 185 lbs. Born: White Rock, BC

  • Finished third on his team in defensive scoring with 23 points (7-16-23) in 2007–08.
  • Represented Canada at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships.
  • Was a member of Team Canada at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in 2007 and represented Team British Columbia at the 2007 Winter Games.

Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire:

“Colten is a smooth skating defenseman, who can skate the puck out of trouble and can jump up the ice with the puck. I like Colten for a lot of reasons, but most of all for his ability to take charge of the game. He projects as a support three or four defenseman, at least initially in the NHL, with a good offensive upside who won’t hurt you on defence.”

THE WAY I SEE IT: The Oilers will be doing handstands if Teubert is available and they’ll run to the podium screaming his name if that’s the case. It’ll take a swap with somebody in the top 15.

EVGENY GRACHEV, YAROSLAVL RUSSIA, CS RANK 9 European skaters

Centre. Shoots Right. 6’3″, 202 lbs. Born: Khabarovsk, USSR

  • Scored the game-winning goal to help Russia beat Team Canada in round-robin play at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships. He finished the tournament with five points (2-3-5) in six games, helping Russia win a silver medal.

Central Scouting:

“Evgeny is a power forward with a good physical presence and ability to come up with the puck in traffic areas. He displays strong puck skills and the ability to make plays all over the ice, but needs to improve his acceleration and overall speed.”

THE WAY I SEE IT: As tricky as it is getting players here from Russia and despite having been burned by 2000 first-round bust Alexei Mikhnov, the Oilers scouting staff thinks very highly of Grachev.

JORDAN EBERLE, REGINA WHL, CS RANK 33

Centre. Shoots Right. 5’10”, 174 lbs. Born: Regina

  • Ranked fifth overall in WHL scoring with 42 goals and tied for second overall with nine game-winning goals—his 42 goals accounted for 19 per cent of the goals Regina scored this season.
  • Selected to the 2008 Eastern Conference First All-Star Team and was selected as the WHL Player of the Month for October after totalling 22 points (14-8-22) in 13 games.
  • Regina’s Scholastic Player of the Year in 2008.
  • Won gold with Team Canada at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, finishing second on the team with 10 points (4-6-10).

Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire:

“Jordan is a slippery scorer with great hands. He has NHL hands and the skating to get him into good shooting position. Jordan is an up-and-down the wing ‘tease’ in the sense that sometimes he’ll look like he’s just going up and down the wing and you have him slotted as a checker and then he’ll cut in off the wing and use that shot to put his team up by a goal.”

THE WAY I SEE IT: If Eberle was a six-footer he’d likely be ranked 10 places higher, which is about where the Oilers have him. With the success of Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano, Lowe won’t be scared off by Eberle’s lack of size if he’s available at 22nd .

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

  • RobinB

    Rick: Read more carefully. I said bet Lowe will be pitching in Ottawa as opposed to "to Ottawa."
    That's not a news flash, given all of the mentions by Lowe and MacTavish about maybe moving mltiple assets to get one frontline player, but I feel particularly strongly about it because of the situation.
    Lowe has been an active player in the trade market at virtually every draft since he took over as GM. He hasn't always managed to make a deal, but he has been in there pitching and working the floor.
    There is no better place than the draft to make a trade because you're eye-to-eye with every peer GM and the scouting staffs of the other teams for two or three days. In some cases, a move isn't made at the draft. but the groundwork for something is started.

  • jdrevenge

    Robin are you confirming through a source that Lowe is moving in on a guy?

    If so thats some pretty exciting stuff. I dont believe IMO that Schremp would be going. I hope at least…

    I've been paying attention to all the fodder going back and forth over the sphere the last little while. After the Pronger fiasco Lowe went back to the drawing board. it seems to me Lowe had a vision of who wanted on his team through the draft and hes picking up those players as he goes. Grebeshkov, Pitkanen, Nilsson were all guys that the Oil wanted but couldnt have in the draft and they've landed them through trades after the fact. Lowe is dumping the old guard and from all indications his plan is coming to fruition slowly but surely.

  • Rick

    So when you say bet the farm that Lowe will be pitching to Ottawa is this your speculation or are you hearing more concrete rumours?

    If it's more concrete I wonder who they would be looking at because although the oft beaten to death suggestion of Spezza is a nice idea I thought he has a no trade contract that kicks in on July 1 which pretty much kills the idea of making a deal later in the summer.

    Also, have you heard anything that may suggest the Oilers would look at a goalie during this years draft? Maybe by securing a second round pick should one of the top 3 guys drop out of the first round.