The Lottery!

With Ryan Whitney out of the picture for two months, the Edmonton Oilers’ already strong chance at a lottery finish just got a little stronger. The reality is that this team has had a stranglehold on a lottery position since the get-go, and this is just a little extra insurance to get them over the line.

As of today, the Oilers’ record projects them to finish 28th in the NHL, or alternately as the third of five teams with a chance at moving up into the first overall position in this summer’s NHL Draft Lottery.

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Projected Lottery Teams

Rank Team W L OT/SO PTS
1 New Jersey Devils 21 56 5 47
2 New York Islanders 22 46 14 58
3 Edmonton Oilers 28 40 14 70
4 Toronto Maple Leafs 30 42 10 70
5 Buffalo Sabres 33 40 9 75

Interestingly, if we step back to the start of December (before the Oilers were hit with injuries to Horcoff and Hemsky) we see the same five teams projected to finish in the lottery.

Projected Lottery Teams, December 1

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Rank Team W L OT/SO PTS
1 New York Islanders 19 44 19 57
2 New Jersey Devils 27 48 7 61
3 Edmonton Oilers 27 41 14 68
4 Buffalo Sabres 30 42 10 70
5 Toronto Maple Leafs 29 39 14 72

Naturally, the Oilers were hurt by the loss of Horcoff and Hemsky, but a turnaround in net prevented a free fall. Hemsky was lost to injury on December 1; on December 2 Nikolai Khabibulin returned from injury to post a shutout against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a victory that marked the beginning of a very solid stretch of hockey for the Russian goaltender (from Dec. 2 – Dec. 26: 4-3-1, 0.935 SV%).

Fortunately for fans of the rebuild, while the Oilers have taken solid steps forward this is still very much a lottery team, particularly with injuries to Whitney (the team’s best player to date) and Horcoff (arguably the most important centre to the current roster). The defence is a bit of a mess even with Whitney, the depth forwards (particularly the third line) are a disaster, and the goaltending is hit-and-miss. This is actually positive news, overall: though one wouldn’t know it based on the post 2005-06 Oilers, it’s a lot easier to find a third-line centre than it is to find bona fide top-six forwards, which Eberle and Hall show every sign of being.

A lottery finish is an important part of the rebuild this season. Whether the Oilers choose to add a stud defenceman or a star centre – and I’m convinced that they’ll address one of those two needs with their first round pick this summer – they will be acquiring an important piece of the long-term puzzle, the last piece they should need before moving back towards playoff contention. Between this summer’s first round pick, the trio of rookie forwards presently on the roster, the established NHL’ers on the team, and the prospects already in the system, the Oilers should have the nucleus of a playoff team. It will be up to Steve Tambellini and his staff to flush out the roster with useful veterans up front and on the back end.

This is a team built for lottery contention, and their finish this season should reflect that. But I’m hoping that this is the last time we can say that for a long time.

  • Ender

    russ99 wrote:

    Unless the Oilers somehow get #1 and grab the obvious pick in Couturier they have to go with Larsson over RNH or Landeskog. We’re thin with defensemen in the system. Petry and Peckham are with the big club, Plante is in the AHL, Marincin is probably 2-3 years away. Who else is there? We need an impact defenseman in the system more than a center at this point.

    I’m going to respectfully disagree. Drafting defensmen that high is a really big spin on the roulette wheel. Defensemen aren’t as predictable at that age; their development can keep them strong, or they can for no explainable reason stall and turn into nobodies. I know that’s true to a degree with forwards, but the odds of a premier forward who’s tearing up junior turning into a bust in the NHL are pretty low; conversely, a ‘can’t-miss’ junior defenseman can in fact miss quite easily in the Show.

    If we’re talking about BPA in the second round, then maybe you take the big hulking defenceman. On the 2nd overall pick, though, I’d argue that Larsson is too big a gamble; you either try to pry the number one away from the Devils or whoever has it, or more likely you trade down one spot and take a forward and the extra asset instead. Much safer.

    If you need a defenceman, let another team grow them and then trade one of your extra pieces for one. It’s slightly more expensive that way, but at least you know you’re getting what you pay for.

    • Rogue

      Totally agree with Ender. A Dman is normally 4-5 years before he is an impact player. And there is no guarantee even then. You may get a steal down the road drafting wise. Or try to get one thru a trade.

      I would like to see how many top 5 drafted defensemen in the past 15 years became “difference makers” Lowetide?

    • BGH - Team SQUEEE

      I totally agree with this and would like to further add 1 more point to it.

      A forward, can develop and be ready for the NHL in 2 years (see Eberle for example) if they are not capable of starting right away.

      Defensemen on the other hand usually have a longer curve and can be as long as 4,5 or 6 years til they are ready to make an impact.

      This teams needs a 1-2 defenseman to play with Whitney sooner rather then later.

      If we draft and wait for a defensemen to develop, we could potentially waste a couple years of the forwards we have (Hall, MPS, Eberle).

      Draft best center available imo, move other pieces (Hemsky, Penner, Cogs, Brule) and other prospects for that #1-2 defensemen we need.

    • The reason defenceman are a bigger gamble is the same reason goalies are so hit and miss on their draft position. Forwards for the most part develop in 3-5 years from the time of their draft year. Defenceman tend to take much longer as they tend to take 5-7 years as they finish their junior career and then play 3-5 years in the AHL and any other lower pro league depending on how they progress. With such a large window in terms of development many things can happen. The player could grow 3-4 inches and become stronger and rangier. The player’s skills become more effective as they get stronger and older. Or the player just clicks and their off season training and practice methods become better. Also in that window injuries can take their toll on high end defensive draft picks.

      I disagree with the fact that Adam Larsson is a gamble though. I agree with other posters that if Couturier is gone and the Oilers draft anywhere from 2-4 they have to take Larsson because his physical maturity is there at 6’3 209lbs and he’s supposed to be more poised and intelligent than Victor Hedman. Plus at worst he becomes a top 3 dman and the Oilers only have one of those types right now with Ryan Whitney. Having Marincin, Whitney, Petry, and Larsson on the backend would be a much improved defence. Also with the fact that many people project Larsson as the most NHL ready of the top 3 picks his window of development is much shorter and he will become relevant at the same time as Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, and the other 2009/2010 blue chip prospects.

  • Ryan Nuggent-Hopkins is a programmatic non-fit for the Oilers unless they trade Sam Gagner.

    If he’s is the BPA when the Oilers draft, I’d advise moving the pick to get another asset and take the best defenseman available.

  • Petr's Jofa

    Unless the Oilers somehow get #1 and grab the obvious pick in Couturier they have to go with Larsson over RNH or Landeskog.

    We’re thin with defensemen in the system. Petry and Peckham are with the big club, Plante is in the AHL, Marincin is probably 2-3 years away.
    Who else is there?

    We need an impact defenseman in the system more than a center at this point.

    Besides, Pitlick and Martindale could end up borderline 1st/2nd line centers at some point.

    • D-Man

      We should have Whitney for a couple more years, and Gilbert has shown that he can be a capable #3-#4 defenseman… That still leaves a couple more holes on the back end but if you have that strong face-off winning centermen, you’re requirements on the backend aren’t as huge…

      Puck control is key and if we can get that decent centremen to push our team faceoff percentage over 51 to 52%, your PK and PP get stronger and your defensive play instantly improves…

      You also forget that if we say drafted RNH or Landeskog (and couldn’t get a shot at Larrson); Gagner/Cogliano have now became a bit more expendable… Perhaps you trade a Gagner to find that young, solid defensemen to shore up your core. You can’t do that know as we’re thin down the middle as well, but that’s why you draft BPA and not for need.

  • Ryan14

    RNH is so small. If we drafted him, our top 2 centers moving forward are under 6’2 200. A majority of RNH’s points are also PP assists. How well does that translate to the NHL?

    An argument could be made that Landenskog is the third BPA as things stand.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Agreed, I’ve seen RNH a tonne and highly doubt he’ll be much better then Gagner (which would be fine if one/both of them were 3 inches taller/30lbs heavier).

      IMO if we can’t get Couturier/Larson we move the pick for a proven top 6 center with size from a team that needs cap space.

  • Personally, I lean towards Couturier at this juncture.

    That’s not a considered opinion – I don’t usually start doing heavy prospect research until I go over the CSS midterm rankings, so I’m open to arguments otherwise – but I think he probably combines BPA and ‘draft for need.’

    • Dan the Man

      agreed with that opinion. His performance at the world juniors has been pretty good and if you look at his linemates he’s being used as a shoutdown defender as he’s teamed with Louis Leblanc(projected to be a top 9 banger with skills) and Marcus Foligno(projected to be a grinder) for the most part. He’s shown decent ability to keep the puck alive but I agree with the other posters in terms of his offence. It’s a little raw and sometimes he’s not entirely sure what to do with the puck. It’s a little odd as the QMJHL is known for having the most creative offensive players because of the wide open style in the league and he’s was the leading scorer last year.

      But he meets a lot of needs that Edm requires. A shutdown center with very good defensive positioning and size down the middle as he’s already 6’3 192lbs at 18. KILLS penalties and while he’s raw he does have offensive skills.

      Many analysts are projecting him comparatively to Lecavalier/or either Staal brother(Eric/Jordan) the Oilers could use a player like that. Although if the Oilers don’t get him I definitely wouldn’t cry if the Oilers got Ryan Nugent Hopkins. It seems the prevailing opinion is that like last year RNH is projected to have the highest ceiling while Couturier is the most NHL ready in terms of physical strength and the maturity of his game defensively.