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.


  • 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.

  • book¡e

    The injuries help the Oilers reach lottery land in a more respectable manner than the ‘wink wink’ job that the team was moving forward with. Maybe now they can actually work on fixing the power play and adding that 3rd line center. The team is weak enough by injury now that they can address those issues without fear of climbing out of the basement.

  • Top Right

    The question is, no matter who we draft this year, should we start them on the team next year? Im not sold on anybody projected 1st through 5th being that breakout guy the instant he gets drafted. Nor am I sold on either of these guys being about to handle the NHL at age 18-19. I think no matter who we draft this year, we wont be seeing them until 2 years from now.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    COUTURIER!

    Seriously though, he looks like a perfect 1C. He’s responsible defensively, strong on the puck, and battles around the net. He doesn’t strike me like a point-per-game guy in the NHL but he’s still exactly what the team needs, especially 4 and 14.

    If we’re lucky enough to draft Couturier, and bring him along properly, a line with 4, 14, and him would be one of the best balanced lines in the league.

    Honorable mention goes to Larsson. It’s a win-win draftng top 2 this year, IMO.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    JW:

    If the Oilers pick top 4 (which a bottom 3 finish guarantees), that would guarantee one of Couturier, RNH, Larsson, or Landeskog, assuming that’s the consensus top 4.

    So, they’d have a pretty high chance of filling their “need” just by luck since 3 of the 4 would fill that need. But, say the Oilers pick 4th and Landeskog is highest on their list.

    Assuming Landeskog is actually the BPA at that spot, do people want EDM to take Landeskog there, take a C or D there, or trade down and take a C or D?