Out of the Blue

This is Adam Larsson. He is the number one rated prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry draft at this time. The Edmonton Oilers may have a shot at selecting him this summer, something that wasn’t in the conversation just days ago. Jacques Lemaire’s defensive hockey is starting to work in the New Jersey swamps, and it may benefit the Oilers in a big way. The question then becomes "will the Oilers take a defenseman #1 overall?"

In the history of the Edmonton Oilers, the club has used a first round selection on a defenseman 10 times. Barry Fraser drafted a defender in the first round 5 times between 1979 and 1985. He did extremely well, plucking Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey and Jeff Beukeboom during those drafts. Two more picks in the late ’80s, a couple in the ’90s (Stadjuhar, Descoteaux) and Alex Plante in 2007. That’s it, that’s all. 10 for the blue in the first round, compared to 2 goalies and 26 forwards. And more pertinent to our conversation, just one defenseman since 1997.

Let’s begin by discussing what kind of player Larsson is, and how he might be able to help out the Oilers.

The early scouting reports gush about Larsson’s wide range of skills, but tough marker Redline Report places Larsson in perspective:

  • Woodlief:  I see him more as a number two who’s going to eat a lot of minutes and be maybe a 40-45-point scorer. I don’t see him being that number one guy who’s going to come in and get 60-70 points and really lead a top power play. He makes a great first pass out of his own end. He plays solid, he plays physical. I’d like to see him, with his big body, to play physically a little more consistently along the walls and in front of the crease where he just kind of has a tendency to just lean on guys instead of getting aggressive with them. I think he’s a legitimate 15-year NHL player and number two guy who, on a poor team, will maybe play as a number one from time to time.

The source for that quote is here. I don’t really get the "#1" to "#2" distinction above and do believe Oiler fans would be thrilled with a guy who can play the position and deliver 40-45 points a season. But is that worth cashing your #1 pick for?

I’ve posted Gabriel Desjardins NHL equivalencices for forwards before, but haven’t posted much in terms of defensemen. Below are some of the top offensive NHLE numbers from the blue over the past few seasons. ALL of the numbers below are from each player’s draft season (per 82gp):

  • Ryan Ellis (2009) 9-29-38
  • Victor Hedman (2009) 10-21-31
  • Drew Doughty (2008) 6-23-29
  • Dmitri Kulikov (2009) 5-20-25
  • Zack Bogosian (2008) 5-20-25
  • Cam Fowler (2010) 4-21-25
  • Michael Del Zotto (2008) 6-18-24
  • Erik Karlsson (2008) 8-14-22
  • Alex Pieterangelo (2008) 5-17-22
  • Brandon Gormley (2010) 4-14-18
  • Adam Larsson (2011) 2-16-18
  • John Carlson (2008) 5-11-16
  • Erik Gudbranson (2010) 1-13-14
  • Luke Schenn (2008) 3-9-12

So I think we need to be clear about how much offense he’s going to deliver. Larsson is not going to be an impact offensive player ala Doughty based on what he’s delivering currently. There are all kinds of things that could send his numbers north: if he came to Edmonton and was used on the PP often then Larsson would likely outperform the estimate above. Having said that, offensively he looks like a guy who won’t play a lot on the top powerplay unit outside the peak period of his career.

He is a solid defensive player, physical and he can impact a game. The numbers suggest the strength of his game will be in his own end of the rink. I don’t think that’s what a team should pursue with the number one overall selection.

    • #2 gilbert what games do you watch he is hands down one of the worst dman in the league. If he played on a half decent team he wouid be #3 or 4 at best.The guy dosn”t check dosn’t go in the corners dosn’t attempt to clear the net what a complete waste of a roster spot but the prez knows best that’s why he locked him up for the long haul. Great investmen #2 dman my ……

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Interesting analysis.

        On one hand he’s one of the worst dmen in the league

        on the other hand he’s #3 or #4 on a half decent team.


  • Pilgor09

    Please please please stay away from Couturier. He looks like frickin Michael Handzus………… Keep the pick and draft RNH. Deal Gagner and Smid for a good defenseman. I’s like too get Bogosian like the posts mentioned before or Michael Del Zotto. I also would like to know if LA would part with Kyle Clifford. Maybe a Jacques and Brule for Clifford and a 5th?

    • kawi460

      I like RHN and Landeskog, IMO the Oil should draft one of those players. I would rather package Hemsky instead of Gagner to NYR for Del Zotto, Hemsky and Gabs would light the lamp a lot and the Oilers need a great young blueline prospect. Im not sure if LA would part ways with Clifford but he’s the type of player the Oilers could use.

  • Bank Shot

    What are the NHLE’s for the forwards?

    If Larsson is going to be a 40-45 point defenceman that is rock solid in all zones, and guys like Couturier, RNH, and Landeskog top out as 70-75 point men then there is a an argument for taking the defenceman.

    Even if say Couturier has a career arc like Lecavalier and scores 60-70 points in most seasons with a couple of 100 point seasons thrown in, is that worth more then a consistent 40 point d-man that is great all around? In the salary cap era I’d rather have the guy that delivers great value every season and won’t get a monster paycheque.

    • points aren’t what determine contract amounts. It’s the demand for the player and the skill set he brings. Volchenkov gets around a dozen points a season but because he’s a tree trunk who smashes guys and blocks a ton of shots he gets over 4M a year. If Adam Larsson actually becomes a steady no.2 in the NHL he will command anywhere from 4-6M a year easily. Especially if he is consistently reliable in his own end. It’s tougher to find than you think.

      Also while dmen always take a longer time to develop and that’s why their development is much more unpredictable than forwards, Adam Larsson is supposed to be the most NHL ready player so for him to play in the NHL at 18 isn’t unfathomable. Which means that large window that is usually there for the dmen’s development in junior and then the semi pros won’t be there. So the 5-7 years of anything can happen (injuries, improved off season training, or peaking too soon) won’t be there. He’ll be in the NHL immediately and the NHL team he’s with can control the development and monitor him much more closely.

      • Bank Shot

        Points are the biggest determining factor in contracts. That’s why there are two D-men in the NHL with a $7 million dollar cap hit and like 20-30 forwards. There are other factors, but points are the trump card.

        I agree it is tough to find great two way defencemen and it’s a reason I’d lean towards drafting Larsson. He’s never going to get a Rick Nash $8 million per season extension so that’s an added bonus.

        He’ll get reasonable money and be a big factor in every game based on minutes played.

  • Crash

    I know I’m not adding anything new to the discussion by saying this, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just a debate of “who would you rather have, a good centre or a good D”, but also “who is more likely to reach their ceiling?”
    Nothing beats a franchise centre, but is Couturier that guy? Is Larsson a guaranteed #2 D-man?
    I’m willing to be shown otherwise in the next few months, but as of right now it looks like Landeskog is the surest thing of the big 4, and I think that has to count for something extra. The draft’s not today, and I’m not Stu, but if those things ever change I’d take Gabe.

  • Larsson or RNH? What happens if RNH turns out to be Zach Parise in 5 years?? I would hate for the Oilers to make that mistake again. In that draft they had several ‘smurfs’ like the team now and passed on Parise for MAP, if RNH is the best player available than draft him. There is no Hall or Seguin in this draft so it will take the Oilers’ pick a few years to make the team, who knows what the team will look like in two years??

  • @Crash

    “It makes me sick to my stomach how everyone on here seems to think it’s so easy to build a team that wins consistently, especially with the challenges that are faced being located in Edmonton.”

    I don’t think it’s hard to build a winner – it is hard to win the Cup.

    There are teams that ice a competitive product for the most part, year in and year out. There is a way to ice a good team if the GM knows what he’s doing (or hasn’t lost his mind like Lamoriello) – Wings, Canucks, Sharks, Toronto (got ya), Flyers, etc, etc.

    I think that the Oilers might get enamored with the idea that their young players might contain some kind of magic, you know, like the magic that Gretzky had – the vision, crazy points, unstoppable psychic offense.

    In doing so they don’t evaluate their players strengths correctly, or their importance to the team’s success correctly. As Forsberg said we trade away all our good players – but the flip side of that is that we keep the less than good ones.

    3 trades could radically transform this team to contending for the playoffs. We have decent top talent on F & D, a good goalie in Dubs, we just have too many small versions of top talent at F, and too many light weight D or done as dinner D.

    By definition, the way to correct having too many small forwards is to trade some. Gagner, Hemsky are 2nd tier forwards, would the team be doomed to disasater if one got moved in gaining a lottery pick? Can’t we live without one of our non-hitting offensive D for a better version of Smid?

    That’s what it takes to make a better team. Even if you think you can draft your way out, you still have to open spaces up for them to play.

    I believe Jay Feaster who has built a Cup winner, and saw it ruined by meddling owners. He said when asked about his plans that you can draft as well as you want but still need to trade pieces you need to change. He will identify his core and keep them, and switch the less important players around till the lineup works how he wants it to.

    The only complicated part is being able to judge ability and recognize the team’s weaknesses. And I imagine some can’t do deals well and really should be canned. The time is now Tambellini.

    • Crash

      For some franchises it’s easier than others…those management teams that manage in a location that is not an attractive local will have a tougher time.

      I’m really not sure what else you are saying. In the Oilers top 6 only Gagner and Eberle are under 6ft. Hall, Penner, Hemksy, Paajarvi are all above 6ft. Penner and Paajarvi are well above 6ft.

      You have it in your mind that some team will give up a lottery pick for as you call it a 2nd tier forward. So, would you give up a lottery pick if all you felt you were getting in return was a 2nd tier forward? On one hand you call Gagner and Hemsky 2nd tier forwards and then on the other hand you think they are worth lottery picks. Hemsky is UFA in one year. What team in their right mind that are near the bottom of the standings and rebuilding trades a lottery pick for a player who is UFA in one season?

      What guarantee do you have that the lottery pick you obtain will turn out to be any better than what you already have in a Gagner? So you trade Gagner for a lottery pick, end up picking 4th and you take Landeskog or Hopkins and 4 yrs later he starts to produce at the point Gagner is producing now. What are you going to do then, try to flip that player for another lottery pick? You are in an endless carousel that never allows the team to become good because you always move out your 21 yr olds for a draft pick.

      The problem in here is many think they can get a lottery pick from another team with ease. And many in here think that the unknown lottery pick is automatically better than what you already have.

      • Crash

        I don’t buy that the Oilers can’t sign players because of the city. It’s because the team was/is awful. It is different now that Hall and Eberle and the others are here, the team can legitimately say they are building to be a contender, the appeal is greater.

        To speak of a player’s size, you have to take weight into consideration. Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner are 190 or under, Hall just over. These aren’t big guys. Penner is huge, MPS and Horcoff fairly big at 200. 4 top 6 forwards under 200, 3 under 190 – thats a small line up Crash, likely the league prize winner.

        2nd tier doesn’t mean lousy players, but it is clear they aren’t in the league’s top 30 – right?

        Kessel got 2 – 1st round picks. That deal is a great example of how it should be done. Kessel is good, but Boston benefited more than TO from it to me. Their team didn’t miss a beat without Kessel.

        To think that Hemsky isn’t worth one 1st pick, and that Garth wouldn’t want Hemmer with Tavares or Lou – Hemmer with Kovalchuk – really? Gagner still has enough cache in the league he gets asked about but Tambellini has shut the door (foolish, take offers and if one is over the top…)

        As for rebuilding, remember the Oilers are in a unique position for a terrible team, the stands are full. NJ, Isles, Panthers are under financial pressure and need to see the playoffs (for the money) soon. To give up a pick for a younger established player who can help now is good value for them. There is always the chance your 1st rounder flops as you say, and you have to wait for development.

        Hemsky having an extra year is a bonus given that his contract is fair. It means he can’t walk this spring (just a rental) – a much higher chance of retaining him if he has to play a year there and likes it. Euro’s like the East coast as well because the flight home is much shorter.

        There is always a risk trading a decent player for a pick. But when you are seriously over stocked at centre, have a top 2 pick likely in the bag already, risks are lower.

        It’s a judgement call, but I say a team with Couturier and Landeskog in 3 years is better than a team with Couturier and Gagner (who by then is fighting for 3 or 4 C with Hall and Couturier ahead of him).

        Teams trade off first picks nearly every year. They won’t give them up for nothing though, as Tambellini found out last year with Chiarelli. The key is to cash in good players in over filled positions for quality missing pieces, a safe bet if it’s a lottery pick. A trade is fine too.

        You don’t keep flipping players unless you don’t like them. Then you do it before everyone figures out what you already know.

        • Chris.

          So you are old enough to remember when the Oilers had the 4th and 6th overall pick, and a really great young core… it’s fans just needed to be patient because we’d be winning cups again in three to five years…

          *~Too bad Sather wasn’t smart enough to really tank it: or instead of being stuck with that bum Ryan Smyth we’d have had Oleg Tverdosky to first pass that puck to Jason Bonsignore.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          Theirs a big difference between “first rounder” and lotto pick.

          Sure we could probably get a 1st for Hemmer, maybe even a little more.

          No way we get a lotto pick though.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    All the stats and projections really mean nothing when reality sets in. The draft is great, but we need to trade assets to get proven young roster players. Hemsky’s contract is coming up. He is prone to injuries on this team because we have no one that will step up and make it painful for the other team to crush him night after night.

    Trade him for equal value for a young tough winger that protects himself. They do exist out there. Keep Penner as he is big enough to look after himself. Trade some midgets for 3rd or 4th line guys that understand a role.

    We have many a first round pick on this team now. That’s good for 29th spot. We also need to deal to get better. I want the playoffs next year and many years to come

    • kawi460

      lol, we all want playoffs next year. Next year the Oilers goal should be .500. Remember we have to be patient, we don’t want Tambo to rush things and make a dumb trade that won’t help us in the long run. I will be happy if the Oilers make the playoffs in 2-3 years and in 5-6 years we will be cup contenders.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    There are a lot of Lowe type Gms that would pencil him in as #3 or 4.He should be riding the bus to games compare salary to player a bad bad investment.

  • Crash

    Our 2011 1st round pick for NAS – Shea Weber?

    My point here is that we need “for sure” type guys and not more “potential” to go with Hall, Eberle, EPS, etc.

    Shea Weber fills all of our needs on the blue line right now. Larsson might take 3-4 years to develop into player we hope he becomes.

    • The problem is can you sign Weber at the end of next year when his contracts up? Whats the point of trading a 1st round pick that you will have the rights to for what… 5-7 years for a guy who will help the team now but might only be around to help the team… make the playoffs next year?

      No good.

  • I give Tambo this summer and about ~25 games next season… if things dont look great…. get someone who will do the job. This year is a write off. I dont expect much come deadline day (which sucks if I’m right) but this summer Edmonton has to make some noise.

  • 2 Things:

    First, Why do people keep saying this is year one of a rebuild? That makes no sense. None. Whoever said we have been rebuilding since Pronger left has it exactly.

    Second, is it really so hard to grasp the implication that when people suggest trading for a player like Weber they mean an extended Weber. Does everything really have to be spelled out in that much detail?

    There is not a single person here who would advocate dealing a bunch of youth for a single year and fervent hope he will resign.

    • #1) Because this is the first year they publicly admitted they are rebuilding and because “rebuilding” as people seem to mean it means actually actively pursuing draft picks, trimming the veteran fat etc etc. They actually havent been doing that since Pronger left. What they had been doing is sitting on their ass hoping UFA’s would somehow fill in the blanks in the line up.

      #2) No it is not hard to grasp that implication. But that would imply that Weber would be willing to sign an extension here. That is a HUGE assumption. So as long as we are living in the world of ~reality~ (i hate the stupid ~ things for sarcasm but apparently it’s needed here for people to grasp something) we actually have to consider the possibilities of what is being suggested rather than just assume it will happen because it would be awesome if it did.

      And if you meant to imply that Nashville for some reason is going to sign him to a 3 year extension or so then deal him here… that’s even more assinine

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Theirs a HUGE difference between trading for pending RFA’s vs pending UFA’s.

        Not to mention the fact, that of a trade of that magnatude you talk to the player to make sure he would be willing to extend before pulling the trigger.

      • And if you meant to imply that Nashville for some reason is going to sign him to a 3 year extension or so then deal him here… that’s even more assinine

        Wrong. “Asinine” is writing comments like the one quoted above when you clearly have no idea how these deals work.

        I hate it when people respond with aggressive ignorance. I have no patience for it and then I look like the a$$hole.

        You don’t make the trade assuming he will sign. You complete the trade conditional on an extension and obtain the right to negotiate the extension from Nashville. Deals like this happen all the time. It’s not a secret.

  • Chris.

    Overheard at a pancake breakfast:

    Oiler fan 1:
    “Isn’t it obvious! Rebuilding means sucking while not spending to the cap maximum. We spend less AND get likely get to pick first!
    Lowe and Tambo are perfect for the job. Only problem will be when they actually need to start phase two of the rebuild and not suck anymore…But cmon, they both used to play hockey, they know what they are doing.”

    Oiler fan 2:
    “Yeah, I guess you’re right….Not totally sure though.”

    Oiler fan 1:
    ” Of course I’m right don’t you see how badly we are sucking! Even worse than less year FOR LESS MONEY!!! These guys are geniuses. Oh, I see you only have a half full cup of the kool-aid, let me get you some”

  • Oilers4ever

    There’s been a lot of stuff to read along here. Not sure I think we should be bashing people for toeing the ole party line. Everyone has an opinion. Have to admit, I’ve never been a season ticket holder because I could never afford or justify spending that amount of cash on tickets. Those who have kids and family will understand where I’m coming from. There are better places to spend it. It’s not from a lack of entertainment part or that every game this season is on TV… I live too far away now as well.

    This team needs to look at the 3 years from now. Not one, not 5, but three. This will be the first year in the new contracts for guys like Hall, Ebs, and MPS. It will be the final year for guys coming in and playing next year (like VandeVelde, Hamilton, etc, if they make the team) plus the first round pick if they get it. This team will be ready to win by that team if they keep the core.

    Hemmer’s a good player, don’t get me wrong, but if you have someone throwing you a first rounder and a prospect you take it. Hemmer’s issue to me is injuries. The guy for three straight years has missed pretty much half the season because of injury and I doubt you’ll see him again this year. The guys a piece of glass skating on ice. Penner should go to. Big he is, but the issue is he doesn’t play like he’s big. Half the time he plays like he’s 5’10 180lbs. He’d likely get us hopefully a 3-4 dman that we could use and maybe a 2nd or 3rd rounder with that.

    They need to build this team with the pieces they need playing 3 years from now. If you keep Hemmer for one more year and he’s injured at the next trade deadline then what? You can’t trade him for anything because he’ll be UFA so unless a team with a legitimate cup shot thought he was the final piece, he goes nowhere and you lose him for nothing.

    It’s hard to play GM when you don’t know the whole inside picture which none of us here know, including the writers on this wonderful site. If they think the Oil Brass tell them absolutely everything that’s going on, their nuts. I do agree Tambo should be doing more with this team. Not so much to improve it for this year, but to move players out who don’t fit the “3 years from now mould” so we have the room for the players that do fit that mould. As much as it sucks I firmly believe this team needs to finish last and trade for another first rounder from someone like NJ if they are willing for Hemsky. Hell, package Hemsky, Gagner and a 3rd rounder for a 1st rounder and maybe say Mattias Tedenby? If the Oil could have two 1st rounders to luck out and get Couturier and Lands whats his name, we are better off down the road.

    Making trades for existing players now even if they are 25-28 years old is useless unless they want to be here for the long haul. As bad as this team is right now, if you believe everything you read, all of the players want to be here no matter how bad the team is. And they believe they have the coaching staff with the patience required to build this team into a championship one. If you have that mentality to start, you have everything you need to build a true winner. It’s like watching your kids grow up… They will make many mistakes when they are young, but it’s how they learn from it that counts and I’m a firm believer that with Renney and this staff, they are learning. They might be losing, but at least they aren’t blown out in most losses like last year. That tells me the growth is there.