#1 Overall Still a Mystery

The NHL Entry draft is still 3 months away. For Edmonton Oiler scouts, that’s a good thing.

The race for #1 overall is heating up. The second season is bringing out the best of this year’s elite talent. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is sublime in the WHL series and Adam Larsson is back and having a major impact on the SEL playoffs. Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier, Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton are all making a difference. Here’s a look at the candidates for #1 overall and how they’re doing this spring.


We discussed Larsson’s first round at length here and the young man continues to play heavy minutes when healthy. In Skelleftea’s second round series he was injured and missed one of the games. Here are the results so far:

  • Game 1: 13:32 TOI Even 2 hits (and an injury)
  • Game 2: DID NOT PLAY
  • Game 3: 26:47 TOI +1 1 assist (on an OT goal) and 1 hit
  • Game 4: Today

So far this spring, Larsson is 9gp, 0-3-3 -1 with 6pims and 14 shots on goal during the playoffs. He’s averaging 22:41 per game overall, but is clearly a staple on the Skelleftea backline.


Dominant in his first game with the Rebels in their series against the Edmonton Oil Kings, he scored again last night and had plenty of chances. A wonderful playmaker, his compete level is very high and he’s a tremendous passer. RNH has very good speed and is exceptionally elusive. I’m less worried about his slender build now than before I’d seen him play in this tough playoff series. RNH’s totals are 2gp, 3-2-5 +1.


The theme in regard to Landeskog has been the same all season: scouts and onlookers alike are astonished at his maturity in all areas and his NHL readiness. Landeskog plays a gritty game and is considered by many the best player available in this year’s draft. He’s had an impact on this year’s playoffs, and that’s to be expected since this time of year lends itself to his style. 2gp, 2-1-3 +2 early in the post-season


A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Niagra’s coach/GM Marty Williamson about the Ice Dogs and their surprising season. Williamson: "We thought our team was built for next year but  our two young guys Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome have had phenomenal seasons. It’s amazing what Dougie does for us: he quarterbacks the PP, he kills penalties and plays against top lines, his icetime is always up there." Hamilton is 1gp, 1-1-2 +2 going into game 2 today.


Williamson: "He’s been a game breaker, dangerous on the powerplay. But to be able to score 5×5 at his age that’s a real compliment to him. He’s also been a very consistent player all year." Strome plays on the 1PP but the Ice Dogs rotate two units so the offensive stats are not overblown ala Robbie Schremp. Again Williamson: "He’s not killing penalties for me, we wanted to keep him rested for even strength and the powerplay."  He is 1gp, 0-0-0 -1 so far in the playoffs.


The big man just keeps on rolling. He’s 2gp, 1-2-3 +3 with 2pims so far this playoffs. He is about 60% in the faceoff circle so far this post-season and did score 6 hits according to the scoresheet, but that lack of physical play continues to dog him (along with the concerns about foot speed).


I think it’s down to three players: Adam Larsson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog. One thing is certain: the decision has yet to be made, and playoff performances will have a major impact (as they did a year ago).

  • Gerald R. Ford

    EasyO… oh I know. I’m just yakking more than disagreeing…

    With respect to Matheson’s prognostication… I think if the Oil are serious about another top tenner, then Hemsky will be the offer, or Hemsky and a non-first round pick.

  • Lowetide

    Im fine with the Nuge. If the worst can be said about him is his size, feed him some protein shakes and give him a personal trainer. The guys elite. I don’t care if hes a year a way if hes the best player in the draft. Were going to have another bad year before the good ship Oil turns completely around.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    here are a few other targets to consider

    Brad Richards
    Andrei Markov
    Michal Handzus
    James Wizniewski
    Scottie Upshall
    Jan Hejda
    Shane O’Brien
    John Madden
    Curtis Glencross

  • Peterborough

    This draft is 35 deep with little to separate 16-35 from all I’ve read and heard. That mean the 2nd rounder 31/32ish is going to be a player too. Its silly to take away picks from the only confirmed competent man in management.

  • Lowetide


    I don’t find it as easy to write off Couturier, Strome, Hamilton or even Huberdeau.

    Like RNH, they all have warts. Huberdeau could easily be the one elite C that comes out of the draft. Hamilton could be better than Larsson. There is no for sure here.

    Personally, I think it’s unlikely that any of them will be elite. Which makes the question of which one do you take pretty difficult.

    I think, if at the end of the day Stu thinks there is no clearcut favorite, they will take the feller who demonstrates the most desire, determination, work ethic etc. The Braintrust has made it very clear that culture change is the over-riding goal. I think that’s the drive behind trading Penner and why Hemsky is on the block. Hemsky is the last on-first off guy at practices. Contrast that to the type of guy Pronger was. Management seems to be wanting more of the Pronger type ethic.

    • EasyOil

      I’m agreeing with you to an extent! Thats what I mean by its all just potential we’re talking about, RNH could end up average and Strome could end up the next Pat Kane or vice versa. No one knows. But the potential in RNH and Larsson is far more obvious, which is why these are the guys in the conversation. The reason I “easily wrote off” Couturier is only because management appears to have done just that (LT mentioned in a couple of previous articles that Tambo listed the guys being considered for 1st overall, and that didn’t include SC), I’ve actually been a proponent of taking SC until recently. His skating issues (if it is really an issue) and apparent indifference (though that could be a case of Penner syndrome, i.e. big-man-looks-lazy-but-isnt) don’t make him a fit for this organisation. I also haven’t easily written off Landeskog, Strome, Huberdeau and Hamilton, again all three are very talented, potential top-5 players, and hell if we were to lose the lottery and get the number 2 pick, I might even take one of them, but the thing about the number one pick is it involves a lot of symbolism – game breaking difference makers, with potential (that word again!) for being elite. All of them have it, RNH, Larsson and SC are the most obvious. Thats my take, and its totally fair if you disagree but we are in agreement in terms of the uncertainty of the draft!

      With regards to management wanting the good work ethic, I agree, and that would indicate either RNH or Landeskog as the front runners in that category.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Lowetide, instead of a second top-10 pick, like Matheson suggests, what do you think of packaging LA’s pick and No. 31 together to move up and grab Duncan Siemens in the mid-first round? Depending on how the Kings finish, they may not have to move that far, and I think that could be a reasonably tempting offer for some team. Maybe two picks would be overkill for the few spots, but I’d just rather have some guaranteed combination of Landeskog or RNH AND Siemens than putting all of our eggs in the Larsson basket, and praying for another Tyler Pitlick miracle at 31. Are the Oil even interested in Siemens? I’d love to see that kid playing here.

    Thanks, and remember: Les Expos, nos amours (it’s that time of year).

    • Lowetide

      I think that’s more likely than a trade that sees them add a top 10 pick (to the one they already have).

      That LAK pick might end up around 20. If the Oilers can add a little to move into the 14-16 range then that big defender.

      I think the Oilers would definitely be interested in Siemens.

      • Whoever suggested the Oilers should draft Duncan Siemens must be a smart guy..
        Nate sans Hate February 14 2011, 07:11PM

        Trade for the Boston/Toronto pick.

        Stu Macgregor’s doing a better job of drafting talent than the GM’s doing at getting NHL talent. So what if it’s not a lotto pick by draft day?

        At worst it’s 6-10 which could still get Duncan Siemens 6’3″ & mean…or someone who slips in the draft.

  • EasyOil

    I don’t think there is a snowballs chance in hell that the Oilers draft Keegan Lowe.

    Why would they want to ruin the kid’s life?

    Ken Read stepped down as head of Canada’s ski program when his son began competitive skiing.

    It would be damaging to the organization AND to the son’s best interests for the Oilers to draft Keegan.

  • If Tambellini couldn’t get Taylor & Tyler, or Brayden Schenn, I don’t expect he’ll be able to get another top 5 pick…7-10 maybe?

    I hope Colorado wins the lotto and pick Larsson/Landeskog making it easier for Edmonton to take RNH #2 and keep him in the WHL another year. (also gives a gap between RFA contracts for Hall,Eberle,Paajarvi)

    Anyone who’s seen RNH play knows he’ll be a player in the NHL it’s just a matter of waiting a few years.

  • If I’m mgmt. I draft Larson. Just because i don’t think he can be worse then any of our current dmen now. (foster)
    I really would not care if we dumped hemsky to move up. I do think Columbus would be willing to do so. With the pick, I would pick couturier.
    Imagine how great next year will be on the powerplay against the flames with Larson and Whitney on the point and couturier ripping apart Robyn regehr and kipper minds infront of the net. While hall deposites his 2nd of the game

    • Lowetide

      I’m no scout but he looked very good in Red Deer this weekend. I asked Kent Simpson about him on Nation Radio yesterday and he said the improvement this season has been incredible.

      I think Keegan Lowe is a talented player and if the Oilers think he’s the BPA they should take him. Stu MacGregor should make the call, and that way it’s not about Kevin Lowe.

  • Peterborough

    RNH Train….

    The story on RNH is that he is likely to be very good and not franchise at his position–much like some say about Larsson.

    He is more of a playmaker, like Gagner and Hemsky, so his skillset is somewhat replicated. He is not likely to be playing 1C ahead of Horc and Gagner any time soon, so that domino effect is not there. And he’s a LH shot, which would be more helpful playing with Hall and on FOs, but is likely not a deal-breaker.

    If Couturier played with RNH’s or Landeskog’s desire, I think he would be a lock for #1.

  • Zack

    I’ve watched the first game and was at the second Rebels playoff game last night. I was always quite skeptic of the Oilers picking RNH due to his size but his overall skill is not something you can pass up.

    I highly recommend watching the first game highlights, if you already haven’t seen them, the one assist where he does a blind pass behind him just amazed me among many other things.

    It should be noted he had 4pts in game one.

    • Hemmertime

      //if you already haven’t seen them, the one assist where he does a blind pass behind him just amazed me among many other things.//

      That is just a Rob Schremp junior hockey trick. Blind passes end up in your own net in the NHL.

  • Zack

    EasyOil said…

    To be honest I’d be very happy with any of the players noted in the post, but it’s a matter of finding the one that’s worthy of the 1st overall pick… For instance, I’d love to get landeskog, but the scouts seem insistent that he won’t be an elite scorer in the NHL, just a good one, which doesn’t scream 1st overall to me, no matter his broad skillset and grit. With that pick, it absolutely has to be a slam dunk, game breaking player. Again, I’d LOVE landeskog… But with the 1st pick? I dont know.

    There is no slam dunk. That has sorta been the point of all these prospect updates. You have five or six 1A choices. Now what do you do?

    • EasyOil

      Whilst there is no consensus number 1 this year, there are two, maybe 3 prospects with the potential to be impact players. Of course, any player drafted has the “potential”, and it can be a total crapshoot. But Landeskog doesn’t (from what I’ve read, both from Scouts and here on LTs great articles) have that elite potential, whereas at the very least RNH, Couturier and Larsson have the potential to be those dominating players. That’s all we’re talking here is potential, which can go either way. I think we can all agree that SC is out of the conversation, and I don’t think management will go that far off the board and take Strome or Hamilton (unless they trade up with LA’s pick to take them), so that leaves RNH and Larsson, who again at the very least, have the potential to be difference makers.

      As for RNH’s skillset being duplicated, the answer to that is yes and no. His incredible passing ability yes, as you say by Hemsky and Gagner. But when your drafting BPA (which I know Tambo has said there’s so many possible players to take that they could draft for need, but they will still take BPA) it doesn’t matter if that skillset is duplicated RIGHT NOW, because not long down the road that skillset might not be present on your roster. As much as I’d hate to see them go, Hemsky and Gagner are not safe on this roster (especially if we take RNH), and if RNH really is Gagner with better speed and faceoff ability then I’d have to take RNH over Gagner (i.e. trade Gagner for that higher pick with LA’s, or with the pick for another roster player). Unfortunately this is all guesswork, as is any article written by anyone on the subject of how good a player can become, but I love reading it all the same because if the potential is there then it can happen.

  • EasyOil

    For the longest time I was thinking they have to take the DMan Larsson. For the simple reason that if he is a “franchise” dman those are hard to come by. But if he is just going to be good, and not great or a game changer, take RNH. His skill set is fantastic, and would be unbelieveable between Hall and Eberle. That line would have the potential to be potent every single night, and the second tier scorers such as MPS and Gagner would have more room as they wouldn’t be the primary focus. The domino effect of having a top line centre like RNH is very beneficial.

    Off topic, anyone know what the current Oilers goal song is? Weird question, I know…….. couple guys asked me but can’t figure it out. Wanye would probably know!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    From Matheson’s Hockey World:

    Take this to the bank: the Oilers will be packaging Los Angeles’s pick (for Dustin Penner) and their first choice in Round 2 (could be 31) to move into the top 10 for a second really high-end kid in the June draft.

    Surely it is going to take more than the 21st and 31st to get into the Top 10. What is Matheson thinking? Or am I taking him too literally here?

    • Chris.

      Depends on the needs of the other organization. If Calgary loses a couple of games and has a 10th or 11th overall pick this June maybe Feaster would preferr two picks in the top 31 over one pick in the top 12. (Their system is pretty depleted)

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      Take it to the bank??? The only thing I’ll take to the bank is that the Oil TRY to do this deal with someone. Whether or not anyone is crazy enough to tango with the Oil on this is another question though.

      Matty must be losing it.

    • Zack

      That scenario is scary , seeing as the last time they tried something similiar they threw a draft choice away for nothing, and ended up drafting Plante and Nash !

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    From all the comments I’ve heard about Larsson doesn’t he sound like a new version of Bouwmeester? eats a lot of minutes, a very good player but will never be a number one defence man.

    • Hemmertime

      Bouwmeester was a #1, and a darn good one, in the southeast.

      He can be a #1, just not in a good conference/division. That, and Calgary just ruined him like they did Jokinen

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    As good as I’m sure Larsson is, if we are going to draft a guy 1st overall, I’d like to have something more tangible to point to then simply “he plays alot of minutes”.

  • EasyOil

    To be honest I’d be very happy with any of the players noted in the post, but it’s a matter of finding the one that’s worthy of the 1st overall pick… For instance, I’d love to get landeskog, but the scouts seem insistent that he won’t be an elite scorer in the NHL, just a good one, which doesn’t scream 1st overall to me, no matter his broad skillset and grit. With that pick, it absolutely has to be a slam dunk, game breaking player. Again, I’d LOVE landeskog… But with the 1st pick? I dont know.

  • Talking about high draft choices, the Oilers have had so few bright spots this season that probably the best have been limited to acquiring and playing high draft choices (the latter by necessity).

    But is the management doing the right thing by placing these talented young players on the parent team among sub-par NHL players? My sense is this is the wrong way to develop such talent. In no time at all other teams began targetting Hall, Eberle and Omark with heavy checks without fear of retribution. And how does this young talent learn to play NHL style hockey from fringe players? the Oil is woefully weak at centre and defence. Get out shot and out chanced, poor at FO and PP.

    My worry is the young guns are developing bad habits and learning how to lose, not win. Five years going on six out of the playoffs, second consecutive season in last place. Clueless GM. Not sure about Renney. Priceless!

    • Quicksilver ballet

      this team is the worst oiler team in history,team to young,no vets,gm clueless,fans tired and confused,when will things change,never history will repeat itself over and over if your an edmonton soiler !! have a nice day!