Another Top 8 Pick?

According to a Jim Matheson article yesterday, the Edmonton Oilers have completed their scouting meetings with no clear number one. How could this be true? 

I don’t think the recent performance of Jonathan Huberdeau will impact the Oilers final list. Huberdeau’s team is loaded, so their appearance in the final four is no surprise and his impressive offensive totals have been compiled when the other elite talent from this draft are no longer playing. It is perhaps unwise to punish those players for running out of blacktop.

One of the quotes in the Matty article attempts to shed some light on the issue but really just muddies the waters. Matheson suggests that GM Steve Tambellini feels if two players are deemed equal by his scouts, he may make the call based on team need. Here’s the muddy: the Oilers team needs perfectly align with the top of the draft:

  • #1 Center: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Ryan Strome, Jonathan Huberdeau
  • Gritty skill winger: Gabriel Landeskog
  • Complete defender: Adam Larsson

I think the Oilers might consider trading down to #3 or #4 overall if the return is right. That return might include picks and players with enough appeal to get the Oildrop from #19 overall (the LAK pick) back into the top 10. If the Oilers walk away from the draft’s first round with Sean Couturier and Dougie Hamilton, is that worth more than RNH and Mark McNeill? 

It might be.

MAGIC 8 BALL

It is generally agreed that the top end of this draft is exactly 8 deep. We discussed it here. I’m not certain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the number one player on the Oilers list, but I think he’s the odds-on favorite to end up there. I’d bet even more money that the Oilers scouts discussed a second pick in the top 8: if these eight kids are as good as advertised, collecting a future #1 C and a future top pairing defender would be a major heist.

HOW DO YOU GET THERE FROM HERE?

Columbus would seem to be a likely candidate. They select 8th and are looking to improve enough to make a playoff appearance. Atlanta and Ottawa are also in the range.

I don’t know for certain that Steve Tambellini will attempt to move up from 19th to 8th (or better), but it makes a helluva lot of sense.

  • VMR

    The problem I see is Columbus is the target to give up their #8 pick but who is willing to trade to get to #1 and what are they willing to give up?

    Could you work out a #1 + Smid for #7 + Bogosian deal with Atlanta? Then you are still trying to figure out something that Columbus would want for the #8, Bogosian or Gagner would interest them but are likely to much to give up. Maybe Ottawa would give up 6 and 21 to move up but are 19 and 21 enough to get Columbus to give up #8?

    I’d say it’s a nice theoretical exercise but very unlikely anything happens. I’m sure they would trade down if they could get something to work but it seems like a real challenge to find a deal that makes sense for all 3 teams.

  • This sounds, to me, like business as usual at Oilers HQ. They dont give up info on this kind of thing. They didnt last year and they wont this year either.

    I’m more willing to believe that they know exactly who they’re taking and dont want to give that info to the media than I’m willing to believe they dont know who they’re taking #1.

    I also think it would be a terrible mistake trading down from #1. I would have a sick feeling in my gut if the Oilers ended up missing the best player in the draft just to get another player in the top 10. They already have 3 selections in the top 31. Just take the best player at #1 and the rest is gravy.

      • LT wrote: “I think the Oilers might consider trading down to #3 or #4 overall if the return is right.”

        I wish we were talking about moving up from 19 to 8. I think I even saw someone mention trading #1 + Smid for Bogosian + #7. I cant imagine a scenario where downgrading from 1st to 7th and taking on Bustgosian would be a great move, but it’s this kind of thinking that scares the bejeezus out of me.

        • VMR

          Yeah, I said that only because I dont see the guys at 3, 4 or 5 giving up much to move up. I think thats the kind of deal you might be able to get but I agree that it’s not great value for the Oil and dont hold out much hope for a move up or move down. I think we’re going to be picking at 1 and 19 and we should get used to that idea. There are enough decent prospects in the top 30 or so that every team is likely to think well of at least one or two and be unwilling to drop down unless we’re offering up something better, I’m doubtful we’d be willing to give up much.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      “the Edmonton Oilers have completed their scouting meetings with no clear number one.”

      Wasn’t this a fireable offense for Stu IYO?

      • Yes. Yes it is. If I pay a guy to tell me who the #1 18 year old player in the world is then he better deliver.

        Somebody is better. Someone will have a more impactful career than the other. History and common sense hold those statements to be true.

        If I hire a Coach and he tells me he doesnt have a gameplan then he’s fired. If I hire a GM and he cant sign players or make trades then he’s fired. If I hire a scout that cant tell me who the best prospect is then he is…***

        ***Keep in mind I have no desire to see Stu Mac fired. He’s done a fine job. That’s why I think he will make the determination before the draft that Player X > Player Y. I seem to recall from the OilChange series that the process of evaluation and discussion doesnt even end until shortly before Draft Day. Hell, the Mem Cup isnt even over yet. The Royal Decree isnt scheduled until June.

          • 9 Inches Uncut

            Naturally. And if there was an exact science to it teams would never blow a draft pick.

            So why would you fire them because they didn’t come to a consesus on who is #1 in a draft featuring at least 5 and as many as 8 who could be the best player?

          • If I’m Darryl Katz and I’m paying an entire scouting staff to determine who the best pick in the 2011 draft is going to be, I’d be pissed if my head scout came back to me in the final meeting with the message “I have no clue, just pick whoever you like.”

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

            Not saying this is the case, but I think the conversation would be more like:

            Theirs up to 8 players that all have the same potential, now is a chance to trade down if enough assets are on the table to do so.

          • I would start looking for a new HS if he came to me and told me that not only are there a couple players with the same potential, but there’s 8 of them.

            I could have saved Katz a lot of money by submitting my own top 8 and telling him to try and get as many as he could from the list.

            Seriously, I’ll do that every year for half of what Stu gets paid if that’s now good enough.

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

            Lucky for Stu, it looks like teams actually make contingent plans for if/when prospects are deemed equal:

            “Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has said if two players are deemed equal by the scouts”

          • Chris.

            You always preach patience with regards to players like Cogliano and He’s-Only-21-Gagner… Why so quick to label a 21 year old defencemen with less than 200 games played a “Bustgosian”?

            What’s next… NoGudbranson?

          • Bucknuck

            I have to give you props for that one. You made me guffaw.

            I think at this stage in the game it is fair to have a tie. I think the interviews will have more input in those cases and if I am not mistaken,they haven’t had those yet. You need to figure out what a player is about via the interview before you decide. I wish that in ’94 they weren’t blinded by Bonsignore’s million dollar smile.

          • Ender

            That made me laugh, Arch. Thanks for the brightest moment I’ve had all day.

            If the GM of the Oilers was an elected position, I’d throw you a vote. You have your lucid moments, there’s no question.

        • Ender

          I like your fire, Arch, but I think Chris has the right of it here. Stu isn’t getting fired because he’s already told Tambellini exactly who we’re drafting if we hang on to the number 1 pick. The Oilers just haven’t seen any potential gain in announcing that fact yet.

          @ OB1

          I do remember you taking the position that trading down might not be the stupidest thing in the world depending on what you ended up with versus what you might have to give up to get both picks. I supported your theory. I’ve looked at it a lot since then, though, and I can’t see a deal out there that I think works well for both or all three GM’s involved. I think the theory – ending up with two players in the top 8 – is fine, but in practice I don’t see it working out. If I was a betting man, I’d say we’re stepping up to the podium first. Not because it’s the only way to do business here, but because it’s the path of least resistance.

          • And I said as much in comment 2. I just think that saying “they’re equal” is a farce. It has never happened in the history of the game that the top 3-4 players in the draft have had equal careers. Someone is better. At least of the top 3-4. When someone comes out of left field (a la Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom) then it’s acceptable to say “I had no idea” because nobody could see it happening.

            But there is no excuse for having the 1st pick and not selecting the best kid out of the consensus top tier of prospects. It’s your job to know who the best is.

          • SLURVE

            No one is saying they expect the top 4, or 5, or 8 players in this draft will turn out exactly the same – some are saying they can’t really really tell which ones look like good bets at this point.

            What you’re saying is that you’d like a head scout to make up some rationale and tell you that heads are more likely to come up than tails on a given coin flip, simply because you are unable or unwilling to look at the opinion that two equivalent options exist. You’re trying to choose between two cans of the same brand of beer, demanding that there be some way to know which one is better before you crack the seal. There’s no way to know, and wishing doesn’t make it so.

            All you can do is make the best forecast you can, and if that forecast is that 2 players are equals as prospects. What reason is there to pretend you know which one will be better when you don’t?

            “But there is no excuse for having the 1st pick and not selecting the best kid out of the consensus top tier of prospects. It’s your job to know who the best is.”

            It is your job to know which one is the best bet going forward at the time of the draft.

          • SLURVE

            Have to correct my last sentence in reply #99, I started writing it, went back to change some of the rest, and never came back to it.

            I wrote:

            “It is your job to know which one is the best bet going forward at the time of the draft.”

            That sentence might be taken to mean that there is a definitive “best” prospect, but what I meant was it’s your job identify the future potential of each of the players available, and try to rank them in the order reflecting their value. If that means you have a clear cut #1, that’s what it means, and if it means you grade 3 players as equally good options at any given draft position (in this case, at #1), then that’s what it means.

          • I didnt realize how many people are completely fine with the idea of Stu MacGregor spending a year evaluating this crop of players and coming back to the team with nothing. Which is exactly what coming up with no recommendation would be.

            I didnt think it was unreasonable to expect the head amateur scout of an organization to actually chose who he thinks is the best prospect out there. Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe the scouting staff will hold hands and sing Koombaya at the draft and let the prospects themselves chose who will be drafted #1. That would be swell.

            I cant get over how low everybody’s expectations are for Stu MB. Unbelievable.

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

            It has nothing to do with “low expectations” and everything to do with understanding that “X and Y are too close to call” is a potential outcome when evaluating.

            They are essentially equivalent isn’t the same as I don’t know.

            I’m sure when pressed he’d give a name rather then just throw up his hands, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel their is an equivalent prospect.

          • If the question is “Which one will be a better player in the NHL?” or “Who will be more impactful in the NHL?”, then “They are essentially the same” is the same as “I dont know.”

            One will be better. That is a certainty. They are equal is an invalid response.

            If I ask you “What is the Capital of Sweden?” You cant answer “It’s too close to call”

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

            How is coming back with a ranked and ordered draft list “nothing” just because he says (hypothetically) ” Honestly, we see a top tier of 3 players. They are all equal bets going forward.”

            The head scout’s job is to, as accurately as possible, assess the draft eligible players, and if that means coming back with a couple players tied, then that’s what it means.

            It is then management’s job to use that information and decide whether to take the top prospect available (which is what it sounds like most teams tend to do) at that selection, whether to draft by need (if the prospects are close or equal in value, or even if they aren’t, I guess), whether to trade up, or down, or trade the pick away for current assets, or future picks, etc.

            The head scout’s job is not to make up some fictional difference between players because the GM is unwilling to hear that a couple players might be seen as equal prospects.

            All that said, I think it’s pretty unlikely the Oilers, or anyone, will actually view two or three players as equals.

          • The difference between players is not fictional, it is real. 1 of the top 3 elligible players will have a better career than the others. It’s Stu’s job to figure out which one that will be.

            I guess it comes down to what you are willing to accept. Personally, I refuse to accept the premise that prospects can be equal. So to me it’s ludicrous to think that MacGregor wouldnt at minimum say to Tambellini “it was close for X reasons but I believe Y player is tops.”

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

            If there were 3 equal top prospects, it’s very likely one of them will end up better, but that doesn’t mean you can tell which one at the time of the draft.

            Maybe a team picking 3rd, or 4th, or 5th ranks Strome and Huberdeau as exact equals, and has a chance to pick either. Let’s say they pick Strome, maybe they mishandle his development, and he busts, while the team right after then has the same assessment, picks Huberdeau (as he’s the guy left) and he succeeds. How sure can you be that failure has anything to do with the decision at the draft, and not things that happened after the draft that the team couldn’t possibly have known at the time of the draft? Injury, bad development, etc.

            Maybe if they’d have picked Huberdeau, they’d have ruined him too while Strome would have been successful in the other organization?

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

            Can say with conviction who the better player is between:

            Spezza/Kovalchuk

            Eric Staal/MAF

            Eric Johnson/Jordan Staal

            Tavares/Duchene

            And maybe even

            Stamkos/Doughty

            AO/Malkin

          • longbottom/P.Biglow

            I’m looking at what you wrote and it really confuses me. Expectations are not low for Magregor, where you get this idea from is beyond me. Tambellinni not giving anything away to fans sports writers….etc isn’t anything new. He tells everyone that they have three or four poeple tied at the top. as one person mentioned that right now there very well be a tie amoungst the scouts for players . the draft is what 2 weeks away. Do you really think they want everyteam in the NHL knowing who they want. They may very well be trying to work out deals for the draft, like wanting Couturier rather than RNH or maybe Larsson. Why should everyone know right now. Heck the season isn’t even over yet.

  • knee deep in it

    Columbus is in a world of financial hurt. Fan interest declining, losing money, and unattractive to scarce UFA.

    Howson has to do something fist but he has two contracts holding him down – Paulson and Commodore.

    If Katz is willing to eat those contracts, then less assets have to be offered.