Eric Johnson was the last D-man taken first overall. The Blues selected him ahead of Jordan Staal, Jonathon Toews and Nick Backstrom in 2006. Pretty much every draft rankings had Johnson rated #1 heading into the draft, so it wasn’t a shock that the Blues took him, but historically taking a D-men that high won’t guarantee you the best player or even the best defenceman in the draft.

Looking at the past ten draft classes, with at least three completed NHL seasons, it is pretty clear that the Oilers would be better served to take the best forward, instead of the best defencemen in the upcoming draft.

Eric Johnson wasn’t a bad pick, he’s been the best D-man from his class, but he hasn’t become the best or most impactful player from the 2006 class.

After the Blues took Johnson, Pittsburgh took Jordan Staal 2nd, the Hawks grabbed Jonathon Toews 3rd, the Caps happily took Nick Backstrom 4th and the Bruins called Phil Kessel at #5.

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Toews has turned out to be the best, followed closely by Backstrom. Staal and Kessel have made bigger impacts than Johnson thus far as well.

I know the Oilers need a star blueliner, and there is a solid crop of D-men available, however, the odds the Oilers take the best one at #1 are very slim. Conversely, recent history shows us that in most cases the best forward in the draft is taken at #1.

YEAR             1st pick              Highest D-man           Best forward                         Best D-man

2000            Dipietro (G)             Klesla #4                  Heatley #2                      Visnovsky #118, Kronwall #29

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2001            Kovalchuk            Komisarek #8             Kovalchuk #1                   Hamhuis #12, Ehrhoff #106

2002            Nash                     Bouwmeester #3           Nash #1                        Duncan Keith #54

2003            Fleury (G)              Ryan Sutter #7            Eric Staal #2                    Shea Weber #49,

2004           Ovechkin               Cam Barker #3        Ovechkin/Malkin    Edler #91, Green #29, Streit #262

2005           Crosby                   Jack Johnson #3          Crosby #1                       Yandle #105, Letang #62

2006           E. Johnson           E. Johnson #1               Toews #3                        #E. Johnson #1

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2007           P. Kane                   T. Hickey #4                   Kane #1                     Shattenkirk #14, Subban #43

2008           Stamkos               D. Doughty #2               Stamkos #1                  Doughty, Karlsson #15,                                                                                                                          E.Pietrangelo #4, T. Myers #12

2009           Tavares                Hedman #2                     Tavares #1           Ekman-Larsson #6, Hedman #2


The lovely Adriana Lima, who claims she waited until marriage, is proof that being patient can pay off.

It is obvious the Oilers have a major void on their backend, and with the report today that Oscar Klefbom is close to signing an entry level deal, but will likely play in Sweden one more year, the Oilers might be even more tempted to use the first pick on Ryan Murray, but I’d be very cautious of that.

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Murray might develop into the best D-man in his class, but Morgan Rielly, Matt Dumba, Griffin Reinhart, Cody Ceci or Jacob Trouba might just as easily become the class of their draft.

In the past 25 years, only five times has the first D-man drafted turned out to be the best in his class:  #3 Scott Niedermayer in 1991, #1 Roman Hamrlik in 1992, #2 Chris Pronger in 1993, #1 Ed Jovanovski 1994 and Johnson in 2006. Since 1994, it has only happened once, so it is clear that it is become harder to project who will become the best defender out of an entire draft class.

It is very likely that Murray will be an excellent player, and he doesn’t have to be the best D-man in his class to be considered a solid pick, but if I’m Steve Tambellini I wouldn’t draft a D-man first overall.  


  • I’m not sure where his career will go, but the Oilers’ 2011 4th round pick, Tobias Rieder, is leading the OHL playoff scoring race with 11 goals and 25 points in 13 games. The RW has been great for the Kitchener Rangers thus far, and he might be another guy to watch in the future.
  • OKC absolutely dominated Houston, 5-0, in game one of their best-of-five series last night. They outshot the Aeros 48-14. Shots were 19-3 in the 1st, 21-6 in the 2nd and 8-5 in the 3rd. That has to be Yann Danis’ easiest playoff shutout ever. Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander each had a goal and five shots on net. Tyler Pitlick also scored. D-man, Bryan Rodney was the only skater without a shot on net. The Barons owned the Aeros and even though the first two games are in Houston, I doubt this lasts more than three games.

  • If the Oilers really want to use their pick for a D-man they are probably better of just going with Yakupov and then trade him away. Even when #1 picks don’t pan out straight away there’s a tendency that teams overpay to give them a second opportunity anyway.

  • Hemmertime

    Wanna include the score in OKC Barons dominated post? I like OKC news but I dont want to look elsewhere to find the score when you talk about the game here.

  • Too bad we have to pay so much to watch the Barons in the playoffs. Would have been nice for the Oilers to work something out so Oiler fans had some sort of (oilers related) playoffs to watch.

    edited for the nit-pickers.

  • bazmagoo

    With Klefbom looking like such a solid prospect in the making, and others coming up through the system, does this change anyone’s thinking about signing a big name UFA d-man this summer? For me it does. If they could get someone decent for big money but short term (max 3 years) I think they should go for it. But anything over 3 years doesn’t make sense for the team cap wise, especially with the YAK on his way.

    Personally I don’t think it’s likely that many of the free agents singled out by the nation (Wideman, Carle, Kubina, Stuart, Suter, Garrison etc.) are coming to the Oil next season for less guaranteed money than they can get anywhere else. (ie. 3 years at $5 million per season vs 5 years at $4 million per season)

    At least we won’t have to watch Barker on the blueline!

  • That’s why I think it’s in the Oilers best interest to take Yakupov and get another pick in the first round, be aggressive and move up! There are plenty of good defensive prospects in the top 15. Target Wash. Get that pick and start the move up.

    We have plenty of good players that can move.

    • Jason Gregor

      Hard to say what % is on signing Schultz, but I know they are interested. Legally they can’t talk to him until he is a UFA, but they will try to get him signed.

      I’d suspect he’d step right in and play. He’d take Potter’s spot as a right-shooting D-man who could play the PP..

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Klefbom is still a year away from turning pro. How long will it be before he’s even ready to make that step to the NHL?

    He’s probably 3 years away from being any help here. The Oilers may have moved on by the time he’s ready. If the Oilers can get this kid signed, add him to the pile of prospects available to be traded. We shouldn’t still be buying all this hope 3 yrs from now.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With the top end of this draft being a little weaker than yrs past. This could be an opportunity the Oilers to move up from 32.

    Klefbom,Paajarvi/or Hemsky and the 32nd pick for Ryan Murray. Murray would help right away, not yrs down the road.

  • Rama Lama

    Jason, if the reports are correct, Justin Schultz is a small defenseman……just 185 lbs.

    Just how good is this guy as his hype would suggest he is the second coming of Lidstromn?

    • Jason Gregor

      No one said Schultz is second coming of Lidstrom…

      Schultz is tall and lanky. He weighs more than 185 though.

      Klefbom is a good size, 6’3′ and likely play at 210…

  • Quicksilver ballet


    The Oilers have a lifetimes supply of those 3-9 guys already. Edmonton needs the No.1 and 2 guys to take the pressure off of the other kids and allow them to make their mistakes/develope.

    • While I of course agree with you and your Views on moving up, I have to caution about moving Klefbom, he sound like a sure fire top pairing D-man.

      I would throw a Gagner, Paajarvi, Lander, Whitney or Petry our 2nd plus next years first at anyone in the top 6 though.

  • bazmagoo

    I think the Oil are definitely an improved team defensively with the acquistion of Nick Schultz. Him and Whitney seemed to play well together, and Smid and Petry play well together. In my opinion the only true #1 d-man available via free agency this summer is Suter. All the others are, at best, a #2 d-man on a decent team and more likely a #3-4 d-man on a contending team.

    I’m of the opinion that the Oilers need to solidify their bottom pairing. Sutton, Potter, Barker and Peckham are not #5-6 d-men on a playoff team. I can almost see teams licking their lips when they see these guys on the ice, knowing full well that speed and a solid forecheck will lead to multiple goal scoring chances.

    With the absence of a true #1 d-man available, I think the Oil would be best to try and solidify their bottom pairing so it becomes defence by committee. Sutton and Potter can be kept around as #7-8 options. Just being realistic.

  • Dipstick

    If they don’t trade the pick then the Oil have to take Nail as he’s ranked well ahead of the rest of the draft class and Goalie’s and D men are more of a crap shoot. That being said I would be exploring trading one of Nail, Ebs, Hallsy, RNH for a top ten puck moving D man at some point in the near future.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ Wes

    Agreed, doesn’t matter as much about the paticulars involved, but something needs to be done. One deal, one deal that goes above and beyond the minimum due to the Oilers this summer will make a significant difference. Patience is starting to wear down after 5 difficult yrs.

  • bazmagoo

    I think if we end up signing this Justin Schultz kid we should be looking at Barret Jackman to be our UFA signing. I’m guessing he would command about $4 million each season max (hopefully less), and if we could get him to agree to that for 3 years he would be a good pickup. Solid experienced left side defensive defenceman to compliment the inexperienced right side offensive defencemen in J Schultz.

    If we are going to make a defenceman UFA signing this summer, picking Jackman up would be a good signing for the Oil, in my opinion.

  • bazmagoo

    Most Nashville fans think Suter is better. I don’t watch either enough to say clear cut who is better, but he is definitely close enough that he should be next to Weber in your little box. That match-up is a lot closer than some of the other toss-up’s you have.

  • kdunbar

    Justin Schultz would be required to sign an entry level deal (only 2 years if he signs after June 6th.). He will probably sign a 2 year 875K/year contract after June 6th.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    @GideonYates- The idea of trading away Yakupov (if they do draft him) RNH, Ebs, or Hall for a top 10 puck moving Dman might sound like going against the whole “rebuild” mantra, there is some sense in your comment as well. If the kids spend all their time chasing a Peckham ring-job around their own end, they ain’t putting the puck in @ the other end.

    IF- and thats an if, I traded one of those kids it would be Hall. Before you readers lose your mind, keep this in mind. Hall skates like the wind, but with blinders on. He spends as much time on the ice as he does on his skates. He is having major surgery on his shoulder and had surgery on his ankle last year. 2 years in the show and 2 surgeries. Its not like he is going to all of a sudden adapt to being Joe Sakic and not put himself in a position to be hit. He would obviously garner a lot of trade interest if he was dangled.

    If it were up to me I would trade down and grab a Dumba or Reinhart, all while gaining something out of the tradedown. I’m not big on Russians, regardless of who Yakupov is compared to. He didn’t stand out to me in the Juniors-albeit that is a small sample size. For some reason I smell another Pavel Brendl…not sure why. I highly doubt the Oil will do this however, and play it safe.

    PS- Weber is the best Dman in the league. I would give my left nut to get him in Oil silks.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    If the Oilers are interested in winning cups they should pass on Yakapov. Trade down. Trade the pick for a player, or draft Murray.

    There is something about the hotshot Russian scorer that is not condusive to a winning team. Factor in the KHL and I say let someone else over-pay for him.

  • Jason Gregor

    I wonder about trading picks for the 2013 draft, it would seem the potential for high end players is high.

    I wonder if I would have written about this in 2011 about the 2012 draft.

    I’m sure the Oilers are looking at it.