Since winning the lottery and the right to pick 1st overall in the 2012 draft, most fans and pundits have assumed that the club will pick young Russian Nail Yakupov. Makes sense. He’s the most talented offensive player in the draft. But does that mean they’ll take him? Is there a chance the Oilers trade down and grab a defenseman as the final member of their draft "fab four?"
I think there’s at least some room for doubt in regard to what Edmonton does with the #1 overall pick this summer. The possible scenarios involve:
- Keeping the pick and select Nail Yakupov, generally regarded as the best player available.
- Trading the #1 overall pick for an established NHLer–likely a defender–still in his entry level deal.
- Trading the #1 overall pick for another selection near the top and another asset.
The Oilers may feel this is their last best chance to grab a franchise defender, and they may also feel the "big three" of Hall, Eberle and the Nuge are best served by adding a lottery defenseman.
WHAT?? WHAT??? WHAT???? WHAT?????
The Oilers have a tremendous number of "maybes" along the blueline and a blue chipper in Oscar Klefbom plus some nice looking kids in Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat. They do not have a "sure thing" like Ryan Murray and that may be enough to tip the scales in the defender’s favor.
DEFENSEMEN ARE NOT A GOOD BET THIS HIGH IN THE DRAFT
The Oilers have spent their recent lottery picks on forwards and have a history of drafting F’s with their first selection–the last time Edmonton chose a defenseman with their 1st first round pick was the 1989 draft and Jason Soules. The Oilers took defenseman in the 1st round with their first selection in 1988 (Francois Leroux), 1984 (Selmar Odelein), 1983 (Jeff Beukeboom) 1982 (Jim Playfair) 1980 (Paul Coffey) and 1979 (Kevin Lowe).
It’s also true (and has been ably shown by Jason Gregor here at ON) that defensemen are not good bets at the top of the draft table. Still, if they aren’t completely convinced Yakupov is the man, there’s a window for a defender.
If that is the case, then the Oilers dilemma was perfectly framed by Redline Report and Kyle Woodlief in his most recent USA Today Column:
- Woodlief: In fact, we think this creates a dilemma for the Edmonton Oilers, who might be the first team to be disappointed by winning the lottery. The Oilers are stacked up front on the forward lines and desperately need a puck mover on the back end to trigger what should quickly become an explosive offense. They could have happily selected a Murray or a Matt Dumba second overall after Nail Yakupov came off the board. But now, how do you sell to your fan base using the first pick to take a player with significantly less upside than Yakupov?
MAKE YOUR CASE!
Ryan Murray is the strongest candidate to be the first defenseman taken at the draft. He’s maybe the most NHL ready player in the draft. He has a nice range of skills and can skate. The Oilers don’t need a home run offensive player but badly need someone who will develop into a useful top pairing defenseman. Ken Hitchcock says “he does play like (Scott) Niedermayer."
I think the Oilers may feel that Murray’s age is a positive, that he’s more advanced than a player like Oscar Klefbom. The fact that Klefbom will sign his entry-level contract but stay in Sweden another year perhaps adds to the case for Murray. The Oilers may feel this is their last best chance to grab a defender who can develop with the forward cluster.
They may feel he can join them in the fall.
IS THERE ANYONE ELSE?
Yeah, I’d say Griffin Reinhart is a draft wildcard at this point in time. The guy started the year as a top 15 option but has climbed steadily on most draft lists. A team like Edmonton likely prefers Murray for his speed, but Reinhart’s improvement and added aggressiveness later in the season has probably turned some heads.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Like I said at the top, I understand that history is a great teacher and the odds of Edmonton getting full value for a defenseman selected in the top 3 or 5 is not strong. Still, with the big three already in the stable, something tells me this organization will think long and hard before passing on Ryan Murray or Griffin Reinhart.
One final thing: the fact that Ryan Murray is being considered for Team Canada is a pretty huge tell in this story. I’m not saying the Oilers are going to take him, but at least someone in the Oilers management group thinks highly of him.
I’m suggesting there’s a chance the Oilers are thinking of a way to get Ryan Murray at the draft. There is the thread of a story here, if not a full story. Something to keep track of as we roll along.