BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE, PLEASE

The question about drafting the best player available versus selecting based on organizational need isn’t a tough one. The way I see it, there is no greater "organizational need" than drafting the best player available, especially when a team holds the first overall pick, as the Edmonton Oilers do.

That approach seems pretty obvious to me, and to you, too, based on all the response generated by what Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor told me May 14 when I asked him if he and his staff had come up with a clear No. 1 prospect on the team’s draft list going into Pittsburgh June 22.

"We’re still working through that process," MacGregor said. "We haven’t really got to that point yet. I’m going to say it’s between a group of guys."

Really? A group of guys? (Nail) Yakupov, (Ryan) Murray and . . . Alex Galchenyuk . . . Morgan Rielly . . . Griffin Reinhart? Or is it just that you won’t tell me?

"That’s right,” MacGregor said. “But I think (GM) Steve Tambellini was pretty clear that, you know, maybe we do have to make an organizational decision . . ."

An organizational decision? Like to NOT take the BPA and instead draft based on what the roster might look like two, three or even four years from now? Say it isn’t so, Stu. Say it isn’t so.

IT ISN’T SO

My interpretation, and I wrote this in the comments of the May 14 item, is "organizational need" will only come into play if MacGregor and his staff have two prospects playing different positions, say Yakupov and Murray, rated too close to call based on what they’ve seen all season and what testing at the NHL combine in Toronto will reveal in the next few days.

That situation, a dead heat, doesn’t happen very often, especially with teams holding the first pick. I do recall, however, two times over the course of the last decade when organizational need did sway who the Oilers selected with picks later in the first round. That would be 2002 and 2003. It went badly.

In 2002 after failing to move up in a bid to land defensemen Jay Bouwmeester, the Oilers moved down one spot, from 14th to 15th, and then went right off the board by taking Finn Jesse Niinimaki. Chief scout Kevin Prendergast explained the pick this way:

"He fit the bill for us as far as needing a big centreman. He’s got all the tools to be there. We don’t think he’s that far away."

In 2003, after failing to move up in an effort to land defensemen Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn or Dion Phaneuf, the Oilers moved from 17th to 22nd by way of a trade with New Jersey rather than take Zack Parise. Edmonton opted for Marc Pouliot because, in part, organizational need had the Oilers looking for more size (they also got J.F. Jacques with the 68th pick).

"Parise would have given us another small centre," Prendergast said. "We felt we had to get a little bit bigger. Zach’s skating is something that bothered us a little bit, too."

Did I mention this turned out badly?

HERE AND NOW

In both cases, organizational need – the desire to add size – influenced who the Oilers selected. And again, to be fair, the picture is not nearly as clear with mid to late picks in the first round like Pouliot and Niinimaki as it should be with the first overall pick.

If MacGregor and his staff have a dead heat atop their list in terms of the absolute BPA (I don’t think they do), then position and size are fair ball as tie-breakers, just as interviews at the NHL combine can be IF they add insight or reveal character traits – for better or worse.

Outside the rare circumstance of too-close-to-call, however, weighting organizational need when selecting teenaged prospects who are years away from being a finished product and making an impact on a roster that will likely look drastically different is a sucker’s game.

If Yakupov has graded out No. 1, take him. If Murray tops the chart, take him. Same for Galchenyuk or whoever sits in the top slot. Tambellini has to be able to trust his scouting staff and go with the consensus. If he can’t, he needs different scouts. If he won’t, he has to answer for the pick.

Take the best player available.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • @ RDS

    Yes, I know about Steve Kelly.

    I was being sarcastic because the Oilers took him over players such as Alberta born Doan or Edmonton born Iginla.

    They drafted for need, not BPA and we ended up with Kelly and the rest is history.

  • CaptainLander

    I agree with picking BPA in the first three rounds or so and organizational need and depth should factor in after that. For instance, a team can’t draft seven goalies or defenceman every year. Having a place for players to develop, what player types the team is already developing and the flexibility in signing those players to contracts an when they can play pro (in which years can they play and can they become pros early/late) should factor in to those late round picks.

  • CaptainLander

    When the Oilers let KLowe and Tambi start thinking, we’re all in trouble.
    Let Stu take over the entire organization and I think we’ll start moving in the right direction.

    • Your idea isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard. When Vassellini gets gassed, and he will, the only question is when, I wonder if Stu will be in the conversation. Or even if he would want to be. I also wonder if Ray Ferraro isn’t a future magic man, a la Dale Tallon. The man knows hockey. . .

  • I don’t understand those that say we should draft a defenseman with our first pick instead of BPA?

    I get the argument a defenseman is a huge organizational need; therefore we should draft even a capable defenseman, but so is secondary scoring as is players with size that can play.

    Would you waste a 1st overall pick on a bottom 6 player?

    Then why waste a 1st overall pick on a 2/3 defensemen.

  • i can see taking yakapov if he is clearly the best player but i don’t think he is,as many pro scouts do also.so if there is any dougth,or it is very close ,take the big centre this team clearly needs,as size does matter and should be factored into the selection.having three small players in your top six is not going to workout very well,and will lead to lots more injuries,and making a decent trade is easier said than done.

  • I guess you take the most NHL ready player. FWs ahead of D ahead of G. Physical players ahead of shrimps. NA ahead of Europe. Mentally mature players.

    Err, who is the best player here? I have Murray, Grigorenko, and Yakupov, in order. All pretty close. CSB likes Yakupov.

    I like Grigorenko but everyone seems to think might be a headcase. KHL for a year would be my worry.
    Schenn and #5 for #1 and 2nd rounder if you wanna playoff run. Note: I’m a biased Jets fan who would rather see Oilers better next year than after. You guys need a goalie; the draft is secondary.

  • The way i see it is if the Oil know that Schutz will be an Oiler at the draft they will take Yakupov. They can talk to Schultz on June 1st they can have a deal in place “but not signed” at the time of the draft, if this happens they pick Yakupov Gagner will stay at centre and Ebs will play L.W. as he’s the only guy that can play both wings. That takes care of the D if Whitney tells them his ankle is ok if not watch for them to make an offer for a UFA d man. take it with a grain of salt as i know nothing just like every other poster not named Brownlee LOL

  • Can someone explain to me what, exactly, testing at the combine reveals? Because like the NFL combine, it seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual draft. The best players to show at either combine are often left undrafted for a couple of rounds at least.

    Did great at the VO2Max test? Great kid, just great. Let me know next time you’re skating with a mouth-breathing only mask on a stationary bike in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Benched the most? Awesome, the Canadian powerlifting team is just a few provinces over…

  • @ nunyour

    Who are pro scout’s who don’t have Yakupov at number 1?

    I know of only one credible agency that has Yakupov at number 2. Even then there choice is a center not a defenseman.

    Mackenzie who had 9 out of 10 scouts choose Yakupov with the only other being another center.

    If size is a factor then tell me who has more size? Yakupov 5’11 200lbs – Grigrenko 6’2 190 lbs – Galchenyuk 6’1 185lbs

    So who is bigger? All three players mentioned all had injury’s this past season, with the taller players having significant injuries.

    I’ll ask you one more question, would it be easier to trade a prolific scorer or an average defensemen and who generates a better return?

  • “The way i see it is if the Oil know that Schutz will be an Oiler at the draft they will take Yakupov. They can talk to Schultz on June 1st they can have a deal in place “but not signed” at the time of the draft, if this happens they pick Yakupov Gagner will stay at centre and Ebs will play L.W. as he’s the only guy that can play both wings. That takes care of the D if Whitney tells them his ankle is ok if not watch for them to make an offer for a UFA d man. take it with a grain of salt as i know nothing just like every other poster not named Brownlee LOL”

    That’s crazy talk. What kook are you getting your info from?

  • What is the best player available?

    Is it the fastest skater, best shot, and ability to score? (Yakupov)

    Or is it a player that controls the game, makes teammates better, and can play in all situations? (Galchenyuk/Grigorenko)

    What about the ability to defend? Size? Injuries? IQ?

    I’ll still take a 75-80 point Center over a 90pt winger. Especially considering the Oilers have depth on the wing.

  • Mitch

    Robin I completely agree, take best player available, forget organizational need round 3 and up can be used for that.

    It’s who ever they think will make the best pro 10-15 yrs from now. Being a Oilers fan forever the possibility of adding a guy who has the ability of scoring 50 goals in consecutive seasons, I can’t pass on Yakupov and there is no such thing as too much offence.

    I do everything possible to make Schultz a Oiler. This summer is the most important summer for Edmonton in…well franchise history.

  • Mitch

    Robin I completely agree, take best player available, forget organizational need round 3 and up can be used for that.

    It’s who ever they think will make the best pro 10-15 yrs from now. Being a Oilers fan forever the possibility of adding a guy who has the ability of scoring 50 goals in consecutive seasons, I can’t pass on Yakupov and there is no such thing as too much offence.

    I do everything possible to make Schultz a Oiler. This summer is the most important summer for Edmonton in…well franchise history.

  • Mitch

    Draft Yakapov, and trade Hemsky for a D man or a real NHL center man.You dont need Hemmer if you have Yakapov. If Hemsky stays, then you have to play guys out of their postions. Either way, Yak’s the guy.
    PS> Need some speedy puck handling D men to feed these swift guys up front? Thats where you come in Tambelini.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The term, BPA has long dissipated by the time clubs get beyond that 10th pick in the first round. Robby Shremp was the BPA when the Oilers selected him 22nd or 25th overall a few yrs ago.

    Contrary to popular belief, anything outside of the top 8 is a crapshoot in the entry draft. Edmonton learned this the hard way over the span of the last 20 yrs.

  • @ NateInEdmonton

    Beside’s Eberle and Hall who still might move to Center, where is this depth at wing you speak of?

    Hemsky at 2 years left and a whopping 5 million per season on the down side of his career!! Even if the guy has an amazing year here, do you see the Oilers fishing out more dough for him in two years?

    Or a player with upside and like numbers at 875 + bonus money for 3 years?

    Paajarvi and his consistent play?

    Ryan Smyth? Belanger? Eager?

    The ability to defend is a defensemen, the ability to play both ways is completely different. From everything I have read all the players mentioned play a really good two way game.

    Only Galchenyuk played in all situations and then only as a 16 year old (he spent a half year on 2nd PK)

    Beside’s needing defensemen, the Oilers need to score, they have no secondary scoring.

    Edit:
    I still think the Oilers can get both Yakupov and Galchenyuk! Forever optimistic!!!

  • @ Wes Mantooth – Team Yakupov

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. If your intention is to move Hall to C and draft Yakupov, trade Gagner and Hemsky that’s fine. I’d prefer to draft the Center. Let Galchenyuk play another year in the OHL and play Gagner C2 this year to up his value.

    Edmonton’s drafting the player who can make the biggest impact next year in the NHL next year. (Yakupov) I’d prefer to draft the player that makes the Oilers good for the next 7-10 years.

    The Oilers will lose 1 of RNH,Eberle,Hall,Yakupov because Russians don’t take a home town discounts. Nail’s lack of defense is a concern, so are his injuries.

    • They don’t end up with a tie, they certainly have their list by now but revealing it to the world limits what they could get in a possible trade scenario.

      Imagine they want Galnchenyuk at #4. If Columbus really wants Yakupov and they know he will be available why would they offer the Oilers anything for their #1 pick?

  • i bet almost every team in the league would take a big top six centre over a small top six winger any day of the week,and i got my measurments from nhl draft .com,and it seems yours are off a bit.i would never take a defenceman with the first pick unless he was elite.edmonton tried to trade hemsky last season,how did that work out?