Do the Edmonton Oilers need a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who can log big minutes and be a fixture in their top four for the next decade? Sure they do. Do they need to use the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to acquire that player? No they don’t.
That’s what history tells us and that’s why I can’t see the Oilers passing on a forward like Nail Yakupov or Alex Galchenyuk to take Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, as fine a prospect as he is, when they step to the podium on Friday with the first pick for the third straight year.
Yes, Murray, mature beyond his years and having already shown he can play with men at the World Championships, has been pegged as the best blue line prospect of this draft class, but is there clear separation between him and four or five others, including Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings? No.
Might the Oilers be able to get a defenseman who turns out to be just as good as Murray later in the draft? Yes. One need only look at players who’ve won the Norris Trophy over the past 17 years – not the only measuring stick but a reasonable one – to see that.
Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, who claimed the Norris Trophy Wednesday, was taken 15th overall in 2008. Nicklas Lidstrom, a seven-time winner in that stretch, went 53rd in 1989. The other winners in that span have been Duncan Keith (54th), Zdeno Chara (56th), Scott Niedermayer (3rd), Chris Pronger (2nd), Al MacInnis (15th), Rob Blake (70th), Brian Leetch (9th) and Chris Chelios (40th).
The Oilers most certainly need the kind of defenseman Murray might turn out to be three or four seasons from now, but they don’t, and likely won’t, pass on Yakupov or Galchenyuk to get him Friday.
HOW HE RATES
NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 among North American skaters
The Hockey News: No. 4
International Scouting Services: No. 3
McKeen’s Hockey: No. 4
Red Line Report: No. 4
TSN: No. 12
THE SKINNY FROM CSS
Despite an injury shortened season in 2011-12, Murray led all Everett defensemen with 31 points (9-22-31) in 46 games.
Murray represented Canada at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships collecting two assists in five games as Canada captured bronze. He was one of two 2012 draft-eligible players selected to represent Canada at the tournament and was the only player on the team in his first year of draft eligibility.
At the start of the 2010-11 season, he was named captain of the Everett Silvertips becoming the youngest captain in franchise history. In 70 games, he led the team with a plus-18 rating and led all defensemen with 46 points (6-40-46). Over his final 36 games he tallied 33 points (4-29-33) helping the Silvertips qualify for the 2011 playoffs.
WHAT THEY SAY
NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald
"I think Murray is more like a (Scott) Niedermayer. He just does everything under the radar and so smooth you hardly notice it. His skating is probably the best in the (WHL), but you don’t really notice that so much because you almost take it for granted he’s been there for three years.
"He never gets out of position and I’ve never seen him lose a one-on-one battle. He’s always, defensively, in the right spots. He just does everything so seamlessly, he reminds me of Niedermayer only because he does everything so well at such a high level and after a while, you don’t even notice it."
Scouting Report: "I see a solid two-way defenseman who makes a good first pass. He’s a great skater who gets up the ice quickly to follow up on the offensive attack."
Projection: "He’s probably a top-two or top-three guy."
Weaknesses: "He’s only six feet and a bit. What will be the determining factor is if he can be that shutdown-type D-man you require in that sort of position."
NHL Comparable: "Some people say he’s like Mark Howe."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.