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.


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


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.


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.

  • Projection: “He’s probably a top-two or top-three guy.”

    The above means that Stu MacGregor will not tell Tambellini that Ryan Murray is going to be the best pro over the next 5-10 years. If Tambellini follows his previous statements about that being the criteria, then the Oilers will not draft Ryan Murray.

    This 90% pleases me and 10% terrifies me that they might take Reinhart #1.

  • Danny Donkey

    I hope Robin is correct that the Oilers won’t pass on Yakupov or Galchenyuk. The thought of drafting Murray really scares me because he is the oldest player in the draft and as Jason Gregor mentions, the first defenseman taken is rarely the best defensemen taken. We should trying to take the best player available. I would even rather the Oilers take Reinhart or even Dumba over Murray if were going to draft a dman, especially when those two are a lot younger.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Destroyko

    Yikes… I didn’t even consider the Reinhart factor.

    He looks/sounds like the next Luke Schenn to me, decent player to have but would be ridiculous at #1.

  • Slapshot

    If Alex Galchenyuk is in the Oilers plans, why wasn’t he brought to Edmonton for an interview?

    With Mac T being the VP of hockey operations is he Tambellini’s Boss?

    • Woe is me. I wont get 2 players who likely dont have a shot at playing next year and maybe the year after. Instead I have to settle for the unanimous best 18 year old on the planet and this junkie 22 year old Centre playing on my 2nd line who can score 40+ points a year that a dozen other NHL teams want.

      Sad Omark Face

      • T__Bone88

        I’m not saying that I would not pick Yak in the Oilers situation, but I just really like Galchenyuk. As for the Gagner situation I completely agree with you, it would make no sense dealing him, unless we find a replacement, but just think about if we managed to snag Reinhart as well. We would have a formidable and massive blue line in the future.

  • T__Bone88

    I don’t like the how media speculates that if edm passes on Murray they won’t be a better team. The past three drafts the defensemen taken within the top 5 have not really made a difference for their teams. Looking at Erik Johnson goes to prove that the top defenseman taken is not always going to be a stud. Sure he is a first pairing but for Colorado, however on a contending team he would probably be on the 2nd pairing. It’s a funny thing in that what the media says is always what is best for the team.

    Looking at the Oilers roster it would be in their best interest to take Yakupov, it provides depth for the top 6. We don’t know if Hemsky will be always injured riddled, so if that happens we have Yakupov taking his place. If we didn’t have Yakupov we would have to rely on Jones to do that. Draft for future needs, trade & sign for immediate needs.

  • “If Alex Galchenyuk is in the Oilers plans, why wasn’t he brought to Edmonton for an interview?”

    I wrote an entire item about this June 7. The Oilers talked to Galchenyuk at length this season and one of their scouts, Kent Hawley, is friends with his dad, Alex Sr., and knows the kid very well.

    • T__Bone88

      I don’t recall Galchenyuk being among the 5 prospects that were listed by MacGregor as being considered by the Oilers at #1. My recollection was Yakupov, Murray, Grigorenko, Reinhart and Forsberg. Has that somehow changed?

  • The Soup Fascist

    While I don’t think the Oil would take Reinhart at #1 – talk about putting pressure on the kid – a lot changes in a year.

    While everyone was debating whether to take RNH / Landeskog / Huberdeau or Larsson last year, the best player in that draft may turn out to be Dougie Hamilton, the still 18 year old D-man who put up almost 1.5 ppg last year and will be a beast, already 6’4″ and 200 lbs.

    Granted he did not play an NHL game yet, but this kid took a huge step last year and will almost certainly be a Bruin this year, as he was a man among boys in the OHL in 2011-2012.

    Now to be clear I still think RNH was the right pick for the Oilers and I would not draft a “Dougie” out of principle (change it too Doug or Douglas, for the love of God) but if everyone had mulligans I don’t think “Dougie” would make it out of the top three. Not saying Reinhart is going to make the same step, but, again, in a couple of years a LOT can change in these kids. You can’t take him at #1 but with his size, skating, pedigree, intelligence, etc, I would not be too quick to dismiss him as a very high end player.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Ken

    Or, more likely we trade a valuable asset for the 8th overall pick, then we wait 1-2 years for Rienhart to make the NHL, then he struggles for 2-3 years in the NHL, and then we end up with a Smid clone from 2018-2026

    • T__Bone88

      OOORRR Reinhart develops into a top 4 D and becomes a staple on our blueline for the next 10 years. To be honest I would be happy with another Smid, he played awesome as a shut down D this year. Once again, people like you overvalue our players. Gagner is a great second line centre, but I would say Carolina giving up a top 8 draft pick for a him? If we had a replacement for Gags I would take that in a heartbeat. Look what Philly did last year with Richards and Carter. People thought Holmgren was crazy, but Couturier and Schenn turned out pretty well. Sometimes you gotta risk it, to get the biscuit.

  • “I don’t recall Galchenyuk being among the 5 prospects that were listed by MacGregor as being considered by the Oilers at #1. My recollection was Yakupov, Murray, Grigorenko, Reinhart and Forsberg. Has that somehow changed?”

    Your recollection is based on interviews you’ve read or heard with MacGregor. Mine is based on multiple conversations I’ve had with him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Just letting you know player development has improved the last 10 years, so 25 years ago isnt really relevant. I’m looking at the past 5 years and most of the top 20 in each draft are almost all NHL players already. What is your argument?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    In an effort to remain politically correct and non discriminatory, i think we should pass on Ryan Murray as well. He could very well defect to the KHL like most of the other top 5 selections.

    Oilers should pass on this No. 1 selection this yr, show up at the draft tommorow 1 hr late. Nothing but buyers remorse in store for no matter who the Oilers select. Damn you KHL!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Ken

    Yet the only player taken at 8th overall in the last 10 years that has proven to be better then Gagner is Bradon Coburn, and he was in arguably the best draft class in history.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ OB1 Team Yakopov – F.S.T.N.F

    Or you know Parise at 17, Kopitar at 11, or Myers at 11 are way worse than Gagner. Like I said they all have the potential to be elite players in the future. These guys are listed in the top 10 by professional scouts for a reason.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Ken

    Nice try cherry picking.

    Of course their have been good to great players picked at 11/17/22/143 … I didn’t say otherwise.

    However the odds of it happening are very very low.

    Essentially you’d be cashing in a 6.5/10 player for a picke with: 10% of improving on that, 20% odds of matching it and 70% odds of downgrading.

    Looks like a bad bet to me.

  • Really good work on these series, Robin. It’s great how you give a good and brief look at each prospect from a general perspective and from an Oilers’ perspective. And then you provide your thoughts and interpretation on the guys too. I hope the others are coming out soon. I suspect Galchenyuk and Yakupov’s will be a bit more glowing based on your comments, and that Reinhart’s will be similar to Murray’s.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ OB1 Team Yakopov – F.S.T.N.F

    Yes, but you were comparing each #8 pick the last 10 years which doesnt prove anything. Each team was picking based on what they felt was the best. But another team if they had the 8 pick couldve had someone else at 8 so, it doesnt show anything.

    Look at the drafts from the last 5 years, all the players in the top 20 are either going to play in the NHL or already playing. That is why I am more confident.

    You can’t compare a 6.5 forward to a 6.5 D though. They play completely different positions and in that case I would take the D anyway because at the end of the day we need better D. Also much harder to develop. I’m not saying Reinhart is going to be amazing but he will step in and perform whenever he is ready

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @OB1 Team Yakopov – F.S.T.N.F

    Well like I said, last 5 years…most 1st rounders will play in the NHL and perform. Alot already very good.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Ken

    I’m confident the % is really similar to the previous 15 years.

    And again, you are simply assuming the success rates have gotten better without anything to back it up.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ OB1 Team Yakopov – F.S.T.N.F

    How can you be confident….the ones that are ready to make the next step are not even playing.

    I know you love Gagner, but last year he pretty much only had a 35 point season if he didnt have that 8 point game. He is too inconsistent, can’t win faceoffs and he is too small. I would gladly take a chance with a big rugged defenseman that potentially could be one of the best D in the draft

    • I believe Gagner faceoff stats were comparable to Horcoffs. Was he not just below 50 percest. Gagner numbers are pretty indicative of a productive of a second line center. He also started off the season injured. Then got relegated to third line duty playing the wing in the Belanger triangle and still finished with similar numbers to the season the year before. And now hes 23 coming into his prime and the one knock in the past wad his skating which has signicantly improved. If he’s a 50 point second line center what the heck is the harm in that.

      • His faceoffs were not terrible, but definitely need work still. Like I said though, without his 8 pt game he would have 39 pts. All I am saying from all the games I have watched, he is much too inconsistent and many of the games he is a ghost. After watching him play for 5 years, I am not opposed to getting an 8th overall pick for him. I never said there was any harm in having Gagner. I said that if we had a replacement for him, I would trade him for that 8th overall pick if rumors are true.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Ken

    I can be confident because I’ve seen this same old song and dance for years. Draft picks outside of the top 2-3 are a crap shoot, plain and simple.

    I don’t love Gagner, I love proven performance over pie in the sky fantasy.

    His FO % was almost 50% this year, size is irrelavant. Producing goals and stopping goals is all that matters.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @OB1 Team Yakopov – F.S.T.N.F

    So pretty much what you are saying is that you would never trade a proven player for a highly touted propect if you ran a team.

    I think that’s what Tambi is thinking too cuz we have been at the bottom for the past 3 years.

    Ya 47% isn’t that good you know? Ya size doesn’t matter…that’s why the Oilers have been saying for the past 5 years that we need to get bigger up front. Also it matters if I am watching hockey games and he never wins a battle along the boards because he gets dumped. So pretty much you are just contradicting everything the Oilers are trying to do offseason. Get size up front and get better D or D prospects.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Did you see the hilites of bone crushing hit by Trouba in peewee ? Lucky team that gets that guy !He was to much for our Canadian squad to handle as well . Predict he will be an impact player of note .

    If Oilers draft Galchenyuk and possibly latch onto Trouba then i think they are serious about being a contender soon .I don’t think they are very serious about next season if they only have Yakupov basically to show for it . Barring a miraculous trade scenario things are not looking to good for next year as yet .