Last year in Minnesota Stu MacGregor said the decision to take Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was an easy one. In 2010, when he chose Taylor Hall over Tyler Seguin, he said the same thing, but this year has been much different. I chatted with the Oilers head scout about how different this year’s first overall selection has been compared to the previous two, and got his thoughts on drafting by position, and projecting a player’s future.

"This has certainly been a more difficult process. There has been more players involved in the decision (first overall pick) this year than we’ve had in the past, for they’ve stayed in the discussion for a longer period of time. It’s been a longer process than the previous two years, and I think some players have risen," said MacGregor.

"There has been the consensus amongst the public of Yakupov being the player, but I think some of the players from behind have closed that gap considerably, and that’s why it has been more interesting."

Every scout will tell you that when they are drafting a player, they are doing so on the basis of a projection of the kind of player he will be in five years. It’s not a simple task, so I asked MacGregor what are the main variables he uses when trying to project what the future holds for a player.

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"I think you are trying to see which player is going to improve the most, which one has the most growing to do, the most potential growth as a player and a person, physically and experience-wise. I think that is what everyone tries to do anyhow, and that is part of our job regardless what draft you are involved in. This year is more interesting because of the number of people. You are trying to see how where they are going to be in three, four or five years from now.

"Who has the most potential is really what you are trying to find."

Out of the top prospects Oil Kings D-man, Griffin Reinhart, has made the biggest jump from October until now. MacGregor chimed in on why he feels Reinhart has climbed the rankings over the past nine months.

"It’s almost like he got a bit more determined and decided he was going to show people he is a high-end prospect. Not to say that he wasn’t, but he’s growing into his body and now he’s getting that physical strength that young kids with his size don’t always have right away because they are tall and lanky," MacGregor said.

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JG: A lot of people say that a centreman is more important than a winger. If you had two guys who were graded out the same and one was a winger and one was a centre, would you give the edge to the centreman, based solely on his position?

SM: I think centre is one of the more important positions in the game. If you look at the teams that are strong in the NHL they have strong centres and good depth at centre, so that is one thing you have to take a long look at it. If you don’t have depth at centre, you will probably try and take the centre because a centre does so much for the team.

Obviously I was going after the Yakupov/Galchenyuk angle with that question, and while I know it is rare that two players will grade out exactly even, if they were close I’d lean towards the centre. It is clear the Oilers lack a big centre, and if one of Galchenyuk or Grigorenko or is rated close or on par to Yakupov, I wonder if the Oilers would take the centre.

The Oilers met yesterday and will meet again today for a final time before making their decision. In years past the decision was essentially made before they came to the draft, and while it is possible they’ve already made their decision this year, it is clear that this week’s meetings are more intense than previous years because, as MacGregor admitted, there are more players involved.

Whether it is Yakupov, Galchenyuk, Grigorenko, Forsberg or  Murray it seems that amongst the Oiler scouts, and other scouting staffs, there isn’t one slam dunk first overall pick this year.

I’ve stated for months that if I was picking I’d take Galchenyuk, and I sense that the Oilers are down to three guys; Yakupov, Galchenyuk and Murray. My gut says they will take Yakupov, but I honestly think they could surprise some people and take Galchenyuk.

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Murray is a hell of a D-man, but I wouldn’t draft a D-man first overall. The Oilers can’t afford to be like the St. Louis Blues in 2006 when they took Erik Johnson and passed on Jordan Staal, Jonathon Toews and Nicklas Backstrom.

Today is the Top Prospects availability, and I’ll try to find out if any of them feel they will be an Edmonton Oiler by tomorrow afternoon.

  • I remember four or five Oilers fan whining that we have too many 3rd or 4th liners on the team…..and we don’t have elite talent. Now hockey gods gave us gift this year for suffering all these years. Oilers orgnization can’t decide to accept the gift(Yakpov).

  • vetinari

    True, we could refer to Hall-RNH-Yakupov as “our first liners” and sadly, mean it more ways than one.

    It could also be like putting all our eggs in one big fragile basket. Hall is the most physical of that group but he is no means ready to throw 25-35 year old men out of the way on a nightly basis to free up room for his teammates.

    I suspect you’ll only see those three together from time to time on the pp or on nights where we are down by a goal and taking a faceoff in the offensive zone. But even then, I think I’d prefer to see Eberle playing with RNH and Hall in those situations.

  • vetinari

    If they take Gal, and announce a blockbuster trade deal involving one of our centers other than Nuge that yields back some good defense, then I’m fine with it. In one swoop we got more size at number 2 center, and upgraded on defense. True, we may look at the team that took yak and see what kind of a player he becomes, but the Oilers become a deeper more solidified team than if they took another scoring winger.

    Having said that, I still think they should draft Yak. I just want to see him play on a line with Hall so much. If hat everyone says is true, and he plays like Hall, watching a double Hall line would just be so much fun.

  • vetinari

    I think the other part of it is that the scouting staff need to be prepared in case Steve trades down. It’s a bit of a rat maze in terms of who will draft whom in the top 10. Lots of different contigencies you’d better be prepared for if you do trade down.

    I’d be happy with Galchenyuk, but given that he’s a little more risky given the limited sample of major junior games played, so I think you should trade down a couple of spots if you are targeting him and net an asset.

  • I have long advocated that Yakupov the best player the consensus #1 throughout the year be chosen, he has the best upside of all the players in the draft and have even read that he will be better then Hall.

    I also believe the Oilers can no longer sit around and just pick one guy who can play per summer and call it a success.

    I also agree with what Gregor said to a point about centers, I truly think that Galchenyuk has potential to be a great second line center, at this point of the rebuild just finish off the top 6 and concentrate on defense after the draft.

    The Oilers should go and move heaven and earth to get Galchenyuk as well, dare I say even at the thought of one more year of suckvile.

    Besides Krueger will love this kid.

    • I agree, something about bringing in two young russians (yeah i know one is american but you know what I mean) that makes me think they will be more than the sum of their parts. I’d be willing to undergo 2 more years of suck in order to get that done. Next year’s suck is all but guaranteed anyway!

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I love how the fan’s faith in Stu Macgregor is inversely proportionate to how far away the Oilers are from announcing his call on the draft floor.

  • TKB2677

    If you are a team that has the #1 overall pick in the draft, YOU HAVE TOO DRAFT AN IMPACT PLAYER!!

    Murray sounds like he is going to be a very good NHL Dman. But I keep hearing “good skater, smart player, calm with the puck, makes sound decisions, good first pass”. I hear nothing about being a dominant physical player. I hear nothing about being a dynamic offensive threat from the blue line. I’ve heard nothing about him being a great puck rusher.

    So where exactly in all that description is IMPACT PLAYER that warrents a #1 selection? NO WHERE!! Do the Oilers need defence at this exact minute? Yes. But they also have dman depth coming up in the system so in a couple of years, they are going to be LOADED with Dmen.

    If you are going to be drafting a Dman, that Dman better be a Norris trophy candidate, impact, change the game like Chris Pronger or even a Drew Doughty is. He is just a kid so it is tough to tell at this point but from every scout, every analysit and any GM that I have heard on any talk show. Not one of them has said he is a gamer changer. He isn’t even a #1 Dman. They all say a probable top pairing guy. So are you going to use a #1 overall draft pick for a “probably top pairing guy” who does everything good but nothing spectacular over a for sure at the very least top 6 forward? That’s just stupid if you ask me.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    steve wrote:

    I don’t see it being very hard. Trade first pick and Hemsky to the Habs for Subban and the third. Take Galnychuk with the third and win lots of Stanley Cups… Seems easy enough no?

    put the xbox controller down for a sec and ask yourself why montreal makes that trade.

    montreal trades one of their top d-men who is showing huge potential AND a top 3 pick for the #1 pick and a guy who cant stay healthy??

    sure it seems easy… if you are sniffing that asscrack fuzz brownlee was trying to trade earlier…

    • Cervantes

      Hemsky plus Yak is an infusion of roughly 140 points into the MTL roster, I can’t be arsed to look up Subban but I guess he was around 50 last year? So, you pick up a gun on a 3 year ELC and 2 years of Hemmer on a reasonable top6 contract in exchange for a solid but porous defenseman who’s due for a pay raise and a russian centre who’s been injured all year.

      That doesn’t sound like too bad a deal for MTL. That’s a lot of points for cheap for the next 5 years or so.

  • Bucknuck

    Did Yakupov not say Galchenyuk was the best player on the Sting squad ? I believe he did naysayers to Galeyenchuk . Maybe Yakupov doesn’t know what he is talking about ? So just how close to Galeyenchuk might be Yakupov be ? Don’t see Columbus taking Murray over Gally either . He should be gone by second pick leaving a Montreal trade difficult . We either take Gally first or we don’t get him . Had hoped for two first round fixtures but that appears to be out of our fortay as usual .

    Despite whom we draft you get the feeling fans will be disapointed this season . More hope than actuality again ? Can we realistically get beyond 28th spot this year if something more major than first draft choice occurs ? Doubtful .

    Faith in Oilers running out of gas , and scouting and management about as high as their stats indicate -29th best !

  • Yzermanfan19

    Ya but you have to be quite the ego maniac to say “No im the best on Sarnia” especially if you are friends with another top 5 prospect, at least in my opinion.

  • Mark-LW

    Hey Gregor,

    Any idea if the Oil Change crew is running around at the Draft this year like last? It was pretty cool to see some of that behind-the-scenes stuff..

  • I still don’t understand why people keep referring to Galchenyuk as a “big” center.

    At the draft combine, his height was measured at 6′, 0.5″. RNH is 6’1″, I believe.

    His size is no better then NHL average for his age.

    I would consider Grigorenko much more the prototypical “big” center, he’s an honest 6’3″.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Digger

    Same reason everyone thinks the Kings forwards were so big, dispite the fact most of the top 9 were either 6’0 or shorter and or 200lbs or lighter.

  • Bucknuck

    Darren Dregr thinks the Oilers will pick Ryan Murray #1 overall.

    I’m ok with that, but they better be sure of this kid…#EverettwillsuckwithoutMurraynextyear.

  • TKB2677

    The amount of backlash the Oilers would get is they took Murray would be ridiculous. I’m 100% any team EVER drafting a Dman #1 overall. The evidence overwelmingly suggests its a bad idea.

  • CaptainLander

    As long as they take a forward I am happy, no need for dman at this point. Beside with the Oil injury history if we have 4 super star forwards that means we could almost have 2 playing and any one time.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ShredderDarren Dregr thinks the Oilers will pick Ryan Murray #1 overall.

    I’m ok with that, but they better be sure of this kid…#EverettwillsuckwithoutMurraynextyear.

    Don’t want to scare you Shredder, but Everett sucked with Murray in the lineup as well. Columbus stumbles upon a windfall with Edmonton passing on Yakupov. Watch them fleece Gardiner from the Leafs along with a flip flop of picks. The Leafs still get the best player in the bunch in Yakupov.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    GVBlackhawk. Before you pump the tires of Oilers 2K12 about being logical, how do you figure that Yakupov is the best asset and be worth more to the Oilers later?? That is rediculous not logical. He could break his fibula tomorrow for all you know.

    The difference is that Galchenyuk is a centerman. As Gregor stated (and anyone who has looked at the past few Cup Champs) they had depth up the middle, not on the wings. LA,Boston,Chicago,Pittsburgh…. see the correlation?