CENTRE OVER A WINGER?

History tells us that a centre, D-man or goalie can have a bigger impact on winning than a winger. It’s not to say you don’t need solid wingers to win, but a dominant centre will usually have more of an impact than a dominant winger.

Last night I chatted with a scout who’s been around the NHL for over 20 years and asked him about the centre/winger debate and if the Oilers should/could take Nail Yakupov’s teammate Alex Galchenyuk instead.

"I’m a firm believer in taking the best player available. Yakupov is a hell of a talent, but Galchenyuk is just as good in my eyes. If he hadn’t been hurt I honestly believe it would be a huge debate. The fact Alex plays centre makes the debate even better, because centres have a bigger impact on the game.

"Alex is a dynamic centre. He skates exceptionally well, he’s got great hands and he’s committed to playing a strong two-way game. He’s 6’2" and 205 pounds, so he’ll be a load to handle for NHL defenceman."

Would his injury scare you? Should that be a concern, I asked.

"It is hard to say with certainty, but I was very impressed that he was able to return from his injury (ACL tear) for this year’s playoffs. He has a reputation of being a gym rat and has an excellent work ethic. You can’t teach that, and for him to work that hard during rehab really impressed me."

I’ve always wanted to do research on the accuracy of how an injury impacts a player long-term; especially if a player gets hurt when he is 17 or 18. We’ve seen it go both ways. Some players are always getting hurt, but guys who are injury-prone seem to suffer from various different injuries, rather than always hurting the same joint, tendon or ligament.

Marian Hossa suffered a serious knee injury in the Memorial Cup final v. Guelph in 1998. He was out for six months, before he made his debut with the Senators in December. Since that injury, he never played fewer than 70 games in a season until 2009/2010.

There is a long list of players who are constantly injured, but I wouldn’t shy away from Galchenyuk just because of one injury.

Many scouts feel Yakupov was the best player this year, but with every scout I’ve talked to in the past month, they all said, "If Galchenyuk had played he’d be in the conversation."

THE FINAL NAIL

I’ve said before I’d take Yakupov because he’s considered the best player, but the more I hear about Galchenyuk the more intrigued I am about him; mostly because he plays centre.

The Oilers desperately need another skilled centre, especially one with size. A few scouts have said Galchenyuk’s game is similar to Jonathan Toews, in that he plays hard/smart in both ends of the ice. I don’t like comparisons, because usually we are comparing a player to the "best-case scenario."

I find it interesting, and disappointing, that we compare these kids to great players, but recently many have said they are leery of drafting Russians because of the KHL and the actions of Radulov, Filatov, Zherdev and others. They bring up the worst-case scenario for what a Russian player might become rather than pointing to Datsyuk, Malkin, Ovechkin, Zubov or other elite Russians.

Galchenyuk was born in Wisconsin, but he spent time in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Russia because his father was a pro hockey player. Their family moved back to the States when Alex was 15 and he considers himself American. He played for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 in 2011.

The more I hear about Galchenyuk the more I wonder if he’d be the right player for the Oilers.

It is possible that Yakupov will put up more points, but would Galchenyuk be a better fit?

"Great question. The Oilers need size down the middle," the scout told me last night. "Yakupov and Eberle would be a great 1-2 punch on the right side for years, but I think now more than ever you need strength down the middle to win. I don’t think Stu (MacGregor) can go wrong with either pick, but I bet they will look long and hard at a centreman."

Two years ago when the Taylor v. Tyler debate was on, everyone had Hall listed as the best player, and the Oilers wisely took him. Two years later though, the Oilers have Hall and Eberle as dominant wingers, and I wonder if there is a slight temptation to look at Galchenyuk because he’s a centre.

It is clear that Yakupov is the best player, based on play this year, but Galchenyuk’s injury didn’t allow him to compete for that title.

Every scout I’ve ever spoken with has told me that they try to draft the player they feel will be the best in three to five years. Galchenyuk’s injury makes that assessment much harder, and when you factor in the Oilers need for a big, skilled centre I wonder how the Oilers feel he grades out five years from now?

RAPID FIRE

I know Wanye and many of you will be saying "May the Fourth be with you today," so that was for all you Star Wars nerds.

  • Danny Briere became only the 5th active NHLer to score 50 career playoff goals. The other four are Jagr (77) Lidstrom (54) Marleau (52) and Zetterberg (51). I think Marleau is the biggest surprise on the list, considering many incorrectly say he never produces in the playoffs.
     
  • Another interesting trivia tidbit…Can you name the only player in NHL history who is top-ten all-time in playoff goals, assists, points, PIMs and +/-?***(answer at bottom)
     
  • All those suggesting Dustin Penner will have to sign for $2-$2.5 million this summer. Keep in mind that Joel Ward had regular seasons of 17, 13 and 10 goals before potting seven in the playoffs last year. That earned him $9 million over three years. If Penner continues to play well he will get at least $3 million on the open market and maybe even $4 million/year for two or three years.
     
  • I wonder if Peter Laviolette is regretting his post-series pot-shot at Sidney Crosby, when he referred to Claude Giroux as the best player in the world. Since that comment Giroux has one goal and is -3 in three games. Giroux is great, but he isn’t the best in the game.
     
  • I can’t believe some media, bloggers and fans are looking at ways to change playoff OT. What is wrong with you? Because the game lasts too long, or some whiny eastern folks can’t stay up late? Give me a break. It is great TV watching players gut it out for two, three or more OT periods.
     
  • The Oilers/Oil Kings haven’t done a great job advertising the Oil Kings playoff push. I haven’t seen/read/heard much advertising, and when the cheapest tickets is $31.50 it is hard for a family of four to pay that much for junior hockey. Why did they only have a two-hour window yesterday of $15/tickets? Why not make it all day long? 
     
  • That being said the Oil Kings are one hell of a team. They will beat Portland. Mark Pysyk and Keegan Lowe did an incredible job of shutting down Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi last night. Those two were invisible for most of the game, and their best chances came when they didn’t have to face the Lowe/Pysyk pairing.  

*** Glenn Anderson is the only player in the top-ten in all five categories. He was 4th in pts, 5th in goals, 9th in assists, 7th in PIMs and 5th in +/-.**

  • O.C.

    Was at Oil Kings game 1. Top 4 D were stellar. Betting they all have long careers.

    Last night seemed as though the problem was closing the deal. Should be a great series.

    As for some of the trade ideas here, I can only say “huh?”. All I’m waiting for now is for someone to suggest trading this years pick for futures.

    Draft Nail*. Who cares if he is a winger? Last I looked, so was Eberle. He seems worth keeping.

    (*unless an amazing overpay is offered for the first pick)

    Don’t shop the pick but listen.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ DW, once you take Hall off that left side there’s a gaping hole left there. They’d be left with a 37 yr old Ryan Smyth as their 1st line left winger. With Yakupov on his way it does create a logjam on the right side. Edmonton is probably better to move Jordan Eberle to center, still leaving Yakupov and Hemsky to play that right side.

    If Tambellini does nothing but take Yakupov next month, the Oilers are still left with a hole in that 2nd line center, 2nd line LW, a #1 and #2 blueliner, as well as possibly a goaltender. At this pace we’re better off with another lottery finish if Tambellini can’t do anything on his own.

  • Clyde Frog

    @Fastoil

    Really, Yakupov is not a better producer?

    Yakupov 16/17 year old season: 49G 52A 101pts in 65 games played
    Galchenyuk 16/17 year old season: 31G 52A 83pts in 68 games played

    Hrmmm, I think I can spot a difference… You also add the fact that Yakupov didn’t lose an entire year of training, practice and critical development time…

    Do people just jump on the other side of the fence so they can be different and seem smart?

    Just for reference, Hall had 38G 52A 90pts in 63 games. I don’t think it can be said that Yakupov isn’t in the same production class as Hall, at least through junior.

    • You could also argue that Galchenyuk numbers could have been a result of playing with Yakupov.

      As for Yakupov not playing with Galchenyuk, Yakupov’s numbers never dropped when Galchenyuk was out.

      Chance’s are Galchenyuk will need another year of major junior or the AHL because of said time off.

      With that and what you pointed out it doesn’t even seem close IMO.

      I will admit that I think Galchenyuk will be a good player eventually.

  • Clyde Frog

    Just for reference I don’t think Galchenyuk will be a bad player, just that the statement he was Yakupovs equal is disengenuos in the production category.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ Wes

    A friend of mine who lives in Hicksville New York mentioned it. He asked me if i heard anything about it since it’s the only game in town up here. He’s more into the NFL so i was surprised he even knew hockey existed. He’s never been interested in the sport, so it was odd. hope there’s something to it.

    • KHR

      @Quicksilver ballet

      Head up or Head down, Swivel or not, Hunter or Hunted . . . EVERY player is one significant injury away from being a player of diminished value. Anyone can catch a rut and blow out a knee, anyone could take a deflected puck off the face and suffer a concussion that puts them into LaLa Land eating Jello for the rest of their life, etc. No one is immune from a serious injury. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it does not. I find your argument devoid of logic to be honest. Nuge and Jordan have been hurt too, should we trade them now too? For my part I’m willing to roll the dice on all three of them and see what happens.

  • Jason Gregor

    Frog & Mantooth

    Even if Yakupov will score more points (I didn’t mention points in my comment), it doesn’t mean he’s the better player. Galchenyuk plays like Toews arcording to Pronman I think it was. Would you rather have Toews or Semin? I’d take the centre.

    I am not saying Galch is better or worse than Yak, it’s the scouts saying it very likely would be close if Galchenyuk had played this year. Yakupov is consensus because Galchenyuk didn’t play.

    Who will be better in five years? If it’s seen as close, the Oilers need the centre a lot more. Don’t forget Horcoff and Belanger are already declining, and there isn’t another C with offense in the system.

    • Who will be better in five years? If it’s seen as close, the Oilers need the centre a lot more.

      It’s not seen as close by anybody anywhere. The highest I’ve seen anybody on him is #3. That’s not close, that’s a consensus.

  • Clyde Frog

    @FastOil

    But how are you measuring the “better” player? Production is what you WANT from a top 6 player and just saying he is on the same playing field as Yakupov IS disengenuos.

    Galchenyuk has not hit Yakupov’s production levels, he has lost an entire year of development, practice and training to a terrible injury at a critical point in his life.

    Yakupov hasn’t, Yakupov has demonstrated elite level production at a pace above our other #1’s. No draft listing has other players sitting #1, why? Because no-one else in this draft has the tools Yakupov has.

    Passing on the kid with the highest ceiling and best resume for a team “need” is terrible, we have a hard enough time predicting what our pre-season needs are, let alone what this team will need in 8 months.

    Simple fact, your team has the chance to take the best 18 year old in the world, you take him, you cherish him, you develop him and you win with him. You don’t hand that chance to someone else hoping you are smarter than they are…

    Also I love this Russian thing though, it was only a few years ago we feared americans, because there was no way they would put up with our weather and small town. We feared they would all flee to Cali and New York, that there was no way to retain them as a small market Canadian club… How quickly our fears turn.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @ KHR

    I can respect that. With little or nothing here but these 3 kids to date, they’re all going to continue to take a beating on a weekly basis. They’re easily intimidated without capable veteran support behind them.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Day late and a dollar short to this discussion, but I’ll take issue with your assessment of the Oil Kings, Jason.

    I agree they haven’t been very clever in their PR (hiking ticket prices that much was a huge error, that they’ve recognized).

    I’m going to point the finger at your friends in the media. You’ve not pulled your weight, IMO.

    The Oiler obsession (I get it, they’re popular) even in May is ridiculous. Large is in Switzerland to watch the “World” “Championships”. Why? To watch “Ebs” and “Nuge” play FRANCE?!

    The other day on your show there was a real, live discussion about whether Eric “I won’t be giving my millions back” Belanger could/should play the wing.

    Belanger. In May.

    How about mentioning where to buy tickets?
    How about mentioning you can WATCH the games on TV (Shaw 300)?

    Instead we hear about Belanger? Good lord who cares?

    I will say that it’s getting better. But they have one or two more home games. And might go to the Memorial Cup.

    And we’ll likely be talking about whether Colton Teubert can be the #8 next year.