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.
"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.
DOES POSITION MATTER?
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.
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.