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.


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.

  • book¡e

    The one thing I appreciate is that they are doing the hard work behind making the decision. It’s important to consider physical and skill trajectories and not just ‘Who is the best player today’.

    I am ok with trusting Stu to do his job.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Arch

    It seems almost EVERYONE is on board with Yak being the clear #1…. if anything this should be the easiest of the three 1st overalls as their was big debate between Taylor/Tyler and last year between 2 or 3 guys.

    This year theirs only 1 elite prospect and then a bunch of lesser tier guys or a guy that hasn’t even proven to be an elite CHL player.

    • OilerLand

      My thoughts too. Seems like this should be the easiest decision, but I suppose there’s so much we don’t know. With the injuries this year, maybe the polls and rankings and “clear no. 1” sentiments are skewed.

      Maybe it’s not as easy as we’re all lead to believe.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Prospects always get way over rated with the alure of “potential” …. we always seem to assume they will be great becasue we don’t know yet.

    Galchenyuk is getting an extra dose of this as he basically didn’t even play in his draft year… not only do we not know if he will be an excellent NHL’er (just like the other potential draftees) We don’t even know if he would have been an excellent 17 year old CHL’er.

    Having him in the conversation for 1st overall is essentially giving him credit for something he didn’t do.

  • It’s interesting that the Organization has admitted that Yakupov is the clear cut public choice. Lets see if they think they’re smarter than everybody else.

    It is my sincerest desire that if Yakupov ISNT selected the crowd starts to chant DOAN! DOAN! DOAN!

    • Jason Gregor

      They’d be dumb to go off what fans and media think, when most of those haven’t watched the kids play. Trust their scouts not what fans or media want would be best. The Oilers could pick Yakupov, but expecting them to annouce it early won’t make much sense. Also many have Galchenyuk 2nd, and most admit his injury is reason he isn’t on par…Lots of things to consider.

      • So it would be smart to pick someone who didnt even play in his draft year and base it on what u think he wouldve done even when as a 16 yr old he got outscored by 20 points by is linemate whos ppg improved the year after playing without a top center.

        U ever seen galchenyuk play gregor?

        • Jason Gregor

          You do understand that they draft based on where they think a player will be in five years, not what he did as a 16 year old?

          Yes I’ve seen him play…I like him, a lot.

          Do I think the Oilers will make a mistake in Yakupov, yes, because he is a small, skilled winger and they have a lot of them. He is a good player, but writing about Galchenyuk and giving people info is my job. You and many others make it sound like it is so easy to just select one player, and it isn’t…The best player isn’t always taken first overall.

          I know many scouts who really like Galchenyuk as well. Fact is he plays C, and the Oilers need a big centre. That is why I would explore it deeply. Understand it isn’t a shot at Yakupov, it is called doing their due diligence.

          • Bucknuck

            So you said you saw him play..when was this? When he was 16 years old? Well according to you that doesnt count..
            Or was it the two regular season games he appeared in this past season? Since he just came back from injury those two games to me they dont count (if they do to you, he had 0 pts and was -4)
            The playoffs? Yakupov didnt put up big numbers but neither did Galchenyuk..

            So how do you judge him then? The draft combine? I know guys at my local average joes gym who ride the bike at supersonic speed on level 20, so what..
            Oh hes 2 inches taller than Yak, wow 2 inches makes Huge difference..

            Oh yeah hes a was Marc Antoine Pouliot..
            Not saying he’s MAP..just saying being a center,and putting up good numbers in junior for 1 season doesn’t make you a great player..

            I do think Galchenyuk will be a good NHLer just cuz scouts have him in the top 10(based I guess on his 16yr old season) but going by everything I’ve seen, and heard, Yakupov is much more dynamic, faster..more of a natural scorer..and apparently not a bad playmaker either(9 assists at the WJC)

            So how does a winger outscore a center by 20 points when they play together on the same line playing close to same amount of games?
            Remind you of Kane-Gagner on the Knights?

          • GVBlackhawk

            Thank you. Finally someone using their brain and thinking about this situation logically.

            Draft Yakupov because he’s the best asset and will be worth more to the team later.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I really am on the Yak train…but Galchenyuk is the only other player they could take first and I wouldn’t pound my fist on the table as they announced it.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    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?