Russian Valeri Nichushkin is the big climber in our third look at this year’s top draft eligibles, and we’re far enough into the season to list the top 15. What does that mean? We can project the Oilers ‘draft window’ and what might be available. Top 15 after the jump.

If the season ended today, the Oilers would draft 11th overall. The top of each season’s draft usually goes close to form, with one or maybe two sliders (Filip Forsberg last year, famously Alexei Cherepanov and Angelo Esposito in 2007).

  1. D Seth Jones: There’s just too much. Big, strong, skilled, massive wingspan, tough, physical, can do it all. I am a believer in taking the forward over the defender UNLESS we’re talking someone who is aces across the board. Jones looks to be such a player. Previous Rank: 1
  2. L Jonathan Drouin: Since our last update not quite one month ago, he’s gone 8, 10-10-20 for Halifax and is absolutely blowing away the competition (now 39, 34-48-82 for the season) in terms on points-per-game. I don’t know that he’ll go 2nd overall (his teammate could go #1) but this is an outstanding resume.PR:2
  3. C Nathan MacKinnon: Based on the scouting services I follow MacKinnon will definitely be the first forward and could be first overall at the draft. I move two players above him based on (Drouin’s) offense and (Jones’) wide range of elite skills. No slight against MacKinnon, he’s an outstanding prospect. PR 3
  4. C Sasha Barkov: A big strong center Bob McKenzie compared to Dale Hawerchuk and that’s a lot of skill. A strong World Juniors has some saying he’s the best Finnish prospect in over a decade. Skating issues have been mentioned in some scouting reports but it doesn’t seem to be a major issue (he’s highly ranked on the major lists like McKenzie and Pronman.PR4
  5. L Valeri Nichushkin. An exceptional World Junior tournament has the hockey world talking about this big winger. Pronman: "Nichushkin has a ton of upside between his elite skating, his great skill level, and a good power game. He has been playing in the KHL at 17 and had an impressive World Junior showing." PR8
  6. C Sean Monahan: He’s enjoyed a solid showing since the last time we looked at the 2013’s (7, 6-5-11) and honestly I’d be thrilled if the Oilers acquired him. Team Canada coach Steve Spott on Monahan: "his hockey sense, in my mind, is at a National Hockey League level right now. He has elite hockey sense. He is just one of those players who can play in any situation – 5-on-5, 5-on-4, on your [penalty kill]. Sean has that innate ability. He is going to be an elite NHL player. There is no doubt about that." He is a little shy offensively compared to the kids above him, that’s the reason for this rank. PR 5
  7. L Anthony Mantha: This guy is going to be a player based on the numbers. Now at 45 goals in 57 QMJHL games, he’s gone 10, 7-4-11 since our last update. Pronman: "Mantha is an intriguing package of tools as he is 6’4” with good speed, a heavy shot, and offensive instincts. I wasn’t all that sold on him last season, but he has developed well over the last six months or so."  PR 7
  8. D Rasmus Ristolainen: Impressive young defenseman already playing in the SM-Liiga. Craig Button: Rasmus has very good offensive skills with an excellent shot. He jumps into the attack and even initiates the attack if he feels it’s necessary. He will play physical, and if he makes contact, you are fully aware of that as an opponent. When the game becomes challenging and the moments important, he is ready, willing and capable of taking a leading role to make a positive difference. A player who is more than capable of being a top defenceman. The description ‘workhorse defenceman’ comes to mind when you assess his potential. Previously Unranked.
  9. C Elias Lindholm: Has slowed down offensively since January, but remains a quality prospect. Roger Ronnberg (Sweden’s coach at the WJ) sums up the player thusly: "He has the smartness and he has the grit to play–he has the most important combinations and that is both the will to compete and the smarts to be a really good player." PR 6
  10. L Hunter Shinkaruk. I know, he’s an undersized winger. However, this kid is really putting on a show. 6, 4-7-11 since the last update, he’s going to force someone to step up and take him despite the size issue. Corey Pronman: "Shinkaruk is a dynamic offensive player who is a unique skater with high-end hands and finishing ability. He is a little on the small side, though." PR 10
  11. D Darnell Nurse. Fast riser and Craig Button tells us why: Big, strong and competitive and he imposes himself on opponents. Very strong skater with quickness, agility and balance that he uses very effectively to close on plays defensively and to move play ahead and out of his defensive zone. Has really developed his offensive game and he shows the capability of being a very well-rounded and dependable player. The type who can ‘log’ lots of important minutes in a game and these are valuable players in the NHL. Previously Unranked.
  12. C Curtis Lazar: Oil Kings  Curtis Lazar  has been up and down the draft lists all winter, 32-16-48 this season. In his last 19 games, he’s 17-4-21 while still playing a gritty, effective game. 6.0, 198. Pronman: Lazar is a plus skater with a similar amount of two-way work ethic. His production this year has caused mild concerns, but he remains an above-average but not a great offensive player with an upper tier shot. Previously Unranked.
  13. D Josh Morrissey: Highly ranked because of his skating and puck moving ability. Morrissey is a great example of the "new NHL" defenseman: good speed, excellent at moving the puck and solid defensively. Corey Pronman: "Morrissey is a really fun player to watch due to his skating and offensive ability. His only real issue is that his physical game is just okay, leading to questions whether he can be a really effective defender." PR9
  14. L Alexander Wennberg. Craig Button: Can play all three forward positions. Excellent skater who has a free and easy stride with excellent quickness and a change of pace is capable of keeping defenders on their heels. He can open up ice and space for himself with his skating. In traffic, he has the ability to ‘slice’ through tight areas and with very good balance, can be difficult to deter. Previously unranked.
  15. D Ryan Pulock: Liked this kid from the start. Good offense (50, 14-28-42) from the blueline and a good size/speed combination for the blue (6.01, 211). WHL from Above: Smooth 2-way defender with a bomb of a shot. Button: Very steady, effective and efficient player. His strength is founded on an overall game that is consistent and dependable. Very good puck skills that is augmented by an outstanding shot. Very good vision and awareness and he creates offensive chances. He plays with poise and logs all of the important minutes for his team and he plays with a calming influence.Previously Unranked. 
  • Pronman is such a great resource, his stuff is a must read for draft followers. Latest is here.
  • Bob McKenzie has the inside scoop every year, he is the Bible. You could use his final list in the first two rounds every year, draft bpa and come out looking like a genius. Don’t tell Columbus.


For the Oilers, I think Lazar will be tough to pass over if he’s available when they pick. There should be several quality defensemen in that area (the Finn and Nurse are all over the place depending on which scouting service you’re reading) and someone like Mantha may fall to them.

The Oilers will not be selecting a Taylor Hall, a Nuge or a Nail this summer. However, the player they get in the first round won’t be a bum, either.

  • fuzzy muppet

    I’m willing to bet this is Gagner’ last year as an Oiler.

    He is in year 6 and still can’t play a lick of defense.

    His PPG totals enable them to sell high, which they will.

    he’s getting a raise after this year because of his offensive statistics and if the Oilers throw 4.5+ at 89, this team will be bottom dwellers for a long, long time.

    Gagner can be a good 2nd line player, but it’s not at C, and it’s NOT for the Oilers.

  • LT,

    That is the best picture of Mila I have ever seen…..WOW!! That girl is simply stunning, thank you! I mean look at …..ugh…..err… Oh yea, ugh, draft picks and what not, hockey!

  • Clyde Frog

    Has anyone ever noticed that the statement “This years draft is way more deep than the previous years” is regularly stated BEFORE the draft takes place; then never said again until the next draft?

    Last years draft was so deep fans wanted us to trade away the farm for a shot at another 1st rounder. The year before the same…. The year before that? The same.

    Keep your core roster players and trade your fringes for other roster players. Any extra magic beans we pick up will be 2-4 years away.

    Also as for DSF’s talent at well identifying talent…

    I believe his top 3 in the west were:
    1) MINN

    2) STL

    3) LAK

    Yup, amazing talent.

    Oh and for funzies:

    Shultz is at 4 G 4 A -5 while Suter is crushing it in Minny with 0 G 8 A -5

    Gagner is at 5 G 11 A -3 and Parise is killing it at 7 G 5 A +/- 0

    • DSF

      Well, I have to admit I didn’t see Chicago or Anaheim playing lights out the way they are.

      Who did?

      The Wild are slowly getting their stuff together (5-4-1 in their last 10) and I think are poised to make a run up the standings. Considering they have turned over 40 percent of their roster in one off season, that’s not surprising.

      STL lost their starting goalie and have been relying on a rookie but, as soon as Halak returns, they’ll be just fine although I doubt anyone can catch Chicago at this point.

      No idea why LAK can’t score…if you can figure it out…please let Sutter know.

      Must win game for the Oilers tonight kids…lose and it’s over.

        • DSF

          It’s about as close to must win as you can get.

          The problem isn’t so much how many points they are out of the playoffs but how many teams are in front of them.

          In order to make the playoffs, they don’t need to just play better than the team holding down the last playoff spot, they have to play better than ALL the teams between them and the last spot.

          With Bettman points in play, that’s very tough to do.

          Spots Club Stats currently has the Oilers chances of making the playoffs at 27.8% and a loss tonight drops that to 20%

          With the road trip from hell approaching, I think there is very little margin for error.

          • McDavid's Comet

            Very true. I suppose the oilers better get their asses in gear and start clicking or else they will be trying to collect draft picks at the trade deadline.

  • DSF

    Great look at what we are going to be all talking about come June. The deal is this for me. Until further notice the plans for a Stanley Cup Parade are on hold. The league this years has shown that we need more size on the wings to be competitive. The Oilers are getting killed below the goal line. Teams like L.A.,Pheonix and suchlike are running are show because we lack the physical size combined with the grit to push back. Of our Dmen Smid and Fistric are the only ones who show any willingness to engage.

    We need a serious look at our size issue. Also who we are choosing in terms of character.The Justin Shultz’s of the league are nice to have but need more mark Fistrics. We really need to be harder to play against.

    If I were picking I would take Lazar.he is hard to play against.

    Unfortunately I believe that we have hit a critical point in the season where we either will move forward or take a step back. The lack of scoring throughout the league 5 on 5 is a huge issue. On the Oilers the players being counted on to perform that role are failing miserably.They are playing well but whether through a combination of bad luck or defence the team is not firing on all cylinders.

    The Oilers are walking into the slaughter chute and the bolt is about to end any hope for a step forward this season. All the arrows are pointing in a direction that we all have seen before. Unless a sense of urgency is instilled into this team sooner than later the Oilers will be picking much higher than most of us thought at the beginning of the season.

    I believe without any changes in the current roster the Oilers will likely finish 27th. I see a 65 point season when all is said and done.

    • DSF

      I absolutely agree with you. We are still to easy to play against and that is why we lost against the Kings. Down low are forwards are getting beaten on board battles…I love our compete this year, there is no lack of effort but simply not strong enough to win those battles.

      We need size all through the lineup, I have been impressed with Eager’s play lately as he is engaged and finishing checks but we need more of that.

      As far as who the Oilers should take in the first round this year, it should be Sean Monahan. A good strong two-way centre which we desperately need!!

      We are too weak up the middle and this needs to be addressed. I like Lazar, but it worries me that the Oilers are so focused on the Oil King players, for example when they reached for Mitch Moroz when better players were available. I don’t want to see them do that again!

    • McDavid's Comet

      I understand everyone’s want of a power forward or just a bigger player in general to play in the top 6 but to go into the draft wanting something specific in the first round is just wrong.

      Does everyone already forget in 2003 when we needed a big center and ended up trading down so that we could draft Marc Pouliot and JF Jacques in the second round instead of drafting Parise?

      No matter what you do, you always draft the best available player unless two players are basically equal and then you go based off of need. If the best player available ends up being Shinkaruk or someone small and they end up turning out great or have huge potential, then you can package him off to get something that suits your own needs.

      While I don’t agree with drating Moroz or really any of the others drafted last year, at least EDM didn’t do that in the first round. The first round has the highest chance of getting an NHL player so we shouldn’t waste it just because we want someone for their weight. Look how Penner has worked out.

  • DSF

    Oh and by the way, HALL drives the bus on this team, it will go as far as HALL takes them. I love Eberle and RNH and they will get more points over the years I think, but HALL is the backbone of this team and will be for the next 10-15 years!

    If you don’t agree, then I would suggest that you are not watching this team closely.

      • McDavid's Comet

        They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well just watch an oilers game and you will see. Hall always has the puck or is always calling for it. Good or bad is another topic. When a player always has the puck he is the one driving.

        I thought Eberle would/will be the best, but this year I dunno. All he does is cycle the puck so hall can get it, or he skates the puck towards the net then goes behind it. Just once I would love to see him stop at the top of the circle and either look for the trailing man or shoot it.

        RNH certainly has sick skill while holding on to the puck near the boards, but he can’t make anything happen by himself. He needs someone to pass the puck too. Which he has a sick pass. That is why he can’t score 5vs5 and is great in the PP.

        • match16

          I think the player that sets the typo of the game, controls the centre of the ice-surface, makes intelligent plays and is smart defensively has greater value then what you described.

          Again I like Hall but he isn’t the player the stirs the drink imo.

          It’s easy to be critically of any player but a guy with a clear cut breakaway who ends up putting the puck into one corner and crashing himself into the other corner isn’t the picture worthy of a thousand good words.

          Hall tries, is very talented and plays with passion but that doesn’t make him better then Nuge. I’m glad he’s on our team though – great supporting cast.

          Good to know that RNH is the reason we can’t score 5 on 5

          • DSF

            Your confused. What you describe is the better player not the one who stirs the drink. Like I said for better or worse hall stirs the drink. Again watch a oilers game you will understand. Don’t take it so personally.

            You should practice reading and comprehension, I never put any blame on RNH.

          • DSF

            Learn where to use your & you’re – you’ll appear a little less dense.

            The straw that stirs the drink “The person who stimulates or inspires a group; the major factor affecting a trend or set of developments”.

            Mikey, don’t take this too personally but are you always the dumb-dumb in the room?

          • DSF

            The straw that stirs the drink “The person who stimulates or inspires a group”

            I don’t know about you. But I get inspired by the dude who is creating offense. Not the guy who controls the centre ice. Screw the centre ice. You can’t win a game from there, you can lose it, but you can’t win it.

  • DSF

    Gags and Hemmer for O’Reilly…ugh. Let’s just say that Colorado has some great young players. Let’s not make them an extremely significant threat for the division crown against the Oilers over the coming years. I’d even extend that argument to western conference teams like Chicago. Chicago is already a Cup winner, and that roster will remain intact for many years. Can’t win the Stanley Cup if you can’t win the conference.

  • GeorgeOrwell

    Oh, and to comment on the topic on hand, Darnell Nurse is who I hope the Oilers draft. Big, mean, mobile two-way defender, with definite top pair potential. The only downside to drafting him is that is would mean we are picking top ten.*

    *All of this assumes we don’t win the lottery after finishing 9th in the West and take Seth Jones.

  • GeorgeOrwell

    At the start of the year I picked the Oilers to finish 12th in the Western Conference. This is a club that hasn’t had a rash-of-injuries like other teams and we were expected to get off to a good start.

    What happened?

    I think Ralph Kruger is an upgrade.

    Our goaltending has been better then expected.

    Justin Schultz is better then expected. The rest of the defense is playing about as expected overall but still require an upgrade in personnel.

    The core forwards are young and won’t fully develop unless management can acquire some leadership and toughness in the next year. The culture of this team needs to change, winning hockey games is largely about beating the guy across from you.

    When Nuge got run over by Dustin Brown the other night the Oilers didn’t have an answer. This team has a tremendous upside but that window can close pretty quickly if the Oilers continue along this path much longer imo.

    As of today it’s possible that the Oilers won’t finish any better then last year and that shouldn’t be acceptable in this market.

    What would this team look like if we lost Justin Schultz and RNH for 6 weeks?

    And guys are talking play-offs – wow!

  • striker777

    Drafting Nichushkin would solve our lack of size issues. This kid is a gamer. My only concern is does he want to play in North America? I have a feeling KHL will try to smother him in cash.

  • McDavid's Comet

    Lazar’s rankings are all over the map.

    You would have to think that the Oilers, with their love of coke machines, would be very interested Frederik Gauthier. 6’5″ with 2-way ability…

  • McDavid's Comet

    Sweet Jebus LT – Mila more than makes up for your pic of the Anti-Christ Rachael Ray yesterday.

    Oh yeah and Nikushkin or Monahan would be dyn-o-mite. Really liked what I saw of the Russian at the world juniors and Monahan’s 17YO numbers project very well, plus he’s big. Depending on our draft slot maybe our first and one of the 2nds is enough to move up (’cause please god don’t let us be picking in the top 5 unless its because the lotto ball luck continues)