The Oilers struggles early in the season bring some familiar items from years previous, including the extreme value of high draft picks. With the Oilers currently 28th overall in the NHL standings, a top 3 selection is possible (if things continue). How valuable is a pick that high? Very valuable. How good is this season’s crop? Early returns are mixed.
EARLY TOP 5
The top 5 is an interesting lot, and of course this is so early that we’ll expect to see all kinds of movement in and out of the top 10 as the season rolls along.
- C Sam Reinhart 6.01, 185. A two-way center (righthanded) who can deliver offensively (his 15, 9-18-27 with Kootenay is an impressive start, "in the range" with other top end players of recent vintage). He’s from a hockey family, you can’t find a negative word about the kid. Extremely likely to be drafted by Buffalo unless Tambo wants to help at the lottery. I spoke to Guy Flaming about him yesterday, and he is regarded as an outstanding prospect with impact offensive potential. (Reinhart photo at the top of this article courtesy Lisa McRitchie, all rights reserved)
- D Aaron Eklbad 6.04, 217. OHL Prospects: Ekblad is a tower of power on the blueline. He’s a physical specimen that is incredibly difficult to play against in the corners and in front of the net. Offensively, he’s still growing and gaining confidence in his ability to run the transition game, but he’s made great strides on the powerplay where he looks more confident distributing the puck and using his shot.
- C Willie Nylander 5.10, 163. Elite Prospects: A highly skilled player offensively. Nylander skates very well, has impressive hands and is excellent at handling the puck at high speeds.Hockey sense is very impressive and he likes to shoot the puck a lot, but is also capable of delivering perfect passes. A very agile player that protects the puck well and skates hard in the offensive zone. On the other hand, his defensive game needs some work. Not a selfish player, but at times he tends to hang onto the puck for too long, instead of making the easier play. Has the tools and skills to lead his team in all offensive aspects.
- C Leon Draisaitl 6.01, 209. The "German Gretzky" would be a good fit in Edmonton. Kris Baker: Draisaitl plays the game at high pace, using a slick handle and elusiveness to break into the zone. He shows good strength on the puck, and isn’t afraid of using his body to make plays at both ends of the ice. Draisaitl’s passing skills make him a dangerous threat when chased. If he continues to fire the puck more often, Draisaitl could pile up the points in his draft year and cement his status as a top-five pick
- L Sam Bennett 6.00, 178. OHL Prospects: Bennett is simply a fantastic all around talent. He’s been consistently one of the most dangerous players in the OHL this season (10 goals, 10 assists in 10 games). If there’s a job that needs to get done, Bennett is the man to do it. His offensive instincts are terrific and he’s great at finding holes in the defense, which will allow him to score his share of goals at the next level. But he’s also a terrific playmaker who can assume that bull in a china shop mentality to make plays. His work along the boards and on the forecheck is also excellent. As a penalty killer and defensive player, his game is growing leaps and bounds, which suggests that he profiles as an above average two-way player moving forward. TSN scout Craig Button recently suggested that he could challenge for first overall, a concept that isn’t incredibly far fetched.
FUTURE VALUE OF THE PICK
In previous seasons, the Oilers were looking at either moving up (last season) or adding picks (Taylor AND Tyler) but this coming season may be one in which Edmonton’s pick is long gone.
Why? If Craig MacTavish is trying to pry an upgrade for the current Oilers then the first round pick is probably going to be asked after by other NHL clubs doing business with the Oil.
The third overall pick has delivered an outstanding young player in recent seasons:
- 2008: D Zach Bogosian
- 2009: C Matt Duchene
- 2010: D Erik Gudbranson
- 2011: L Jonathan Huberdeau
- 2012: C Alex Galchenyuk
- 2013: L Jonathan Drouin
OVERALL QUALITY OF THE PROSPECTS
Its early, but sources have suggested that the 2014 crop of prospects is not as deep as 2013, especially the top of the chart:
- Redline Report: "we don’t feel the talent at the very top end of this class rivals last year’s star studded crop."
We should keep in mind that the draft year is just coming into view and not in complete focus. There’s every chance the top 5 above will change order and others may work their way up to the top.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It’s a delicate balance. Craig MacTavish may have been mulling over trading the first round pick in 2014, but with that pick squarely in the lottery it may be too valuable to trade. That said, can the Oilers afford to put an emphasis on another high draft pick? Is it time to trade this pick BECAUSE it has such great (potential) value?
We’ll see. A month from now the Oilers could be out of lottery territory and the point may be moot. Or they could be focused on the draft and next year. The draft pick–and the season–are in the balance.