Ten Points: This draft and the last draft

Last year, the question was whether the Oilers would choose the best available talent or draft for need (Ryan Murray). It’s early, but I thought they made the right decision at the time and I’ve seen nothing to sway that belief. What will they do this year, and what about some of the other players they picked in 2012? That and more after the jump.

1. I expect we’ll see the Oilers draft a goaltender early. Edmonton always seems to like having a ‘goalie of the future’ type in the pipeline, and while MacTavish may decide that isn’t so important the team doesn’t have a guy in that mold currently. Olivier Roy had an unimpressive AHL debut this year and Tyler Bunz’s professional debut was a couple of notches below “unimpressive” so it’s a clear organizational need. That, plus Bob Stauffer keeps asking high-ranking people in the organization about using a second round pick on a goalie; I’d guess that’s where the pick they got for Andrew Cogliano is going to be spent.

2. I also expect we’ll see the Oilers move down. Craig MacTavish made it pretty obvious the Oilers were looking at this in his year-end press conference:

I think that’s something we’re definitely going to look at, is doing something with that pick at seven. Whether we take seven or not will depend on what the market is out there, but we’d be I think at this point very receptive to moving back and picking up another pick potentially. It’s a very deep draft in my mind; I’ve only been involved in this one but there are tons of players out there that excite me, or possibly pick up somebody that can help us immediately and another pick.

The Oilers have two second-round draft picks but no selections in the third or fourth round (those picks were sent away for Mark Fistric and Jerred Smithson, respectively), so adding another early pick in what is expected to be a deep draft will doubtless appeal (particularly if they’re going to spendo ne of their relatively early picks on a goalie).

3. Draft for need or best player available? There is a vocal contingent of fans that would like to see the Oilers address need at the draft – “need” generally seen as skilled size up the middle and on defence. The argument for is that the Oilers have had difficulty acquiring those players and might need to get them through the draft; the argument against is that if the 6’2” centreman the team drafts is Marc Pouliot and the 5’11” winger the team passes on is Zach Parise, you look extremely stupid a few years down the road. My view: the team must draft the best player, and then if team need dictates they need to have the courage to trade him down the road. Maximize assets at the draft, cold-bloodedly make the best decisions for the team after – even if the best decision involves sending out a fan favourite.

4. 2012 picks: Mitch Moroz. Mitch Moroz did not have the offensive season that was expected of a player drafted where he was, but the organization says he’s fine. Here’s what Stu MacGregor had to say about Moroz on Oilers Now earlier this month:

I think Mitch Moroz is trending fine, there’s probably some people from time to time that worry about some things about Mitch but I don’t, he’s one of the toughest guys in the Western Hockey League. Teams in the NHL are still interested in getting his rights, have interest in him because of his physicality and strength; at this current time it’s always hard for a guy like that to figure out that fine line of when to be the tough guy and when to back off and he’s still trying to figure it out. Mitch has got to step up, he’s only 18, he has got another year of junior, he should have a great year next year with more of a role on that team.

It has been suggested to me that that Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal isn’t winning fans within the Oilers’ organization with his usage of Moroz, and while that may be a fair point but even so this was a terrible offensive year for the player. He had 13 goals and 34 points after managing 16 goals and 25 points a year ago; he had two goals and seven points in 22 playoff games after scoring four and eight in 20 last spring. Even MacGregor’s comments centre on the player’s strengths as a physical presence, rather than his abilities as a hockey player. Based on junior performance, Moroz looks a lot like an energy line player, and if that’s how things turn out it’s a very good bet the Oilers left talent on the board in 2012.

5. 2012 picks: Jujhar Khaira. The second big player the Oilers took a little earlier than consensus rankings would indicate was BCHL product Jujhar Khaira. So far, that pick looks inspired. Khaira had a strong season at Michigan Tech (37GP – 6G – 19A – 25PTS) and one of the best things about him is his age – he has an August 13 birthday, meaning that he’s almost a full year younger than a guy like Nail Yakupov drafted in the same class. Lowetide had him fourth in his most recent top-20 list, and I tend to agree that he’s the best forward prospect in the system.

6. 2012 picks: Daniil Zharkov. One of the lines in the sand I use for junior prospects is the point-per-game mark. Ideally, a drafted prospect who is going to make it as a scorer should be over the point-per-game mark in his draft year; there are exceptions but most who turn into NHL scorers seem to be at least at that level. There should also be significant year-over-year improvement going into the next season. Zharkov had 36 points in 50 games in his draft year, and improved to 43 points in 59 games this season. He is a goal-scorer (23 and 25 in those two years, respectively) and he does have size on his side, but this is a guy whose NHL potential is predicated on him being a scoring threat. If he can’t score at a well-above average clip in junior, how will he manage it as a professional? As Lowetide points out in the link above, he had a big second half; now he needs a big full season.

7. A [limited] opportunity in net. Right now, the Oilers’ minor-league goaltending prospects are kind of a mess. Olivier Roy was unimpressive in the AHL, Tyler Bunz was bad in the ECHL, and while the Oilers have now signed Frans Tuohimaa his performance in Europe was hardly dominant. The good news for all three is that at this represents an opportunity: if one of these guys can start next season well, he could get clear of the other two in a hurry and maybe play his way into the team’s NHL plans. If I had to pick the guy with the best shot I’d probably choose Tuohimaa, but based on careers there’s no clear gap here. All three are in significant danger of not getting another NHL deal once their entry-level contracts expire; if they can’t prove they’re worth keeping an eye on this season they may not get another chance.

8. Re-signing Mark Fistric. This is old news now, but a couple of weeks back Jim Matheson reported that the Oilers were interested in re-signing Mark Fistric at something close to his current rate (around $1.5 million per season) but that he wanted $2 million per year. He very well might get it, given the premium placed on size/physical game these days, but I’m not convinced the Oilers can afford that if he’s in the six/seven slot on their depth chart. It’s a good bet Fistric isn’t cracking the top-four, and if the Oilers are as bullish on improving their blue line/prospect Oscar Klefbom as they sound Fistric might even start in the seven slot if re-signed. If they’re going to re-sign him, they need to make room on the third pairing for him.

9. Should the Oilers look at Mikhail Grabovski? There has been some talk of the Maple Leafs centre as a buyout candidate after a miserable year, but I tend to agree with Lyle Richardson that it’s more likely Toronto will try to trade him while retaining a portion of his salary. Despite the poor season (Randy Carlyle didn’t help – Grabovski faced brutal opposition and started in his own end a ridiculous amount of the time) I see Grabovski as a very useful player with two problems. The first is that he’s small (5’11”, 183 pounds) and the second is that contract ($5.5 million cap hit for five years). But if Toronto’s willing to hang on to some money, he would be a fine replacement for Shawn Horcoff as a tough minutes centre. I don’t see him coming to Edmonton, but I do think some NHL team might get themselves a very good player at a reduced rate.

10. Do players without Cup rings belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? My answer to that question is Ray Bourque. He was one of the game’s most dominant defencemen for two decades in Boston, winning not only the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year but also five times being named the NHL’s best defenceman. He won the Stanley Cup in Colorado in the final season of his career, but was that really the difference between being in or being out of the Hall of Fame? I can’t see it. If anything, the HHOF places too great an emphasis on Cup wins – depth players that happened to play for a dynasty are in the HHOF now, and because they were never close to being elite talents they really don’t belong there.

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The shot above comes from the always excellent Graphic Comments, with a look at everything in the playoffs so far. I highly recommend reading the whole piece, or feel free check out some recent pieces here at Oilers Nation:

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Trading down is an option if the Oilers don’t get what I think they should be targeting, one of those 3 nice two-way centres projected to go between 4-7. If they go runner, runner, runner, the Oil will miss out on them at 7. Then you look at possibly making a deal for that pick.

    But if one of them are still available at 7, you must take him. This past year exposed the lack of quality and depth at the centre position. Addressing those holes start at the draft and hopefully they find somebody during free agency.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    From Bob Freemans view, this is what he can see the Oilers doing at the entry draft.

    1st pick- a pretty darn good Fireman

    2nd pick- Future City Police officer

    3rd Pick- Sports Lawyer

    4th pick- Future Dominos pizza franchise owner

    5th pick- Paramedic

    6th selection No fixed address available.

    …what a comedy!

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    That Bourque reference is solid.

    Another might be Hawerchuk. He doesn’t have the final season ring (lost to Det. in 4) so it maybe makes the decision more stark. But you’d be hard pressed to make a case that he doesn’t belong because he lacks a ring.

    I remember a co-worker years ago tried to tell me that Griffey Jr. wasn’t a truly “great” player because he’d never won the World Series.

    I labored for a while trying to explain the problems associated with “individual merit” in a “team sport”… and finally gave up with a sarcastic, “yeah, you’re right, he’s terrible”

    so it goes.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As unfortunate as it may be, this is probably very close to what our losing cultured Oilers will do. Trade down, only to secure an even higher risk product. Grab another goaltender because Roy, Perhonen and Bunz etc etc aren’t enough.

    Right from the getgo, this plan/lack of action plan has loser written all over it. Lets not move up and possibly get someone who’ll push out some deadwood and help right away, no, lets let all these existing contracts expire, or the players perish first.

    Lets all just hunker down in da corner here, and see what comes our way now. Lets not get off our duffs and actually make our own luck. Ready yourselves for more Lipstick on a pig, coming to an arena near you for the 2013-2014 season.

  • If they trade down I predict it will be along the same lines of Pouliot move.

    A second rounder for moving three spots.

    This will probably turn out just as bad if they do this move to take Lazar rather than Horvat or Domi.

    They won’t do it for third or fourth rounder because as Stu the not magnificent said in oil change when advising Tambo on trade “third or fourth doesn’t matter”

    Pretty much shows how flippantly they value those picks

    • John Chambers

      I dunno.

      Trading down to acquire a roster player who will have impact during the upcoming season seems to make sense – like if we flipped picks with Buffalo and got an established Dman as part of the package …

      But if the compensation for trading down is mid-draft picks, then walking away from quality just to obtain quantity is a poor strategy.

      Look at CLB – they were rumored to have been offered the Islanders’ entire draft (4th, 34th, 64th, etc) in exchange for the 2nd pick. Having lots of draft picks are nice, but not if it costs you a franchise player in return.

  • Citizen David

    Very nice read this morning. Statistically high drafted defencemen do not seem to be the dominate NHL superstars they are billed to be. Which is another reason I’m glad we took Nail. Everything about that kid is just great for the team.

    Also, I’m not sure who wrote it but someone put up a great article about how often deals involve trading down work out for the team trading down. If the Oilers are going to trade down, I hope they do it for more than just a third round pick, and are able to get an actual player sent back our way to help with size in the top six, or on defence.

    Too bad to hear Fistric might be pricing himself out of town as I thin most fans enjoy having a stay at home defender type who can lay some devastating hits without getting too far out of position. I miss Sutton.

  • JW,

    Suppose Oilers do trade down with their 7th pick. Is this done at the draft because Oilers want to see who is there or can they do it before hand?

    I would think they would do it at the draft , I’m sure they have a couple of players they would want at the 7th spot.

  • Wolverine_Oiler

    I’ve been reading this blog since it’s enception. And one thing that sticks out in my mind is the articles on draft round versus becoming an actual NHL player. First round blows away the competition in these articles. Especially top 10 players. So I think MacT will do the team a disservice if he does trade down or out of the first round. To me, the only way you trade out of 7 is if you get a roster player in return. Doubtful you’d get a first line playher at that pick but to pick up a big bodied 3rd or 4th line role player, something this team desperatly needs, then light is definitely green.