What happens if Aaron Ekblad falls to the Oilers?

Ekblad

The Edmonton Oilers don’t really need defensive prospects – the organizational cupboard is loaded there. But if Aaron Ekblad, a potential franchise defenceman, falls to the team in the No. 3 slot at this summer’s draft, it’s going to be awfully hard for the club to pick somebody else.

How would the addition of Ekblad impact the rest of Edmonton’s summer planning?

Ekblad + the Current NHL Depth Chart

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The Oilers have five defencemen we can be reasonably confident will return for next season. Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry are the only locks on the right side, while on the left side Andrew Ference, Martin Marincin and probably Oscar Klefbom (over Darnell Nurse) are tagged for NHL jobs.

Ekblad, variably listed at 6’3” or 6’4” and over 210 pounds, is a do-everything defenceman with a right-handed shot who plays on the right side, so there probably isn’t a lot of concern about him being physically ready for NHL duty and there’s a natural home for him on the starboard half of the third pairing if he makes the jump immediately.

There’s an awful lot of green in that mix, though: three guys with less than a full season of experience, plus Schultz, plus Petry. Presumably Petry and Marincin would be reunited, after which the Oilers would have the option of going with a veteran (Ference/Schultz) and a rookie (Klefbom/Ekblad) pairing or splitting the two (Ference with Ekblad, Schultz with Klefbom).

None of that says ‘playoff calibre defence,’ which is why the GM might look at another option. 

Delay?

Craig MacTavish9

If the Oilers draft Ekblad, they’re looking at adding a minimum of four rookie defencemen in a span of two-to-three seasons: Ekblad, Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin and whoever sneaks through from a pretty good group of second-tier prospects (Dillon Simpson, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Brandon Davidson).

Delaying Ekblad for a season is a possibility that doesn’t help much in that regard; it would just mean the Oilers breaking in Nurse and Ekblad together in 2015-16.

When Craig MacTavish said “if we have to go young, we go young” with respect to the defence corps he was being pressured by two realities – the first (widely acknowledged) that it’s difficult to add impact defencemen and the second (less so) that at some point the Oilers are going to absorb the NHL learning curve of a lot of young defenders.

The longer those players get to develop outside the NHL, the less stressful that learning curve is going to be, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario (other than collapse on the part of the players) where Ekblad/Nurse are held outside the NHL longer than 2015-16.

Pushed Out

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It already seems entirely plausible that at some point in the not too distant future, one of the Oilers’ young up-and-coming defencemen will be cashed in for immediate help. The addition of Ekblad would make that even more likely (as would a trade of the No. 3 pick for someone like Griffin Reinhart).

Who would go? Probably the low man on the draft pedigree totem pole. Marincin consistently lags behind Klefbom in the public comments made by the general manager, and presumably he falls well below not only the Swedish rookie but also back of Nurse and Ekblad, our hypothetical addition.

Marincin’s already presumably in significant danger, as he’s competing with Nurse and Klefbom for a job on the left side of the defence. The addition of another young defenceman would probably seal his fate, as it would exacerbate Edmonton’s need to simultaneously acquire and clear a spot for a veteran, two moves that a Marincin trade could bring about in one transaction. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    We are in a nice place, the first three picks appear to be equal in talent. The good news is we need help at centre and defence.

    I worry about Ekbald a bit, he is basically a man (6-3, 210 lbs) playing against young 16-17-18 boys. This size advantage is huge in the CHL (think Phaneuf) and not as much in the NHL (think Phaneuf).

    After RNH (who is still a prospect) who is our best prospect at center???

    • crabman

      Ekblad entered the OHL as a 15 year old through the exceptional player rule. This doesn’t happen often, so that says a lot about the player right there. He plays much more mature than the average 17 year old and supposedly has a very high hockey IQ so I think he will make the adjustment to the NHL fairly well. As for the comparison to Phaneuf, Phaneuf is built like the perfect D man, he is big and strong, he can skate and has a mean streak and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. Unfortunately for him and the Maple Leafs he is an idiot and makes bad decisions.

  • Britts94

    I fail to see how an 18 year old power play specialist Dman would help the oilers. Especially when you consider the high percentage of top rated dman who fail to live up to expectation. Bennet to me is the obvious choice, but then again I’d be trying to win sooner than 5 years from now.

  • Oilergasm

    If Ekblad falls to the Oil, maybe convert Justin Schultz to a winger. Bigger body in the top 6 with a scoring touch.

    Sign an experienced D to help out. There seem to be many 3-4-5 types available via free agency. (Meszaros, Klesla, Niskanen, Orpik, Quincey and Greene)

    That opens up the potential to move out some bodies in the top 6 for some size (Michalek, Moulson, Callahan, Kulemin)and a better 2C.

    Everyone questions which of our top pick do we trade? Why not offer up Perron, his stock will never be higher and he is a prime candidate to be the whipping boy.

    Move out Perron and Gagner for some high end 3rd liners or a big 2C. Would you rather have an undersized inefficient 2nd line that can’t win any battles, play defense or win faceoffs and no 3rd line, or a good or great 3rd line and size on the 2nd line?

  • Oilergasm

    I think you are asking the wrong question JW. Florida will take Ekblad for sure, as he is not only the BPA, but they took Barkov instead of Seth Jones last year and likely won’t make the same move this year.

    The question should be: what would it take from the Oilers to pry Gudbranson out of Florida? If Dale Tallon asks for Eberle + Klefbom, should they pull the trigger? Hummm. It seems to me that if Florida indeed takes Ekblad, they are the perfect partner to make a “bold move”.

  • #ThereGoesTheOilers

    Too many Oiler fans under value Oilers and over value players from other teams Ganger is a proven top 6 NHL centre. All stats but FO% proves it. Petry was our best Dman last year bar none. Legit 2nd pairing but had to play out of order as no one else could handle the mins. Every team but 2 (CHI & STL) is looking to improve D including top pair. These top pairing Dmen are drafted & developed for the most part. Some (Suter) sign as UFA’s. rare is one traded. And when they are, it’s not for much. Eg. Pronger was twic traded in his prime for b prospects & draft picks. A third time for failed 1st rounder & more picks.

    Can’t ruin future for present. How has that worked for Leafs These past 47 years?

  • Neilio

    If Bennet and Draisaitl are both gone then yes, the oil should take Ekblad based on organizational need. We need a solid #1/2 center more than another defensive prospect.
    Also, there have been many articles in the recent past suggesting that really good D men aren’t always taken high in the draft. There is no guarantee that Ekblad is going to be as good as advertised, it is possible his draft stock is inflated due to him being a man playing against boys.

  • Rick Stroppel

    IF Ekblad falls to the Oilers?

    You pick him…………..end of article.

    BPA, addressing huge need, and the one person that CALGARY MUST NOT GET…………….

  • Rdubb

    WOW, where did the following come from; “Who would go? Probably the low man on the draft pedigree totem pole. Marincin consistently lags behind Klefbom in the public comments made by the general manager, and presumably he falls well below not only the Swedish rookie but also back of Nurse and Ekblad, our hypothetical addition.”
    I have never heard MacT say anything but good things about MM, not too mention any comparisons between the two…
    Should you recall these, can
    you please send me either the audio link or the printed link

  • Rdubb

    I just don’t see a downside to Drafting Ekblad. At the moment the Oilers are looking at Marincin, Klefbomb, and Nurse to learn the game in short order and help out the back end. I would say Ekblad is an upgrade on at least one of those guys, and they all have great value right now.

    So worst case scenario is we have a better defensive prospect pool, and are able to use one prospect as a big trade chip to either bring in a veteran D to help the development curve of the young guys until they can take over, or get help elsewhere in the line up.

  • HockeyYoda

    If Ekblad falls to number 3. You get down on your knees, grasp your hands and say thank you Lord!
    I’ve gathered two things from your piece. 1. You under value Ekblad in a big way. 2. You somehow over value your existing D.

    If you guys are going to come back with 5 of your existing D next year as you say, you should vomit now. Yes you have a couple of D prospects with potential in Klefbomb and Nurse. But the Oil are far from a legit D core. It seems some of you think this Marincin guy is a stud D man. I can’t count how many times I’ve caught him watching no one in particular or making a bad pass. He needs more time in the minors.
    Ekblad easily walks right into a top four role on most teams in the league. On the Oilers, he’d probably be on your top two as is stands now. Ekblad doesn’t dominate junior just because he’s big as you suggest. His on ice intensity, and desire to be the best is comparible to elite players only.

    You dont need to debate if you take him at 3. What you should be doing is finding out how to make sure you draft him.