If your favorite NHL team drafted a defenseman in the second round for ten seasons in a row, would they graduate three of them? Two? The dice have no memory, but Scott Cullen’s work at TSN suggests there is a 28% chance a second round selection plays 100 or more NHL games. The Edmonton Oilers have devoted a lot of selections to defensemen in the top 100 picks since 2010. The odds are some are going to develop, right?
In one of the first episodes of Oil Change, Stu MacGregor is fretting over the team’s lack of defensemen in the system. In a scene where they are discussing the 31st overall selection (forward Tyler Pitlick would eventually be chosen) MacGregor is recorded as saying they have to draft a defensemen high in the draft. The team would trade the rights for Riley Nash for the No. 46 overall selection, and that would set off an incredible run on defensemen inside the top 100 overall in the next several drafts.
- 2010 No. 46 Martin Marincin
- 2010 No. 91 Jeremie Blain
- 2011 No. 19 Oscar Klefbom
- 2011 No. 31 David Musil
- 2011 No. 92 Dillon Simpson
That’s a very large group of picks devoted to defensemen over a short period of time. There’s one pick in the first round, two in the second and then a couple of men taken in the 90’s. Five picks inside two seasons, clearly an attempt to upgrade an area of need.
We can all agree that ‘best player available’ is the right call, but if a team is in dire need at a position, especially defense, then adding a large group from one position is the quickest way to add balance to the prospect cupboard. Edmonton did it, and as it turns out four of the five names above played well enough to earn a pro contract from the Oilers (Jeremie Blain would sign with the Canucks).
The Oilers have a group of emerging blueliners in Marincin, Klefbom and others. They also spent a very high pick in 2013 on Darnell Nurse. They are quickly reaching the point where they can’t possibly employ the number of defensemen who look like they’ll develop into NHL players. Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry were joined by Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom at times last season during the NHL schedule, and Nurse could make the team this fall.
If and when Simpson, Musil and lower picks like Martin Gernat and Brandon Davidson develop? The Oilers will have a surplus, and will be able to deal from strength to address weakness for the first time in a long while.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It’s possible the tipping point comes this fall. If Darnell Nurse plays well enough to make the team, Edmonton’s depth chart will contain nine defensemen for seven spots:
- Mark Fayne
- Jeff Petry
- Martin Marincin
- Justin Schultz
- Nikita Nikitin
- Andrew Ference
- Oscar Klefbom
- Keith Aulie
- Darnell Nurse
The Oilers could send down Marincin and Klefbom without a waiver worry; they could trade Jeff Petry or risk waivers on Aulie. Either way, the beginning of the end is here for someone on the professional blue depth chart, they can’t all be Oilers.
Who goes? Who knows? We can probably start having the conversation now.