The First Pick of the Fourth Round

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The Oilers’ second pick at the 2014 NHL Draft – barring trades, which we’re doubtless going to see – will be at the very start of the fourth round. What kind of player might they be looking at there?

The Pick

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The 91st overall pick originally belonged to Buffalo, and was traded to Minnesota last year as part of the Wild’s acquisition of Jason Pominville:

  • To Minnesota: Jason Pominville, fourth round pick (No. 91, 2014).
  • To Buffalo: Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, first round pick (No. 16, 2013), second round pick (No. 49, 2014).

Edmonton got the pick when it traded goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to the Wild. The Wild had both the Sabres’ pick and their own (No. 109) and apparently Craig MacTavish was able to insist on getting the higher fourth round selection in the deal.

Note: Edmonton’s official website has this listed as the No. 94 pick, not the No. 91 selection. I’m not sure as to the reason and as best I can figure, No. 91 should be the correct number here, but presumably the team knows what picks it has. 

Craig’s List

Craig Button’s final list for the 2014 NHL Draft came out on Tuesday, and it gives us a pretty good idea of the kind of player the Oilers might be able to land with that fourth round pick. I’ll be looking at a half-dozen players Button has ranked from 86-100 to illustrate the kind of talent available.

No. 86 Daniel Audette. The 5’8”, 177 pound Daniel is the son of 5’8”, 192 pound Donald Audette, who put up 509 points in 735 career NHL games. The younger Audette is a centre who NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr describes thusly:

“He’s a skilled offensive player with good awareness and smarts distributing the puck. He’s poised and clever and can create scoring chances; he’s quick to take advantage of opportunities. He’s got a very good shot, and is able to handle himself well in battles and can skate the puck through traffic.

Audette had 76 points in 68 games in the QMJHL this season; nobody else on his team had more than 44.

No. 88 Hunter Smith. Listed at 6’7”, 208 pounds, Smith had a breakthrough year in the OHL, jumping from one assist in 30 games up to 40 points in 64 contests this season. He’s technically an overage player (his birthday is September 11, 1995, meaning he was just barely eligible for the 2013 Draft) but understandably he was passed over last summer. In an interview with Yahoo! he showed a pretty good understanding of what he needs to do:

At 6’ 7”, I’m going to have to own the front of the net. That’s got to be my office… Speed, quickness, will be the main things I focus on for the next 3-4 years. That’s going to make or break me on whether I can jump to the next level. Strength will come. I am 18 years old. By the time I’m 22, I’m going to be pretty strong but it depends on how quick I’ll be.

No. 89 Connor Chatham. I’ll just quote the excellent OHL Prospects blog here:

Chatham… had only 5 goals in his first 33 games. The physical component to his game was there during that time, but he looked timid offensively and was not very effective with the puck. He slowly improved over the season though and as his confidence blossomed, so did his offensive contribution. In the final 26 games of the year (including playoffs), Chatham had 11 goals, and 10 assists. He used his size (6’3, 225lbs) to drive the net hard and became a very effective offensive player off the rush because he’s also a solid skater for a big man. The only negative thing for me is that as he got better offensively, I found him to be less engaged physically. Like any power forward prospect, he’ll need to find a way to use his size and tenacity away from the puck to fuel his offensive game with more consistency

Chatham finished the year with 31 points in 54 games after being wooed into abandoning his commitment to the University of Denver.

No. 90 Lucas Wallmark. Like Smith, Wallmark is technically an overage player (September 5, 1995 birthday) but this year he impressed at the World Juniors (eight points in seven games) and managed 10 points in 41 games playing against men in the Swedish Hockey League, which is excellent production for a player his age. The Elite Prospects scouting report makes him sound like a born Red Wing – great brains, vision, defence and faceoff ability – but it also notes subpar skating.

No. 91 Pavel Jenys. The 6’3”, 192 pound Jenys has a projectable frame and scored 0.50 goals per game at the U-20 level in the Czech Republic last season (he scored just twice in 29 games at the senior level). Elite Prospects describes a player with a hard shot who likes going to the tough areas of the ice but whose effort level flags from game to game.

No. 99 Nikita Lyamkin. The Russian defenceman has a projectable frame (6’4”) but hasn’t come close to filling it out yet (175 pounds). He came over to the QMJHL to play for Chicoutimi this season – despite not speaking a word of French or English – and has been taking language classes to get caught up. He was a point-per-game defender for Russia at the U-18’s. Sportsnet provided the following scouting report last October:

[H]e is a smart, physical defender who keeps it simple with the puck and simply wins battles in his own end. A tournament all-star at last year’s under-17s, the Russian projects as a rock-solid shutdown defender who can put up big minutes. He’ll likely never be a big point producer, but he is a good skater and teams can never have too many quality defencemen.

There are a pile of guys I’ve skipped over – physically gifted prospects playing high school hockey, sons of NHL’ers putting up lousy numbers, unremarkable scorers in major junior – but I think the list is basically what we’d expect: potentially useful players with significant warts.

There’s no point in evaluating how a player fits with team need this far down in the draft – the only sensible course of action is to grab the guy with the best shot of making it to the NHL because the majority of the players here won’t.

From the basic numbers we have, that guy is probably either Audette or Wallmark. Audette’s father made it at the same size and the son seems to have been the one and only offensive option on his team – and to have delivered remarkable numbers in that role. Wallmark, meanwhile, survived in a very tough SHL at a very young age, and posted pretty solid scoring numbers there; his skating is something to worry about but a two-way forward with that kind of offence in that league at that age seems awfully impressive.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS