The Edmonton Oilers have a lot of picks at this summer’s draft. General manager Craig MacTavish should be aggressively shopping them.
There’s something really important to remember about draft picks. With the exception of what is likely to be the Oilers’ third overall selection, most of those picks are looking at three-to-five years of development before they can really be counted on.
In other words, if the Oilers principle goal is to turn the team around before 2020, none of these picks are going to help the team much in pursuit of that goal. At least, that is, if the team opts to keep them.
Timelines and Values
The Oilers own Pittsburgh’s first-round pick, which as of this writing is likely to be in the 22nd overall range. If we look at a five-player window (the two players taken before, the player taken at and the two players taken after) around that pick, how quickly do they tend to make the NHL?
- 2014 Draft: 0/5 in the NHL today (though 25th overall pick David Pastrnak has shockingly made the jump for Boston, becoming the first player from outside the top-three of the 2014 Draft to play major-league games).
- 2013 Draft: 1/5 in the NHL today. Emile Poirier is enjoying a cameo with Calgary, while Andre Burakovsky is down in the AHL after spending most of the year with Washington.
- 2012 Draft: 1/5 in the NHL today. Olli Maatta counts for our purposes, even though he’s on the injured list at the moment. Scott Laughton is in the minors after 30 games in Philly; Malcolm Subban got a one-game cameo with Boston.
- 2011 Draft: 2/5 in the NHL today. Connor Murphy is a third-pairing defenceman in Arizona, while Matt Puempel is 11 games into his career with Ottawa. Joe Morrow is back in the minors after filling in on the Boston blue line.
- 2010 Draft: 3/5 in the NHL today. Riley Sheahan is contributing as a regular in Detroit, Kevin Hayes is finding his way as a rookie in New York and Beau Bennett is playing depth minutes in Pittsburgh. Jarred Tinordi and Mark Pysyk both had NHL cameos but have spent the bulk of their time in the AHL.
- 2009 Draft: 5/5 in the NHL today. Marcus Johansson headlines a lackluster group that includes Jacob Josefosson, John Moore, Jordan Schroeder and Tim Erixon.
Meanwhile, picks in that range have been used as ammunition to acquire any number of legitimate NHL players. The best use of a pick in that area in trade was probably by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010; they shipped it to a cap-strapped Chicago team as part of a package that brought in Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien would play 23 minutes per game as a top-pairing defenceman in Atlanta the next year and while there have been some ups and downs along the way he’s still playing 23 minutes per game mostly as a defenceman for that same franchise.
What about the team’s second round selection (as of today 33rd overall)?
- 2014 Draft: 0/5 in the NHL today.
- 2013 Draft: 1/5 in the NHL today. Jacob de la Rose is playing depth minutes in Montreal after spending the bulk of the season in the AHL; he’s the only second-round pick from 2013 in the league today.
- 2012 Draft: 0/5 in the NHL today.
- 2011 Draft: 1/5 in the NHL today. Tomas Jurco is a nice depth piece in Detroit. Meanwhile Ty Rattie, Rocco Grimaldi and Scott Mayfield have all had NHL cameos at some point.
- 2010 Draft: 1/5 in the NHL today. Believe it or not, the only one of these picks with any NHL games played is Tyler Pitlick, presently on injured reserve in Edmonton.
- 2009 Draft: 2/5 in the NHL today. Ryan O’Reilly has been great for Colorado, while Kyle Clifford is a useful depth piece in L.A. Mikko Koskinen, Landon Ferraro and Carl Klingberg have all had NHL cameos at some point.
Picks at this point in the draft are generally traded for other picks, but sometimes there is a player involved. As an example, the Hurricanes used a pick in this range as a sweetener in a trade that saw Jamie McBain dealt to Buffalo in exchange for Andrej Sekera. Sekera played just under 24 minutes per game and scored 44 points in his first season in Carolina. The next year he played just under 23 minutes per game until he was dealt to L.A. at the trade deadline for a first round pick and prospect Roland McKeown.
The Obvious Choice
Craig MacTavish likes to talk about how real players have the most value at the trade deadline, while draft picks tend to have the most value on draft day. He’s right. We could even go a step further and argue that draft picks tend to be the most overvalued on draft day.
It’s not that teams don’t suffer when they trade away draft picks; they absolutely do. The draft is essential, because it keeps a steady stream of good, cheap, young players coming up through the system. But it needs to be kept in its proper place. A team stockpiling a lot of picks, such as Edmonton did in 2010, is building for five years down the road rather than the present.
MacTavish and the Oilers have an awfully impressive stockpile of selections at the moment, a stockpile which includes six definite picks in the first three rounds of the 2015 Draft and might end up including seven (depending on Montreal’s postseason fortunes. If those picks are all kept, the Oilers can probably look forward to having a pretty nice crop of young NHL’ers in 2020, just as they have Taylor Hall and Martin Marincin and Tyler Pitlick now thanks to the team’s work in 2010. But the problem is that the current young NHL core isn’t likely to survive to 2020 unless it is bolstered by immediate help.
Edmonton could trade three of its six early selections and still have a better-than-average collection of picks at the draft thanks to its decidedly better-than-average position in the draft order. If the Oilers want to be very conservative, they could settle for trading two of those six selections.
But there should be absolutely no doubt that Edmonton should trade some of them, with the list probably including that first-round pick which came over from Pittsburgh. The Oilers’ rebuild needs NHL help right now much more than it needs a bumper crop of NHL help in 2020. An aggressive course of action which sees the team move some of those early picks for this year’s versions of Byfuglien and Sekera is absolutely the course it should pursue.