When TSN’s Bob McKenzie releases his annual top-75 final draft ranking list, hockey nerds tend to jump around like Steve Martin in The Jerk when the new phone books arrived. With good reason. I’m no different.

Year in and year out, I’m not sure anybody has had a better handle on how each graduating class for the NHL Entry Draft stacks up than McKenzie has, even with all the competing lists out there from various scouting agencies.

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There’s no doubt or drama about the Edmonton Oilers taking Connor McDavid, who topped McKenzie’s pre-season, mid-season and final rankings released today, first overall, but there’s plenty of question who the Oilers might take with the 16th and 33rd picks, should GM Pete Chiarelli keep them. I think Chiarelli will try to move both – more on that later.

All told, the Oilers going into proceedings in Sunrise, Florida with seven picks in the first four rounds and 10 picks overall, so Chiarelli has lots of options. I’d like to focus on the 16th and 33rd picks.



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Here’s three candidates that make sense for the Oilers with the 16th pick and where they rate on McKenzie’s list. McKenzie’s top-75 can be found in its entirety here.

  • 17: Nick Merkley, C/RW Kelowna Rockets. More on him here.

  • 19: Ilya Samsonov, G, Magnitogorsk. More on Samsonov here.
  • 20: Paul Bittner, LW, Portland Winterhawks. His page is here.

MY PICK: At six-foot-four and 195 pounds or so, Bittner has size and nice numbers for a “power forward,” but what really puts him right in Chiarelli’s wheelhouse is he plays with plenty of edge. Bittner possesses the size, grit and skill Chiarelli has talked about as traits he values.



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  • 30. Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George Cougars. More here.
  • 31. Jacob Larsson, D, Frolunda SWE. His page is here
  • 35. Mackenzie Blackwood, G, Barrie Colts. His page is here

MY PICK: Harkins is ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting, 25th by ISS and 30th by McKenzie. Simply put, the six-foot-one, 180-pound pivot would be a great get at 33. Projected as a “two-way” centre, Harkins scored 20-59-79 with the Cougars this season. TSN’s Craig Button calls him “tenacious,” which, again, will have Chiarelli asking his scouts about him.



Chiarelli has said he’d be willing to move some of his draft picks if he can get back a young player who can help him now. With the Oilers needing help in goal and on the blue line, that tells me the 16th and 33rd picks will be in play because they, likely as part of a package, will bring the most.

Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now suggested today the 16th pick and a secondary prospect might land a defenseman. He also speculated Chiarelli might shop for a goaltender with the 33rd pick and a later-round pick, saying he could see two of the seven picks the Oilers have in the first four rounds in play.

That’s been discussed and written about here and discussed at length by Jason Gregor at TSN 1260, so it’s not new, but it is worth keeping in mind because Chiarelli has made it clear he’s willing to listen to offers.



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No surprise to see Craig Ramsay and Keith Acton shown the door because they were hires of the Craig MacTavish-Dallas Eakins regime and that’s a sorry span of time best moved on from.

That aside, it’s a welcome return to convention that the new head coach, Todd McLellan, gets to pick his own coaching staff. That’s how it should be. Jonathan Willis touched on this earlier today, so I won’t go on too much about it, but with McLellan and Todd Nelson talking, my gut says we’ll see Nelson back in the fold beside McLellan and Jay Woodcroft.


Dallas 2003 023

Time flies and a lot of younger Oiler fans likely don’t remember him, but I want to say a few words about former Oiler fitness consultant and strength and conditioning coach Daryl Duke, who passed away Wednesday after a long and courageous bout with cancer. That’s Daryl, on the left, in a photo with Gary Goulet taken at the Ballpark at Arlington in Texas.

Daryl is one of the first people I met when I arrived in Edmonton in 1989 and I got to know him well as I was handed the boxing beat upon starting at The Journal and Duke owned the Panther Gym, the epi-centre for the fight game in this town. Spent a lot of time in that joint with him.

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Daryl, a former champion kickboxer, was always the toughest guy in the room, even though he only weighed about a buck-sixty, but proving who he could whip – everybody– wasn’t his thing. He was also the nicest guy in the room in a sport where posing and bravado is more common.

He never once changed in all the years I knew him, including after he got his gig with the Oilers. Daryl never got a big head, never thought he was a big deal – even after he KO’d Georges Laraque, who outweighed him by about 100 pounds, in a dressing room sparring session.  

When my brother-in-law Arman got cancer four years ago, Daryl helped me contact Dr. Tony Fields, an expert in the field at the Cross Cancer Institute. Daryl, fighting his own battle with cancer for years on end at that point, told me, “Don’t give up hope. Never give up hope.” I’ll never forget how he comforted me.

Daryl Duke was a kind, wonderful man who made a positive impact on everybody he met, including the countless young players who worked with him during his time with the team. He was loved. He is missed.

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Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Kurri_Flavor

    Why wouldn’t you take samsonov with the 16th or trade down a little to do that. I think it’s time we have a grade a goalie prospect in the system. I’m guessing he’s about 5 years away (hopefull) from being a starter. Regardless of who we sign now we’ll need another goaltender by then if not goaltenders aren’t necessarily difficult to trade especially with so much potential.

  • justDOit

    Daryl never got a big head, never thought he was a big deal – even after he KO’d Georges Laraque, who outweighed him by about 100 pounds, in a dressing sparring session.

    Was this on skates?

  • Kurri_Flavor

    RB, what do you think Todd Nelson’s role will be, knowing that Jay Woodcroft was the forwards coach with McLellan in San Jose?

    Great write up about Daryl Duke, a wonderful role model for many in the boxing community.

  • YakCity1039

    Samsonov at 16, Jacob Larsson at 33. Gotta get “the consensus number 1 goalie in the draft” as stated by Bob McKenzie. We needed that franchise goalie, here he is: Ilya Samsonov

  • Kevwan

    From what I’ve read about Bittner the concern is that playing with Petan and Bjorkstrand has skewed his offensive numbers. I’ve also seen contradictory reports about his physical play. Definitely has the size and everyone agrees that he’s a good skater.

    After watching Leon at the Memorial Cup I kind of like Merkley’s game. i wouldn’t complain about Chabot, Zbroril, or Jeremy Roy at 16 either. I think I’d take a Dman at either 16 or 33.

    If Samsonov is still around at 33 I’d grab him. Gabriel Carlsson inrtigues me there as well.

    I fully expect one of these 2 picks traded for a vet D or can see the Oilers move up or down as well.

    No one ever says anything bad about Daryl Duke – only the good die young.

    • oiler_head

      Now I am biased toward the Winterhawks kids having met some of them. We also get some pretty close access to these kids in this small hockey community in Portland.

      I have seen Bittner play. He plays physical and skilled. I’d liken him to a Wayne Simmonds type player. He has played behind some pretty excellent players in previous years like Liepsic, Baerschti, et al. In fact, the same goes for Petan and Bjrokstrand. So this year he is playing on the top line and excelling.

      Having said all that, he disappeared in the 2nd round playoffs.

      I’d still want the Oilers to take him, but I’m biased. I also want them to take Aiden Hill (G) and trade for Sven, Nino, and Pouliot.

  • O.C.

    I’m starting to not want to trade the picks any more. There’s just SOOO much talent. I would be thrilled to walk away with Crouse or Bittner at 16. And at 33 there’s so much to choose from. Maybe Samsonov or Harkins is available. Sprong, or I really like that Brandon Carlo Defenceman.

    Man oh man, I’m not sure you can get fair value in a trade. There’s just so much to like about this draft class. We could walk away with 3 amazing players

    • YakCity1039

      Been saying it for so long now nobody seems to understand, if we want to get defenseman and a starting goalie, use picks in 2016 and beyond as well as current prospects like Khaira, Musil, Gernat, etc. This draft is too strong and too deep to be trading picks away. This draft is going to set us up for the next decade and beyond.

  • Butters

    Nick Merkley, too small not enough speed for the NHL at that height like

    Samson still with the KHL did not come for the combine.

    Bittner- plays with superstars Bjorkstrand and Petan. Just not that good
    Especially at #16.

    The answer: Jakub Zboril- great shot great skating and physical

    • Butters


      If the Oilers take Merkly at #16 i would not be disappointed. As i watched him in the Memorial Cup my instincts kept saying “Eberle 2.0”. He is already the same size that Eberle is now, and with those feet and hands, he could stickhandle past 2 guys in a phone booth; there is the added benefit that he is willing to go to the dirty areas, unlike Eberle. When he is ready for the NHL in 2-3 years, it will be right around the same time the Oilers will be needing to clear some cap space for McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, etc. and Eberle’s $6 million would likely be the first to go.

      That being said, i would prefer to see the #16 packaged for good size and skill in a mid-20 year old D with reasonable salary and term…someone like a Larsson from NJ.

  • O.C.

    I like the idea of taking a “franchise” goalie, I just question taking one at #16.

    I would take Chabot at 16, and Samsonov at #33.

    This starts to fill in the holes in the line up.

    I do like GM PC inquiring about Gibsons, what about Andrei Vasilevsky of the Lightning? If the Lightning are sticking with Bishop, Vasilevsky may be available.

    • Butters

      I’ve been asking these guys about Vasilevsky for weeks now and no one ever answers me! Bishops 28, he’s got alot of years left. Would tampa hold onto vaselivsky or use him to get help in other areas? I would much rather trade the 16 for vaselivsky than use it to pick Samsonov.

  • Butters

    I like Harkins as well. I have seen him play since he was bantam age. Great kid, hard worker.

    I would not expect him to be available past #23, as the Canucks are high on this young man.

    Arizona – I expect they can get Hanifan at #3, and Colin White with their next 1st round pick. That will give them a potential stud Dman, and a good 2 way center with their second pick. The question is who do they pick with their #32 pick? Do they pick Samsonov?

    Would Buffalo pick Samsonov with #31? Or do they continue to build their forward depth?


      For the reasons you have stated, I believe the Oilers should be drafting Samsonov at#16 and Kylington at #33. This would, potentially, give the Oilers #1 C, a #1 G and a #1 D all from the same draft.

      Failing this approach, use the #16 for Samsonov and trade Yakupov and the #33 plus a prospect for a pick higher than #10 in order to acquire one of the top 3 D Men.

  • O.C.

    Aw $hit. Daryl Duke was a good one.

    Thanks Robin, pass along warm regards from here…

    I’ll lift a glass for him tonight. I’m certain all will here actually…

  • O.C.


    Bad picks for #16. Even if you wanted F those picks of your are wrong.

    Colin White or Evgeny Svechnikov.

    And the goalie didn’t even come to the combine and is under contract by the KHL.

  • O.C.

    Craig Buttons.

    Grant McCagg of McKeen’s Hockey

    “Button’s list has nothing to do with can like it because it is completely wrong if you like and has your home boy way higher than he will go…it is not the list of a “scout” is the list of a blindfolded dart thrower. He was a poor scout in Dallas and he was even worse in Calgary. He got to scout about 30 junior games this season..he has no clue who is good and who sucks..which is quite apparent by his list.”

    • Zarny

      Finally… Why all of a sudden are people starting to take Button seriously? Whether regarding drafts or even teams and players, I find Button is normally way off. And I have for years.

  • O.C.

    I still try and get a legit top 2 D for the 16th and 33rd pick + prospects. It’s time we start winning. Can’t be on a rebuild mode for another 5 yrs. Experts kept saying its a deep draft, we should get plenty on return.

    • Randaman

      Sounds interesting for the right piece;

      #16 & #33 + a “b” prospect to Chicago for Seabrook.

      Add a fourth rounder with condition that he will sign an extension.

      6 years / 45 Million

      Term is HUGE here. Any more than 6 years is not worth the risk and under 6 may not get it done with Seabrook, who knows?

      When you wish upon a star…

  • Kevwan

    How about building something around #16 + Yak to Buffalo for Bogosian + #31 (or Buffalo’s other first round pick,; i can’t recall offhand which one it is). Feel free to add/substitute at will.

    Buffalo is stacked with young D but needs top 6 wingers.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Tim Murray is a slimmy weasel. He acts like he is 5 years old. I wonder if eichel will pull a Lindros. I hope he does because Tim Murray is an a$$. His attitude is pathetic and he should be ashamed. He never even bothered to interview McDavid and he commented on some things Eichel said during his “confidential” interview with the Sabres.

    Some things stay between players and management. What a joke he is. Sorry for going off topic, just had to get it off my chest.

    Yet Mcdavid stays classy, draft the man!


    no trades. that’s loco.

    Hamilton is what we need. big. solid 40 points. and young

    we don’t need 3 picks. we have stock piled enough.

    time to win is now or never

    petry got 5.5 million. so NHL D is now expensive.

    Quality cost BIG

    tired of hearing we need Weber.

    Hamilton is the Guy we need. look what Pronger did 2006

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Help me understand this…the fans want a first pairing defenceman and are willing to pay 22-year old Hamilton or 31 year old Seabrook $7/8 million + give away whatever assets it may take to acquire them.
    Bogosian is a right shot top pair defenseman who was drafted 3rd overall behind Stamkos and Doughty; he will turn 25 in July and is 6’3″, 225 lbs. with 5 years left on his contract at a cap hit of ~$5.1 million. Yet when i suggest trying to trade for him, crickets.

    Anyone ???

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Fair question, to which i reply why would Boston or Chicago be willing to trade (or walk away from an offer sheet for) one of their best 2 defensemen ?

        They can make their cap situation work if they must, so i don’t accept that answer.

        Could it be that they might be willing to part with someone in an area of surplus strength in return for quality in an area of need ?

        • Quicksilver ballet

          The reason the Hawks and Bruins are considering such a move is purely for cap/ financial reasons. The Sabres are closer to the floor than they are the ceiling.

          The Bruins and the Sabres missed the post season. I’d have a hard time thinking they feel they can subtract from a perceived area of strength to add to a position of weakness. Both clubs are dealing with multiple areas of weakness.

          I don’t claim to know what will happen during the coming silly season, but I don’t feel the Sabres will lose anyone due to financial reasons. Bogosian was no throw in on the Evander Kane deal.

    • Kevwan

      I think your original post said Yak + 16 for Bogosian and a 2nd (#31) or a late first. Overpay IMO.

      I don’t want to trade Yak at least until he has a chance to play a full season for a real coach (and with a real C). I think he’ll be worth way more next summer.

      I like Bogosian but he is a young veteran and Buffalo probably wants to keep him. They have no cap issues.

      I’d love for the Oilers to get their hands on #31. I think after the first round Chiarelli could pry a vet D out of that pick by Saturday morning. Someone will fall that someone wants.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Some things never change… Sell the farm! Trade up from the 16th and get Provorov. Then grab Samsonov with the 33rd if he’s still available. Chiarelli will soon fix the Oilers goal problem in the coming weeks by trading for both Talbot and Jones, combined together, they’ll make less than what Scrivens makes. Dump Ben and let these 2 kids battle for the crease. Put the money in a top pairing D.

    Daryl Duke, a guy who lived life the way it was meant to be lived. He did everything by the book. If the Duke couldn’t make it, what chance do the rest of us have? Enjoy each day. Tommorow is promised to no one.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Bogosian is a good Dman, not sure he is a Top pair Defenceman on any team but the Oilers or Sabres. He would certainly be an improvement, but he is not worth #16ov.

    If you got him as part of a package, then do it.

    GK1980 – I agree Tim Murray, should know better than to brag to the media, what a prospect says in a confidential meeting. That is twice he has dissed Eichel. Perhaps the Sabres need someone else to talk to the media.


    You are so right about Mackenzie’s list. My buddy Darcy and I get a huge bottle of quality rum on draft day, bring all the lists, debate discuss, celebrate and commiserate while watching every pick. Mackenzie’s list is ALWAYS the best predictor because it comes from prime, anonymous NHL scouts. One tip off is that his list realistically rates the European prospects because the other scouting services see very little of them and only know the big names or the ones they see at the World Juniors.

    Soon after I got up this morning I jumped for joy and added Mackenzie’s list to our draft package. We all know the Oilers’ needs and I am not going to pretend I know exactly what can be obtained with the picks by trades or who the Oil should pick. I have noticed over the years that the goalies and the Russians almost always go later than the ratings suggest for fairly obvious reasons. Goalie development is very hard to predict and you never know whether the Russians will come, adjust and stay, which is why you can get pretty decent prospects late in the third round, like Yakimov and Slepyshev.

    So the 33rd pick could well go for Samasanov or for Talbot, Lehner, Gibson, Jones etc., possibly with a throw-in. Beyond that, who knows? It is exciting to think we have some really smart and experienced guys, led by Chiarelli, making the trade, draft and UFA decision this time. Three weeks from today McDavid will take the walk of pride and slip on his Oiler jersey. May he never wear another unless it says Team Canada.

    By the way that was a beautiful and moving tribute to Darryl Duke, whom I never met, but always admired from afar.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    At #16 I would choose a RW . Doubt Rantanen will be there , so I go to T.Meire -6 ft.1in.-209 , E.Svechnikov-6ft.1in.-180 , or D,Gurianov – 6ft.3in-192 . Would like @33 – one of the above or G.Carlsson 6ft.4in.-183 (D) ,M , Tomak (G). At 57th would like J.Greenway (LW) 6ft. 4.5in- 222 .