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.


    why would anyone trade with the Oilers. Team is so stacked.

    we don’t want to give away talent, and nobody ones to pay top dollar

    offer sheet is simple and might work coz of cap space

    I would take Hamilton or Seabrook for max 5 years

    we need proven D to save the game.

    yes we give up 3 or 4 maybe players but if we finish top 8 and make play offs those picks are not 1st over all

    ufa is ideal but biding war.

    Hamilton #27 is Ideal fit. grow with teammates

    and feed 97 lots break out passes ?


    why would anyone trade with the Oilers. Team is so stacked.

    we don’t want to give away talent, and nobody ones to pay top dollar

    offer sheet is simple and might work coz of cap space

    I would take Hamilton or Seabrook for max 5 years

    we need proven D to save the game.

    yes we give up 3 or 4 maybe players but if we finish top 8 and make play offs those picks are not 1st over all

    ufa is ideal but biding war.

    Hamilton #27 is Ideal fit. grow with teammates

    and feed 97 lots break out passes ?


      An offer sheet for Hamilton at $7/8 million per year would not involve us shedding any players or salary. That one transaction would likely put us over the cap and force us to trade away one or more players – possibly one of the core – for draft picks. So we would lose a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd next year plus one or more established asset(s).

      Trading picks to Chicago for Seabrook would have the same effect.

  • OilersSchmoilers

    So A thinks it’s an overpay for Bogo and B thinks Buffalo wouldn’t make the trade. Sounds like a difference of opinion as to relative value. That’s what makes a market; without it a lot fewer trades would be made.

    As a somewhat related aside, Jeff Petry now makes the same salary as Arizona’s OEL.

    I am a huge Yak fan, and believe he has great potential. The thing is, we have a lot of forwards who have already turned their potential into performance, plus a few others who have great potential. Yak is slated to be our 3rd line RW this year with possible movement up to 2nd line. We have several young D with potential, and basically none with proven performance beyond 2nd pairing. Bogo would instantly be the best D on the team and it wouldn’t even be close; plus he’s on what appears to be a value contract. A future top pairing of Bogo/Klef or Bogo/Nurse and a 2nd pair of Fayne/Klef or Nurse would likely make us competitive with almost any team in the league.

    Now, i’m not insistent on Bogo…i’m simply using that as an illustration of what is possible. I’m sure there are other D who could fill our needs as well. We don’t need to make a huge overpayment for a Hamilton or a Seabrook or a Weber that could leave us in cap hell or create a huge hole in another part of the lineup when there are other less costly options.

    • Kevwan

      I think it’s an overpay and Buffalo still probably says no.

      If someone has a car that you like but doesn’t have a 4 sale sign on it, you would probably have to pay more than blue book. Even then, they likely say no to your offer. Better to look on Kijiji or Autotrader .

      Buffalo has fewer NHL players on their roster than anyone why would they trade their best one?

      It’s an overpay because any trade involving Yak right now gets you dimes on the dollar.

      I like your idea of looking beyond Hamilton and Seabrook. But it’s far more likely a cap strapped or budget team makes a move. I think the Rangers, Lightning, Blues, etc. are much better targets than the Sabres. They’re motivated to sell.

  • hagar

    I want the Oil to trade #16 and #33 and prospect to get a reliable 1-2 D. That is first choice. if nothing is brewing by pick # 16 and Samsonov is still on the board we must take him.

    If we do its insurance for 3-5 years from now and we then need to concentrate on getting a goalie for next year!!!

    • The Soup Fascist

      Why “must we take him”?

      Good organizations due not spend 16 overalls on “goaltender” prospects that are not “mortal locks”. Way too many 1st round goalie busts.

      Let someone else roll the dice in the mid first. There are way too many excellent skaters at 16 to play roulette and this organization is not deep enough to “waste one”. Plus he is 3 to 4 years away. If you are bound and determined to use the 16 on a goalie – use it to trade for a guy further along the curve – but I would not do that. 2nd round is my top offer.

      If the guy is there at 33, maybe.

      • pkam

        Not only there are too many 1st round goalie busts, but there are many great goalie selected in very late round or undrafted, Rinne is an 8th rounder, Lundqvist is a 7th rounder, Halak is 9th rounder, and Bobrovsky and Niemi are undrafted. And there are a lot of great goalies from 3rd and 4th round as well.

  • hagar

    I wonder who is going to be more accurate between McKenzie and Button. Button has Hanifin at 12, Bittner at 35. If Hanifin was hanging around 10-12, then trading up would make a lot of sense. Likewise, If Bittner was around at 33, that seems like some great value.

  • Zarny

    I expect Chiarelli trades one of the 16th and 33rd picks as well as the other 2nd or a 3rd rnd pick.

    Nice targets mentioned. Samsanov is certainly intriguing. He’s Russian and likely in the KHL for another 2 years.

    McKenzie’s list is interesting. Chabot and Kylington have really tumbled. I think Werenski is the name to watch. D often slide. Highly unlikely Provorov drops out of the top 10 but Werenski is only 11th on McKenzie’s list.

    Should be a fun draft.

  • hagar

    I want mind blowing trades. Call me a masochist, but I want the feel of change more than any player I care about. Changes please!!

    Mmmmm… new managment, f’ck the current team… gimme some that.

  • M22


    Heard you choking up on Gregor’s show, when you were talking about Daryl Duke. It was difficult to listen to that without a couple of hard swallows. The good ones always leave too early.

    RIP D.D.

  • hagar

    Please give me a draft table that leaves people crying about a player that they think shouldn’t be traded. Pleeeease…. we need it it so freakin bad!

    Enough is enough…

  • hagar

    Eberle and I hate to say it, yak.. plus a quality maricine type, for lack and hamhuis.

    It is a straight trade for what we need, for what they need.. the sedins are retiring, and they need what we got, and we need what they got. Comparable money, and both what is needed.

      • justDOit


        What, like 5 years of Eberle? Something like that…
        And at least 5 years of Yak
        And around 5 years of Marincin

        For 1 year of Hamhuis and a goalie who can probably be had for a second round pick.

        That’s honestly what you want to do? I mean, I know Hamhuis is very good, but he’s on the wrong side of the age curve and has 1 year left on his deal.

        I feel like you made this proposal assuming the Oilers also invented a machine to stop time.

  • hagar

    The canucks are on the market for forwards because they know the twins are done. They want eberlies..they know they can turn a yak into the new bure… how many players do we need to put our hopes on??

  • Rod the Viking

    Samsonov is to much of a gamble. Will be 4-5 years before we know if we made the right decision. The 16th and 33rd pick are very valuable to cap strapped teams. Not saying to use them on Talbot but rather a top defender. Still believe Neimmi is our best bet, cost nothing but money. Does anyone know if todd had a good relationship with him? I see a guy like soderburg filling a top six role, size, some grit, plays center and wing. Makes Eberle expendable. The oil need cap relief. If not this year next year for sure,

    • On the contrary , we almost always draft the best player , especially in the first round . Maybe if we had alternated then maybe our holes would be filled adequately over last 9 years . When you get down to it we never even drafted Gretzky . Only Klefbom was drafted on backend first round , that’s presently on our club . Nurse might be next , with any luck , as early as this year . Beyond first round , we have had minimal success either method to be honest .

  • paul wodehouse


    Nice words for our friend Daryl…he was as kind as he was tough and he ran the Panther Gym well for a long long time…he WILL be missed…1989…I remember being at the gym covering the one and only sparring round when Mike Tyson was to fight Donovan Ruddock in Edmonton…Tyson was injured by…I think… the late Trevor Berbick who was the sparring partner at the time…the fight was postponed to Vegas the next year …Tyson’s doctors said he had come down with a lung condition called Pleurisy…but I recall it was Daryl who saw the punch in the side from Berbick during the round that put him out & told Jonesy… Tyson&his doctors denied that Berbick had tagged Tyson and left town a day or two later…God Bless Daryl Duke & Family

    • The Tyson camp claimed it was a condition known as costochondritis — an inflammation of the cartilage joining the ribs to the breastbone.

      Mike was off the rails then and if Razor had fought him he likely would have beat him, just as Buster Douglas did in the next fight.

      • paul wodehouse

        …yup the rib cartilage and that condition called costochondritis fits perfect with a really impactful blow to that area…it WAS Berbick no? and I don’t recall, did Ruddock ever fight Tyson? did you attend that sparring session at Panther Gym? and hear Tyson kooo like a bird every time he threw a punch?…the media lining the ring started to chuckle at the weird sound …at first someone said if there was a pigeon loose in the Gym …didn’t Mike end up flying homing pigeons? He was out there man
        …hmmm come to think of it, he still is!

  • OtOil

    I think the oilers should draft or trade the picks for d-men only,they need some serious help on defence.Pick up a ufa goalie and next year ben is off the books if they need to upgrade again.

  • OtOil

    I’m not sure about who to pick, but keeing the picks is IMO the smart thing to do.

    Isn’t it better to make trades in the early season? Seems like the deals are always better after it starts.

  • oiler_head

    Why are you talking about drafting forwards? We should still be looking at getting the best d-men available in this draft. You can never have too many quality D-Men. And if you have to many to fit into the lineup, they are not hard to trade for forwards, especially wingers.

    I feel like the Oil are set for centers for some time to come.

  • oiler_head

    Hey just want to virtually high five Mr.Brownlee and one Pelham Grenville for the boxing shout out. I’ve been a longtime fan of local boxing and I’m thrilled to read other folks talking about the scene from back in the day. More importantly I’m thrilled that Robin recognized a true force in the local boxing world. Mr. Duke was a true champ and Panthers Gym will always be the boxing Mecca of Edmonton for me. By the by, the oilers could use a Scotty Olsen in his hay day, maybe a Tom Gillespie, if he could take or make a pass. Tony” the bad boy” was always my favorite and I’m sure the Oilers could use a guy with that kind of skill and grit. Tip of my hat to you gents….well said and well done!

  • OilersSchmoilers

    Know how to turn a position of weakness into a position of strength?Trade the 16th overall pick and Marincin to Ottawa for their 20th and Lehner. Then draft Samsonov 20th overall and Bam! Goaltending depth bitchesssss!!!!

    • OilersSchmoilers

      How do these two goalies create depth? One has an extremely short resume in the nhl and the other will probably be in Russia for another 2 years. So then you have Lehner and Scrivens. The 15/16 version of Scrivens and Fasth.

    • BigMcD

      Didnt Ottawa just come out and say they’re looking for a top 6 forward? So you offer them an AHL scratched dman and a switch of picks so they can draft 4 spots higher?

  • Aendayana777

    My buddy and I watched all sports yesterday and talked oilers through the whole time. Trade the picks? Offer sheet who? Draft who? So many great topics. it was freaking glorious. I would like to share what we thought should be done.

    The 16th & 33rd picks should be used by us. This draft is a deep one by all accounts. The ultimate hope is these players will be inserted in the line up when replacing older and more expensive guys. With the high end talent already here this could allow us manage our cap situation better.

    This doe not mean we should not trade these if a true #1D becomes available, but only then.

    We still need new d. Meet Burns and Chara. No doubt it will be expensive to get Burns done. Signed for a reasonable contract 5.76M, I’m sure he’d be happy to play for his old coach surrounded by so much talent. As for Chara, he is what this team exactly needs on many different levels. His cap hit is 6.9M. I would let Schultz walk, buy out Nikitin maybe even trade Ference if possible. Goaltending we thought we should leave Scrivens as a back up and try to extract a younger goalie from an organization that has extra assets. Who knows Brossoit could be the future or maybe we can finally unearth a diamond in the rough type of european goalies in Finland?

    McDavid is coming! Karma is on our side finally! Go oilers go!

      • CDNinATL

        I would love to get Burns. My only concern is that an article i read a few weeks ago said that one of the reasons for friction between McClellan and Wilson was Wilson wanted Burns used as a D while McClellan wanted to use him as a forward. Has anyone else heard that ?

        Big Buff from the Peg is another option that should be explored.

        • CDNinATL

          McClellan also slotted Burns on defense at the WHC because of the abundance of skill and depth up front. Edmonton has a similar imbalance with a defense that lacks severely, so if by some miracle they could manage to bring in Burns, I suspect T-mick would slot him on the back end.

          Although I don’t think they’ll be able to get Burns, then someone like a Bogosian or Byfuglien could still really help. No matter who PC gets it will make this team look a hell of a lot better.

    • CDNinATL

      The Oilers would obviously love to have Burns, but the problem is he is under contract with the Sharks for two more years. Even if he would want to come to Edmonton, it could be extremely difficult to convince SJ to trade the WHC gold medalist.

      I share your hopes but this one feels like a pipe dream

    • bradleypi

      Lol. Play nhl15 much?? Wow. Let Schultz walk for nothing?? Insane… buy out nikitin. Easy to do because it’s not your money I guess…. and just outright trade your captain because YOU and oilersnation don’t like him. Unbelievable. So now that leaves you with a blue line of fayne and klefblom. Lol. Wow. But oh!!… I forgot that because it’s a new year San Jose is banging down Petes door and begging us to have their best defenceman. Oh and Boston too?? Might as well see if Chicago wants the Oilers to take Keith off there hands… or maybe Nashville sees how bad the Oilers defence is and wants to give us webber for magic beans. Wow is oilersnation on a roll today.

      • Aendayana777

        Actually never. I think the bruins would gladly solve some of their cap issues by trading the oldest guy and the sharks maybe more motivated to trade Burns than you believe. Also, please notice I stayed away from the unrealistic Keith/Seabrook/Weber/Hamilton etc. That’s you naming them