Some hockey pundits have suggested the 2015 NHL Entry Draft might be the deepest in terms of talent since the 2003 class. So, after the Edmonton Oilers select Connor McDavid with the first overall pick, do they move the 16th pick they got from Pittsburgh or trade it?
The consensus from team scouting staffs as well as various independent scouting agencies is there are terrific prospects to be had with the 16th pick and beyond, meaning there’s reason to retain it. Likewise, there’s more value than usual in moving it, if GM Peter Chiarelli opts to go that route.
From Kyle Woodlief of Redline Report in USA Today: “We’re several weeks into the season now and while the picture is far from clear, it’s a little less fuzzy and starting to come into sharper focus. At Red Line Report, we were anticipating that 2015 would bring a terrific draft crop, with a star-studded top end and quality depth through the second round.”
WHAT TO DO?
Chiarelli has seven picks in the first four rounds and 10 picks in total, so he has options in his first summer as Edmonton’s GM. Most of the buzz among Oiler fans — outside fist-pumping over McDavid — is what he will or should do with the 16th and 33rd picks, given the depth of talent. I’ve said I think Chiarelli should move the picks, but I’m not sure there’s consensus on that.
There is and will continue to be right up until draft day in Florida lots of discussion about the depth of the draft and what should happen with those picks. Like this, from Allan Mitchell of TSN 1260 and Bruce McCurdy from The Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal via Twitter this weekend:
@dstaples I don’t think they miss at No. 16. Too much talent.
— Lowetide (@Lowetide) June 13, 2015
@Lowetide yeah Top 23 or 24 look really solid.
I wish Provorov would drop but no chance of that…
— David Staples (@dstaples) June 13, 2015
I agree with Mitchell that there’s a lot of talent through the 16th spot and with Staples (and many scouting agencies) that the depth of quality in this class might well extend through the 20th spot, even beyond.
The main reason I’m for moving the 16th pick is the Oilers have immediate needs that might be addressed by dealing it, alone or as part of a package, and, like I said, there might be a little more value to be had in shopping it around than in most years.
Even in a class pegged as deeper than usual, there’s going to be misses that many picks into the first round. As important a factor, the Oilers have come away with nothing, or next to it, picking later in the first rounds. I have little faith they’ll make the right choice at 16th if they keep the pick.
A DECIDEDLY MIXED BAG
Looking at Edmonton’s first-round picks from 1995-2010 – I’m leaving out drafts since then because we don’t yet know how all the players taken after 2010 will turn out – the Oilers have drafted 19 players.
The best of the bunch are Taylor Hall (1st in 2010), Jordan Eberle (22nd in 2008), Sam Gagner (6th in 2007), Andrew Cogliano (25th in 2005), Devan Dubnyk (14th in 2004), Ales Hemsky (13th in 2001) and Boyd Devereaux (6th in 1996). Two others, Magnus Paajarvi (10th in 2009) and Riley Nash (21st in 2007) are having lesser careers but can be categorized as NHLers. That’s nine players. Then, there’s the busts, 10 flat-out swings and misses.
2007 (15th) Alex Plante, D, Calgary Hitmen WHL 10 0-2-2 Career
2004 (25th) Rob Schremp, C, London OHL 114 20-34-54 Career
2003 (22nd) Marc Pouliot, C, Rimouski QMJHL 192 21-36-57 Career
2002 (15th) Jesse Niinimaki, C, Ilves Tampere SM 0 0-0-0 Career
2000 (17th) Alexei Mikhnov, LW, Yaroslavl RUS 2 0-0-0 Career
1999 (13th) Jani Rita, LW, Jokerit Helsinki SM-liiga 66 9-5-14 Career
1998 (13th) Michael Henrich, C, Barrie Colts OHL 0 0-0-0 Career
1997 (14th) Michel Riesen, RW, Biel Swiss-A 12 0-1-1 Career
1996 (19th) Matthieu Descoteaux, D, Shaw QMJHL 5 1-1-2 Career
1995 (6th) Steve Kelly, C, Prince Albert WHL 149 9-12-21 Career
That’s a whole bunch of fail by different scouting staffs headed by three different head scouts in Barry Fraser (1979-2000), Kevin Prendergast and Stu MacGregor. Some of the draft classes 1995-2010 were characterized as deep, while others were loaded at the top but thin after the top five or 10.
So, while there will most certainly be prospects available at the 16th pick and beyond in this draft who will turn into NHL players, history shows it will be hit and miss beyond the blue-chippers at the very top. Edmonton’s biggest busts have been in the range of that 16th pick – Plante, Niinimaki, Mikhnov, Henrich and Riesen.
THE WAY I SEE IT
Simply put, Edmonton’s first-round drafting record 1995-2010 is less than stellar. That doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way because there’s been huge leaps in how prospects are assessed in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of turnover with the scouting staff and Bob Green, a pretty sharp guy, has been added to the mix. Even so, you’re rolling the dice at 16th.
If the Oilers have a player rated as can’t miss in the 16th slot or somebody they have rated higher drops into that spot for whatever reason, an argument can be made to retain the pick. Of course, I remember Oiler scouts telling me they were sold on Rita in 1999 and many were thrilled when Henrich fell to them at 13th in 1998.
Do the Oilers think enough of goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov to take him 16th (I hope not)? Is there another player pegged in that range every scout on the staff covets? I don’t know. Might the Oilers hit a home run by keeping the pick? Sure. Does their record suggest it’s likely? No.
The Oilers are getting a gimme with McDavid. Use the 16th and 33rd picks to acquire a younger NHL player who fits a need right now – a goaltender (like Cam Talbot) or a defenseman. Chiarelli has already said he is open to talking about that. He’ll have those conversation right up until the time comes to make that pick. This is a good thing.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.