BLUE LINE FINDS

ChiarelliPhone

Fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been talking about the need to acquire a bonafide top-pairing defenseman for months, for years actually, and debating who GM Peter Chiarelli should be setting his sights on this off-season.

In recent months, several names have been tossed around as targets, be it through free agency or by way of trade. Among them, Justin Faulk, Travis Hamonic and Tyson Barrie as top-pairing guys and Sami Vatanen and Jason Demers as secondary finds.

While we can debate the merits of all of them in terms of fit and suitability, they’re all legit NHL defenseman, and not one them was selected in the first round of the Entry Draft – Faulk tops the list at 37th overall pick and Demers is at the bottom, taken 186th.

It’s another reminder, with the Oilers entering the 2016 draft with the fourth overall pick, that there are blue-chippers to be had with later picks among the guesses and misses if scouting staffs do their homework and the cards fall the right way. 

GETTING IT RIGHT

SuccessFailure

Finding the next Faulk (37th), Hamonic (53rd), Barrie (64th), Vatanen (106th) or Demers (186th) obviously isn’t going to address the holes on Edmonton’s blue line here and now, but there’s no time like the present for Bob Green and his scouting staff to start uncovering finds like them – maybe with that second-round pick (32nd) this year. They’re out there.

In the last decade, just seven defensemen have been taken with top-three picks (a total of 30 selections). They are Aaron Ekblad (first by Florida in 2014), Ryan Murray (second by Columbus in 2012), Erik Gudbranson (third by Florida in 2010), Victor Hedman (second by Tampa Bay in 2009), Drew Doughty (second by LA in 2008) and Erik Johnson (first overall by St. Louis in 2006).

Going into this draft, there’s eight defensemen rated in the top-30 by ISS – the numbers will vary depending on which scouting service list you lean most heavily on – Jacob Chychrun (eighth), Mikhail Sergachev (10th), Olli Juolevi (11th), Jake Bean (16th), Dante Fabbro (19th), Charlie McAvoy (23rd), Logan Stanley (25th) and Jacob Moverare (29th)

The trick is separating the hits from the misses in that top tier of draftees. It’s just as important, as the Faulk-Hamonic-Barrie cluster shows, to do likewise deeper into the draft. The Oilers managed that with Brandon Davidson, getting him 162nd overall in 2010.

A FIVE-YEAR SAMPLING

Sample

Here’s some examples of hits outside the top three – not all are top-pairing guys, but many are — and much later, from the 2008-2012 drafts. I’ve left out more recent drafts because we don’t know yet how all the defensemen taken after 2012 will turn out.

2012

Num.

Drafted By

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

5

Toronto

Morgan Rielly

236

19

73

92

54

6

Anaheim

Hampus Lindholm

236

23

69

92

108

7

Minnesota

Mathew Dumba

152

19

25

44

63

9

Winnipeg

Jacob Trouba

211

23

49

72

151

22

Pittsburgh

Olli Maatta

165

16

41

57

46

60

New Jersey

Damon Severson

123

6

32

38

54

78

Philadelphia

Shayne Gostisbehere

66

17

29

46

24

2011

Num.

Drafted By

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

4

New Jersey

Adam Larsson

274

9

60

69

155

9

Boston

Dougie Hamilton

260

34

92

126

141

10

Minnesota

Jonas Brodin

263

15

39

54

58

12

Carolina

Ryan Murphy

124

6

29

35

30

19

Edmonton

Oscar Klefbom

107

7

28

35

10

2010

Num.

Drafted By

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

12

Anaheim

Cam Fowler

414

34

144

178

97

23

Buffalo

Mark Pysyk

125

5

21

26

50

37

Carolina

Justin Faulk

326

49

106

155

138

66

Tampa Bay

Radko Gudas

202

12

34

46

340

131

Dallas

John Klingberg

141

21

77

98

62

162

Edmonton

Brandon Davidson

63

5

7

12

20

2009

Num.

Drafted By

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

6

Phoenix

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

415

76

133

209

268

14

Florida

Dmitri Kulikov

460

28

110

138

300

16

Minnesota

Nick Leddy

417

35

135

170

73

64

Colorado

Tyson Barrie

264

40

113

153

87

94

Columbus

David Savard

252

22

64

86

160

102

Nashville

Mattias Ekholm

227

16

46

62

106

106

Anaheim

Sami Vatanen

194

29

69

98

78

2008

Num.

Drafted By

Player

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

4

St. Louis

Alex Pietrangelo

459

51

204

255

153

5

Toronto

Luke Schenn

566

28

100

128

409

12

Buffalo

Tyler Myers

462

57

136

193

344

15

Ottawa

Erik Karlsson

479

100

285

385

252

17

Anaheim

Jake Gardiner

325

28

92

120

93

20

NY Rangers

Michael Del Zotto

433

41

130

171

174

27

Washington

John Carlson

454

53

175

228

156

38

Nashville

Roman Josi

334

52

138

190

109

53

NY Islanders

Travis Hamonic

395

23

109

132

392

114

Calgary

T.J. Brodie

336

25

120

145

92

186

San Jose

Jason Demers

423

28

115

143

254

GOING DEEP

Green talked about uncovering finds with later picks in Jason Gregor’s piece yesterday.

“We’ve really put an importance on making better picks later, or trying to get more players later,” Green said. “And in order to do that we have to know those kids better . . . so, whether you’re talking to the guy who is ranked first overall or a hundred-and-fiftieth, if you want to try to find a player later, you have to get down to business and talk to these kids and find things out.”

The best teams do exactly that. They identify and draft the right kids, then develop them properly. Too often, lesser teams, like the Oilers, don’t – they aren’t alone in that – and pay a higher price to acquire them via free agency or trade later.

MR. HOCKEY

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For those of us of a certain age, Gordie Howe was the hockey icon of our generation long before Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby came along. As everybody knows by now, we lost Mr. Hockey today at the age of 88.

As a kid, I was lucky enough to see Howe play during the 1970-71 season. I was more blessed to interview him and speak with his wife Colleen for stories I worked on at The Edmonton Journal in the 1990s. Howe was gracious enough to give me his time and was very generous with it. Condolences to the Howe family.


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

THE CONNORVERSARY PARTY

Tuxedo layout 

There are few certainties in life – we can always count on the sun coming up in the morning, Edmonton winters being dreadful, and the Oilers missing the playoffs. As such, we present the annual OilersNation Draft Party! It’s time to honour the the anniversary of drafting our beloved Connor, celebrate the rewards of another failed season, and raise some money for charity.

Here’s what you need to know…

The party is happening at the Pint Downtown on Friday, June 24th. The goal is to raise as much money as possible for the Red Cross and their efforts to bring normalcy back to Fort McMurray, and have a little bit of fun while we’re at it. For $30 you get a Draft Party t-shirt, a $10 Pint GC, a $10 Oodle Noodle GC, a draft party collectors cup, and a chance for prizes and eternal glory.

All proceeds from tickets sold will be donated directly to the Red Cross so bring your friends, get involved, and help us support a community in need. Tickets are still available here.

One day, the Oilers will be a good hockey team and we’ll all be able to laugh about this. Until then, we party.


RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE