Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Fixing a Hole

Peter Chiarelli did it last year, but can he do it again? Faced with a small return on the 2014 draft, Edmonton’s general manager chose to boldly go into the college free-agent market. The result was a handsome upgrade and a sharp turn from a negative to a positive.

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I look forward to every draft, and the 2014 edition turned out to be a memorable one. After grabbing Leon Draisaitl at No. 3 overall, the club had to wait until the fourth round to select again due to trades for David Perron and Ben Scrivens. By the time the draft was two years gone (a time where teams typically sign their CHL picks), the Oilers already had Draisaitl in the NHL, and the depth picks were either unready or no longer worthy of signing. William Lagesson, Zach Nagelvoort and Tyler Vesel remain in college, Liam Coughlin’s rights were traded and Keven Bouchard was not signed after he turned 20.

In the spring of 2016, Peter Chiarelli was presented with a unique problem, which he turned into an opportunity. With only Leon Draisaitl already at the NHL level, the club had a natural need for more youngsters and no one from the draft to sign. In quick order, Chiarelli signed college men Matt Benning, Drake Caggiula, Nick Ellis and Patrick Russell, thereby giving the Oilers four pro-ready players not previously in the pipeline.

A downside? Hard to find one, but Caggiula’s remaining in the NHL all season, despite some struggles, indicates there may have been a promise (real or implied) of NHL duty in his first year pro. All three of the others spent at least a little time in the AHL.

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Jan 21, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) celebrate win with center Connor McDavid (97) and center Mark Letestu (55) after the game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

We knew the Oilers would draft Connor McDavid by draft weekend, and in doing so change team history. Peter Chiarelli was the new general manager at this time, and once again the second and third-round (along with a first) selections were dealt for Griffin Reinhart, Cam Talbot and Eric Gryba. Edmonton also gave up a selection in return for signing coach Todd McLellan.

That means that this summer, the Oilers will be faced by a problem similar to the 2016 challenge. McDavid is the NHL’s best player (or close enough) and the team has signed Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear. We may see John Marino, Ziyat Paigin and Miroslav Svoboda signed this summer or in the future, but there is a clear need for some forwards to be added over the next few months.


Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Chiarelli is no doubt involved in attempting to procure talent as we speak. College players Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo, both forwards, could sign with an NHL team in the coming days. Edmonton may be in on any or all, and have some attractive items to offer a graduating college man. The club was apparently in on Zack Aston-Reese of Northeastern, but he decided to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Edmonton could also draft older players who remain eligible (Ziyat Paigin was 20 in 2015, as an example) for the draft in an effort to fast track the process. Finally, we could see the club draft from an area of strength (LHD) to address weakness at forward.

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Edmonton has signed one free agent signed already (RHD Ryan Mantha) and I doubt we will see many more defenders added. Forwards? You bet. I think it is reasonable to assume the Oilers will sign a college forward or two, or possibly a graduating junior forward. We may see them draft a 20-year old from the CHL or Europe as well.

It looks like the NHL will return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026

Peter Chiarelli did a helluva job last season in this area, can he do it again? And should he guarantee NHL time, as appears to be the case with Drake Cagguila?

We wait.

  • Jaxon

    I like Foo. He is an Edmonton kid, leading the NCAA in plus/minus, only 8 months older than Aston-Reese and scoring at the same pace, but depending on your sources, he is anywhere from 5 lbs to 24 lbs lighter than Aston-Reese. I hope Paigin’s down season is a result of opportunity not skill or determination. If he can regain last year’s form and learn to adapt to North American ice next year, then he will be a very valuable signing. CHL RHD Aaron Irving, Darren Raddysh and Conor Timmins would be solid additions as well, although maybe Mantha will be the only RHD signing this year.

  • Kepler62c

    I’m alright with “promising” NHL time to a high end college player if that’s how you get them to sign. You can be sure that if Caggiula didn’t feel he was going to see the NHL this year then he might have gone elsewhere. That said, if the player is clearly not ready the right decision needs to be made for their development. I trust that Todd McLellan knows hockey enough to say that Drake struggling a bit in the NHL is good for a player of his calibre and not detrimental to his development, in the same way I trust they know that Griffin Reinhart needs to hone is game on the top pair in the AHL and not as a 6/7 guy on the NHL roster.

    • Hemmercules

      Too white for sure. Need some colour. Not a fan of the no boarders around anything that a lot of websites seem to be adopting. The new comment systems is taking some getting used to for sure but all the added features to the site are great. Also and edit button would be nice but I hear thats on its way.

  • The Rookie

    LT tell me your thoughts on this- now it would create more holes at the draft table but another young man that fits in that age bracket is David Pastrnak. He will be an RFA this summer and I don’t think Boston will have enough room to match an offer in the $3-$4million range. Now if the draft pics associated with offer sheets are for the same year then I guess we are out but can the draft picks be for the following year?? He is 20 years old, 6’0 181lbs and plays RW and is just off the PPG mark. I see Vegas as the most likely team to make any RFA offers but do you think the Oilers would look close? Top 3 RW of (in no particular order) Pastrnak, Eberle, and puljujarvi should be enough depth to give both Leon and McDavid quality wingers on separate lines