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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Five Who’d Fit

Unless Edmonton Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli and his scouting staff have assessed his team’s needs differently than pundits and media types on the outside looking in – that’s entirely possible – my best guess is he’ll be doing everything he can to gather as much skill as possible, with an emphasis on forwards, at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago this coming weekend.

Finding skill that eventually translates to success at the NHL level is difficult enough at the best of times — even when picking in the Top 10, as the Oilers have seen in recent years with Nail Yakupov, first overall in 2012, and Magnus Paajarvi, 10th in 2009. It’ll be even more difficult in Chicago as the Oilers hold the 22nd pick going in – they’re selecting outside the Top 10 for the first time since 2008 when they took Jordan Eberle 22nd.

While’s there’s no way the Oilers will get a crack at top-ranked guys like Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier or Owen Tippett without moving up in selection order by way of a trade in what’s generally seen as a relatively thin draft, there are a number of prospects at forward whose calling card is skill. Now, whether they’ll still be available when the Oilers step to the podium with the 22nd pick is another question, but I’ve got five players who’d fit the bill.

KRISTIAN VESALAINEN – FROLUNDA, SWEDEN

FINAL RANK 7 MIDTERM RANK 4
POSITION Left or Right Wing SHOOTS Left
HEIGHT 6’4 WEIGHT 209lbs
BORN June 1st, 1999
BORN IN Helsinki, Finland

Central Scouting: “HE’S A BIG, PHYSICAL POWER FORWARD WHO LIKES TO GO STRAIGHT FOR THE NET.”

ISS: 19th CS: 7th European skaters Complete bio here.

Considering TSN’s Bob McKenzie has Vesalainen ranked 15th and Sportsnet has the big winger even higher, slotting him in as going 10th to Florida in their mock draft, it seems a longshot at best that he’ll be available when the Oilers pick. Odds are they’ll have to move up to get him. Do the Oilers think enough of him to consider it? I think they might. Take a look at Vesalainen here.

LIAS ANDERSSON – HV 71, SWEDEN

FINAL RANK 3 MIDTERM RANK 3
POSITION Centre SHOOTS Left
HEIGHT 5’11 WEIGHT 201lbs
BORN October 13, 1998
BORN IN Smogen, Sweden

Central Scouting: HE IS A REALLY SKILLED, TWO-WAY FORWARD WITH GREAT MOVES WITH THE PUCK. HE SHOWS VERY GOOD ATTITUDE, WORKS HARD BOTH WAYS, HAS SMOOTH HANDS AND IS VERY EFFECTIVE IN THE OFFENSIVE ZONE AS HE CAN BOTH SHOOT AND CREATE SCORING CHANCES FOR LINEMATES. 

ISS: 25th CS: 3rd European skaters. Complete bio here.

He’s not very big, but everything I’ve seen of Andersson on highlight reels suggests he’s got terrific hands and he’s most definitely not shy about getting close to the net to use them. When I look at his ISS ranking, though, I wonder if Andersson is seen as lacking the elite top-end skill that will make him a top-six forward candidate in the NHL.

MICHAEL RASMUSSEN – TRI-CITY, WHL

FINAL RANK 5 MIDTERM RANK 6
POSITION Centre SHOOTS Left
HEIGHT 6’6 WEIGHT 211lbs
BORN April 17, 1998
BORN IN Vancouver, BC, Canada

Central Scouting: EXCELLENT COMBINATION OF SIZE AND SKILL – CAN PLAY A POWER FORWARD TYPE OF GAME USING SIZE AND STRENGTH TO HIS ADVANTAGE – MOVES WELL FOR A BIG MAN AND IS ALWAYS ON TOP OF THE PLAY – EXCELLENT PLAY-MAKING ABILITY RECOGNIZING OPPORTUNITY AND SETTING UP IN THE OFFENSIVE ZONE – POSSESSES A NATURAL GOAL SCORER’S TOUCH AND CAN SCORE IN A VARIETY OF WAYS – SMART GAME WITH AND WITHOUT THE PUCK.

ISS: 10th CS: 5th NA skaters Complete bio here.

Rasmussen appears to be the total package – he’s a combination of size and soft-handed skill who moved up one notch in Central Scouting’s final rankings after tallying 55 points in just 50 games with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. McKenzie has Rasmussen ranked 9th, while Sportsnet has him going 10 spots later. Big swing there. Watch Rasmussen clips here.

KAILER YAMAMOTO – SPOKANE, WHL

Victoria Royal Regan Nagy (24) battles Spokane Chief Kailer Yamamoto (17) in game two of the Victoria Royals seven game Western Hockey League Playoff quarterfinal series at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia Canada on March 26, 2016. The Royals won game one 4-3 and lead the series 2 games to 0.
FINAL RANK 17 MIDTERM RANK 17
POSITION Right Wing SHOOTS Right
HEIGHT 5’8 WEIGHT 146lbs
BORN September 29, 1998
BORN IN Spokane, WA, USA

Central Scouting: DYNAMIC, UNDERSIZED OFFENSIVE PLAYER WITH EXCEPTIONAL SPEED AND QUICKNESS – LED HIS TEAM IN GOALS, ASSISTS AND GAME-WINNING GOALS – EXCELLENT VISION AND PLAY-MAKING ABILITY – ABLE TO MAKE PLAYS AT TOP SPEED.

ISS: 26th CS: 17th NA skaters. Complete bio here.

Almost everybody – scouting agencies and media outlets – has the speedy and Yamamoto going right in the range of where the Oilers will be picking after his 99-point season with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Chiarelli has plenty of size in his line-up already, so this would be a pure skill pick and a gutsy one when you consider Yamamoto is listed as weighing just 146 pounds. Check out Yamamoto highlights here.

ROBERT THOMAS – LONDON, OHL

FINAL RANK 22 MIDTERM RANK 28
POSITION Centre SHOOTS Right
HEIGHT 6’0 WEIGHT 193lbs
BORN July 2, 1998
BORN IN Aurora, ON, Canada

Central Scouting: EXCELLENT HOCKEY IQ – VERY SMART AND POISED PLAYMAKER; THE TYPE THAT MAKES PLAYERS AROUND HIM BETTER – STRONG OFFENSIVE HOCKEY SENSE; VERY CREATIVE HANDLING AND MOVING THE PUCK – DECEPTIVE; CAN SURPRISE YOU WITH A PLAY THAT KEEPS HIS TEAM’S PUCK POSSESSION ALIVE OR GENERATES A SCORING CHANCE – HARD WORKING AND COMPETITIVE – CAPABLE OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE EVERY TIME HE’S ON THE ICE.

ISS: 21st CS: 22nd NA skaters. Complete bio here.

Thomas moved up six spots from mid-term in Central Scouting’s final rankings after his 66-point season (in 66 games) with the London Knights of the OHL. While the consensus is Thomas isn’t as dynamic an offensive player as Yamamoto, he won’t have to go on a growth spurt to avoid being the smallest player in the NHL, either. Thomas is skilled, smart and, as noted by CS, he competes. Some Thomas clips here.

If any of these five players are still up for grabs when Chiarelli takes the podium with the 22nd pick, my best guess is one of them will leave the stage wearing an Oilers jersey.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • Spydyr

    ‘Yamamoto is listed as weighing just 146 pounds”

    Please no more smurfs. We just watched a decade of small skilled players. That was enough for me.

    Yes, I know they have more size now but it is pretty easy to see the way to win in the NHL now is size and speed. It was even more evident in the playoffs when the Oiler top small skilled right winger went -6.

    • gr8haluschak

      Yes, that is real good sound logic there – lets look at one player in one situation that fits your argument. Boy I am sure the Pens were so mad with that 5’11, 180 Jake Guentzel player or the Preds with that 5’10 180 D man Ryan Ellis. What do you do in real life because if has anything to do with making decisions I would hate to be in the company that you work for.

      • Keepyourstickontheice

        In other words, players with several inches and dozens of pounds more than the guy that Spydr was complaining about. Guentzel is to Yamamoto what a regular sized NHLer is to Guentzel. I’m fine with small, leave pint sized alone.

          • Keepyourstickontheice

            IF he can grow 4 inches and put on 50 pounds, he might cover the bet. I’m skeptical a 17 year old will grow that much, but sure, maybe he’ll grow that much, but why take the gamble? If he stays small, he should have Patrick Kane esque type numbers in junior to justify the use of a first round pick on him.

      • Connor'sGotHart

        Still best to have your top players big. Malkin for example 6’3 225. If all things are equal you always defer to size.Ducks ,Sharks,Oilers. All good examples

    • Craig1981

      Conor Sheary seems to fit in pretty well with Crosby. Brad Marchand was 6th in points, Gaudreau was 41st, and Arvidsson was 36th.

      You can’t have all small players, but you have have a few. Pittsburg just won with Sheary and Arvidsson made the finals. He is at a disadvantage, but if he was 6′ 4″ you wouldn’t be getting a player who scored 42 goals in 65 games (WHL) at the 22nd spot.

      I’m not saying take him, but I wouldn’t dismiss him.

      • gr8haluschak

        This is exactly it, yes if the kid 6’6 and has the same skill or this kid then you take the 6’6 kid all day and twice on sunday, however if you are taking some knuckle dragger because he is 6’6 but has no skill over someone who has skill then that is stupid

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Sign the best player available. Who cares what size he or she is? If they don’t work in the Oilers system after kicking their tires than make a trade. But we’ve passed over better players far too often while watching for players with size – only to kick ourselves when those players go on to rock the league and our picks fizzle.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          i don’t buy into the always take the BPA crap , maybe at the top of the draft when there is more of a consensus of who should go where, but not at #22 where it’ll be more of a crap shoot. if the Oilers are in need of a right shooting center for the organization then they should have Thomas or Norris available to them. if they want a RD, then Connor Timmins will likely be there. unfortunately, Reuben, i don’t think that Veselainen, Rasmussen, or Andersson will still be there at where we will pick.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            All the teams have their scouting reports and their ranked lists based on those. Organizational need should factor into the making of those lists if the organization has any brains. (Not always a given as we Oilers fans know all too well…). When the puck comes up, the team should pick the highest name remaining on their list.

            It might be different to some, but that’s picking the best player available in my mind.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            To STIXLER: Right… Organizational needs change – just like how the Oilers went for a decade (and are still looking for) one or two top four defencemen…

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          Meh… the leagues had one female player before. It would be different if a woman was drafted but shouldn’t be shocking to think about it.

          But yeah – I was just speaking generally.

    • toprightcorner

      Anybody making a decision looking just at his height and weight are morons, you have to look at the entire picture.

      Gaudreau was 5’6″ and 142 lbs when he was drafted. He is now 150 lbs. Yamamoto is a better skater and had more offensive skill at the same age. Yamamoto could easily grow another inch or 2 and can easily put on 10 lbs of muscle.

      All scouts agree that Yamamoto s by far the most competitive player on the ice every game he plays and gets his nose dirty every night.

      Combine results for Yamamoto:
      VO2 – 1st
      Agility left – 2nd
      Agility right – 2nd
      Fitness Mean Power Output – 4th
      Fitness Peak Power Output – 3rd
      Bench Press – T13th
      Pullups – 5th

      Yamamoto is not just your average short player, he excels in every area and has the heart of Theo Fleury. On the Oiler top 6 he would play with 2 of either McDavid, Lucic, Draisaitl or Maroon. 3 are huge, 2 are elite and 1 is the best player in the world. Size doesn’t matter playing with these players, skill speed and competitive heart matters. Desharais is 5’7″ and his size did not affect him when with the Oilers and he is not a competitive player.

      Yamamoto could easily score 35+ goals in a couple years with the Oilers. He is one of few that can keep up with McDavid and have the hands to finish. I would take Yamamoto in an instant if available at 22.

      Quality NHL Players under 5’9″
      Tyler Johnson
      Marty St. Louis
      Victor Ardvidsson
      Cam Atkinson
      Jared Spurgeon
      Torrey Krug
      Brad Marchand
      Connor Sheary
      Matts Zukarello – 5″7″
      David Desharais – 5’7″
      Brian Gionta – 5’7″
      Stephen Gionta – 5″7″
      Jonathan Marchessault
      Michael Cammalleri
      Tyler Ennis
      Brendan Gallagher

      I would almost guarantee that these players are actually an inch or more shorter that they are listed. Gregor said that he doubts Desharais was 5’6″ in person.

      • JimmyV1965

        Wow!!! That was frickin amazing. Best way to shut up goofballs is with cold hard facts. Nicely done. For myself, I don’t think I could even speculate on the 22nd pick because I’ve never seen any of these guys play.

    • That's My Point

      I agree. The Oilers would set an NHL record of drafting the SMALLEST player ever in the HISTORY of the NHL in the 1st round if they draft Yamamoto. ZERO PERCENT chance of Chiarelli setting that record!

  • A-Mc

    Considering the #1 reason we’re looking to move out Eberle is because he gets physically dominated during the playoffs, i doubt Chiarelli will be keen on drafting a guy who weights only 146lbs.

    The Oilers need a durable lineup for the playoffs; Size does matter in that regard.

      • A-Mc

        Brad Marchand is 5’9 and is 181lbs. He was also selected in the 3rd round (71st overall), not 22nd. His play has always had an agitator aspect to it as well, so even for a smaller guy he had a physical game. Brad Marchand is a different type of player than the guy we’re talking about here, In my opinion.

        • Craig1981

          You were commenting that Chiarelli opposes drafting smaller guys, I proved you wrong. Height is close with Marchant and its not fair to compare weight of a 29 year old to an high school kid.

          He would take him 49 spots sooner, but YAMAMOTO’s stat sheet is also way better. I don’t think you can comare them eactly, but I don’t agree you can dismiss him as an option

  • 24% body fat

    who cares about size when drafting, you should be there to maximze your assets. If the kid turned out to be St. Louis, Recchi, Geadreau, etc and you think they are too small for your team then you trade them and get real value back.

    • Tombstone

      Oilers had a chance to draft Vladimir Tkachev after the failed attempt to sign him. Sure there are a handful of small players who work out great but that’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

  • Averagejoe

    I think Yamamoto is a great hockey player but I would still pick Rasmussen because he is big and has a good shot. Plus he could probably fill pouliot’s spot in the next few years

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Thomas or Andersson are intriguing, in that order.
    Based on CS comments we have compete paired with skill.
    I think Yamamoto would turn out to be a distraction.
    More unneeded attention from the media that don’t see our market very often.
    We get too much of that distraction already with the stars we already have.
    Although the team does an admirable job of distracting the media to allow more focus, having another “anomaly player” may be too much of a burden. Similar skill with physical attributes mor to the norm would be better for the team in the long run, I think.

    • MotoDave118

      Yes, you pick him and smile because you will now be well on your way to building a blue line to rival any in the league.
      Bear, Jones and Foote can join the established defenders Benning, Nurse, Sekra, Klefbom, and Larson when they are ready. Maybe one gets used to trade for skill on the wing or we just rock a very deep blueline for years.

  • ricardo2000

    RASMUSSEN, VESALAINEN, ANDERSSON, THOMAS, YAMAMOTO
    I rank them Rasmussen, Vesalainen, Andersson, Thomas, Yamamoto. Vesalainen is big, has some speed and playmaking ability. Rasmussen is bigger and more highly rated by the scouts, but will be long gone by the time the 22nd pick arrives. Thomas might be there for #22 so this is my pick. Yamamoto is just too small, unless he can show some outstanding skating and playmaking ability.

  • Clubhouse

    I heard that Eberle, first pick and one of jones or bear is going to Vegas for a RH Center (strome was mentioned) and a RH d either mason, vatenen, or dumba

    No idea if it’s true but does fit the 6 core players (eberle would be there best winger) McPhee announced he also said there taking d to trade them in a sportsmen article.

    It could be good deal.

  • Randaman

    If Vegas picks Manson from Anaheim, I would be willing to part with the first rounder for him. Money well spent. Eberle and our first for Manson and a second rounder

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      our 1st rounder alone should be enough to get Manson here. Vegas could be the first team in a long time to have as many as four 1st rounders and could have even one or two more. that could be a whole lot of fun to watch on Friday!

      • MotoDave118

        “IF” I doubt this happens but lets pretend for a second. If Manson gets picked up in the expansion by Vegas and we can get him for only our 1st (22nd) pick. We stole him for minimal cost. This would then allow us to trade Eberle to NYI or AVS for Hamonic or Barrie. We could then try RNH on the wing and hope some of our young wingers take a big step.

        Again I dont think Manson gets taken by Vegas and even if he did I dont think we get him for a later 1st round pick.

    • The Whispererer

      Ok. I will freely admit that i am no hockey aficionado, but i just do not get this fascination with Manson.
      He was a 6th round draft pick, he was so impressive (sarcasm) during his ELC that Anaheim signed him to his 2nd contract for $100,000 LESS annually than his ELC base salary of $925,000. Now, 1 year into that 2 year deal, he is suddenly worth Eberle plus our 1st round pick ? Is Manson’s “truculence” actually that valuable ?
      Honestly, could someone enlighten me on this ? Only a few days ago all the talk was about Eberle possibly being worth Hamonic or Barrie.

      • Keepyourstickontheice

        Did you watch the Oilers- Anaheim playoff series? He looked super smooth and confident for someone who is still an RFA. I honestly only remember a few hits that qualify as truculent but he looked like the real deal.

        • Redbird62

          I watched the Oilers-Anaheim series and Manson is a decent NHL defenseman, but Anaheim has used him as a 5/6 all year and he moved up in the playoffs due to injuries. I don’t see him as a long term right shot 3/4 on the Oilers since Benning has way more upside than Manson. If you want him in the future as a 5/6, giving up a first rounder or Eberle is poor asset management. I get Chiarelli gave up more to get Reinhart, but he was 21, not 25 with a stronger pedigree at that time. Maybe Reinhart won’t live up to his draft class status or what he was traded for, but I doubt Manson is going to be much more that what he has been so far in his NHL career.

      • Randaman

        Datsuyk was a 6th round pick. Holmstrom was the last pick in the draft. Many other stars were later picks. Jamie Benn comes to mind as well. What’s your point? Every player develops at different rates. Manson was a big mean piece of nasty in that play off series.

        • Redbird62

          Josh Manson is 25 years old. All 3 you mentioned were known to be considerably better than there draft level by the time they were 25. And in the cases of Datsuyk and Holmstrom, back when they were drafted many late round European players proved to be much better than their original draft position. Manson would no doubt move up from his sixth round selection now, but his performance, including what I watched in the playoffs in all 3 rounds does not make him worth a first rounder. Besides, the Oilers don’t need two shut down right handed defenseman in their top 4 and Manson is not going to bring offense.

        • The Whispererer

          Nice focus on 1 meaningless part of my post (draft position) instead of addressing the real point: what is there about him that makes him worth the price you are talking about paying for him. Being mean and nasty hardly qualifies. We already have plenty of that without using a top 6 RW plus a 1st round pick for more of it when our real needs are a top 4 RD who can contribute to offense, and some skilled top 9 forwards.