The Smart One

We don’t know if the Edmonton Oilers are going to keep the 10th overall selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft or trade it away as part of a package to acquire more immediate help. If the Oilers do keep the pick, I’m reasonably confident they will make the right choice under assistant GM Keith Gretzky, who oversees the team’s amateur scouting staff — as confident as one can be in the crap-shoot that is projecting what teenaged talent might become.

Hired by the Oilers in July of 2016, the Great One’s little brother spent three seasons as director of amateur scouting with the Boston Bruins before signing on in Edmonton. Gretzky’s tenure as director produced three outstanding first-round picks outside the top-10. In 2016 the Bruins got D-man Charlie McAvoy 14th overall. In 2015, the Bruins had three first-round picks and turned the 14th overall selection into forward Jake DeBrusk. In 2014, Gretzky and his staff came up with forward David Pastrnak 25th overall. Last summer with Gretzky on board, the Oilers took Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto 22nd. Too soon to know how that’ll work out.

Of course, there are lots of factors that go into making both fist-pump worthy selections and face-palm busts — the consensus draft list the amateur staff comes up with, the philosophical tug-of-war that is organizational need versus best player available and, in some cases, meddling owners, to name just three. Guys like Gretzky who oversee the amateur scouts generally get more of the credit and more of the blame than they deserve, depending on which way it goes. That said, McAvoy, DeBrusk and Pastrnak stack up as pretty solid first-round gets.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Gretzky began his scouting career with the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes in 2001 and was promoted to director of amateur scouting in 2006 before moving on to Boston and then here to rejoin former Bruin boss Pete Chiarelli as AGM. He’s got a resume that extends well beyond his last name. A couple years ago, Jason Gregor took an extensive look at Gretzky and the draft records of different teams here. It’s a great in-depth look at drafting results.

“I think (Peter) respected what I did, and I worked for him for a few years in Boston and the opportunity came along, and he called and asked for permission and the Bruins were gracious enough to give it to him,” Gretzky said in August 2016 about of his decision to reunite with Chiarelli.

I was going to say picking first overall or in the top three is easy, but that’s not exactly true (hello, Nail Yakupov). That said, history tells us it gets more difficult to find a blue-chipper the deeper you get into the first round no matter what the draft class looks like. It can be done, of course, as picks like McAvoy, DeBrusk, Pasternak and several others in recent years prove. The trick for Gretzky, Bob Green and Edmonton’s 15 amateur scouts is getting it right in the 10-spot this June, if the Oilers keep the pick.


Bill Daly holds the card showing that the Edmonton Oilers will select 10th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Not that long ago, at least in old man years, you could count the number of publications and scouting outfits doing draft rankings on one hand. Not so today — I came across no fewer than 15 lists in a brief scan of the internet today, and I’m not talking about lists fresh from momma’s basement, either. From Bob McKenzie’s list to McKeen’s, ISS and the Hockey News, I found no fewer than eight different players ranked 10th, where the Oiler pick.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Of the lists I checked and made notes on, U.S. left winger Joel Farabee ended up in the 10th spot the most, four times (twice by different writers with Dobber Prospects, Future Considerations and Chris Peters of ESPN). After that came Finnish centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who showed up three times (McKenzie, Craig Button and Hockey Prospects). After that, it was Drummondville centre Joe Veleno, who was listed twice (ISS and by Scott Wheeler of The Athletic).

Might the prospects a lot of Oilers’ fans are talking about, like Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson and Ty Smith, be available when Edmonton picks? It depends whose list you put the most weight in. The list that matters most, of course, is the one Gretzky’s staff puts together. Even that goes out the window to an extent when one of the teams picking higher up goes off the board, which happens often.


  • WhoreableGuy

    I’m hoping the Oilers keep the pick. I just don’t feel confident Chiarelli can win a trade of any sort involving it.

    Adam Bovqist is the guy I’d love to be at #10. I’ve read he could go as high 4 or 5 though.

    If all of the stud D guys are gone then take BPA, would be cool to get Joe Veleno so the Oilers would have 3 players that have been granted exceptional status in Junior in their system (McDavid and Benson the other two).

    • PCL

      We’ll still be sitting pretty at #10 because of guys like Smith, Kotkaniemi, Veleno and Farabee. I too am leaning towards keepING the pick because of the players mentioned here and because I also distrust that Chia can make a good trade for it.

      • GK1980

        I’m not defending Chia on the Reinhart deal but Chia had just arrived and obviously wasn’t in the loop as to what MacT and the scouting staff had planned at that time. Chia put his trust in the then scouting staff and it failed miserably, hence the scouting staff change over. I still keep the 10th pick though regardless in my opinion.

        • crabman


          Chiarelli was hired April 24th, 2 months before the draft. He had plenty of time to meet with his scouting department and consult with the rest of the Oiler management and come up with a draft strategy as well as trade and free agent targets. I do believe Chiarelli’s decision to trade for Rienhart was influenced by McTavish

    • LAKID

      The pick and an offer sheet for Nurse should be a big concern. Chia’s only trade chips are Klefbom, Nurse and the 10th pick. Can the Oilers match an offer sheet for Nurse without hurting the team?

  • BrandieBear

    I firmly think that we need to keep the pick myself. Having a deep prospect pool has really helped teams like WPG, NSH and Tamps become the teams they are today. We need to entertain offers by all means but if there is not an outstanding deal on the table that gives us a player we need, and clears up cap space then I wouldn’t do it. Trading the pick is a must win scenario at this point and to not gain a positive trade value means that I wouldn’t do the trade.

    One idea I would entertain if I was the oilers would be to try and move up in the draft. There are a lot of potentially good RD in the draft or forwards that could help our depth. I would entertain a trade with a team like AZ to see if we can dump cap and trade up if possible. Might be a good idea if we can come out ahead.

  • RexHolez

    Given how quickly after his hiring the Reinhardt trade went down, and Spector’s article of the red wine summits, I don’t think the Reinhardt trade was all on him

    • crabman

      Chiarelli had 2 months as GM of the Oilers to prepare for that draft. Not to mention he was.just fired from the Bruins where I have to assume he was preparing for the draft.
      I most certainly believe he was influenced by the management and scouting department he inherited but ultimately he is the GM. He was brought in to fix a problem the people he was taking advice from created. Why would he blindly follow their advice? What I think happened is he recognized the Oilers need for D. Felt that drafting McDavid was all he needed to do for the draft to be considered a win so he wanted to use his other high picks to upgrade the D. Went hard for Hamilton and when he struck out in a desperation move to let himself believe Reinhart was the solution and was worth 2 high picks. The fact Chiarelli was so desperate is on him. He needs to take the blame on that one even if the idea wasn’t originally his.

  • Kepler62c

    I wouldn’t be opposed to moving down in the 1st round, maybe picking up an early 2nd or even later 1st in the process. Two picks in the #15-40 range over one at #10 sounds ok to me. With Gretzky’s drafting record that might even be considered a smart move, if he has targets he know will be available at #20 or #30 then why not?

  • OilersGM

    With all do respect to Gretzky he also missed on few good ones especially in 2015 when the bruins had 3 pucks in a row. Mathew Barzel, Thomas Chabot, Kyle Connor as well as Brock Boeser.
    Out of the 3 picks in a row the Bruins selected only DeBrusk has pan out.

  • Daniel Tencer, Esq.

    Are we just going to ignore the fact that the Bruins passed on Barzal, Connor, Chabot and others three times for two players that just had sub-par rookie seasons in the AHL? I mean, credit for the DeBrusk pick, but still.

    • I don’t think anybody is ignoring anything. Interesting, though, how some gravitate toward the negative — the miss on Barzal. To use your words, are you just going to ignore that the Bruins got McAvoy, DeBrusk and Pastrnak with first-round picks outside the top-10 during Gretzky’s three-year tenure as director of scouting? Even with the misses with the other two picks in the first round, that’s a pretty good haul from where I sit.

      • Daniel Tencer, Esq.

        They were fine picks, sure, but they were taken right around where they should have been. Using Bob McKenzie’s rankings – as they generally are the most accurate, being consolidations of multiple scouts’ opinions – I don’t think either the McAvoy (ranked 14 by McKenzie and picked 14) or Pastrnak picks (ranked 22 by McKenzie and picked 25) were anything groundbreaking. I’ll even give them Zboril, as he was picked right around where he was. But that Senyshen pick was a massive reach and is looking like one. Passing on high-end talent like Barzal and Connor multiple times is alarming.

      • kormega

        Maybe, but that draft looked poor anyway. From all the guys picked below #22 only Tolvanen is going to become a decent-to-top NHL player. His blow-up in KHL this season was amazing.

      • Gravis82

        Yamamoto had 2nd most goals and 2nd most points in his draft year of the remaining players in the first round. Patrick and Hischier had less because of shortened seasons, but pro-rated they would almost be similar anyway. There is no way you can call that a weak pick.

      • crabman


        I’ve heard you say the Yamamotto pick was bad numerous times now but you have never said why? I’ve asked you why without getting a response in the past so I’ll ask again. Why are you so sure Yamamotto was a bad draft pick?

        • Kneedroptalbot

          Yamamoto is undersized, he skates very well. Thats a good thing. There are a few undersized players who have done very well in the NHL. Tyler Johnson, and Johnny Gaudreau are good examples. I think Yamamoto has good hockey sense, however I beleive he puts himself in vulnerable postions and is not that strong defensively. Sure you can teach a player how to be better defensively (they tried with Hall).
          Many young players that are undersized and rushed into the leauge get injured and then never full reach their full potential. Turnovers and weak defensive play are also traits of young players who are fast tracking into the league.

          • crabman


            So your entire opinion that it was a bad pick is his size?
            The direction the league is moving towards it has never been easier for an undersized player to have a shot at succeeding. I think we will start to see more and more smaller skilled players drafted earlier than in the past and be given opportunities to play.
            Yamamotto is a very good risk to reward pick. He had top 10 talent and the only reason he fell to 22 was his size. He may never turn out but a player with his skill in the late 1st round is worth the risk.
            this year alone there were 34 players 5’9 or smaller to play at least 1 game in the NHL. 16 that played at least 50. 10 that had at least 30 points. 6 that had at least 50 points. 4 players in the top 70 in scoring. That’s pretty impressive. If Yamamotto has enough skill his size won’t stop him. not in today’s NHL.

        • Kneedroptalbot

          Crabman, those are good points. Speed and skill are the keys to success in todays NHL, more than ever.
          I certainly hope you are right and Yamamoto works out for the Oilers.

          • crabman


            I hope he works out too. I think he has a shot at becoming a top 6 forward but at this point he isn’t anything more than a prospect. My point is only, dispite his size he has skill and I think it is too early to call it a bad pick. I think if he even had average size he would have been a top 10 or even top 5 pick. He could look like a steal of a pick in a few years. Much like DeBrincat looked this year.
            Now we what and hope.

  • Moneyball

    I’d rather use Puljujarvi as Trade bait and save the pick. He probably has the same value as a late round first pick now to use to get some help on the wings or a Dman.

        • Big Nuggets

          draft smarter and develop the pmayers properly. Teubert was a long time ago. Puljujarvi should have been in the AHL and nobody would be declaring him a bust at 20. The NHL is still beyond him but he is young. Schiefele spent 2 year in the AHL and took a while after that to develop into the player he is today. Puljujarvi has a lot to learn yet. If I was in charge I would bring in enough wingers to ensure Jesse spends most of the season in the AHL.

  • Carbonrod

    I hope the draft this year goes well. The Oilers have a solid young core with McDavid, Drai, Nuge, Klef, Larsson, and Nurse but we do need a few more pieces. Even if we draft a forward and they only score 35 points at draft year +2 that’s still a piece we need.

    If Russel, Sek or Lucic could be traded I would take anything I could get, but I think if we sent any of the above players away it would be a loss for us.

  • OilersGM

    Let’s not forget the miss on DeBrincat and that’s not a knock on Benson but DeBrincat sure looks like a top 6 forward and especially when he played with McDavid in juniors should’ve been a no brainer.

  • Cap'n Obvious

    Whatever the Oilers do, just don’t bring in any Europeans with first or last names that start with the letter ‘J’. Not because they’re not good, it’s just that the media has run amok with their constant pronunciation pandering and silent J’s. It’s getting out of hand. It’s Jessie, not Yessa! Lol.

    • GregJP

      That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day. You should pronounce the name the way the person who has that name pronounces it. How do you pronounce Jaromir Jagr? You’d sound pretty stupid pronouncing it the way you think it should be pronounced.

  • Puckerlips

    If I were going to trade #10 I would look for really good chemistry with McDavid. He has looked pretty darn good playing for team Canada with Ryan O’Reilly but I’m not sure Buffalo would trade him.