For me, whether it was in the days when I was up to my eyeballs covering the Edmonton Oilers with the dailies or now, when I’m sitting at my kitchen table more than an arm’s length away from those truly in the know, Bob McKenzie’s final NHL draft ranking list has always set the standard for what we can expect to unfold when teams step to the podium.
In some ways, that holds more true these days when anybody with a laptop and an internet connection can get their best guesses out there whether they’ve talked to a single scout or not. I’ve lost track of the number of “insiders” offering up the skinny, or their version of it, as draft day, this year in Dallas, approaches. There’s no harm in that, really, because websites, be they MSM-based or fan sites just getting their take out there, are looking to generate discussion and traffic.
If getting an accurate read matters to you, this is the time when access to hockey-ops people, from GMs down through directors of scouting and their staffs, really matters. While those who don’t have access sometimes downplay it during the course of a season – “you guys don’t ask tough questions anyway” – the ability to take or make a text to those making the decisions provides an inside track. Without it, you can make an educated guess as to what you think could or should happen, but that’s all it is – a guess. This is when access and relationships matter most.
There’s only a handful of media guys who have that inside track to information on a national level. I think of people like Pierre LeBrun, Nick Kypreos and Darren Dreger. For me, McKenzie, who has spent decades working the phones, hotel lobbies and rinks building relationships with those who call the shots, produces the list best reflecting how NHL scouting staffs have things sized up. His 2018 edition is out today and you can find it right here.
AT THE TOP
Here’s McKenzie’s final top 15 (April 27 list in parenthesis) and profiles from MyNHLDraft.com mock draft:
- Rasmus Dahlin (1)
- Andrei Svechnikov (2)
- Brady Tkachuk (4)
- Filip Zadina (3)
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi (10)
- Noah Dobson (8)
- Evan Bouchard (5)
- Quinton Hughes (9)
- Oliver Wahlstrom (7)
- Adam Boqvist (6)
- Barrett Hayton (12)
- Vitali Kravstov (16)
- Ty Smith (13)
- Joe Veleno (11)
- Grigori Denisenko (15)
Kotkaniemi and Kravstov are the big risers on McKenzie’s final list. Boqvist dropped four spots. From an Oilers’ perspective, I profiled Dobson, Bouchard, Wahlstrom, Hayton and Smith over the last week or so as possible picks with the 10th selection based on fit and possible availability. I saw Dobson, Bouchard and Wahlstrom as longshots for the Oilers because they’d have to drop.
The same holds true today, although with Wahlstrom at No. 9, I wonder if the Oilers might get a crack at him. Hayton and Smith looked like the best bets a week ago because they’d likely still be on the board and that remains the same. The interesting change-up there, of course, is that McKenzie now has Boqvist in the No. 10 spot where the Oilers pick. Lots of people have had Boqvist sliding and McKenzie’s list today reflects it.
On the face of it, Boqvist is a perfect fit for the Oilers as a rights-hot D-man with plenty of skill and offensive upside. So, what’s the real issue? Are a couple of concussions the reason he has dropped? Is there more? I don’t know. More important is where the Oilers have him ranked. Would they see him as a gift pick at 10th based on where he has been listed or do they say “no thanks” and choose to go with Hayton or Smith?
There’s been plenty of discussion and debate in the last couple of weeks and that will only intensify between today and when we get going in Dallas. It’s been suggested by some, including Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, Smith would be a solid fit here. I think that’s true. Hayton is also seen as a safe pick who will definitely be an NHL player. The question is his ceiling. Now, Boqvist sits in the 10-spot on the list of the MSM guy I trust most. If it’s up to you, do you take Boqvist over Smith or Hayton at 10th no question?
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