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Bob McKenzie: The List

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.

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AT THE TOP

Here’s McKenzie’s final top 15 (April 27 list in parenthesis) and profiles from MyNHLDraft.com mock draft:

  1. Rasmus Dahlin (1)
  2. Andrei Svechnikov (2)
  3. Brady Tkachuk (4)
  4. Filip Zadina (3)
  5. Jesperi Kotkaniemi (10)
  6. Noah Dobson (8)
  7. Evan Bouchard (5)
  8. Quinton Hughes (9)
  9. Oliver Wahlstrom (7)
  10. Adam Boqvist (6)
  11. Barrett Hayton (12)
  12. Vitali Kravstov (16)
  13. Ty Smith (13)
  14. Joe Veleno (11)
  15. 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?

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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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  • Shane

    I’m definately hating on Hayton. When all the D prospects have more points then the forward pick the defenceman. I’d be more then happy with Smith, Boquvist, Whalstrom but please stay away from Velano and Hayton. Good NHL players come from great junior players and those 2 are just above average.

      • Shane

        I don’t really understand why he’s a safer pick either. Wouldn’t a ppg defencemen, or player that already has NHL level skating, passing, shot etc. be a safer pick then a guy who doesn’t really excel at anything but has a good attitude, and plays the right way? I mean thats way more coachable than skating and sniping. If you really just want a no risk 3rd line center just trade the pick for one and don’t gamble at all.

        • Big Nuggets

          I’m not buying this ‘safe pick’ tag line either. He sounds like a decent prospect but at 10th overall in a deep draft you would expect a highly skilled player. Not a player that still needs to work on skating. Maybe Hayton turns into a stud, its tough to say, but someone made the Curtis Lazar comparison and since reading that I am a bit weary.

  • Ol_OneNut

    Oilers need a RH puck moving defenseman now, not in five years. So unless Dahlin falls to them lol, I hope they pick Hayton or Veleno. The other D are years away from playing in the NHL.

  • Consultant

    Boqvist being so close to 2019 eligible has to be considered.
    Of course we would have to wait a couple/ few years for him but he looks like he could be the blue chip dman we need. The concussions are scary though.. touch call, let’s hope Bouchard, Dobson or Hughes fall…

    • IRONman

      Let’s call a spade a spade. Dobson and the other D will be gone. PC said he wants a NHL ready play aka a forward. Deniskov is fast. Better than what we got

    • crabman

      Been saying this for a few weeks now. Not sure it could happen unless someone dropped to 10 that Philly thaught was worth 14 and 19. 3 picks in the top 40 of what is looking like a deep draft would go a long way to beefing up the prospect pool and open up a lot of options st the draft. Listening to the lowdown today there was talk about the draft being so deep on D that there will he numerous future top4 D still available at 40 and probably through the end of the 2nd.

  • fasteddy

    In limited WHL viewings I’ve not been blown away by Smith…I must add however that I’ve come to realize that predicting NHL success for WHL players is an art and/or science that I’m not qualified for!

  • camdog

    As to Smith, why would the Oilers telegraph the pick to the league? I’d hope it’s a bluff or else another team could try and make them trade up to get their guy.

  • Serious Gord

    The adjectives on position on Boqvist make him sound like the perfect option.

    But the hard facts – Height, Weight, Injuries are the three terrors the oil org has been plagued with for over ten years now. And it makes him a gamble at #10 (granted the entire draft is a gamble). My guess is he falls even further and some team in rebuild mode picks him up.

    As there are no RHD further down the rankings – perhaps a trade up to get either Dobson or Bouchard might be in order, but then, at what cost?

  • Kybra

    The past couple years we’ve taken players who have fallen in the rankings, looking for that great value pick. There’s still lots of time, but those players are the projects everyone expected them to be. I have no problem with that at all.
    This year for me though, is about making the safe, predictable pick. In my mind that’s Barrett Hayton, and he won’t see the NHL for three years. But he will be an NHL player with a solid career – just as advertised. The PP quarterback will come from free agency, until Bear is ready to take the reins.

  • RexHolez

    This is going to be a very interesting draft. I think there’s going to be a lot of quality nhl players come out of this draft. Personally i’m Looking forward to see if Merkley goes in the first round.

        • Shane

          Because the scouts say he has more tools than most of the players ahead of him and the same article said he’s taken his medicine after being benched last year, and worked on his defensive game. Also he’s a hard to find right hand D. He’s a reach at 10 but has more potential than Hayton, Velano, even some of the other top ranked defencemen according to Pronman at the Athletic. I’m speculating he would be a mid 1st round pick if he wasn’t on 30% of the leagues do not draft list. ( 30% figure from Friedman podcast 2 -3 days ago )

          • Shane

            Merkley is No. 32 on TSN’s final rankings. No one would dispute that he has top-10 talent as a creative and offensive defenceman, but scouts have openly flagged him because of questionable attitude and behaviour.
            -Bob Mckenzie
            Robin Brownlee looks like Bob Mckenzie would also say he’s talented enough to be a top 10 draft pick. Like I said its a reach pick but I’d still take him over Velano/Hayton who arguabley dont have the same skill level. 17 yos can mature

        • RexHolez

          I agree, 10 is way too early for him, but I think someone will take him later on, maybe low 20’s. I think he’s an interesting pick. Has a chance at becoming a good player, but a lot of guys with similar question marks as him never really planned out. But, I’d take a chance on him in the 20’s.

          I think it’s a good draft year to trade down and try to get 2 picks in the first

        • crabman

          @Brownlee,

          I agree that Merkley has too many red flags to take him at 10 but Pronman isn’t the only one taking about his elite talent. Willis has an article over at The Athletic today looking at prospects from a puely production point of view. Of course Dahlin is ranked #1 in a tier of his own with his only recent comparison being Hedman who he out performs in the same league at the same age. But tier 2 only has Svechnikov, Hughes, Merkley, Bouchard, and Smith in that order.
          Part of Willis’ description of Merkley is, “an elite level scorer, plus one of the youngest players in this draft class.” Of course he mentions that Merkley will fall because of his negatives but it isn’t just Pronman talking about the skill level Merkley has.

      • crabman

        I wouldn’t take Merkley at 10 but if I was a team like Detroit, Ottawaor the Rangers with multiple picks I would take him in the later part of round 1. His potential is supposedly top end and with multiple picks he is worth the risk.

      • Big Nuggets

        If theybare high on Merkley maybe trade up to 30 if he is still available then. Detroit has a bunch of picks in the 30 range and would probably listen to a trade proposal.

  • Cowboy Bill

    They signed Robert Persson for a reason . He’s also older than Boquist and of similar skill set . Smith is another LHD not sure I see the attraction . But Stauffer says he’s their guy . Hayton or Veleno would be better bets IMO .

  • camdog

    It wasn’t long ago Bob was trolling Oiler fans with the “top 9 separating themselves from the pack”. We all knew or should have known his top 9 would change by June. Reality is and always has been that number 1 and 2 are locks and then their is a cluster of about 10 that could go in any real order depending on team needs. Things haven’t changed, but the spin has.

  • Arfguy

    At this point, I think the Oilers should take Boqvist or Smith and not look back. I realize that everyone seems to be dying for a balanced right-shot D and left-shot D, but there’s plenty of NHL teams that work just fine with two defencemen with left shot. If they pick a defenceman, which I think they should, they should not expect this player to be ready for another 2-3 years. Honestly, I want the Oilers to succeed ASAP, but not by rushing it. The Oilers have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisailt and Darnell Nurse. I think those are 3 really great pieces to build a winning team. Just gotta exercise more patience.

  • Arfguy

    I’m also very intrigued by Ryan Merkley. Something about him says that he will be a really high production defenceman. He looks amazing when he skates and I would love to see him in an Oilers uniform. I get the feeling that he’ll be gone by the time the first round is over.

  • VK63

    Bobby Mac has no peers and in my opinion this is largely a fundamental of the integrity he has maintained through the duration of his outstanding career.
    He is the King…… the rest are mere peasants and glorified shills. And for what its worth….. the paywalled collections of draft intel are a study in “new plagiarism”….. glitz it up so it looks like we did some work.

    Love Bob… the game will suffer a major blow when he decides to shut her down and take up wine tasting as a professional hobby.

  • dsanchez1973

    There was an excellent breakdown of Boqvist’s issues recently that showed unbelievable levels of deficiency in his own zone. In the o-zone, or with the puck on his stick, he’s magic. In the d-zone with the other team having possession, he not only seems clueless positionally, but disengaged effortwise. If the list plays out as suggested, I’d be paying to move up for Wahlstrom.

  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    OEG employee Stauffer suggested Smith, Hayton, Kravstov and Boqvist will be available and the Oilers are likely to pick Hayton or Smith.

  • FMS

    The really interesting part of Bob’s list for me was that Hayton and Kravtsov both got top 5 votes. I’m hoping one of those two sneaks into the top 10 for a team seeking forwards, leaving someone like Hughes or Bouchard for the Oilers.

    • RexHolez

      No doubt, he’s the Angelo Esposito and josh ho sang of the draft. It’s possible he becomes the second best defenseman to come out of this draft, it’s also possible he becomes a bust. He’s the guy I’ll be watching from this draft to see what he becomes. The guy has a boat load of skill.

    • Some similarities but also differences. Schremp had a rep as a difficult player and was a guy who was considered a top-end talent. Even with those issues, some scouts I talked to at that draft (2004) thought he’d drop but still go in the top 15 (he ended up going 25th). In the end, it was Robbie’s stubbornness — he wanted to play “Rob Schremp hockey” as he called it, which meant scrimping on defensive reliability — that sunk him here and with the NYI. He didn’t think he needed to change his game.
      Merkley is also considered a player with high-end talent and issues, but he’s only rated in the top 20 on four of the 19 lists I’m looking at. He’s not even ranked in the first round on seven of those lists and he’s 31st on three others. Maybe he’s grown up and maybe some team gets a steal, maybe not. Like I said in another comment, I’ll go with McKenzie — I see him going right at the end of the first round or early in the second.