So, if the first round of the NHL Entry Draft goes exactly the way Bob McKenzie of TSN envisions it, the Edmonton Oilers will be selecting Russian right winger Vasili Podkolzin in Vancouver on Friday with the eighth overall pick.
That said, McKenzie’s list, which dropped this morning, might be the most anticipated projection of who fits where leading into the draft for hockey fans in general, but things seldom go exactly the way he or anybody else lays things out.
Outside the first handful of picks, usually the top three or four depending on the year, players often move up or down a slot or two. It seems that at some point in the top-10 a team takes a flyer on a player rated later in the first round or goes right off the board completely – hello, Jesse Niinimaki – which re-sets many of the following picks. Risers. Fallers.
Framed in taking the best player available, the list that matters for the Oilers, of course, is the one drawn up by Keith Gretzky and the team’s amateur scouting staff. What does that top-10 look like? Who do the Oilers have ranked eighth? Do they have Podkolzin rated there? What about Dylan Cozens or Peyton Krebs? Do they see those players the same way McKenzie does?
DRAW IT UP
The reality is, whether you’re a reporter covering the team and supposedly connected at least a little with what the scouting staff is thinking, or a fan scribbling out possibilities on a scrap of paper at home without even a shred of inside intel to work with, there’s no way to predict how things will play out – taking Connor McDavid first doesn’t count.
Even during the years when I wrote the Oilers beat at the dailies, I didn’t see draft-aged players nearly enough to make an educated assessment of them leading into all the drafts I covered, especially in the pre-YouTube days. You relied on your rapport with the team’s scouts, what you heard. Even then, scouts were reluctant to show you the cards they were holding. Nobody ever said, “Here’s our list.” Not once. You got hints. Bits and pieces. Nods.
Without even that much to work with, your guess is as good as mine. As one example, we’ve heard mentions by people I consider to be in-the-know about the Oilers being interested in Swedish defenceman Philip Broberg with the eighth pick. Does that mean for certain the Oilers are interested? Maybe, but interested is one thing, calling the player’s name is another.
Despite being rated lower by McKenzie – in the 15th spot – and not being the skilled forward most agree makes sense for the Oilers to add at this draft, Broberg is my guess, but that’s all it is. Like I said, though, even if I’m guessing right, that can change when a team does something unexpected in the top seven spots. Who do you have at eighth, and way?
SECOND TIME AROUND
I’ll admit up front I didn’t care much for Dallas Eakins when he arrived as the coach of the Oilers. First, I thought Ralph Krueger got a raw deal from GM Craig MacTavish. Second, Eakins arrived with way too much swagger for my liking for a guy who’d proven nothing as a coach at the NHL level. Third, I didn’t much care for all the hype Eakins got from some of the eastern media before he eventually crashed and burned here.
All that said, Eakins picked himself up off the floor and did some really good work with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL on the way to being named coach of the Anaheim Ducks today. After coming off as thinking he was the smartest guy in the room, Eakins swallowed a heaping helping of humble pie and earned the second chance he’s getting. I think a Q&A Eakins did with Mark Spector of Sports Net was telling, particularly this snippet:
“I went in there with a f—ing blow torch, and a can of gasoline, and I tried to hit everything head on,” Eakins said. “And I tried to hit it all in two weeks. ‘We’re going to get this changed, right away!’ Obviously it backfired . . .”
Eakins didn’t have a good enough team to work with. The roster was full of holes. Of that, there’s no question. He compounded matters with the way he handled the situation. Taking ownership for that, being humbled by what happened, tells me he has a chance to get it right this time, even with the challenges presented by an Anaheim outfit that needs a lot of work.
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