With the Oilers picking 8th overall on Friday night at NHL Draft, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane and look at the players selected between 6-10 over the past five years to see if we can find any consistencies in who gets picked around that slot. Today, our series takes us back to the 2015 NHL Draft.
In today’s yearly review, we’re looking at the players taken in the stacked 2015 McDraft to see if there are any clues we can take into Friday night. As you’ll soon see, there were some fantastic hockey players that went into in our 6-10 range and, if anything, it really got me hoping that the Oilers might land another gem in that range as they did last year with Bouchard. Again, I know that looking back at past drafts doesn’t really mean anything in terms of what will happen this coming weekend, but I do think it’s a fun exercise to see how long it took some of these guys to establish themselves as legitimate contributors at the NHL level.
#6 – Pavel Zacha – C – New Jersey Devils
Rookie Season (2016-17) 70GP: 8G, 16A = 24 points
2018-19 Season w/ New Jersey: 61GP: 13G, 12A = 25 points
Pavel Zacha is an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to make a significant impact on the game. He can play physical, but is at his best when using his high-end offensive abilities, such as his shot, stickhandling, and footspeed, to generate numbers in the opposition’s end of the ice. All-in-all, Zacha is a lethal weapon that can be depended upon to create, and finish, dangerous scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.
Of the five guys featured on today’s list, only Zacha has yet to establish himself as a full time NHLer. That’s not to say that he won’t ever do so, he certainly has a range of skills that could help him find his way, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s more destined for a bottom-six role rather than a scoring centre as he was expected to be on draft day.
#7 – Ivan Provorov – D – Philadelphia Flyers
Rookie Season (2016-17) – 82GP: 6G, 24A = 30 points
2018-19 Season w/ Philadelphia: 82GP: 7G, 19A = 26 points
An offensively gifted defenceman who can direct the game’s pace when the puck is on his stick. Provorov is a quick and agile skater with an accurate release on his shot, which he can get off anywhere below the blue line; creates many chances on the power play and can even create offense during the penalty kill. Is an adroit and creative passer who knows how to use his teammates well. All-in-all, a complete defenceman who knows how goals are scored and executes accordingly.
Provorov is exactly the kind of puck moving defenceman the Oilers need and have needed for a long time now (Bouchard aside). Despite the 2018-19 season being his worst in terms of production, he was still a mainstay on Philly’s blue line, averaging 25:07 per night on a bad team.
#8 – Zach Werenski – D – Columbus Blue Jackets
Rookie Season (2016-17) – 78GP: 11G, 36A = 47 points
2018-19 Season w/ Columbus: 82GP: 11G, 33A = 44 points
A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman that has a strong understanding of the game. Excels in key situations and is able to execute under pressure. Possesses good vision and awareness on the ice; uses his abilities to put offensive and defensive pressure on the opposition. All-in-all, a very strong all-around defenceman that consistently brings his game every night.
In his three years with Columbus, Werenski has averaged 42 points from the blue line which would land him atop of the Oilers’ offensive output from a defenceman. Only Darnell Nurse was able to crack the 40-point plateau in 2018-19 with no one else really coming close (Klefbom could have if he was healthy). Say by chance that Bowen Byram slides to #8 (I doubt he will btw), I would think the Oilers would have interest in adding another defenceman with the ability to put up points, wouldn’t you?
#9 – Timo Meier – RW – San Jose Sharks
Rookie Season (2016-17) – 34GP: 3G, 3A = 6 points
2018-19 Season w/ San Jose: 78GP: 30G, 36A = 66 points
A physically dominant winger with the ability to play in a skill or character role. In the offensive end, Meier is very aware and gets himself into spaces where he can easily make seeing eye passes or snap hard, accurate shots. Can impact the game in a number of different ways, and is very consistent in his efforts. All-in-all, the kind of versatile player who you can put on a skill line, and trust to create dangerous chances, or on a shutdown line, and trust to help stop pucks from going into your net.
Timo Meier is an absolute unit and the Oilers would be lucky to get a player like him with the 8th pick. Even yesterday, Jason Gregor wrote about how some teams might consider offer sheeting the guy and giving up picks based on how he’s progressing. After a couple of years developing in junior and the AHL, Meier was able to start putting up numbers for San Jose, and while that timeline may not necessarily happen for whoever the Oilers grab with their first round pick, there is certainly a chance that they could get someone that can step in reasonably quickly. Gord knows we need the offence.
#10 – Mikko Rantanen – LW – Colorado Avalanche
Rookie Season (2016-17): 75GP: 20G, 18A = 38 points
2018-19 Season w/ Colorado: 74GP: 31G, 56A = 87 points
An exceptionally talented playmaker and always a consistent threat on the ice; Rantanen is a combination of elite-level hockey sense, silky smooth hands, and nimble skating. Needs to improve his shot and physical play, as he doesn’t take advantage of his size in many situations. All-in-all, an intelligent, big-bodied forward that oozes skill.
What a monster pick at #10 for the Colorado Avalanche. In each of his three full seasons with the Avalanche, Rantanen has upped his goals, assists and points totals, which will land him a fat contract this offseason and established him as one of the league’s premiere scoring threats. Considering the Oilers desperately needed offensive options on the wing, wouldn’t it be amazing if they could knock their pick out of the park just like Colorado did here? Sweet mercy.
Outside of Pavel Zacha who is still finding his footing at the NHL level, this middle section of the 2015 draft looks rock solid so far. I know the Oilers got the ultimate prize that year in Connor McDavid (we’ll ignore what else they did in the first round that year), but you’d have to agree that this team would have a spot for any of guys picked 7-10. That said, some guys took more time than others to establish themselves at the NHL level than others, a fact we Oilers fans probably need to get used to, and I think that it’ll be incredibly important to have a long view with whoever the team grabs.
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