The 2019 NHL draft will kick off in Vancouver on Friday evening. For the 10th time in 11 years, the Oilers will be selecting in the top 10. You know the drill. Let’s talk draft strategy.
This will be Ken Holland’s first draft at the helm of the Oilers, but having worked for decades with the Red Wings in various scouting capacities before becoming general manager, this is nothing new for him. He’ll also be able to lean on an amateur scouting staff who have done a fairly solid job for the Oilers in the past couple years, making smart picks in the first round like Kailer Yamamoto and Evan Bouchard while also finding some gems like Dimitri Samourokov later in the draft.
This What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION is about Holland’s strategy rolling into his first-ever draft as the Oilers’ general manager. What should he be looking for with his first-round pick? Should he look to either trade up or trade down? Or should the eighth-overall pick be in play for a player who can help the team now?
Keep the pick?
If the Oilers just stand pat and select with the eighth overall choice, they certainly have a good player fall into their lap. The only sure things in this draft are that Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko will be heading to New Jersey and New York first and second overall. After that, it’s anybody’s guess how this thing goes down.
Take a player like Vasili Podzolkin for example. I’ve seen him ranked as high as third overall in mid-season lists and I’ve also seen him listed as low as 20th. After those first two aforementioned players, it’s really hard to say who’s going to go where, but it’s inevitable the Oilers will have a quality player available to them.
Cola Caufield, a wildly skilled forward who dominated the U-18s, will likely be sitting there when the Oilers draft. If somebody like Caufield who’s ranked outside the top-10 because of his size, does end up going higher than expected, it’ll mean another good player like Dylan Cozens or Trevor Zegras fell down. That’s what we saw last year when Montreal selected Jesperi Kotkaniemi third and Arizona took Barrett Hayton fifth. A couple of surprising picks pushed Filip Zadina down to sixth and Evan Bouchard all the way down to 10th.
Move up or down?
There’s also the possibility of either moving up or moving down. It isn’t something we’ve seen the Oilers do in recent years, but it’s certainly a possibility.
At this stage, it’s hard to imagine the Oilers moving up. As I said, it’s a crapshoot after No. 1 and 2 overall, and the Oilers aren’t in a position to sell the farm to acquire Hughes or Kakko. Given the depth of the draft, moving down makes a lot more sense for this team.
Last year, scouts and experts said that there was a very clear top 10 in the draft and the Oilers were right on the cusp of it with the 10th overall pick. This year, that isn’t the case. The Oilers could easily move down a few spots if they can find a partner who badly wants to acquire a player at eighth overall and still select a very good prospect.
In doing so, they could either acquire more picks in what’s being deemed as an incredibly deep draft or they can use it as a sweetener in another deal. Could swapping No. 10 and No. 8 overall be the sweetener the Canucks need to pull the trigger on a Milan Lucic for Loui Eriksson swap?
I wouldn’t blame Oilers fans for not wanting to trade down given what happened back in 2003.
Trade for immediate help?
While we expect Ken Holland to take his time to work through Peter Chiarelli’s mess, there’s also a lot of pressure for the Oilers to improve immediately. Missing the playoffs for a third-straight season would be nothing short of a disaster. The eighth overall pick could certainly help them get a player who could be a game-changer right now.
Offensive minded right defenceman Tyson Barrie’s name has been mentioned in trade talks for years and he would be a great fit alongside Darnell Nurse on Edmonton’s second pair. The Jets are looking to shake things up and Nik Ehlers could give the Oilers the one-two punch behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that they need.
What say you, Nation? How should Holland approach the draft? Should he just stand still and get a good prospect with the eighth pick? Should he look to trade down? Or should he try to move it for immediate help?
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