Now that we know the NHL wants to hold their annual entry draft in early June regardless of the 2019-20 season not being over yet, it got me thinking about what the Oilers approach might be for this year’s fishing derby.
There is absolutely no doubt that the 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be unlike any that we’ve ever seen before or will see again, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of work to be done that could shape this franchise for years to come. Regardless of whether or not you think the timing of the draft is strange given that the league still wants to finish the current season, it’s clear that the NHL wants to make this happen which means it’s time to take a look at what the Oilers might do with the at-bats they do have.
Heading into the draft, the Oilers have five of their seven picks (1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th) and that’s assuming some weird mediation session won’t grant the Calgary Flames the conditional third from the Neal for Lucic swap. As we discussed yesterday, there hasn’t been any official word on what will happen with that pick, but since pro-rating Neal’s goals would be dumb we’re going to run with the idea that Edmonton will be keeping it for the purposes of this exercise. Besides, in early April, Ken Holland already said that he expects to be keeping the pick:
“He had to score 21 goals. If you look at the trade memo, there is nothing in there about pro-rating” or anything. It’s pretty black and white. If we’re able to complete the season, it will play itself out and hopefully, James scores a few more goals because we’re going to need some to play our way into the playoffs. But if not, my understanding is we’d get our third-round pick back.”
Looking at the prospect depth chart, the Oilers are in serious need of some forwards that can score and since a lot of pundits have said that this upcoming draft class could be one of the best we’ve seen in a while, it got me thinking about whether or not Uncle Ken might go searching for some extra picks in the earlier rounds to make that happen. I know the idea of trading down isn’t always a popular one around here, but maybe this is the year to give it a wing? While in Detroit, I found a few instances where he traded back to secure more picks and I wonder if that might be something he’d be interested in doing here as well.
In 2016, Holland moved the 16th overall pick along with Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona for the 20th overall pick and the 53rd overall pick in the second round. In 2011, he moved the 24th overall pick to Ottawa in exchange for a pair of second-round picks (35th and 48th overall). In 2009, he moved the 29th overall pick to Philly in exchange for a second and a third-rounder (32nd and 75th overall). In 2006, he moved the 29th overall pick along with a fifth-rounder to the Coyotes in exchange for a pair of seconds (41st and 47th overall). My point here is that Holland is not opposed to moving back in the draft if it means getting more bullets for his scouts to use, and since the Oilers are little bit light up front, there could be an opportunity for him to do the same here.
Looking around, the Ottawa Senators currently have four second-round picks and since they’re just starting their rebuild, maybe they’d want to make an even bigger splash and move up a little bit to grab a fourth first-rounder? The Montreal Canadiens have three second-round picks and a pair in the third round so maybe they’d be an option? The Nashville Predators have two picks in the second round and two in the third, and since they’re a team that still wants to compete for the Stanley Cup then maybe they’d be willing to move scratch tickets around? Seeing as it’s unlikely that Jesse Puljujarvi will ever come back nor would he be a part of any resumed season provided that it actually happens, what would he fetch for the team off the back of his fine season in the Finnish league?
If the Oilers are picking around 20-23rd overall based on points percentage, I wonder how tempted Old Dutch might be to move back to try and fish for more picks in what has been described as a deep draft. If that truly is the case, how much difference would there be between a guy selected in the bottom of third of the opening round as opposed to a pair of guys picked in the second? This isn’t like we’re talking about a top-five prospect here. Normally, around these parts anyway, we rarely consider moving down in the draft but since Holland has a history of pulling off this kind of move, maybe this is the year we see the Oilers looking for quantity and quality?