In the normal course of business, the NHL Entry Draft gets its own window for buzz and speculation before the free agency season takes over the spotlight a couple of weeks of later. Of course, 2020 has been anything but a normal year in terms of timeline thanks to COVID-19.
That’s why, with the Entry Draft going today and tomorrow and the UFA feeding frenzy starting Friday, the latter is of more interest to me. With the Edmonton Oilers needing help now, they aren’t going to find it with the 14th selection in the draft – the last player taken at that spot to play in the NHL the next season was Dmitri Kulikov, with the Florida Panthers in 2009-10.
While the Oilers have the opportunity to get a very good prospect with the 14th selection, history tells us there’s likely not immediate help there, be it in goal, on defence or up front. GM Ken Holland has already said he’ll get himself a goaltender in the next week, possibly via trade but more likely in the UFA market. He’s looking to fill holes at centre on his third line and he might need some help on defence because he’ll be without Oscar Klefbom long-term.
That much we know, and more on that later. As for that 14th pick, who might the Oilers get there? Based on what Holland has said, it’s probably going to be a forward because the Oilers are well-stocked with young D-men here and now. Trying to predict these things, of course, is almost always a guess 14 spots down because all it takes is a couple of off-the-board picks higher up to send even the most well thought out mock draft off the rails.
That said, I’ve circled three names.
THE OILERS SELECT . . .
SETH JARVIS, C/F, PORTLAND WHL. Jarvis is speedy, smart and dynamic. He scored 42-56-98 in 58 games and 65 of those points came in his final 29 games. Some mocks have Jarvis going two or three picks higher than where the Oilers pick. Suffice to say, if Jarvis is there when the Oilers pick, they’ll take him.
YAROSLAV ASKAROV, G, SKA,-Neva VHL. Askarov isn’t the stopper Holland needs to share the crease with Mikko Koskinen next season, but he’ll have a decision to make if he’s on the board when it’s his turn to pick. According to those who earn their livings by having their eyes on prospects, Askarov is absolutely blue chip, the kind of stopper the Oilers could count on 60 games a season down the road.
DYLAN HOLLOWAY, C, UNIV WISCONSIN. Dubbed a power forward who can play a 200-foot game by many, Holloway can skate, has good hands and he competes. While there’s some debate how much of a high-end offensive talent Holloway will become, there’s no question that he projects as a sure-fire NHL forward.
Jarvis, in the event he’s available, is a lock to be an Oiler. Askarov presents Holland with a decision to make if he’s still hanging around. Given the lack of goaltending prospects in the Oilers’ pipeline and an obvious need in goal — this season and beyond — he’d be a no-brainer as the answer in the crease for me.
Oilers’ chief scout Tyler Wright talked this week about all the mock drafts his scouting staff has done – I haven’t seen those, although I’m wondering if any of Edmonton’s bird dogs might have Sarnia forward Jacob Perreault higher than many of the mock drafts do. Perreault is another name worth keeping an eye on.
WHILE I’M AT IT
With Klefbom out, I wonder if Holland makes a call about Tyson Barrie, who had a tough season in Toronto but might be had at a decent price because of it . . . if Barrie, 29, who earned $5.5 million last season, is too pricey, I wonder if Sami Vatanen might be an option in the top four . . . I’m not usually big on encores, but when I look at UFA Cam Talbot, I see an unquestionably solid team guy who would fit behind Koskinen and wouldn’t break the bank coming off a contract that paid him $2.75 million in Calgary.
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