With the 2022 NHL Entry Draft only a few weeks away, I figured it was time to settle in and figure out what kind of player the Oilers will have available to them at 29th overall provided they decide to keep that pick.
One of the underrated bright sides of the Oilers making it to the Western Conference Final is that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with the NHL Draft or who would even be available by the time we’re on the clock at 29th overall. Thankfully, Chris Peters put together a top prospects list over at Daily Faceoff that can help us figure out what type of player could get added to our depth chart on July 7th in Montreal. For a lot of us, seeing the Oilers picking at 29th is foreign territory and that means we need to dig a little deeper to figure out who could be around in the bottom end of the first round. With that in mind, I’ve grabbed a sample of seven players from Peters’ list that fall within the Oilers’ range and may or may not be around when our number gets called. Let’s check it out.
Perhaps the most polarizing player in the class, Lambert has tools that suggest he should be an elite player. He is a sublime skater, probably the best in this draft class, and has a higher-end skill set as well. The issue with Lambert is that we’ve basically seen him in Finnish pro hockey for three years with little to no progression beyond continued physical development. He played for three teams in the last three years and had the same results. In fact, he had fewer points this season than he did last. His inability to get to the interior of the ice consistently is an especially large concern about his game as he can’t simply be a perimeter player. That has sparked concerns about his hockey sense and his competitiveness. I’ve talked to scouts who say the tools are worth the risk and I’ve talked to others who would advocate for his team not to draft him at all. I’ve come down somewhere in the middle, but I recognize the risk that exists in hanging a first-round pick on him. If you watched him play one game and saw the skating and the hands, you’d say this player is one of the very best prospects, but the rest just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as well.
Baggedmilk Notes: Looking at some of the scouting reports on Lambert’s skill set, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll still be around at #29 but it will be interesting to see where he ends up. That said, this kid apparently has some flaws that could cause him to slide and he’ll need to polish out but when you’re as skilled as he is you know someone will take a flyer on him.
A down-low force with work ethic that doesn’t relent, Snuggerud has often had to do the dirty work on his line. Despite that role, he is an especially dangerous scoring threat. Snuggerud has a great release and heavy shot that can surprise goalies. On top of that, he has the size and strength to get to the middle and make plays in tough areas. His skating is not amazing, which is a reason I don’t have him higher on this list. I think Snuggerud is a well-rounded, committed player who makes those around him better and can create a lot of extra room for his linemates to operate.
Baggedmilk Notes: Last past season saw Snuggerud’s production increase in the USHL (26GP: 6G, 20A) which is obviously nice to see, but what intrigues me most about the kid is the glowing reports on his work ethic. Maybe it’s just because Zach Hyman has impressed me so much in his first year with the Oilers, but having more guys that won’t stop on the depth chart would be very nice to see.
You can watch Bichsel for a matter of minutes and see the pro potential. He checked in at the combine at 6-foot-5.5 and 225 pounds and he knows how to use that frame. He defends very well and did so even against professionals this year, appearing in 29 SHL games this season. He was physically dominant and showed some better offensive tools at the U20 level, scoring seven points in 11 games in junior with Leksands this season. Bichsel dealt with some late-season injuries that prevented him from participating in a number of events including the U18 World Championship which surely could have aided his draft stock. Injuries aside, the upside of a player like Bichsel is pretty huge, especially at that size and with the physicality he plays with. The concern is if he thinks the game at a high enough level offensively to be more than a mobile defender with size and physicality. Picking him in the first round, you’re betting on his ability to find it.
Baggedmilk Notes: This kid is an absolute monster. At 6’5 and 225 pounds, it’s not crazy to think that he will pack on more weight as he gets older and that makes him an interesting prospect for whoever uses their pick on this Viking of a prospect.
A towering defenseman with excellent mobility for a big man, Pickering has a lot of tools that stand out. There’s some raw potential there as I think his anticipation and overall hockey sense still need to advance to make him a more effective two-way player. Offensively, he is adequate, but there are flashes of greater potential. He did have 33 points in 62 games for a poor Swift Current team this season. As he gets a bit more aggressive and confident with the puck on his stick, it could open up the possibility of him one day becoming a top-four defender.
Baggedmilk Notes: Like Bichsel before him, Owen Pickering is a massive defenceman that also seems to have added a little bit of scoring touch in his second season with the Swift Current Broncos. In 62 games played, Pickering added nine goals and 24 assists for 33 points in a bigger role with the Broncos and it will be interesting to follow along with his career to see if he can expand upon those numbers.
He’s a big, raw blueliner who split time between his high school team and the Waterloo Black Hawks. I think Rinzel’s stock may be higher had he played junior all year. His high school performances were fine, but at the junior level under better competition, I thought he raised his level a few notches but you could see he was behind a little bit. Rinzel is a very good skater for a player his size and has an innate ability to get pucks up ice with some incredible skill and vision. What he has in physical tools, though, he lacks in the hockey sense department. I think he just needs time and experience to make better reads and quicker decisions. He might have some of the highest upside of any defenseman in this draft, though, as a 6-foot-4, right-shot defenseman that can skate. He’s a bit of a project, but I think a fun one for a team that has time and resources to devote to him.
Baggedmilk Notes: The third straight defenceman on Peters’ list is more of a project than the last two, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t want to take a chance on a kid that keeps improving year over year. Another thing that was interesting to me is seeing Peters had him ranked at #29 when many of the other outlets see him going somewhere in the second round.
Mesar is so quick and shifty, which makes him exceptionally fun to watch. He has the skill level to make defenders miss 1-on-one 1 has a good enough shot to beat goalies clean from distance. The big issue with Mesar is that he’s slightly below average in size and can be pushed off pucks a little easier at this point. Despite that, he does so many things well with the puck on his stick, you want to bet on his offensive upside. Mesar had decent numbers in the top pro league in Slovakia this year but shined internationally at various U18 events including his eight-point performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup early this season. His speed and skill suggest he could one day round out into a top-six scorer, which is probably what he has to be to make it in the league as there’s not a ton of value off the puck.
Baggedmilk Notes: I’m always intrigued by players that have played in men’s leagues leading up to their draft year, and that’s exactly what’s going on with Filip Mesar. In 37 games played with HK Poprad, Mesar put up eight goals and eight assists for 16 points and that’s encouraging for a kid that’s likely battling for ice time against players much older than he is.
You can’t deny Del Bel Belluz’s hands because he has some slippery puck skills. He’s especially good at getting through the neutral zone and keeping plays alive in transition, making it tough for defenders to keep track of both him and where everyone else is on the ice. I think his skating is probably the one major drawback in his game at this point. It’s average for me but not irreconcilable. He had 76 points in 68 games this season after not playing anywhere in 2020-21 and only had six points as a rookie back in 2019-20. Seeing his progression as well as his legitimate puck skills and great shot, I think there’s a case for him to be a good middle-six scorer at the next level if he hits all his marks along the way.
Baggedmilk Notes: Can we draft this kid solely for his name? As far as the all-name team goes, Del Bel Belluz could be a Hall of Famer and that’s before even considering that he was over a point per game player for Mississauga.
A committed center with some dynamic elements in his skill, Ostlund put up big numbers in the Swedish U20 ranks, but he couldn’t quite find a way to make an impact at the pro level this season. Then he went off for 10 points at the World U18s and was essentially playing every third shift at center over the course of that tournament. He is competitive in all zones, but he shines most in his ability to find teammates and make those around him better. He may have to move away from the middle down the road, but I think he plays the position well. He’s an adequate skater, but he plays a little bit lighter and has a lot of strength he needs to tack on to be effective at the next level. His last impression was a strong one and I thought the best example of what Ostlund can ultimately be if he can get a bit stronger.
Baggedmilk Notes: Ostlund had himself a fine season with Djurgardens IF J20 where he registered nine goals and 33 assists for 42 points. At this stage, the Oilers need guys that can make plays and the fact that he’s also seen as a two-way guy could make him an intriguing prospect provided that he’s still available.
Based on what I’ve read so far, the players ranked in the back half of the first round are very similar in terms of where they could end up and that means any of the guys listed above could slide down to us at #29 overall. Having so many seemingly equal prospects also makes me wonder if Ken Holland may consider trading down to snag more bullets seeing as the Oilers won’t pick after 29th until the fifth round. If you can move the 29th overall pick for a couple of second-rounders, as an example, would that be a move the Oilers would look at? It happened last year with Xavier Bourgault. Either way, this offseason is incredibly important for the Edmonton Oilers and it all kicks off with the NHL Entry Draft on July 7-8th, meaning we’ve only got three weeks until we start getting some clarity on what’s to come. Will the Oilers walk up and take the best player available at 29th overall? Will they trade that pick for more selections? Will they try to package it for a player that can help now? We wait.