How experts graded the Edmonton Oilers 2023 draft class

Zach Laing
9 months ago
The 2023 NHL entry draft has come and gone.
And now, we’re all left asking the same questions: who did the Edmonton Oilers take yesterday?
The Oilers, much like in 2022, had a small draft class. They selected Barrie Colts defenceman Beau Akey 56th overall, then took Flint Firebirds netminder Nathaniel Day 184th overall. With their final pick, 216th overall, they took overager Matt Copponi, who played for Merrimack College last year.
Let’s look at what draft experts say about the Oilers’ class.

Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff — D

Key picks: Beau Akey (D), Nathaniel Day (G), Matt Copponi (C)
The Oilers had almost nothing to do all weekend, but at least they got a solid defender in Beau Akey. After following in Brandt Clarke’s wake this year, we’ll have to see how he develops on his own. I like Copponi as a seventh-rounder, he’s difficult to play against.

Chris Peters, FloHockey — C-

With only three picks in the draft, the Oilers couldn’t significantly improve their status in the prospect pool. They did make some moves and that allowed them to address needs at the NHL level, but this probably wasn’t the most fun year for their scouts. That said, Beau Akey was a FloHockey Top 100 player and one of the better skaters among defensemen in the draft. He has some learning to do, but I like him. The pick of Matt Copponi was a pretty strong one, too, as I thought teams could chase him as a free agent if he didn’t go. Copponi was a key player in one of Merrimack’s all-time best seasons last year. Still, lack of volume and having later picks didn’t allow the Oilers to have as strong a day.

Scott Wheeler, The Athletic — Overtime Loser

The Oilers only had three picks in this year’s draft, and two of them were in Rounds 6-7. They did well with Beau Akey, an athletic, smooth-skating defenceman who has another level to find production-wise and clear talent in transition and inside the offensive zone.
Merrimack’s breakout sophomore Matt Copponi is interesting as a kid who bloomed late and may work his way into the entry-level contract conversation if he continues to progress at the rate he did last year.
I must admit though, I was pretty stunned when they took Flint goaltender Nathaniel Day in the sixth. He’s got some athletic tools to work with and shape and they need goaltending depth, but he just hasn’t stopped nearly enough pucks over the last two seasons to warrant a selection for me.

Corey Pronman, The Athletic — C-

Beau Akey could play in the NHL. He’s a good skater with skill, but the offense or defending don’t stand out enough to see what his clear NHL path would be. With three picks and none after Akey until 184 there’s no guarantees this class produces NHL games.

Kyle Cushman, The Score — B-

With just three picks and none inside the top 50, it was going to be tough for the Oilers to make an impression. Taking Akey at No. 56, however, did exactly that.
The right-shot defenseman is one of the top neutral-zone defenders in the entire class. Edmonton’s pipeline on defence is barren, and adding a player like Akey is a great way to spend the team’s lone pick in the first five rounds. That selection does the heavy lifting here.

My grade of the grades

If anything, I feel like a lot of these grades are a little on the low end and penalize the Oilers for having a lack of draft picks. The team is in a win-now mode, so it’s only logical that they are prioritizing those picks to acquire assets they feel can help the team.
That being said, I’d be comfortable with giving this class a B, or a B- grade as a whole. All accounts point to Beau Akey being an excellent prospect who has maybe flown under the radar.
In a prospect report looking at Akey, our own Bruce Curlock said “had Brandt Clarke not returned to Barrie, I really wonder where Akey would have been picked. I am quite certain the Oilers would not have been able to take him. He would have been long gone.”
I like this pick a lot, and I’m a big fan of the Matt Copponi pick in the seventh round. An overager, yes, but he played a big role at Merrimack College and he could develop into a decent prospect. His ceiling is likely fourth-line NHL, at best, but at the very least, he could be a solid top-nine player for the Bakersfield Condors down the road.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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