Who could the Edmonton Oilers draft 64th overall?

2024 NHL Entry Draft at the Sphere
Photo credit:Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
18 days ago
The 2024 NHL draft is perhaps the most wide-open draft after pick 20 that I can recall.
There are players I have watched who are slotted by NHL Central Scouting in the 30s who look identical to players slotted in the 70s. That doesn’t mean the player in the 30s is improperly slotted. Instead, it means the gap between players who might be at least one round apart is very slight.
This is a draft that is defence-heavy overall. There is some center depth, too, but the group of blue liners is very intriguing. These two facts — the tight gap in talent and the focus on defence — are a particular bonus for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers entered this draft without their 1st, 3rd and 4th round picks. They have a 2nd, a 5th and two picks in each of the 6th and 7th rounds, but traded up into the first round last night to select forward Sam O’Reilly from the London Knights. More on him later today.
The fact this draft is tighter in terms of skill makes it more likely volatile. It allows the Oilers to select a player who should otherwise be unavailable. In addition, given the depth issues at defence and to some degree, centre, this draft presents a unique opportunity for the Oilers in the second round. A chance to draft a higher-end player in a position of need. Who should that be? Here are some players that I like a great deal.

Who Caught My Eye?

For this article, I have used the final rankings of Bob McKenzie for TSN released on Tuesday. The reason for this is Bob McKenzie’s assessment is linked heavily to the thoughts of NHL GMs and scouting staffs. As such, it represents more likely the overall thinking of the NHL community on the 2024 draft-eligible players. Using this list, I have selected seven players who may be available when the Oilers pick at the end of the second round. So without further adieu, I present to you players that I would like to see in an Oiler jersey with their first pick of the 2024 NHL draft.

Adam Jecho – Edmonton Oil Kings -C/RW

Let’s deal with this player right at the outset as given where he plays, there will be lots of chatter. He’s also a 6’5″ right-shot forward who skates incredibly well for his size. In his draft-eligible year, he went 23-24—47 in 54 games. There is no question that Jecho has a lot of what NHL teams like in terms of size and skating ability. He also possesses a very good shot. The problem for Jecho is that he doesn’t use his teammates very well for an offensive player with size to ward off defenders. He frequently just puts his head down and drives the puck to the net on his own. Often this comes at the expense of open looks for his teammates in better spots.
Whether this aspect of his game improves will be the difference between playing NHL games and him ending up in Europe in a few years. He also lacks a little bit of physicality despite his size, but I do not think that is a completely fair characterization. He is such a big presence on the ice that your eyes get drawn to him and you expect more from him against smaller players. That will not happen on every shift. At the end of the day, I would be ok with Jecho as a pick. He’s big, athletic and can play with skill players.

Miguel Marques – Lethbridge Hurricanes – RW

Marques is a 5’10” and 175-pound right winger with high-end offensive skillsets. Sound like anyone you remember as an Edmonton Oiler? Could the Oilers use another Jordan Eberle-style player? Yes, they sure could. Marques went 28-46-74 in 67 games during his draft-eligible year. He is a dynamic threat with the puck on his stick. He can create offense on his own and he can find teammates in great spots with elite level passing. He also possesses a motor that does not quit. He is constantly moving his feet and when he gets the puck, he is looking to move up the ice quickly.
As with Eberle, his size can be an issue along the walls and defensively. He will need to work hard to get stronger to ward off bigger players when under pressure. In terms of the Oiler depth chart, there is likely no winger who would be graded higher other than Raphael Lavoie. That’s a compliment to Marques and an indictment to the organization.

Luca Marrelli – Oshawa Generals – RD

Marrelli, along with Ben Danford, who was taken by the Maple Leafs in the first round, formed part of a very strong defensive team. The Generals were the second-best team in terms of goals against last year in the OHL. This may seem like an odd conversation starter for a player who recorded 6-51—57 in 67 games. However, I think his defensive side is the more developed part of Marrelli’s game. He is an excellent defender on the attack against due to his skating ability and reach. At 6’2″ and 185 pounds, he does a very nice job defending players. Again, he is not the most physical defender, but he is effective in defending off the rush and in-zone.
The part of his game that I find more questionable is on offence. This may seem strange given his totals relative to Danford, but he just doesn’t look like he has a lot of assertiveness for the offensive game. He lets the game come to him but rarely pushes the play. I am not sure there is a lower risk pick in terms of a player who will play in the NHL, but I just am uncertain he plays more than third pairing minutes. Nevertheless, it is very hard to ignore his point totals in the toughest junior league in the world.

Luke Misa – Mississauga Steelheads – C/W

If there was ever a player that reminded me of Andrew Cogliano, it is Luke Misa. He carries a chip on his shoulder that most 5’10” forwards tend to have. He plays fast and he plays hard and he’s a dog on a bone chasing down players on the puck, while being a highly intelligent player in all three zones. I am not certain there is a better bet in the second round to play NHL games as a bottom-six forward who excels on the penalty-kill.
His offence was very good as well. He went 26-55—81 in 66 games this year, good enough for third in the OHL amongst draft-eligible forwards. He has elite vision with passing skills to match it. His skating ability puts defenders under constant pressure. The one area that could be improved is his inside play. He can get to the middle with his pace and his puck skills. However, he doesn’t always take advantage of these abilities. This combined with a less-than-average shot can make him less impactful in games from time to time. I suspect this will come on its own, but Misa will also improve as he builds a better physical platform.
To be clear, Misa projects as a bottom-six forward with strong defensive attributes. However, I think his offensive skills will continue to develop as he gets stronger and learns to play more on the inside.

AJ Spellacy – Windsor Spitfires – C/W

If there is one player I would pick for the Oilers to draft it is AJ Spellacy. He’s a 6’3″ athletic specimen that shoots right. He can skate as fast as anyone in the OHL and he brings a level of intensity to his game that makes him very difficult to handle. He ended the season 21-17—38 in 62 games, which are modest numbers. However, some of that can be explained away because he was coming off a significant injury that took him a while to overcome. He also lacks some vision for the offensive game and his shot needs work. However, there are few players who will be available when the Oilers pick that have Spellacy’s ceiling.
There is an almost certain bottom-six winger or center (more winger than center) with an upside to play on the second line of an NHL team if the game slows down for him offensively. I actually am convinced this is a player the Oilers could trade down into the third round and still select.

Tarin Smith – Everett Silvertips – LD

Think Wyatt Johnson. Smith did not miss his draft year, but he did miss most of his first year in the WHL Almost everything you see about Smith that requires development relates to that fact. What are the exciting parts of his game? Well, he is an offensive dynamo with a highlight-reel style of play. He came back from injury this year to record 8-36—44 in 67 games. As an offensive defenceman, he is absolutely dynamic. His hands work in conjunction with his feet, which is saying something because he is an incredible skater. His ability to beat defenders all the way up the ice is as good as draft-eligible defenders who are going much sooner in this draft. He has the ability to dictate the play on each shift when the puck is on his stick. He is an excellent passer and one could envision him initiating offensive attacks with his feet, but ending them by finding his teammates in great spots to score. Smith’s defensive game is quite good as well. Despite being 6’1″ and 175 pounds, he plays physically in all zones. He defends both bluelines very well and can handle the cycle in his zone by using his feet. He will make the occasional punishing hit that makes you take notice.
Smith is a project, but not because he needs additional skill. It is because he missed almost an entire season and needs to work on his game further. His vision needs to improve, but I think that will come with reps. The game sometimes appears a little to fast for him, but again that may relate more to missing a year of play. Smith plays in a very strong defending program, which should help him greatly in his draft plus one year.

Closing Thoughts

There is no question that some of these players will be available when the Oilers draft. There is also no question that almost all of these players will take time to develop. Given his age curve and current skill, Luke Misa might be the only exception. But make no mistake, any one of these players above projects to an NHL player despite where they will be taken. Given the limited talent pool the Oilers have due to a depletion of draft picks, the Oilers need to find and develop one of these projects.
That is it for our preview of the NHL draft from an Oiler perspective.
We will be back next week with a review of the picks made by the Edmonton Oilers and how they slot into the depth chart of the organization. Have a great long weekend.

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