As long as I live, the Oilers will not have a more important first round than 2015. I remember thinking all day about what it would mean to the city and to the team. As important as McDavid the cornerstone is to the organization, it is vital for the team to keep cashing draft picks for useful players. Edmonton grabbed Leon Draisaitl from the 2014 draft, Connor McDavid and a parade of interesting defensemen in 2015, and a nice range of players in 2016 (led by Jesse Puljujarvi).
DRAFTING FOR NEED
At some point in May, Oilers scouts traditionally get together to ‘finalize’ their list. They don’t call me, but I think the Oilers should load up on shooting forwards and mobile defensemen, as well as a center or two or a goalie.
SHOTS LEADERS (2016-17)
- Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL) 246 in 52gp (4.73)
- Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL) 284 in 60gp (4.73)
- Jonah Gadjovich, Owen Sound (OHL) 275 in 60gp (4.58)
- Jason Robertson, Kingston (OHL) 300 in 68gp (4.41)
- Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL) 231 in 57gp (4.05)
- Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL) 261 in 65gp (4.02)
There are no WHL stats I can find, but two CHL leagues and the USHL give us this list for 2016-17. I haven’t adjusted my rankings based on this information, but if the Oilers grab Robertson (as a for instance) you’ll have a pretty good indication they are looking for a shooter.
OILERS AT THE 2017 DRAFT
- First Round: No. 22 overall
- Third Round: No. 82 overall (FROM ST. LOUIS—this is payment for Nail Yakupov)
- Third Round: No. 84 overall
- Fourth Round: No. 115 overall
- Fifth Round: No. 126 overall (FROM Vancouver—this is payment for Phil Larsen)
- Fifth Round: No. 146 overall
- Sixth Round: No. 177 overall
- Seventh Round: No. 208 overall
I’ll have a new list (and the final one before the final list, which appears first week of June) this afternoon unless something breaks. The Oilers will get a good player at No. 22, and I bet PC will try to combine No. 82 and No. 115 in order to move into the second round.
FREE AGENTS FOR EDMONTON (INTERNAL)
The Oilers are going to be spending a lot of money on Leon Draisaitl this summer, so cap room is going to be an issue. If we can agree the shopping list includes a second-pairing defender and a center who can play wing and help in a two-way role, we can proceed with our first list of possible targets.
- LD Kris Russell. I think the Oilers would sign him if they could ($4 million times three) but Russell is probably going to get a bigger offer (possibly from the Calgary Flames). We’ll see, perhaps PC has a more attractive option out there, but the sense I get from parsing verbal from coach Todd McLellan and management is that there is an appetite to have Russell return.
- RD Eric Gryba. If Griffin Reinhart is lost in the expansion draft, and McLellan doesn’t see Jordan Oesterle (or other) as a viable 7D option, Gryba could be back for another year.
- R Tyler Pitlick. I am confident Pitlick returns, partly because he rehabbed with the team all through spring. It tells me he wants to be a part of things and the Oilers consider him to be a member of the team.
- LD Jordan Oesterle. His foot speed and offensive ability make him an interesting option for Edmonton. Oesterle is a UFA, so it might cost more to keep him than the team wants to spend on a 7D, but the assurance of a one-way deal may be enough for Oesterle.
FREE AGENTS FOR EDMONTON (EXTERNAL)
- R Patrick Eaves (79gp, 32-19-51). He will cost too much for Edmonton, but the man had 360 shots this season! Put that guy on McDavid’s line! Volume shooter!
- LC Martin Hanzal (71gp, 20-19-39). He may or may not be the top option for Peter Chiarelli, but adding Hanzal gives Todd McLellan myriad options. I think he is the one free agent whose price point may be in the realm of affordable for Edmonton this summer.
- RD Kevin Shattenkirk (80gp, 13-43-56). This is the one player I can see PC breaking the bank for this summer, up to an including trading the Nuge to get him. I don’t think it wise, and doubt Shattenkirk seriously considers Edmonton.
- R Justin Williams (80gp, 24-24-48). It would be sweet music to grab this guy and have him score a big goal in G7 SCF to help this team get over the top. Remains a fine player, offense a little more consistent lately, that may fall off quickly.
- R T.J. Oshie (68gp, 33-23-56). Had a big season and is going to get paid. I don’t think the Oilers can (or will) afford him, it would be a more attractive option if Oshie was more of a shooter (143 shots in 68 games).
- R Kris Versteeg (69gp, 15-22-37). I know he jumped last fall, but that is a business decision. What he brings has value and a reasonable contract makes sense.
- R Radim Vrbata (81gp, 20-35-55). He is always under the radar and there is some question about whether or not he wants to leave the desert. Worth a call.
- LC Nick Bonino (80gp, 18-19-37). Among the players listed, I think Bonino (and Kris Russell) may actually be the most likely to sign with Edmonton. He would be a solid option, with the only negative being that he is LH. Still more likely to sign with Penguins.
- R Jaromir Jagr (82gp, 16-30-46). He is 100 years old now, perhaps a smaller urban option is finally a reasonable option. I love him as a player, would be thrilled to see Jagr as an Oiler and nothing you can say will change my mind.
- R Sam Gagner (81gp, 18-32-50). Laugh if you wish, Gagner could help push that power play even higher. 4R and 1 PP? The Letestu role times two? Interesting, might not be possible.
- LD Brian Campbell (80gp, 5-12-17). I think he would be an excellent mentor to Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning and other young blue. The man can still wheel.
- RD Cody Franson (68gp, 3-16-19). Puck mover is affordable and the metrics I value show him in a good light this season. Lacks the consistency you hope for, but as a stopgap until the youngsters are ready to step forward? He is worth putting on the list.
- R Ales Hemsky (15gp, 4-3-7). Want to feel old? Ales Hemsky is 33. Still brilliantly creative, still shoots about twice a game. I think it is extremely unlikely, but he is an interesting option and could keep up to 97.
- RC Derek Ryan (67gp, 11-18-29). He had a strong season, is righthanded and does a lot of useful things.
- LC Dominic Moore (82gp, 11-14-25). He posted a fine season in a support role, would give Edmonton another PK and FO option.
- G Anders Nilsson (26gp, 2.67 .923). He is a good goalie.
- R-L Thomas Vanek (68gp, 17-31-48). He has had a strange journey in recent seasons, but the skill is clearly there. Depending on price point, he could be an interesting addition.
- RD Michael Stone (64gp, 3-12-15). He is not a defenseman who shows up well in the metrics I pay attention to, but there was discussion around him as an option leading up to the trade deadline.
- R Jarome Iginla (80gp, 14-13-27). He is edging closer to 40 and Iginla has very little speed left. He can shoot the puck, so there is a role for him. Edmonton would seem a distant bell destination.
- R Drew Stafford (58gp, 8-13-21). Had a poor year but recovered after the deadline deal. He is a very good fit for a Chiarelli team, I suspect some interest depending on price.
- LC Brian Boyle (75gp, 13-12-25). I think he is more of a 4C option than third line, but that may not be the opinion of Oilers management.
- G Chad Johnson (36gp, 2.59 .910). My own personal opinion is that Edmonton doesn’t sign a backup, preferring to go with Laurent Brossoit in that position. That said, Johnson would be a person of interest.