One of the best things about Peter Chiarelli is his aggressiveness, which is also one of his weaknesses. The trait has held him in good stead during two drafts in Edmonton, and helped improve some long-term issues. Since he arrived, Edmonton has used eight of its 15 selections (53 percent) on defenders, in stark contrast to the previous 15 picks (three) over the 2013 and 2014 selections.
I am using those two draft sets as a backdrop to suggest the following: The work of building the McDavid era defense is not yet complete. If we take the eight most recent picks and accurately describe their skill set, we get this:
- Two-Way: Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, John Marino, Filip Berglund
- Defensive: Ziyat Paigin, Markus Niemelainen, Matt Cairns
I think it’s fair to say Edmonton hasn’t covered off all areas of the defensive spectrum with these eight selections. You may disagree with some of the slots here, but generally speaking they’re a fair reflection of the overall depth.
Complete defensemen are rare and don’t always makes themselves known early days. I think Oscar Klefbom has a chance to become one, he’ll need to add to his defensive acumen and there is still time to grow into the role. I don’t see a natural “offensive” player in this group, despite impressive seasons from Jones, Bear and (a year ago) Ziyat Paigin. If we are looking at this year’s defenseman, my guess is that we see at least one puck mover taken by Edmonton.
2017 TOP DEFENSEMEN
- RD Cale Makar, Brooks Bandits (AJHL). Fast, exceptional puck-moving acumen.
- LD Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Sm-Liiga). Puck-mover, excellent vision/speed.
- RD Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (Swe Jr). He is a mobile 2-way D with impressive skill.
- LD Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City Americans (WHL). A big two-way D, smart, creative.
- LD Nicholas Hague, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL). Rangy, aggressive, emerging offense.
- RD Conor Timmins, SSE Greyhounds (OHL). Smart, reads plays well, excellent passer.
- LD Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (SHL). Undersized skill defender, outstanding skater.
- LD Noel Hoefenmeyer, Ottawa 67s (OHL). Has complete range of skills.
- LD Uro Vaakanainen, JYP (Sm-Liiga). Fast two-way blue with a good shot.
- RD Henri Jokiharju, Portland Winterhawks (WHL). Smooth skating Finn OD.
- LD Mario Ferraro, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL). Undersized OD with real offensive potential.
- RD Cal Foote, Kelowna Rockets (WHL). Huge D, awkward skater, good passer, tough.
- RD Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL). Two-way D, some nice boxcars.
- RD Ian Mitchell, Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL). Undersized, mobile two-way defender.
- RD Kale Fleury, Kootenay Ice (WHL). Fascinating prospect. Haydn’s brother. Range of skills.
- RD Artyom Minulin, Swfit Current Broncos (WHL). Big defender with emerging skills.
- RD Eemeli Rasanen, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL). Giant defender with skill, mobility.
- LD Max Gildon, USNDTP (USHL). Size, speed, skill. Inconsistent or he would be higher.
- LD Josh Brook, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL). Mobile, dependable, emerging. Could be a find.
- LD Robin Salo, Sport Vaasa (SML). Two-way defender, mature.
- LD Jack Rathbone, Dexter School (USHS). A bullet on skates, very skilled.
- LD Cameron Crotty, Brockville Braves (CCHL). Intelligent two-way defender, great passer.
- RD Dylan Coghlan, Tri-City Americans (WHL). 2-way defender, good skater, spiking offensively.
- LD Markus Phillips, Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Undersized two-way defender improved 16-17.
- LD Dylan Samberg, Hermantown High (USHS). Big (6.03, 190) mobile blue. Offense a mystery.
- LD Clayton Phillips, Fargo Force (USHL). Undersized OD, speed, great shot. Draft and follow.
- RD Reilly Walsh, Chicago Steel (USHL). Mobile puck mover, great passer and a plus shot.
- LD Jocktan Chainey, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). Good skater, can move the puck.
- RD Filip Westerlund, Frolunda (SHL). Impressive passing skills, some chaos on D.
- RD Luke Martin, Michigan (NCAA). Big, mobile defender plays intelligent game. Not a lot of buzz.
- LD Antoine Crete-Belzile, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL). Two-way defender, injury issues.
- LD David Farrance, USNDTP (USHL). Mobile, clever D, undersized. Rising.
- RD Adam Thilander, North Bay Battalion (OHL). Impressive skills, could be massive value.
- LD Tyler Inamoto, USNDTP (USHL). He is a mobile 6.02, 196 defender.
- LD Michael Anderson, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL). Strong, good speed, defense.
- RD Juho Korhonen, Karpat (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Small and very skilled puck mover. Great passes.
- LD Nate Knoepke, USNDTP (USHL). Two-way defender with good size.
- LD Dmitri Samorukov, Guelph Storm (OHL). Giant defenseman, two-way type.
- RD Brady Lyle, North Bay (OHL). Big two-way defender.
- RD Gustav Lindstrom, Almtuna IS (Allsvenskan). 6.02, 187 two-way defender.
- LD Dylan Seitz, Kitchener (OHL). Big PF, scoring potential a question.
- RD August Berg, Brynas (SuperElite). Speedy defender with skill.
- LD Jonathan Smart, Regina Pats (WHL). Great outlet passer, is a good defender.
- RD Martin Bodak, Tappara (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Mobile two-way D who is a good passer.
- RD Tommy Miller, USNDTP (USHL). He is 6.02, 176, good speed, two-way defender.
- LD Otto Leskinen, Kalpa (Sm-Liiga). Mobile puck mover posted big numbers in junior.
- LD Jarret Tyszka, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL). Big, mobile shut down defender.
- RD Sean Durzi, Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Puck mover, great passer, good shot.
- RD Thomas Gregoire, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL). Undersized skill D, good speed, passing.
- LC Noah Cates, Stillwater (USHS). Good speed, impressive HS numbers.
EDMONTON AND THIS DRAFT (DEFENSE)
The Oilers won’t get their target (surely it is Cale Makar) but there are lots of puck movers in this year’s draft. I think there’s a good chance we see at least one chosen this year and that player may come from the USHL. Why? There are ten USHL players in my top 50 defensemen this year, that’s a helluva total (OHL has 11, WHL 9).
— Grant McCagg (@grantmccagg) March 27, 2017
I run the numbers and Ferraro had a strong second half and looks like a very good option for the Oilers (possibly with one of their third-round selections).
- Des Moines Buccaneers Assistant Coach Nate Weossner on the best part of Ferraro’s game: “That it never changes. That he’s the same guy every night, you know what you’re gonna get. That’s his compete, that’s his work ethic, and he can play a lot of minutes.”
- Weossner on Ferraro’s play in the defensive zone: “He doesn’t play there much because he’s always getting the puck up the ice. What looks like offense a lot of times is just combatting their offense.”
- Red Line Report: Beautiful skater, really good lateral footwork, pushes off fast from sideboards on PP. Quarterbacked the PP, did not play on PK though. Gets shots through traffc, can beat shotblockers and create defections or rebounds. Not the strongest guy, at times struggles against size in own end. But very good tools who could become a PP rearguard in NHL. Source
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think it is a slam dunk to suggest Edmonton will choose a forward with the pick at No. 22, and the club is going to be drafting more forwards this time around. Somewhere in there, maybe with the second or third pick, the Oilers may draft a puck mover and I will guess he comes from the USHL.