All things being equal, I’ll have my Top 150 for the 2017 draft tomorrow morning. Still some tweaks to go (not a lot in terms of up or down, but some notes added) and of course if something breaks it’ll get moved back. For now, I wanted to talk a little about what might be on the Oilers shopping list at this year’s draft:
- Offensive forwards
- Puck movers who can play defense
Even more than that, let’s drill down on each position, beginning with the greatest need.
The Oilers haven’t chosen a LW in the first round since Taylor Hall, and the portsiders taken since then (Curtis Hamilton, Mitch Moroz, Anton Slepyshev, Tyler Benson) are either matriculating toward the NHL or down the road. Slepyshev has real promise and could end up playing a full 82 games with the Oilers this coming season. Joey Laleggia had a strong season with Bakersfield and if signed (he is RFA) would certainly be in the mix this fall. Drake Caggiula’s signing gives Edmonton some cover, especially if he can score enough to play on a skill line. Tyler Benson is a very good prospect but health is an issue.
- Possible Selections: Eeli Tolvanen will be gone before No. 22, the Oilers might be wise to trade up if possible. LW’s who may be available when they draft in the first round include Kristian Vesalainen, Isaac Ratcliffe and Jason Robertson. If Edmonton addresses this position later in the draft, look for Jonah Gadjovich, Grant Mismash and Mackenzie Entwistle. A sleeper name? Ryan Peckford.
The selection of Jesse Puljujarvi last summer represents a major improvement in this part of the depth chart. Still, with Jordan Eberle not far from free agency and Leon Draisaitl possibly moving to center, there is a real need to add. Anton Slepyshev, who was drafted as a LW, also shows real promise as a RW, and could slide into a top 9F role as early as this season.
- Possible Selections: Kailer Yamamoto and Klim Kostin are likely to be gone by No. 22, but if they fall the Oilers may pounce. Players in this range who may be Oilers on draft day include Kole Lind, Aleksi Heponiemi and Nick Henry. Mid-round RW’s like Adam Ruzicka and Lukas Elvenes are also possible. A sleeper name? Oliver Castleman.
The organization developed a quality player in Jeff Petry but traded him away while having no cover at all. Predictably, this was followed by a forced trade for Adam Larson. Matt Benning was an inspired signing and gave real depth to the position for the first time in forever. Peter Chiareli has drafted some RH blue who could turn out (Ethan Bear, Filip Berglund) but more is needed. If the club can find a puck mover this year, I expect they may try to trade up into the second round to get him.
- Possible Selections: Conor Timmins would be a somewhat early pick at No. 22, but not completely out of range. Cal Foote is a player people talk about a lot for Edmonton, I wonder if his skating will be a factor. Pierre-Olivier Joseph will probably go before the third round, there are some nice things about him. Mid-round selections could be used on Henri Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell and Kale Fleury may also be in their sights. Late sleeper? August Berg.
Chiarelli has been very aggressive in addressing this position, basically turning the entire thing over. Cam Talbot is the No. 1 man, looks like Laurent Brossoit has the backup job unless Vegas grabs him. Chiarelli signed college man Nick Ellis last spring and Shane Starrett this one and I like the idea fine. He has also drafted a goalie each year (Miroslav Svoboda and Dylan Wells) and both men have flourished since their draft day. I am encouraged by recent work here, actually more than that. Pleased.
- Possible Selections: This is a very deep draft for goalies and Edmonton may grab one in the middle rounds. Jake Oettinger and Mike DiPietro are likely gone early, but after that names like Keith Petruzzeli, Daniil Tarasov and Olle Eriksson Ek may linger. If a bunch of goalies are chosen early, that may help Edmonton, because their greatest need is elsewhere. Dark horse? Matt Villalta.
Steve Tambellini doesn’t get a lot of love, but drafting Oscar Klefbom helped this organization immensely. LHD drafted since then include David Musil, Darnell Nurse, Caleb Jones, Ziyat Paigin and Markus Niemelainen. I count this as an area of strength, but Andrej Sekera’s injury shows us that “strength” when it comes to the Oilers depth chart is probably the incorrect word. I don’t think we’ll see defensive defenders here but a puck mover is probably on the shopping list.
- Possible Selections: I would be shocked if the Oilers chose a LHD at No. 22, but if Juuso Valimaki, Nicholas Hague or Erik Brannstrom are there we could see it happen. In the third round, it would not surprise me to see Noel Hoefenmeyer, Uro Vaakanainen, Mario Ferraro or Max Gildon chosen. Dark Horse? Trade up for Mario Ferraro in the second round.
This is the crown jewel of the Oilers depth chart, so impressive it spills over to the wing. If the Oilers run Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at center, I’ll call it the best in the NHL and have a good argument. Inexperienced? Yes. The talent is overwhelming.
- Possible Selections: I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a center (or more) chosen this year. At No. 22, Michael Rasmussen, Alexei Lipanov, Ryan Poehling, Joshua Norris and others could be chosen. With later picks, seems to me Morgan Frost, Alexander Chmelevski, Marcus Davidsson and Jack Studnicka are possible. Dark horse? Bryce Misley.
Top 150 tomorrow morning unless something breaks.