We can argue about the wisdom of individual moves, but there is no case I can see to counter the following statement: In the last two drafts, the Edmonton Oilers received luck beyond compare. The tumblers clicked for McDavid, and the Blue Jackets chose a center over the mannish boy Jesse Puljujarvi this summer. Music! Cymbal smash! Huzzah!
We were talking not long ago about right choices and wrong ones, and I promised myself a return trip to the conversation. Let’s go back to 2010, post the Oilers selections, along with the available rankings of the day. Fair? We are looking for evidence of a wonky selection in an important part of the draft. Since Bob McKenzie is the industry standard, I will use his list.
- No. 1 overall—Taylor Hall. Bob McKenzie: No. 1
- No. 31 overall—Tyler Pitlick. Bob McKenzie: No. 25
- No. 46 overall—Martin Marincin. Bob McKenzie: No. 71
- No. 48 overall—Curtis Hamilton. Bob McKenzie: No. 57
The obvious reach is Marincin—who I regard as a successful draft pick (your mileage may vary, he is a defensive defenseman). The Hamilton pick quickly became unpopular, and he was a slight reach pick. The Pitlick addition was regarded as positive on draft day, his injuries have made it a difficult road.
- No. 1 overall—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Bob McKenzie: No. 1
- No. 19 overall—Oscar Klefbom. Bob McKenzie: No. 21
- No. 31 overall—David Musil. Bob McKenzie: No. 41
The first two selections have never received a lot of criticism. Nuge is sometimes referred to as a weak No. 1 overall and some would rather have seen Larsson selected—but the pick delivered a talented player who addressed a vital need. Klefbom has been outstanding when healthy, and is regarded universally as a big part of the future. The selection of David Musil remains a lightning rod for the fans—the Oilers chose a relative of the scouting staff during a period of simply miserable seasons—but he was ranked by BM as a mid-second selection. Despite the anger and the fury, the pick was not wildly out of sync with prevailing wisdom.
- No. 1 overall—Nail Yakupov. Bob McKenzie: No. 1
- No. 32 overall—Mitch Moroz. Bob McKenzie: No. 56
This is a draft summer that routinely takes a bullet, but I will defend the team’s decision to take Nail Yakupov. Folks, he was the best player available, and he was a dynamite junior. Now, we didn’t have access to the interviews and the scouts apparently wanted Ryan Murray, but we have the numbers and they all screamed Nail. Mitch Moroz was chosen out of order, the organization no doubt thinking they would not be able to grab him at No. 63 (Jujhar Khaira) and it has been a rocky pro career to this moment. The Moroz and Musil selections get most of the fury from the fanbase, but only the Moroz pick (to my eye) was a major reach.
- No. 7 overall—Darnell Nurse. Bob McKenzie: No. 9
- No. 56 overall—Marco Roy. Bob McKenzie: No. 59
I know several Oiler fans who remain very upset about Edmonton passing on Valeri Nichushkin, but the rankings suggest the Nurse selection was in the range. Many Oilers fans who post here—and many who blog—are now openly negative about the first round pick, but I encourage you to wait five years before making the final call. Either way, the pick was in the range. The Marco Roy pick was also in range, but has been a mystery since it happened. Young Roy was offensively shy through junior, did not get an NHL deal, but played better in the AHL than some of the kids Edmonton signed. I think he might be a decent pro player, but the die is cast.
- No. 3 overall—Leon Draisaitl. Bob McKenzie: No. 4
In the range, I winced just a little because Sam Bennett was still available. I think Leon was an excellent pick and believe he will have a strong future, as will Bennett.
- No. 1 overall—Connor McDavid. Bob McKenzie: No. 1
The impossible dream struck midnight! I still cannot believe the blind damned luck the Oilers got that day—it drives pure hatred among my friends who are fans of the Flames, Leafs and Canucks (don’t ask). In the long history of the game, Edmonton’s generational talents-per-capita is stupid good.
- No. 4 overall—Jesse Puljujarvi. Bob McKenzie: No. 3
- No. 32 overall—Tyler Benson. Bob McKenzie: No. 39
- No. 63 overall—Markus Niemelainen. Bob McKenzie: No. 38
Luck. I think we should spend a little time on that word and what it means to the Oilers at this time. Puljujarvi was the third best player in the draft—but the Blue Jackets wanted a center. I expect Matt Tkachuk would have been the pick for Edmonton, and we would be talking about a terrific young player who might be a little shy on speed—instead, this big Finn falls into the Oilers arms by sheer luck. Honestly, it is incredible. I think the Oilers would be wise to slow play Puljujarvi, but there has been no obvious—signing Radim Vrbata—sign of it happening.
- Reach picks: Curtis Hamilton, David Musil
- Major reach picks: Martin Marincin, Mitch Moroz
I think the Oilers could have run the identical drafts without much fanfare—if the 2007 draft had delivered the players who could have fueled success 2010-14. Of course, if Sam Gagner, Alex Plante and Riley Nash had turned out, Edmonton doesn’t get Hall and the rest. We will revisit the McKenzie numbers again next season, and maybe—just maybe—the first-round pick will be outside the lottery.