On the day Edmonton drafted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the depth chart at center received a gigantic shot in the arm. The 2006 team boasted strong two-way depth (Shawn Horcoff, Michael Peca, Jarret Stoll, Marty Reasoner before the deadline), but from summer 2006 through spring 2011 the team’s quality and depth eroded badly.
Since 2011, the Oilers have run luck (McDavid lottery) plus good scouting (Leon Draisaitl) to their advantage. Now the team counts three substantial-to-glorious talents at the top of the depth chart in what can only be called an embarrassment of riches.
So then, why draft more centers? Easy answer. Todd McLellan ran two centers on one or more of his four San Jose lines routinely and it’s likely we’ll see it in Edmonton in due time. Imagine a top 6F with Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl on one line and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins plus Sam Bennett on another. That’s where we are heading and this year’s draft may reflect that goal.
2017 TOP CENTERS
- RC Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL). A complete talent but not an elite one.
- LC Nico Hischier, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). A more dynamic offensive player than Patrick.
- LC Casey Mittelstadt, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). Speed and skill, NHLE.
- RC Cody Glass, Portland Winterhawks (WHL). Complete skill set (NHLE: 30).
- RC Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor Spitfires (OHL). Creative C with size, NHLE (33).
- RC Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Skill and creativity, a little one dimensional.
- RC Robert Thomas, London Knights (OHL). Speedy forward, creative.
- LC Lias Andersson, Linkoping (SHL). Throwback 2-way C, aggressive, quick. 5.11, 200.
- RC Martin Necas, Brno (Czech). High speed skill W, just 5.11.
- LC Michael Rasmussem, Tri-City Americans (WHL). Big C, physical, good skater.
- LC Alexei Lipanov, Dyanmo Balashikha (VHL). Impressive 2-way resume.
- LC Ryan Poehling, St. Cloude State (NCAA). Big skill C with an offensive reputation.
- LC Joshua Norris, USNDTP (USHL). Two-way C showing good offense.
- RC Ivan Lodnia, Erie Otters (OHL). Small skill C, great skater.
- RC Morgan Geekie, Tri-City Americans (WHL). C w/2-way rep and emerging offense.
- RC Scott Reedy, USNDTP (USHL). Center with speed, range of skills, dynamic.
- LC Mason Shaw, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL). Small skill C, terrific skills.
- LC Jaret-Anderson Dolan, Spokane Chiefs (WHL). Small, very quick skater and plus skill.
- RC Joni Ikonen, Frolunda (Swe SuperElite). Small skill center with good speed.
- LC Evan Barratt, USNDTP (USHL). Small finesse center with substantial skills.
- LC Jake Leschyshyn, Regina Pats (WHL). Quality two-way C.
- LC Shane Bowers, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL). Impressive two-way C, plus skill.
- LC Jesper Boqvist, Brynas (SHL). Average size, good speed and skill.
- LC Morgan Frost, SSM Greyhounds (OHL). Smart, skilled, and emerging.
- RC Alexander Chmelevski, Ottawa 67s (OHL). Impressive skills, outststanding TP game.
- LC Marcus Davidsson, Djurgardens (SHL). Two-way center has some offense, nice range of skills.
- RC Jack Studnicka, Oshawa Generals (OHL). Range of skills, quality offense. No buzz.
- LC Kevin Hancock, Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Draft re-entry having a fine offensive season.
- RC Nathan Schnarr, Guelph Storm (OHL). Big center with speed, a little shy offensively.
- LC Jordy Bellerive, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL). Undersized, nifty and aggressive F with skill.
- RC Fabian Zetterlund, Farjestad (SuperElite). Smart C, great shot, he is skilled.
- LC Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL). Very small, very skilled.
- RC Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current Broncos (WHL). 1998 born, too much skill to pass on.
- LC Austen Keating, Ottawa 67s (OHL). Offensive center, more consistent this season.
- LC Ben Jones, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL). I think he might be a sleeper. Playmaker.
- LC Ivan Chekhovich, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL). Undersized skill forward, point-per-game.
- LC Igor Svyrev, Magnitogorsk (MHL). Skill center, impressive offense.
- RC Greg Meireles, Kitchener Rangers (OHL). Smaller forward, speedy, responsible.
- RC Kyle Olson, Tri-City Americans (OHL). Small and skilled, rising.
- RC Emil Bemstrom, Leksands (SuperElite). Small, fast winger with skill.
- LC Brayden Burke, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL). Lots of skill, undersized and 20.
- RC Pavel Shen, Marmonty Yugry (MHL). Small, skilled, August 1999.
- LC Skyler McKenzie, Portland Winterhawks (WHL). Small F (5.07), very skilled.
- LC Paul Washe, Fargo Force (USHL). Two-way C, a little shy offensively.
- LC Jacob Peterson, Frolunda (SuperElit). Two-way C under the radar.
- RC Maxime Fortier, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). He is 5.10, very skilled.
- RC Liam Hawel, Guelph Storm (OHL). Giant (6.05, 179) C improved offense after trade.
- LC Bryce Misley, Oakville Blades (OJHL). Skill C with good size. Good speed. Sleeper?
- LC Jesse Koskenkorva, Karpat (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Two-way forward with speed, some offense.
- LC Nick Campoli, North York Rangers (OJHL). Good skater, buzzsaw, some skill.
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
Based on their own past (Chiarelli and before), I think Michael Rasmussen would be the most likely choice by Edmonton at No. 22. He is 6.06, 215, and scored 32 goals for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. He has a reputation for being a good two-way player and has a fine shot. Foot speed is fine but lacks the brilliance already on Edmonton’s roster. I bet they consider trading up to get him if Rasmussen is still available around No. 18 overall.