What is your all-time No. 1 draft by a single team, single season? Mine is 1979, Edmonton Oilers. The team drafted a franchise center (Mark Messier) a 500-goal (Oh sorry, 498) winger and a stellar defender in Kevin Lowe. If we can agree that hockey teams have 12 vital positions (top line, second line, third line center, top two pairings, plus starting goalie), that’s 25 percent of a championship team in one draft. The kicker? Barry Fraser made it an even 50 percent in 1980 by drafting Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Andy Moog. The last time Edmonton drafted three players who could reasonably fill three roles was 2011, the year of Nuge, Oscar and Tobias Rieder. Can this Oilers team have a draft that delivers three future players of high quality?
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group.INSANE NEW OFFER IS HERE!
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A dogged realist, Kelly McCrimmon’s resume makes him an attractive candidate for the Oilers GM job
- New Lowetide: Is this the season the Oilers take the plunge and draft a USHL player in the first round?
- Jonathan Willis: Top Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard stars in his first AHL game as Condors dominate.
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson’s importance to the Oilers and why trading him is a bad idea.
- Lowetide: Tyler Benson’s comparables offer Oilers fans plenty of hope for the future.
- Lowetide: Making the call on the Oilers’ RFAs with a new general manager on the way.
- Lowetide: Red Wings front office shuffle could impact Oilers’ future.
- Jonathan Willis: Potential coaching candidates and why the Oilers don’t need to rush the GM search to get one
- Lowetide: What would Glen Sather do with these Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Some creative solutions to address the Oilers’ goalie problem
- Lowetide: The Milan Lucic saga rolls into Year 4 for Oilers with no easy answers
- Jonathan Willis: Who stays and who goes? An early projection of which players will remain on the Oilers’ roster in 2019-20
- Lowetide: How high can these Condors fly?
- Lowetide: The Oilers possible summer trade pieces, and which longtime players might be saying goodbye.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ten prospects likely to be available when the Oilers make their first-round pick.
KEITH GRETZKY’S BEST DRAFT (2014)
No. 25 overall R David Pastrnak. Red Line Report had him No. 14 (“small but fiery and passionate, loves to score) and he played 46 NHL games in his draft +1 season. Has scored 34, 35 and 38 goals in the last three seasons, one of the best young scorers in the game. Note: KG went undersized and skilled in round one, something he repeated with Kailer Yamamoto in 2017 and may do again with Caufield this summer.
No. 45 overall C Ryan Donato. Red Line had him No. 65 (compared him to Sam Gagner) and remarked about his soft hands and impressive passing. He arrived as an NHL regular in 2018-19 (draft +5) posting 56, 10-15-25. Fine value so far for a second-round pick, he was dealt in the Charlie Coyle deal.
No. 116 overall LC Danton Heinen. Not ranked by Red Line, he was the third skill selection in a row. He is an established (if somewhat inconsistent) NHL player).
No. 146 overall L Anders Bjork. Red Line had him at No. 178, saying he had the skating and work ethic to be a checker. With the team’s fourth selection, in the fifth round, they take a player who doesn’t possess top 6F skill. He has shown well in the AHL and has played 50 NHL games.
No. 206 overall LD Emil Johansson. Swedish blue ranked No. 267 overall by Red Line, Good skater, moved the puck well and he made it to the AHL by age 21.
GRETZKY’S COMMENTS ON 2014 DRAFT
Gretzky: “The plan was we wanted some skill. Everybody wanted skill. You could see the picks, that were highly skilled guys. More of the ‘plumbers’ were coming later on and we were excited that we could get Donato and Heinen who are two really skilled players. We’re excited.”
2019 PICK NO. 8
It makes sense to assume Edmonton will be looking for skill at this year’s draft. The first-round pick is going to have at least two impressive players available by my estimate. If the top seven go in a specific way Edmonton will be able to choose from an impressive group of skill forwards. Here is my projected top seven:
- New Jersey Devils: C Jack Hughes, U.S. National Development Team (USHL).
- New York Rangers: R Kaapo Kakko, Turkku (Sm-Liiga).
- Chicago Blackhawks: LD Bowen Byram, Vancouver (WHL).
- Colorado Avalanche: LC Alex Turcotte, U.S. National Development Team (USHL).
- Los Angeles Kings: RC Kirby Dach, Saskatoon (WHL).
- Detroit Red Wings: LC Trevor Zegras, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
- Buffalo Sabres: R Cole Caufield, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
If we can agree the goal is three skilled men like Pastrnak, Donato and Heinen, picking from the available group should give Edmonton one strong solution. If it breaks down in the way described, I think the Oilers take Dylan Cozens over Matthew Boldy and the Russian Vasili Podkolzin. Cozens has skill, speed and size, scored 34 goals and averaged 3.3 shots per game. A righty, he’ll be a nice fit should he fall to Edmonton.
2019 PICK NO. 38
There will be some nice skill players at this number, my favourite is Blake Murray of Sudbury. He’s 6.03, 185, a July 2001, scored 30 goals in the world’s best junior league and his scouting report talks about good speed. That’s a fabulous player if he is still available.
Samuel Fagemo is an overager who played in the SHL in 2018-19 (42, 14-11-25, averaging 13:56 a night. He is a March 2000 and his top skill is a great shot (quick release).
Nathan Légaré is a scoring winger. He isn’t a finesse player per se, but goes to scoring areas and can cash with impressive consistency. Great shot, quick release. He scored 45 goals on 271 shots, and is a January 2001.
2019 PICK NO. 88
Matias Maccelli plays for Dubque of the USHL. He scored 31 goals on 189 shots this year, and is a terrific passer with good anticipation. He’s an October 2000 and is trending well (CSB No. 51, from No. 83 in mid-season).
Alex Beaucage is a scoring winger for Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL. He scored 39 goals in 68 games this past season, he is an excellent passer who can also finish. Excellent wrister.
Ethan Keppen plays for Flint Firebirds of the OHL, that’s a tough place to play. He delivered 30 goals in 68 games this season, on a team that scored just 212. Good speed and size (6.02, 214).
If Edmonton walks away with Dylan Cozens, Blake Murray and Alex Beaucage, it may not rise to “Pastrnak Donato Heinen” levels but math suggests all three are excellent bets.
Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge, WHL) 68, 34-50-84 (NHLE: 30.6)
Blake Murray (Sudbury, OHL) 66, 30-20-50 (NHLE: 20.1)
Alex Beaucage (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL) 68, 39-40-79 (NHLE: 27.1)
You may ask “how do these numbers rank against recent Oilers history?” and the answer would be lower than you imagine. Part of the reason is Edmonton has been drafting high since 2010, and part of it is that Keith Gretzky drafted Kailer Yamamoto at No. 22 in 2017. Here’s a selection group of draft day NHLE’s over the last few years, with the current group thrown in.
- Connor McDavid 25-43-68
- Taylor Hall 19-30-49
- Nail Yakupov 20-24-44
- Leon Draisaitl 15-26-41
- Kailer Yamamoto 17-21-38
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 11-27-38
- Evan Bouchard 10-24-34
- Tyler Benson 8-24-32
- Dylan Cozens 12-19-31
- Jordan Eberle 15-12-27
- Alex Beaucage 13-14-27
- Ryan McLeod 10-17-27
- Jesse Puljujarvi 10-11-21
- Blake Murray 12-8-20
If Gretzky and company can deliver three talented forwards at this year’s draft, the club can begin to compile the kind of depth currently enjoyed among the defensive prospects. None of the players chosen will be the Oilers’ No. 1 prospect the day after the draft (Evan Bouchard) but Edmonton badly needs more skill forwards to add to the group that includes Yamamoto and Benson.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we kickstart the weekend with a fabulous show. TSN1260, at 10:20 Steve Lansky talks about Canadian teams getting flattened in the first round of the NHL playoffs and why hate watching is wrong. He’ll be followed by Andy McNamara from TSN4Downs. We’ll chat NFL Draft (very pleased with the Eagles pick) and what the Giants did last night. Matt Iwanyk from TSN1260 will be live at 11, we’ll talk about the Oilers GM situation, the NFL draft and the CFL labor negotiations. At 11:20, Kaitlin McGrath from The Athletic previews Vladdy Guerrero’s MLB debut. See you soon!