During the period where I write about the draft, a theme arises out of the mist. Several emails, comments, tweets remind me that drafting someone in 2020 will be of no help for many years. Very true. Building through the draft is the worst possible approach. Except for all the others.
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 Athletic, check it out here.
- New Jonathan Willis: Misguided priorities helped turn the Oilers’ 2010 rebuild into a debacle
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘It’s what’s best for the league’: Oilers accept challenge of play-in series
- Lowetide: Oilers greatest areas of need for the 2020 draft
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Six bold (and not so bold) predictions as the Oilers prepare for the Blackhawks
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers facing a bonus penalty for 2020-21 but the news isn’t all bad
- Jonathan Willis: Multiple choice: What might an Oilers trade at the 2020 NHL Draft look like?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers return to play guide: How the NHL’s 24-team format impacts Edmonton
- Lowetide: Mike Green’s playoff role and possible future with the Oilers
- Lowetide: Oilers’ most likely recalls from Bakersfield for the playoff run
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘We rallied and regrouped’: How the Oilers won the 1990 Stanley Cup
- Lowetide: Why Kailer Yamamoto represents ‘Money Puck’ value for NHL teams
- Lowetide: Exploring hidden-gem draft options for the Edmonton Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘He set his place in history’: On Bill Ranford’s Conn Smythe run, 30 years later
- Jonathan Willis: Why NHL teams should gamble on defencemen over forwards later in the draft
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ offseason decisions will be influenced by 2021 Seattle expansion draft
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland’s likely approach to the Oilers’ offseason goalie question
- Lowetide: Oilers GM Ken Holland should shop for picks at the draft
- Lowetide: Exploring Oilers prospect Ryan McLeod’s possible NHL path
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ales Hemsky on his health, alumni games, tough opponents and the Oilers’ stars
- Lowetide: Swedish export Noel Gunler offers Oilers a worthy draft target
Speed merchants on the wing
When Ken Holland arrived in Edmonton, he began the process of improving the team in areas that were lagging. Speed was a major priority. He signed Joakim Nygard, Gaetan Haas, drafted Philip Broberg and then acquired Andreas Athanasiou at the deadline. He’s adding speed, for now and the future, as those are things his team needs.
Let’s try this another way. Between 2010 and 2013, the Oilers drafted four right wingers with the potential to fill a scoring role (Tyler Pitlick, Nail Yakupov, Anton Slepyshev, Jackson Houck) for years to come.
Yakupov spent four years (averaged 14.5 goals per 82 games) trying to get the feeling and Anton Slepyshev had moments of clarity. Pitlick made the NHL but as a checker and Houck didn’t sign with the team.
The four picks came in four different rounds and Edmonton had a right to expect at least seven years of scoring from Yakupov, maybe a couple of years on a skill line from Pitlick and Slepyshev. Didn’t work out.
Between 2014 and 2017, Edmonton chose Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamaoto, Ostap Safin and Kirill Maksimov. That’s a lot of riches spent on one position, but Yamamoto’s emergence is one of the most encouraging outcomes in what is truly a baffling decade for right wingers procured through the draft.
Matej Blumel is the only RW drafted in the last two seasons.
Long way to get to this point: When you say “drafting someone in 2020 will be of no help for many years” the only acceptable response is “yes” because it’s obvious.
However, the work of populating the skill RW spots for the 2020-21 season should have come from the 2012-17 draft. It’s insanity that Yakupov and Puljujarvi aren’t 1-2 on the depth chart with Yamamoto pushing.
The 2020 draft is important, because 2025 needs to fed, too. That’s the job.
Between 2010 and 2013, the Oilers drafted left wingers Taylor Hall, Curtis Hamilton, Mitchell Moroz, Jujhar Khaira, Daniil Zharkov and Marco Roy. Based on draft selection, Edmonton had a right to expect seven years of quality from Hall (before free agency) and perhaps a year or two on skill lines from Hamilton. The team traded Hall after six seasons and have been running big enforcer types with skill since then on the portside.
Ken Holland and Dave Tippett added skill on LW in 2019-20, moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins over and trading for Andreas Athanasiou. Edmonton also acquired a rental (Tyler Ennis) who looked productive during a short audition.
Why did Holland acquire Athanasiou? Part of the reason comes from poor drafting. Between 2014 and 2017, the Oilers drafted only Tyler Benson and Graham McPhee. Athanasiou’s acquisition was about speed, but also development time for Benson and a lack of solutions drafted in these years. Edmonton stopped drafting left wingers after 2013. Curious.
When people say “a player drafted in 2020 won’t help until 2025” the answer is yes, but that’s not really the conversation we should be having. A more appropriate statement would be “the lack of drafting success, added to fewer selections devoted to left wingers, made the acquisition of Athanasiou necessary. Better drafting in 2020-2023 should mean Edmonton will need fewer trades of this type in the future.”
The argument that a 2020 pick won’t help a team win in the fall of 2020 has been winning arguments on the internet since the halcyon days of hfboards. It shouldn’t be a winning argument in a case of this kind. It is not germane to the subject at hand.
Both 2020 and 2025 are priorities. The second rounders sent away for Athanasiou are what amounts to an admission of draft failure, with a $3 million dollar cap invoice attached. It was a good trade for the Oilers, but a painful one all the same.
Why would a good organization fail to draft in 2020 with an eye on 2025? They would not.