The 2020-21 season represents year five for the 2016 NHL draft. Some teams, like the Calgary Flames (Matt Tkachuk, Dillon Dube, Adam Fox) are going to get great grades with some heartbreak, others (like the Toronto Maple Leafs) are going to get a fantastic grade on one part of the test (Auston Matthews) but some furrowed brows over the rest of the report card.
The Edmonton Oilers? 80 percent of the way through the five year process, it’s still incomplete. Time to get the lead out.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Oilers’ signing of Slater Koekkoek could be about more than depth
- Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division
- Jonathan Willis: Dave Tippett has more options now thanks to versatile Oilers forwards
- Lowetide: 7 big questions facing the Oilers heading into next season
- Lowetide: Danger, heartbreak ahead for Oilers, Ethan Bear in contract situation
- Lowetide: Tyler Tullio is the latest Oilers draft pick to make an impression
- Lowetide: What if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t sign with the Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Left-side logjam will force the Oilers to make a choice, and perhaps a sacrifice
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s 2020 Oilers offseason report card
- Lowetide: Theodor Lennstrom is the Oilers’ latest European bet on defence
- Lowetide: Why Anton Forsberg could win the Oilers’ backup job in 2020-21
- Lowetide: The 2020-21 Oilers finally deploying elite talent in the right places
- Jonathan Willis: Team Draft vs. Team Trade: Which collection of all-time Oilers is better?
- Lowetide: Seattle Kraken expansion mock draft 5.0: Who could the Oilers lose?
- Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
- Lowetide: Projected training camp roster for the 2020-21 Oilers.
- Jonathan Willis: Will the Oilers repeat their power play magic in 2021?
- Lowetide: How many ‘peak seasons’ can Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
THE 2016 DRAFT
Anaheim Ducks: Sam Steel is going to have a career, Max Jones will be a useful role player and Josh Mahura may also have a career. That’s a solid five years.
Arizona Coyotes: Two terrific pieces in Clayton Keller and Jakob Chychrun, both men appear destined for feature roles. That’s a quality draft.
Boston Bruins: Charlie McAvoy played 40 percent of his five on five time against elites, while also delivering offensively. Puck IQ says he is better without Z than with! A monster player. Ryan Lindgren was also a nice pick, although the Bruins dealt him early.
Buffalo Sabres: Like Edmonton, the Sabres are waiting on some things. Rasmus Asplund has some skills but hasn’t scored in his first NHL audition, and Alexander Nylanders was slow to develop and Buffalo traded him for Henri Jokiharju, who is not yet established.
Calgary Flames: Absolute home run with Tkachuk, everything else is just bonus points. A tremendous player and agitator, Tkachuk is one of the most valuable assets from the draft. Adam Fox is also destined to have a long career and Dillon Dube appears to be the player Edmonton hoped Tyler Benson would be at this time.
Carolina Hurricanes: Also similar to Edmonton in that the talent is good but not hear yet. Jake Bean remains a future contributor at the NHL level and should play a prominent role on a future Hurricanes team. The team has traded Janne Kuokkanen and Julien Gauthier, who didn’t spike in the seasons after they were drafted.
Chicago Blackhawks: Absolutely majestic home run with Alex DeBrincat, but the rest of the draft is either lagging or is not going to make it. There are a lot of names who I thought would play at least some in the league (Chad Krys) so this is an important year for Chicago too.
Colorado Avalanche: Tyson Jost may not become the player once hoped for, but as a two-way forward who can score enough to stay inside the top-9 forwards he has a future. It is not yet clear if others from this class will join him in the NHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Pierre-Luc Dubois was a reach at the time but looks like a stroke of genius today. That pick was probably the move of the draft, which is saying something because there were some astute selections early. Andrew Peeke and Vitaly Abramov have also announced their presence.
Dallas Stars: Riley Tufte is the top prospect but he isn’t scoring. Rhett Gardner beat him to the NHL and may become the best player from this draft for the Stars. Some concern here.
Detroit Red Wings: Filip Hronek was a second-round pick but looks to be the best in the group. He is playing 39 percent of his five on five minutes against elites and delivering plus offense. Dennis Cholowski appears to be an NHL player, not sure where he plays on the depth chart.
Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi is in Edmonton getting ready for his fourth NHL season. He brings a giant frame, skating ability and some skill to the game. I think he’s going to be a quality two-way winger in the NHL, just don’t know if it’s in Edmonton. Per 82 games in the NHL so far, he is averaging 10-12-22. If he can improve to 15 goals and 30 points, learn to use that gigantic frame and find open ice and an appealing target for his center, things could get good in a hurry. JP badly needs to establish the NHL as his home this year. Tyler Benson may have to convince Dave Tippett he’s fast enough, and Filip Berglund is going to get a full shot here in 2021-22 to show what he can do in North America.
Florida Panthers: Annual candidate for derailing the most draft picks, but things could be changing. In 2016, Henrik Borgstrom looked like a good bet for an NHL career but management and coaching changes have him in no-man’s land. Riley Stillman is also an interesting player.
Los Angeles Kings: Kyle Clague has played in four NHL games. He is likely to get crushed by oncoming prospects if he can’t establish himself soon.
Minnesota Wild: Luke Kunin has graduated and emerged as an NHL player (he is now playing for the Nashville Predators). Not much else coming.
Montreal Canadiens: Habs are good at the draft but their GM usually trades the best pieces early. Mikhael Sergachev was a quality pick (sent to Tampa Bay) and Victor Mete was a surprise who emerged early and has had success.
Nashville Predators: Dante Fabbro and Sam Girard came from this draft. Girard is a clearly established two-way defender of note, Fabbro was the earlier pick and has really just arrived in the NHL. Great draft.
New Jersey Devils: NJD had a weird draft, their best player (Jesper Bratt) came in the sixth round to remind us drafting skill in every round is smart. Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian and Joey Anderson were higher picks who are trying to establish themselves.
New York Islanders: Kieffer Bellows is taking the “Michael dal Colle” route to the NHL but he has scoring talent. Otto Koivula also has talent and has played a little in the league.
New York Rangers: This is the period where the Manhattans were trading all of their picks but Tim Gettinger has made an NHL appearance.
Ottawa Senators: Logan Brown is close and has been for some time, but has played in just 29 NHL games. Prospects become suspects right about now. Max Lajoie, a later pick has played more than Brown but struggled.
Philadelphia Flyers: We may look back on this draft as the best in the group some day. Carter Hart is a brilliant young goalie and skaters Pascal Laberge, Carsen Twarnyski and Connor Bunnaman are all trending and have played in the NHL.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Nothing so far.
San Jose Sharks: No first round picks but two men (Dylan Gambrell and Noah Gregor) who are matriculating toward an NHL future. I’m not sure whey they will play the heart of their careers on feature lines but there’s much of the story to tell.
St. Louis Blues: Tage Thompson was their first round pick, I wasn’t sold on him but the Blues were able to use him in a package for Ryan O’Reilly and that has huge value. Jordan Kyrou is a favourite who has performed well in 44 NHL games.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning use their draft picks for trade and development. So, two early picks (Brett Howden and Libor Hajek) were sent to New York for endless riches, while Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk and others continue to develop. Tampa Bay is as close to the Pollock Canadiens system as we have in the NHL currently.
Toronto Maple Leafs: When you draft Auston Matthews, you’ve won. That said, the team had a bunch of picks in the top three rounds and maybe one or more of Igor Korshkov, Joseph Woll and Adam Brooks finds an NHL career.
Vancouver Canucks: Olli Juolevi appears healthy and ready to embark on his NHL career. Vancouver has room and this would be a great spot for him to slide in as an option. William Lockwood is also a player of interest.
Washington Capitals: Lucas Johansen is the first rounder and he is developing but may need another year.
Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine makes a draft no matter how long he plays in Winnipeg. I was genuinely afraid Edmonton would trade up to draft Logan Stanley but the Jets (who are excellent draft people) grabbed him instead. So now I think he might be something. Mikhail Berdin is a talented goalie.
The big winners, in my opinion, are Arizona (two quality talents), Boston (perhaps the best player in the draft outside the No. 1 pick), Calgary (Tkachuk, Fox and Dube is Nuge, Klefbom, Rieder level, maybe better), Columbus (PLD plus), Montreal (two talented blue), Nashville (same), Philadelphia (Carter Hart and other things), Tampa Bay (they’re on another level), Toronto (Matthews) and Winnipeg (Laine).
That’s nine winners after four years. How much progress would we need to see from Edmonton’s 2016 list during 2020-21 to call the draft a success? Puljujarvi scoring 15 goals, Benson establishing himself as an NHL option in the bottom-six forwards.
That’s a tough row to hoe.
POSSIBLE OPENING NIGHT LINEUP
- Koskinen (Smith)