I’ve mentioned this before, but my interest in the NHL draft goes back to 1971 (it was a riot, literally!). My questioning of the draft picks in the order selected began in 1973. Sam Pollock (of course!) chose winger Bob Gainey (a checking forward) over several stunning offensive talents and I just couldn’t figure out the reasoning.
These years later, I still would have chosen Rick Middleton, but that’s the fun of the draft. The Oilers since 2015 have been doing well, are they better than this amateur with a calculator and access to public rankings since 2015? Let’s have a look.
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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’s the latest!
- New Lowetide: Oilers final 2020-21 report card: A regular season to remember
- New DNB: ‘The biggest transformation I’ve ever seen in an elite player’: How Connor McDavid took the next step
- New DNB: Are the Oilers botching Evan Bouchard’s development?
- New DNB: What Leon Draisaitl learned in Bakersfield
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson contract talks give us a glimpse into Oilers’ offseason plans
- Lowetide: Ideal Edmonton Oilers lines and pairings for the 2021 NHL playoffs
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ Mike Smith is putting himself in the all-time old-guy goalie conversation with a stunning season at 38
- DNB: What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
THE 2015 DRAFT
The Oilers scouts killed at the 2015 draft and should be given mountains of credit for grabbing four NHL players (three after pick 115). I’d love to see Edmonton’s final draft list that season. My list chose two NHL players, a solid effort but Edmonton’s scouts won this by a long mile.
There are 101 players from the 2015 draft who have played in the NHL, that’s about 3.37 per team (Edmonton has four) and 455 NHL games per team from those 3.37 teams (Oilers are at 740 but of course have McDavid). All of 2015’s first-round picks have now played in the NHL. Tkachev is apparently signing with an NHL team this summer (“so you’re saying there’s a chance!”) but this race is over.
THE 2016 DRAFT
The turns table in 2016, with Edmonton drafting one NHL player and possibly more depending on Benson, Niemelainen, Berglund and others. Redemption came for the 2016 draft this season, as Puljujarvi returned and posted a 15-goal campaign.
I had Alex DeBrincat No. 15, mostly because his NHLE (44 points) was better than anyone’s but Matthew Tkachuk. Also notable that Abramov and Vehvilainen have now played in the NHL, so the LT list wins 2016’s draft over the Oilers scouts. No one is shaking in his boots, though.
THE 2017 DRAFT
I’m not sure anyone knows who will win the Kailer Yamamoto versus Eeli Tolvanen race, I had Yamamoto ranked just behind the Finn on my list. Vase vase, I guess. No arguments with the Yamamoto bet, it showed an organizational paradigm shift possibly brought on by the DeBrincat and Barzal misses.
Skinner has played one NHL game and Samorukov is building a terrific resume. Edmonton’s 2017 draft is looking good.
My list has Tolvanen and an early appearance from Chmelveski, who is a promising forward in the San Jose Sharks organization. I think this will be close, but Samorukov looms large on the Edmonton side of the ledger. At this point too close to call.
THE 2018 DRAFT
This is shaping up to be the most interesting draft comparison of the bunch. Edmonton drafted two men who have an excellent chance to occupy important roster positions (RH top 4-D and 3C) for years to come. That’s a big draft summer if those two men deliver.
My list is looking good, too. Smith is progressing as a top-flight NHL player and he’s already fairly established and complete. Olofsson has been hurt a lot, but Hillis and Fagemo are impressive wingers who should be able to equal or better McLeod offensively. The position rarity of the Edmonton kids (Bouchard and McLeod) probably wins the day.
THE 2019 DRAFT
We’re just getting started but there are some good signs for both lists. Broberg and Lavoie are acting more like two picks in the 15-20 range than 8-38, and that’s not all bad. I think Broberg is projecting as another Klefbom-type (wide range of skills) and we’ll see if injuries have the same impact. I’ve mentioned Klefbom as a comparable several times in the last two seasons, most recently at The Athletic in an April article. Lavoie is a first-shot scorer in an organization badly in need of several. I like Konovalov and Blumel too, but it’s early days.
My list also has some risk at the top, the guy I liked at No. 8 didn’t get picked until the second round. I still like him, as he scored in his NHL debut and led his AHL club in points as a teenager. Matthew Robertson is on target for an NHL career as a two-way defender with size and speed. The rest of the list is off the pace, less than ideal to have two players you’re left to count on two years after the draft.
THE 2020 DRAFT
Edmonton did a lot with its first four picks, including Holloway who looks like he could be in the NHL next season. Savoie had a terrific first season in college, Tullio had a second-round ranking on my list and Berezkin is a giant teenager who played in the KHL.
Mercer is a favourite of mine, his scouting report is my ideal player type (strong two-way play with skill) and I think he’s going to be very good. Chromiak is fast and skilled, Miettinen is under the radar but talented, Magnusson is also a skilled player. Both lists are quality, too soon to know.
Edmonton’s scouts have the edge in my opinion owing mostly to the 2015 draft (three defensemen in later rounds) and the 2018 unicorn selection of RHD Bouchard with No. 3 center kicked McLeod. Puljuarvi’s emergence this year allows the scouts to avoid a major gaffe and the list has prospects in every corner. Goaltending is the weak spot but there are three men matriculating. I’m especially impressed the scouts found Bear, Marino and Bouchard (an entire RH side) in an era where those players are so highly regarded.
Finally, a word about talent found outside the top-20 overall. Jones, Bear, Marino, Yamamoto and McLeod, with names like Samorukov and Lavoie on the way.
My list found DeBrincat, Ty Smith and I think Kaliyev and Mercer are going to be quality NHL players.
Does my list win the day because of DeBrincat? Would you trade Caleb Jones, John Marino, Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod for Alex DeBrincat and Eeli Tolvanen?
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning despite the rain and the forecast (don’t look, Ethyl!) starts at 10 on TSN1260. We’ll talk Oilers at 10:20, and at 10:40 Michael Smith from CanesCast and senior editor for the Hurricanes will join us to talk NHL playoffs. Paul Sir from The Basketball Show is in at 11 to talk NBA play-ins and playoffs. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!