The Edmonton Oilers used just one first-round pick on a defenseman in the first 10 drafts of the century (10 forwards, defenseman Alex Plante and goalie Devan Dubnyk). Between 2010 and 2019, the club drafted four defensemen (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg) and just seven forwards.
The 2021 draft is heavy on blue at the top. Will Edmonton pick another defenseman in the first round?
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!
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- Lowetide: It won’t be easy, but the Oilers need to re-sign Darnell Nurse soon
- DNB: Ideal Oilers free-agent targets
- New Lowetide: An early look at the Oilers’ options for the 2021 draft
- New DNB: The pressure is on Oilers GM Ken Holland
- New Lowetide: What now for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
- New DNB: Connor McDavid shows his frustration as another year of his prime is lost: ‘We’re a group that expects more’
- New Jonathan Willis: The NHL gifted the Oilers Connor McDavid; six years later, they have yet to adequately support him
- New DNB: The Oilers’ 10 biggest offseason priorities after a disastrous first-round playoff loss to the Jets
- Lowetide: The 5 biggest stories from the Bakersfield Condors’ 2020-21 season
- DNB: How Jesse Puljujarvi’s return to Finland primed him for Oilers success
- DNB: Darnell Nurse is on ‘another level’
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi has arrived for the Oilers — again
- Lowetide: Oilers final 2020-21 report cards: A regular season to remember
- DNB:What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
MOCK FIRST ROUND DRAFT 2021
- Buffalo Sabres: LD Owen Power, Michigan Wolverines. Great skater, terrific two-way ability and a great passer. The team is a mess and uncertainty is the order of the day. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart could be gone this summer, so GM Kevyn Adams has many ways he can go. I have Power No. 5, his NHLE is 16.8 and he is a November 2002 (older player in this draft). Expect a quality NHL player for a long time. I don’t see him quarterbacking a power play but can see him playing a shutdown role effectively. This is the player type who often gets passed in the following years by a more dynamic player. Not exactly the Yakupov year at No. 1 but many miles from McDavid level talent.
- Seattle Kraken: LC Matthew Beniers, Michigan Wolverines. Two-way center with impressive skill. Plus shot, great passer. Kraken general manager Ron Francis will be drafting a center with many of the same skills he brought to the game. Beniers (27.3 NHLE) might be a little shy offensively for the No. 1 center role, but he has the complete range of skills and would be a fine pick for an expansion team (I have him No. 4 overall).
- Anaheim Ducks: LD Luke Hughes, U.S. National Development Team Terrific skater with complete range of skills. GM Bob Murray celebrates his new relationship with analytics by taking a fast, brilliant defenseman who is 10 months younger than Power and owns an NHLE (18.5) that is already better. He is 6.02, 176 and I have him No. 6 overall.
- New Jersey Devils: RD Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts. Puck-moving defenseman with terrific speed and good size (6.01, 185). Feb 2003. RH blue should join youngsters Ty Smith, Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotyuk in the coming years to form a smart, mobile and effective defensive group. I have him No. 3 on my list, the top defender, and he might be the best player in the draft.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: LD Simon Edvinsson, Vasteras IK Huge (6.05, 207) two-way blue with great mobility. His NHLE (10.5) suggests a defensive player but the rankings have him top-5 pretty much everywhere. The combination of size and speed is going to be difficult for GM’s to pass on. He is a February 2003, I have him No. 11.
- Detroit Red Wings: LC Mason McTavish Peterborough Petes. He’s a pure goal scorer, PF’s tools. I have him No. 8 overall and I think there’s a chance he falls out of the top-10, but Yzerman’s first two drafts (Seider, Holtz) show no fear and a pursuit of skill. January 2003, he scored 29 OHL goals at age 16. I’d love to see the Oilers trade up for him.
- San Jose Sharks: LW William Eklund, Djurgardens. Exceptional offensive talent already in SHL. His NHLE (28.1) is fantastic considering he played in a pro league that doesn’t hand out playing time easily. He’s an October 2002 and my No. 1 player in this draft. Why will he fall to No. 7? Eklund could go earlier, but the lists I’m looking at suggest the scouts are far more enamored of the blue than the forwards.
- Los Angeles Kings: RW Dylan Guenther, Edmonton Oil Kings. Great skater, has pure goal-scoring ability. Shoots right. April 2003. Kings grab another big piece to a draft haul that includes Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev in the past two seasons (2019 and 2020). Guenther has the highest NHLE (49.5) in this year’s draft. Fantastic player.
- Vancouver Canucks: LW Kent Johnson, Michigan Wolverines High skill level, impressive numbers, October 2002. His NHLE (28.4) is strong compared to most in the group, and he has ridiculous skill. The Canucks have some outstanding skill forwards (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser) and Johnson could fit right in. It’s important for Vancouver to get it right, the club had three brilliant drafts 2017-2019 but didn’t pick until No. 82 one year ago.
- Ottawa Senators: RW Nikita Chibrikov, St. Petersburg Small skill winger can stickhandle in a phone booth. Massive U18’s in Texas. Ottawa often goes outside normal in the first round and have been rewarded handsomely for it. I think they might look center here (see below) but the Russian would be the most talented player if the draft rolls out this way.
- Chicago Blackhawks: RC Chaz Lucius, U.S. National Development Team Great shot, high skill, good speed. He could be a steal. Lucius didn’t play a lot this season, it may hurt his final number but most rankings have him in this range. Chicago has been a little porridge in recent seasons, this would represent a spike in talent for the organization.
- Calgary Flames: LC Zachary Bolduc, Rimouski Oceanic. A fairly complete talent, his offense is the main calling card. Bolduc had some injury issues in 2020-21 but he’s skilled (25.0 NHLE) and a February 2003. This is an important draft for the Flames, who last hit a home run in 2016.
- Philadelphia Flyers: LD Carson Lambos, Winnipeg Ice A big man already (6.01, 200) he is a fine skater. Two-way blue. Flyers seemed to be in a bit of a draft funk in recent seasons, but Joel Farabee blossomed last season and there are some good pieces bubbling under.
- Dallas Stars: LW Fedor Svechkov, Ladia Togliatti. Smart two-way winger who can push the river. Last time the Stars drafted out of Russia it was Denis Gurianov in 2015 and it worked out fine.
- New York Rangers: LW Matt Coronato, Chicago Steel Pure scorer, great release, headed to Harvard. He’s a real burner and a dynamic scorer (48 goals last season). I’m not sure what the Rangers are doing, wonder if some of the team’s best young talent could be available. That may also mean this pick is in play.
- Montreal Canadiens: LC Zachary L’Heureux, Halifax Mooseheads Plays like PF, is a streaky scorer, great skater and a determined checker. He is not a big man (5.11, 186) but he’s in the play constantly. Along with McTavish, L’Heureux is the forward I’m most like to see fall to the Oilers. Montreal drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Alexander Romanov and Cole Caufield in 2018-2019 and that window is paying off already. Habs are always a fun team to follow at the draft.
- St. Louis Blues: RW Fabian Lysell, Lulea. Breathtaking skill winger, great release. He has speed and shiftiness, and can pass and take a pass in full flight. The Blues have been inconsistent in recent drafts, and need a home run skill forward. Lysell is a perfect fit for St. Louis.
- Winnipeg Jets: LC Francesco Pinelli, Kitchener Rangers Smart, high skilled center who passes well and has plus speed. I’ve read in a few spots that he could land on LW, but he has enough ability to be a net positive wherever he plays. Had a strong U18’s. The Jets are one of the best teams in the league at the draft table, the heart of its team is on past draft pages.
- Nashville Predators: LC Aatu Raty, Karpat Talented center who struggled in the Liiga but has a solid junior resume. Teams looking for good centers this year are going to be taking risks, but Raty will be a bargain if he can find the range offensively. A great drafting team, Preds have bled a lot via trades of young prospects over the years.
- New Jersey Devils: RC Xavier Bourgault, Shawinigan Cataractes There’s just too much offense to ignore. His NHLE (32.2) tells us he is a dynamic scorer (great shot) but he’s also a creative passer and playmaker. The QMJHL is producing major talent at the three forward positions in recent history, I think the NJD pass on the two goalies avaiable and take the scoring forward.
- Edmonton Oilers: G Sebastian Cossa, Edmonton Oil Kings. He’s a giant goaltender, had a .941 save percentage this season. Cossa blocks out the sun, has a good glove and moves well laterally. If I’m right about this pick, it will confirm the resume on Wright/Holland in Edmonton. By drafting Broberg, Holloway and then Cossa, the organization will be adding players who are low risk and should play in the league. I believe Cossa’s upside is high, but he’s also a safe pick.
- Minnesota Wild: G Jesper Wallstedt, Lulea. 6.03, 214, 22 games and a .908 SP in the SHL. Wallstedt is rated as the top goalie across the lists I’ve seen, and probably goes in the top 15 overall. Wild GM Bill Guerin has been running circles around the rest of the league since he was named, expect Wallstedt will be a home run.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: LC Cole Sillinger, Sioux Falls Stampede Dangerous shooter, fine passer. Average skater. He is ranked higher on other lists (I have him No. 38) and his NHLE is 32.9 (a strong number this year). I punished him for skating issues, perhaps he is underrated on my list.
- Detroit Red Wings: RW Isak Rosen, Leksands. Speedy playmaker, March 2013. Sixth sense offensively. I think I’ll like Yzerman more as a GM than I did as a player. Rosen had just one assist during 22 SHL games, but he was dominant against his own age group (7, 7-2-9) at the World Juniors. In McTavish and Rosen, Detroit would be procuring two of the more impressive scorers in the draft.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: RC Logan Stankoven, Kamloops Blazers 5.07, 165. Demon on the forecheck with plus skills. No team takes advantage of the WHL’s undersized skill demons more than Columbus. In Edvinsson, Sillinger and Stankhoven, the Blue Jackets would be adding three ‘up the middle’ solutions who may one day occupy a prominent spot on the depth chart in Ohio.
- Minnesota Wild: LD Daniil Chayka, CSKA Moscow Two-way defender who will play big minutes wherever he lands. Chayka’s defensive abilities are already solid and his speed allows him to play well in coverage. Offensively, he’s a good passer and has a plus shot, but doesn’t have a resume that suggests a future on an NHL power play.
- Florida Panthers: LW Brennan Othmann, Flint Firebirds Best first-shot scorer among wingers in the OHL. He is also an excellent passer and a good skater (not lightning fast but very efficient). The Barkov-Eklbad-Weegar drafts were 7-8 years ago and the team went through a down period. The last two drafts (Spencer Knight, Anton Lundell) have been much better, and Othman would be a solid addition to the prospect pool.
- Vegas Golden Knights: LC Zach Dean, Gatineau Olympiques. He is going in the first round, I have him No. 58. Dean is 20.2 NHLE and a January 2003. He has been compared to Ridly Greig from last year (Oilers were rumoured to have interest) and I’ve seen scouting reports with “compete” as a bullet point. The math doesn’t love him.
- Boston Bruins: RW Olivier Nadeau, Shawinigan Cataractes More bull than beauty, he is effective. He is a big winger (6.02, 204) and had a strong year (13-32-45 in 34 games) in 2020-21. He is a good passer, plus shot, and is a January 2003. Boston has had one pick in the top-30 overall in the last three seasons, important to cash here.
- Carolina Hurricanes: LW Ayrton Martino, Omaha Lancers Small speedy winger, September 2002. All of his cannons are pointed in the offensive direction, he is 5.10, 170 and one of the older players in the draft. Carolina routinely hits home runs in the first round, the last time the organization struck out at the draft was 2008.
- Colorado Avalanche: RW Mackie Samoskevich, Chicago (USHL) Speedy skill winger. I have him at No. 61 but he shows up high on a few respected lists. Has an NHLE of 22.8. This draft is all over the place, the Avalanche are a team that can take chances.
The OHL and WHL are off the usual pace, USHL and SHL have strong crops and the NCAA shows early domination. Finland having a down year.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A small show today, just one hour (10-11) on TSN1260. We promise to make it entertaining, with Frank Seravalli the feature guest and we will chat a little about the draft. WHC featuring Canada and Russia at 11. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!