The Edmonton Oilers enter the 2021 draft with some strong areas on the current roster and for the future. The best 1-2 center combination in the game (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl) and a significant number of handsome futures on left (Darnell Nurse, Dmitri Samorukov, Philip Broberg) and right (Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard) defense. There are even some goalies (Ilya Konovalov, Stuart Skinner, Olivier Rodrigue) and some right wingers (Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Raphael Lavoie) of note. Left wing has some issues at the NHL level, and that may be the theme of summer (again), but bubbling under are Dylan Holloway, Tyler Benson, Carter Savoie, Maxim Berezkin and others.
So then, how should Edmonton proceed at the draft?
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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OILERS AT 19
Ordinarily, I use Bob McKenzie’s final list because it reflects the industry closely. Mr. McKenzie’s list is not yet available. The final lists haven’t dropped, Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler aside, so discussing No. 19 (or later) is difficult. For now, I’m going to use the Nation consensus list from April 2021.
Edmonton doesn’t need a center, with 97 and 29 here for the next several years, plus Ryan McLeod just coming online as an NHL center. There’s also Dylan Holloway, who we talk about as a winger but he has played center much of his career.
- Xavier Bourgault is a favourite of mine, a RHC who scores goals and is an excellent puck passer. I have him No. 14 overall on my list. Draft Pro Yearbook says “an offensive minded forward with soft hands and goal scorers drive. Plays with pace, using his smarts and strong positioning to create offense. His skating just keeps getting better but is an area of continued focus to improve.” You can read the entire yearbook here. Very detailed. I’m reading it now.
- LW Matt Coronato is a pure scorer, great release and plus speed. Headed to Harvard. I like him plenty (have him No. 20) but Edmonton is strong at the position after a 2020 draft that seemed at times devoted to the position.
- G Sebastian Cossa is a giant who moves quickly and has great reflexes, so unless he becomes obsessed with winning King of the Klondike he has a real chance to make it as an NHL goalie. I’ve seen comments here and there suggesting drafting a goalie during the McDavid era is a bad idea. Once again: You cannot run a business like that. If the goalie is BPA, take the best player available.
- LC Zachary Dean is loved by everyone who talks or writes about the 2021 draft. He has speed, smarts and the work ethic of a homesteader. He is universally ranked 15-30 or so. I have him No. 58 because his offense is shy. I don’t know Tyler Wright’s list and there’s a small chance he isn’t going to email me a copy before draft day. The Oilers drafted a player with a pedestrian offensive boxcar set a year ago, and Dean (NHLE: 20.3) checks off a lot of other boxes.
THE 2020 DRAFT
Wright and his scouts did a fine job, I’ll say outstanding with the reminder that waiting five years is necessary, is delivering quality in a most difficult draft. Edmonton traded down to get an extra pick in 2020, not certain they’ll do it this time. I ranked the top four players Nos. 25, 56, 53, 122.
PICKS 115, 179, 185 AND 211
So, we only have one year of Tyler Wright, plus Holland’s impact on the Philip Broberg pick, as a guideline. As you know, I’m a fan of Edmonton’s 2015+ drafting overall, and the 2020 draft is trending very well. Here are some players who might be on Edmonton’s list based on what we know the club is looking for, using 2020 as a template.
- RW Zakhar Bardakov, Vityaz Podolsk. Big PF with some skill. He is 20. Fits well with Berezkin from a year ago.
- LW Eric Alarie, Moose Jaw Warriors 6.01, 196. Big PF with plus skill. I expect Tyler Wright likes him. I have him ranked far higher than anyone else, he’s a guy who could last until No. 115 based on the rankings I’m seeing. He would represent exceptional value.
- RC Connor Lockhart, Erie Otters. He’s small (5.08, 163) and that’s out of time with Wright’s picks from a year ago, but a righty center. Fast, highly skilled, intelligent. He would be a worthwhile selection for Edmonton.
- RC Ryan Winterton, Hamilton Bulldogs. Solid prospect, skilled and September 2003. One of the youngest players in the draft, he’s another righty center. His calling card is his shot, he can pick corners and overwhelm goaltenders.
- LD Janis Moser, EHC Biel-Bienne. Overager, born in 2000, I think Wright and the Oilers may draft several older players this time around (more certainty). Fine skater, two-way type, he could go as early as the third round.
Oilers fans react to everything these days in an over the top fashion, suspect that will continue until Ken Holland makes an astute signing or two in free agency. I don’t agree with all of the reaction (holding up the Devin Shore signing as a misstep is one thing, but as a harbinger of certain doom is over the top), but in the case of Matej Blumel there is cause for concern.
In his draft year, and this past season, Blumel looked like a legit NHL prospect. I had him as the Oilers No. 13 prospect in my most recent top-20 prospects (trade deadline edition), and I expect he will eventually sign an NHL contract with some team. He was worth signing, Edmonton didn’t do it, we are left to find the answers.
I think you can make a case for the Oilers liking other LW’s more (certainly the 2020 draft had several impressive players who can play the position) and perhaps Blumel and his agent were in search of more money as a bonus than a normal fourth-round selection would warrant.
The problem is you develop a past. As is the case with the analytics department, Edmonton continues to look ill equipped to deal with the massive amount of work running an NHL team requires.
Today’s post should be about the impressive 2020 draft only, and should be looking forward confidently to what this staff can do at the 2021 edition.
It is not.
There’s absolutely room on the 50-man list, Blumel was drafted in the Holland era, and he was worth a contract. Did the Oilers know about the deadline? The fact it is even a question fans are asking should be of great concern to the organization.