I was expecting a great draft last Friday night and had great anticipation for all of the first-round picks. I was not expecting a plot twist, but that’s exactly what happened while I was on the radio talking about the 2021 selections.
I was on the air with Tom Gazzola and Hernan Salas, two of my favourite people to work with at any time. I had Sebastian Cossa circled for Edmonton, but wasn’t sure he’d make it (he was drafted by Detroit, who traded up to get him at No. 15). As the Edmonton pick got closer, my list was (in order) Nikita Chibrikov (suspected the Oilers wouldn’t take him), Zachary Bolduc (he went No. 17), Francesco Pinelli, Xavier Bourgault, Chaz Lucius (he went No. 18 to Winnipeg), Logan Stankhoven, Fabien Lysell and Jesper Wallstedt.
There were six men in my top 20 when the Oilers turn at 20 arrived. Honestly, I would have been impressed with any of them landing to Edmonton at 20.
After Ken Holland made the trade down, all hell broke loose on the textline. Wallstedt was suddenly a franchise goalie and the Oilers had once again made an historic error. And in the time since then, nothing much has changed. I think the Oilers selected a helluva player, and am looking forward to seeing his career roll 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’s the latest!
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- Lowetide: Warren Foegele acquisition possible key to improving the Oilers third line
- DNB: Ethan Bear on being traded, his time with the Oilers
- DNB: Ethan Bear out, Cody Ceci in, Tyson Barrie stays
- DNB: ‘Ultimate competitor’ Zach Hyman signs with Oilers
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- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects, summer 2021
- DNB: Oilers draft day notebook
- DNB: Oilers come under the microscope after passing on Jesper Wallstedt
- Jonathan Willis: Zach Hyman, by the numbers
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- Jonathan Willis: Yes or no? Have your say on 10 hypothetical Oilers trades
- Lowetide: Why Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard is poised to exceed expectations
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OILERS VS. LOWETIDE 2018
The Oilers have an edge (two players have arrived) and Bouchard is a quality prospect, but Ty Smith is a terrific young player and may finish his career as the best player in the group. He’s that good. McLeod helps Edmonton, but I’m convinced Fagemo is going to have a career of some kind. This is going to take some time.
OILERS VERSUS LOWETIDE 2019
Miles too soon to know, but Mr. Kaliyev has played in one game and scored in it. The first three Oilers picks are trending well. My list had too many re-entries in it, that was a trend I’ve clipped since. Older players are more established, more is known about them, but the ceiling is lower.
OILERS VERSUS LOWETIDE 2020
This draft has started out well for both lists, a year after the draft the top three picks on both sides are trending well. Even the fourth picks, Berezkin and Miettinen, are posting strong numbers in their respective leagues. I think we’ll see some NHL players from both of these lists.
OILERS VERSUS LOWETIDE 2021
As I mentioned draft weekend, there is so much disparity on all of the lists and it’s going to be fascinating to see how this turns out. Someone is wrong, we’ll see. For me, the Bourgault, Chiasson and Petrov selections are all value, and we’ll have to see about the other three. They aren’t as famous as the others, but that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. We’ll know more in a year.
I believe drafting Bourgault was the correct call. He’ll arrive in pro hockey in time for fall 2023, Leon Draisaitl will have two years left in his deal, McDavid three. Someone has to be in place to take over key roles, in case those men choose to sign elsewhere. Currently, Dylan Holloway, Bourgault, Ryan McLeod, Raphael Lavoie and Jake Chiasson represent the possible future at center. That isn’t enough, but the organization must keep feeding the prospect pipeline and the two most recent drafts have been important.
I’ll linger for another moment to suggest that Holland is preparing the team for the future a little better than Chiarelli did five or six years ago. Whereas Chiarelli ran out of money the instant he signed Kris Russell to his long-term deal in 2017, Holland seems to be trying to stagger major contracts so one expires each summer. Koskinen is done in 2022, Keith in 2023 (Klefbom too) and on down the line.
Without money coming off the books each summer, Chiarelli put himself in a position where Ty Rattie was the big free-agent addition of summer. Nothing against Rattie, but the team needed more. Toronto is in the same position this summer, but have an analytics slant and are making smarter bets.
Both Chiarelli and Holland overspent to buy assets in an effort to hurry success, I know many of you are frustrated by their execution in this area. Fans want immediate success, but believe there are more efficient ways to get there.
I absolutely agree.
I know these Oilers are not among the efficient teams. The Bear for Foegele trade is an example. I like Foegele a bunch, but the position he fills (two-way winger in the middle six) has less value than Bear (top-four defender, RH, fairly complete skill set and proven to be effective versus elite opposition).
The best thing you can say about that trade is that Edmonton badly needed Foegele to rebuild the third line, and that Bear’s contract ask a year from now would have been difficult to satisfy.
I don’t think the Connor McDavid era is going to include an Oilers team that is driven by cutting edge analytics. I think Ken Holland is going by his gut and he has had success as a boat against the current (Mike Smith a year ago, etc).
I believe he was correct in keeping the 2021 first-round selection and I believe Bourgault was an astute choice.
I believe an analytics department and a management team who values those numbers is for the future in Edmonton. That kind of paradigm shift for the Oilers will happen after McDavid’s exit. The fact is, 97 is so good (as is 29), Edmonton can contend even with a distinct off-ice disadvantage.
Finally, Holland can’t run his team as if the world ends when McDavid’s deal is done and he can’t mortgage all of Edmonton’s future for today. I think Bourgault was a helluva pick. I look forward to watching his progress. He may play in a time when the Oilers do not feature 97 or 29. That possibility is the reason using the pick was necessary.