With the season all but over for the Oilers, it’s time to start looking into the off-season. We can start by contemplating what this team will do in the upcoming draft, which has been an area of concern for quite some time in Edmonton.
Let’s start by looking at the way this team has drafted over the last seven years. Sure, there have been regime changes that would eliminate continuity. But it is still interesting to look back and compare.
The Oilers took Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the first overall pick in 2011, their 2nd in two years. Nuge has developed into a great two-way player and has been enjoying one of his better seasons despite missing a month and a half with a rib injury.
They also took Oscar Klefbom later in the first round with the 19th overall pick. An up and down defenseman who started the season on the top pairing but has struggled to stay healthy. They also took Tobias Reider in the 4th round, who has turned into a fine NHL player, albeit with teams not named the Edmonton Oilers.
Three players from the draft have played over 300 games and the only other player left in the Oilers system who could still carve out a career from this draft class is Dillon Simpson.
Nail Yakupov was picked first overall in 2012, the Oilers third time in three years picking first in the draft. A team has never been that lucky. Yak played four seasons in Edmonton but never eclipsed a 33-point season. He was traded to St. Louis before the 2016-17 season.
Jujhar Khaira was taken in the third round with the 63rd overall pick. Khaira has had a 2017-18 season gathering 20 points in 61 games (11G 9A). He has also developed a physical presence this year, a role some other higher paid players have fallen short of accomplishing. At just 650k, Khaira is a prime example of how valuable it is to develop role players within the organization.
Erik Gustafsson was taken in the 4th round, but he never played a game with the Oilers, instead, he’s been used as a depth d-man over the past few years with the Blackhawks.
Joey Laleggia, a defenseman converted to forward in the AHL is the only other player from that class still in the system.
Edmonton held the seventh overall pick in 2013 and used it to take Darnell Nurse. Nurse’s play this season has been one of few positives. He’s had the best year of any defenseman on the roster, coming into his own with his physical presence and speed.
Anton Slepyshev was taken in the third round with the 88th overall pick. Slepyshev has been a decent NHL player when given reasonable opportunities. He’s had a hard time cracking the line-up this year but as a bottom-six depth player. I don’t see any negatives with his selection, good value for the 3rd round.
Kyle Platzer is the only other 2013 draftee left in the Oilers system. Platzer has 10 points through 35 games in the AHL, and would seem to be a longshot to be an NHLer.
Leon Draisaitl was taken with the third overall pick in 2014 and has become the heir apparent to the second line centre role. Draisaitl has played his way to becoming the second highest paid player on the roster, during last year’s playoff run.
William Lagesson was taken in the fourth round and after a few seasons with UMass-Amherst in the NCAA, he returned home to Sweden this season.
Tyler Vesel was taken in the 6th round and after four years in the NCAA, where he never eclipsed a point per game pace, the 23-year-old has just signed an amateur try out and will finish the year with Bakersfield. Certainly still hope for the late-round selection.
2015 will forever be known as the year we remember where we were on April 18. Connor McDavid. That is all.
Edmonton also took Caleb Jones (4th round-117 overall) and Ethan Bear (5th round-124 overall) in 2015. Bear has shown some offensive flash in his recent NHL experience. Jones, on the other hand, has looked good in his first year in Bakersfield, despite battling some injuries earlier in the year.
Ziyat Paigin was taken in the seventh round of 2015. At 6’6” and 209 pounds he could be a beast of a defenseman in the future.
In the last two drafts, the Oilers selected Jesse Puljujarvi (4th overall) and Kailer Yamamoto (22nd overall). With Puljujarvi looking like he’s slowly finding his way into the line-up and Yamamoto needing more time to grow these were clearly developmental picks with lots of potential upside. Finding cheap wingers with the potential to jump into the teams top-six is clearly something the organization was focusing on.
The rest of the 2016-17 draft classes are still in the early stages of development. There are intriguing names like Tyler Benson, Ostap Safin, Stuart Skinner and Kirill Maksimov. The next few years could see a wave of youth hit the organizations AHL team.
With the 2018 NHL draft order yet to be decided it’s tough to determine what angle the team will take. Depending on the draft lottery results the Oilers could pick somewhere between the fifth and the twelfth spots.
Now the obvious choice is Rasmus Dahlin. If the Oilers miraculously win the lottery for the fifth time in seven years, that would be the selection to make. But we should assume they won’t, so let’s look at the prospects potentially available. We could narrow it down to three possible candidates.
Number one for me is Brady Tkachuk. A 6’3”- 196-pound left winger from the University of Boston. Tkachuk has mustered 29 points (8G-21A) in 38 games this season, while also performing for team U.S.A at the World Juniors. More importantly than his statistical contribution is his attitude. A chippy big winger with grit that won’t stand down. Something the Oilers could really use.
Outside of the top five, the draft is stockpiled with defensemen, a need not necessarily high on the Oilers list. Adam Boqvist is an option in Edmonton’s range. With Boqvist’s over-exceptional skating and playmaking ability, he would be a more than adequate defensive choice outside of Dahlin. Boqvist is tallying 24 points (14G-10A) in the SuperElit league.
Lastly Oliver Wahlstrom a 6’1”- 205-pound RW playing for the U.S. U18 team. Wahlstrom is a natural goal scoring sniper. He’s registered 79 points (39G-39A) and with him turning 18 two weeks before the draft he would be another developmental pick. However, he could become the scoring winger the Oilers desperately need
So, who will the Oilers select with their top pick this year? With it depending on where in the first round they will be selecting only time will tell. Until then we can only study up on the eligible prospects and try our best at the guessing game.