Welp, THAT didn’t go as we all hoped it would go!
Whoever let Taylor Hall into the room with the lottery balls really messed up! The Devils won the draft lottery for the 2nd time in the last 3 years, and for the 3rd time since 2011 (they picked 4th despite winning the lottery in 2011 due to the rules at the time). If you include the year that the Oilers picked Hall himself, this is now the 6th time that Hall has been on the team with the first overall pick in the last 10 years. Perhaps some of the hate that Edmonton gets on draft lottery night every year can go New Jersey’s way now!
In a cruel twist of fate for Oilers fans, the New York Rangers won the 2nd pick. The Rangers finished one spot lower than the Oilers this season. The Oilers beat the Flames on the final night of the regular season. They lost Connor McDavid to injury in that game, but they could not have possibly known that win would cost them the 2nd pick in this draft as well. That player is likely to be Kaapo Kakko, who some scouts say will be NHL ready next season after breaking the U-18 scoring record in Finland this season (previously held by Florida’s Aleksander Barkov). The Oilers don’t get ALL of the lottery luck!
The Oilers ended up falling back one spot thanks to the Rangers. They now hold the 8th pick in this year’s draft. This is the first time that the Oilers will have the 8th pick since 1981, when they selected Grant Fuhr. I’d say that worked out alright!
Here is a list of the 8th overall picks from the last 10 drafts:
2009- Scott Glennie
2010- Alexander Burmistrov
2011- Sean Couturier
2012- Derrick Pouliot
2013- Rasmus Ristolainen
2014- William Nylander
2015- Zach Werenski
2016- Alex Nylander
2017- Casey Mittlestadt
2018- Adam Boqvist
While there are some good players on that list, it honestly doesn’t get me all that excited.
In this upcoming draft, the consensus top prospect is Jack Hughes. We know Edmonton won’t get him. As I already mentioned, Kaapo Kakko is likely to be the 2nd pick. Edmonton won’t get him either, although they narrowly missed winning that spot in the draft. After those two, the order of the rest of the prospects varies depending on whose list you look at. I have looked at 10 prospect rankings lists and ranked the top 10 prospects based on where each player fell on each of the lists. I calculated the averages of where each player ranked on each list, and then ranked them based on that. Those lists are from Central Scouting Service, Bob McKenzie, Craig Button, Sam Cosentino, The Hockey Writers (Ryan Pike), Dobber Prospects, ISS Hockey, Future Considerations, McKeen’s, and HockeyProspects.com.
I consulted the lists because if I have seen these kids play, it was briefly at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this past summer. I can’t claim to be an expert on the players, but I can give a quick glimpse as to what style of player each one is. Here’s the list:
1. Jack Hughes, C- USNTDP: Don’t even think about it. He’s going not falling to the Oilers, so there’s no point in writing a blurb about him.
2. Kaapo Kakko, W- TPS Turku (Finland): See above.
3. Vasily Podkolzin, W- SKA St. Petersburg (MHL): Highly skilled winger. Led Russia to a bronze medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and he finished tied for the tournament lead in scoring to boot. He scored a ridiculous end-to-end goal from his knees to tie the semi-final game with Sweden with less than two minutes left, only to have Sweden break Russia’s hearts in the final minute. Like with any Russian, he presents a high-risk, high-reward option. He could be a sensational player, but he could opt to go to play in Russia instead. With that fear in mind, he could fall in this draft.
4. Bowen Byram, D- Vancouver Giants (WHL): Clearly the best defenceman in this draft class. He was also the best defender for Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer. Some have compared him to Morgan Reilly. He has great poise with the puck, and he is creative in the offensive zone without being a liability in the defensive zone. I don’t expect him to be available to the Oilers with the 8th pick.
5. Dylan Cozens, C- Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): Cozens is a right-handed centre that can do it all. He was one of the leaders on Canada’s gold medal winning Hlinka Gretzky Cup team last summer. He scored a clutch goal to tie the semi-final game against the Americans in that tournament. At that time, the talk was about how Cozens would be in the conversation as the 2nd ranked prospect in this draft. I also do not expect him to fall to the Oilers.
6. Kirby Dach, C- Saskatoon Blades (WHL): Dach is a tall, rangy, and skilled right-handed centre. He’s something of a local product… he is from St. Albert, and he played his minor hockey with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers. He was yet another member of Canada’s entry at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Some have compared him to Ryan Getzlaf. He definitely has enough speed and skill to be a productive NHLer, and he can get under the skin of his opponents. However, consistency has reportedly been an issue for him, which is why he could fall a few spots in this draft.
7. Alex Turcotte, C- USNTDP: Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino has called Turcotte the best two-way centre in this draft, and that injuries have slowed him down this season. He seems like a comparable to Sean Couturier, the 8th overall pick in 2011.
8. Trevor Zegras, C- USNTDP: Zegras is a small and skilled centre that has a similar skill set to Patrick Kane or Johnny Gaudreau. The knock on him will be his size (166 lbs), but there is certainly a lot of room for players that small if they are skilled enough.
9. Peyton Krebs, C- Kootenay Ice (WHL)– The last member of the Canadian Hlinka Gretzky Cup team in 2018 in this top 10 list. He is similar to Zegras, but he has a little bit more size (180 lbs). The captain of the Ice comes from a hockey family. His brother plays for the Calgary Hitmen. Random note: his sister is a country music singer!
10. Matthew Boldy, C- USNTDP: Boldy possesses a lethal combination of size and skill. He is a goal scorer first, but he can dish it as well. Some might argue that playing with Jack Hughes has inflated his draft stock, but he apparently was just as good without Hughes as well.
I’ll throw in one extra dark-horse pick because @TheOilKnight is so high on this kid: Philip Tomasino from the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs. He’s a speedy and skilled right-handed centre. SPR says that he is smart, skilled, and has a great work ethic. He is SPR’s top-ranked OHL player this season, and he has compared him to Matt Barzal.
The Oilers will certainly have some options with the 8th pick. If the lottery is any indication, I’m not expecting any luck similar to what they got last year when Evan Bouchard fell to them with the 10th pick. The Oilers need an infusion of skill in their forward group, and there is certainly a lot of skill to be had in the range where the Oilers will pick. I’d be looking at any of Krebs, Zegras, or Tomasino with that 8th pick. I’d definitely consider Dach as well if he were to fall to the Oilers. There’s not a lot separating picks 6-10. I like the high level of skill on those particular three prospects, which is what the Oilers need.
However, none of those players will be ready to play in the NHL next season.
The Oilers are in a position where everyone from the owner to the franchise player are frustrated about not making the playoffs. Next season will be McDavid’s 5th season. McDavid and Draisaitl were two of the top 4 scorers in the league this season, and they still missed the playoffs. The Oilers have other key members of their core that are just entering their prime years right now.
The Oilers need to win now.
The players that the Oilers would be looking at with the 8th pick are not likely going to help the team for two seasons or more, and it might be longer than that before they are impact players. The other thing to consider is that all of the players in the Oilers’ range are centres. The Oilers have a lot of quality centres already. They need wingers! Centres can play the wing as well typically; but that isn’t the ideal situation, as Nugent-Hopkins would attest to.
For those reasons, the Oilers need to strongly consider trading this pick for immediate help!
The trade could be directly for a top-6 winger, or a puck moving defenceman. The other possibility would be moving the pick along with a bad contract as an incentive for another team to take one of their bad contracts on, and then looking to free agency for a top-6 forward like Duchene or Skinner. I will do an article on potential trade targets for the Oilers in a few weeks, but the 8th overall pick could prove to be a valuable commodity that wouldn’t create a hole on the current roster if it were to be moved.
The Oilers don’t have a GM, and they plan on taking their time to hire one. That could be a small factor in whether or not the Oilers will decide to trade the pick, but Keith Gretzky does have the authority to move the pick before or at the draft if he wants to. It will be something to watch for leading up to the draft in June!