2018 NHL Entry Draft Preview

The Oilers will be picking 10th in this year’s NHL Entry Draft in Dallas on June 22. In 2009, they took Magnus Paajarvi on the only other occasion that the Oilers have picked 10th overall. During his season-ending media availability, Peter Chiarelli said that there are a few defencemen that he likes that are projected to be taken where the Oilers will be picking. After the draft lottery, he said that if they draft based on organizational need, then they will be drafting a puck-moving defenceman. Here is a look at some of the defencemen that Chiarelli could be alluding to:

Adam Boqvist, D
Sweden
5’11”, 170 lbs
Shoots: Right
Brynas Jr (Sweden)

Boqvist is a dynamic offensive defenceman. He is an elite skater and an elite shooter because of the way that he can use his skating to change his shooting angles. He has a deceptive release. TSN’s Craig Button did a mock draft for the top 15 teams after Saturday’s draft lottery, and he had Boqvist going to the Oilers. I don’t believe that Boqvist will fall to the Oilers, but it would be amazing if he did.

Evan Bouchard, D
Canada
6’2”, 190 lbs
Shoots: Right
London (OHL)

Bouchard wasn’t in the top 20 in anyone’s preseason draft rankings, but he has risen to the 5th spot on TSN’s Season Ending Draft Rankings. He led all OHL defencemen in scoring this season. His greatest asset is his ability to pass the puck. His coach, Dale Hunter, has compared him to John Carlson. With 3 seasons of junior hockey already under his belt, Bouchard might be more NHL ready than most of his peers.

Quinn Hughes, D
USA
5’9”, 167 lbs
Shoots:
Left
Michigan (NCAA)

Hughes had an impressive season as the youngest player in NCAA hockey. He’s creative offensively. He’s a great skater that is not afraid to rush the puck up the ice with his legs. He’s got excellent vision and play-making ability. Hughes will be playing for the United States during the upcoming men’s World Hockey Championships.

Noah Dobson, D
Canada
6’3”, 180 lbs
Shoots: Right
Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)

Dobson is known as a solid, all-around defender. He seemingly does everything quite well. He has a good shot, and he is a better defender than some of the other defencemen being projected ahead of him in this draft.

Ty Smith, D
Canada
5’10”, 176 lbs
Shoots: Left
Spokane (WHL)

Smith is teammates with Oilers 2017 1st round pick Kailer Yamamoto. He was also the captain for Canada’s U-18 World Championship team that recently lost to the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals. He finished 2nd in scoring in the WHL among defencemen this year, and he had a 7-point game earlier in the season. He is regarded as a player that keeps the game simple and rarely makes the wrong decision on the ice.

Bode Wilde, D
USA
6’2”, 195 lbs
Shoots: Right
USNDTP

Wilde has been described as an offensive defenceman that plays physical. He’s a bit bigger than the other right-handed defencemen in the top part of this draft. He doesn’t have the same offensive upside as some of his peers, but he could be the total package.

Ryan Merkley, D
Canada
5’11”, 170 lbs
Shoots: Right
Guelph (OHL)

Merkley was the 1st overall pick in the OHL draft when he 16 years old. He has the talent level offensively to be taken in the top 5 in this draft, but questions from NHL scouts about his attitude have seen him slide towards the bottom of the first round in all of the prospect rankings. He’s an exciting offensive defenceman that might just be worth the risk. We’ll see just how far he falls on draft day.

This is a strong draft year for defencemen. Oilers fans can attest to the fact that offensive defencemen are important and nearly impossible to find. There are five that are expected to be taken before the Oilers approach the podium in Dallas: Rasmus Dahlin, Boqvist, Bouchard, Hughes, and Dobson. Dahlin is going 1st overall, and that’s all there is to it. All but one of the other four defencemen expected to be picked before the Oilers get to pick are right-handed, and all four have the potential to be top offensive defencemen on their future teams.

In order for one of those four defencemen to fall to the Oilers at 10, three teams picking between 4 and 9 would have to choose forwards. Brady Tkachuk is widely considered to be the 4th best prospect in this draft, so he would be one. Oliver Wahlstrom seems poised to be taken in the top 10 as well. It would be a surprise if a third forward were to be taken in that 4-9 range, which would make it a surprise if one of the four defencemen expected to be taken before the Oilers get to pick were to be available. There is a bit of a gap between the defencemen likely to be taken before the Oilers pick and the defencemen they will likely be able to choose from. If the Oilers were to stay at 10 and choose a defenceman like Chiarelli hinted at, they would likely be choosing between Smith and Wilde. Choosing Merkley at 10 would be considered a massive risk, but they could trade down to get him.

Chiarelli also said that if the team is drafting based on who the best player available is, then “all bets are off”. The Oilers have another organizational weakness at left wing. The only natural left winger expected to go in the top half of the draft is Joel Farabee. He’s a small but skilled scorer in the mold of Johnny Gaudreau or Clayton Keller.

There are three left-handed centres that the Oilers could have interest in as well: Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Joe Veleno. Hayton is an elite two-way centre being compared to Patrice Bergeron. Kotkaniemi is a good play-making centre that is responsible defensively. Veleno was granted “exceptional player” status to play in the QMJHL as a 15-year old, and he is known as more of a play-maker than a sniper. With McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Strome on the roster already, it’s hard to see the Oilers taking a centre in this draft. However, they could move one of these centres over to the wing, or they could let said centre develop in the minors with the intent of trading him later like the LA Kings did with Brayden Schenn a while back. The hope is that one of these three centres gets taken before the Oilers are on the clock.

When asked about the possibility of the Oilers trading their 1st round pick this year, Chiarelli said that he would be open to it. Here is an updated look at the roster including all contracts signed for next season and the qualifying offers for the RFAs that I believe will re-sign. It was reported last week that Iiro Pakarinen will be signing in the KHL, so he has been removed from the roster.

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
LW Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Lucic ($6M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.874M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $68.501 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $69.831 million
Space with $78 million cap: $8.169 million
Space with $82 million cap: $12.169 million

Chiarelli could trade the pick along with other assets to move up in the draft, he could trade down in the draft, or he could trade it for a more established NHL veteran. Here is a breakdown of what trading the pick for a veteran could look like for the Oilers:

The New York Rangers are the only team that I believe might trade a scoring winger for a package including picks and prospects because they are entering a rebuild. Chris Kreider is the most expensive and most desirable of the two wingers that the Rangers could move, with Mats Zuccarello being the other. Here is the salary cap breakdown if Kreider were placed in that 2LW spot:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
Kreider ($4.63M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Lucic ($6M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.847M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $73.131 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $74.461 million
Space with $78 million cap: $3.539 million
Space with $82 million cap: $7.539 million

Kreider would be the best possible winger coming back the other way if the pick alone were to be traded for a veteran. If Chiarelli doesn’t like who they can draft at 10 and he were to plan on trading the pick, then the first call that should be made is to the Rangers.
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There are two players that I believe could be acquired for a young roster player like Puljujarvi and picks: Wayne Simmonds and Max Domi. Simmonds is the most expensive of the two. Here’s what the salary cap breakdown would look like after trading Puljujarvi and picks for Simmonds:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
Simmonds ($3.98M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Yamamoto ($0.925M)
Lucic ($6M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Russell ($4M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Benning ($0.874M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $72.481 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $73.811 million
Space with $78 million cap: $4.189 million
Space with $82 million cap: $8.189 million

I think that Philadelphia will hold on to Simmonds and work to re-sign him after next year, but his mix of physicality and scoring ability would be welcomed. Domi is younger and he has more upside than Simmonds, but the odds of Arizona moving him are low despite the February trade rumours. Chiarelli also likes Puljujarvi and trading him for a left winger would be creating a hole on the right side to fill a hole on the left. Don’t expect either of these trades to happen.
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Moving a bigger piece off of the roster (Nugent-Hopkins or Klefbom) along with this pick would bring back one of three wingers: Mike Hoffman, Max Pacioretty, and Alex Galchenyuk. The transaction that would result in the highest salary cap spending would be Mike Hoffman for Oscar Klefbom and the 1st round pick. Here’s what the salary cap breakdown would look like after that trade:

Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
Hoffman ($5.19M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Puljujarvi ($0.925M)
Lucic ($6M) Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Russell ($4M)
LD Benning ($0.874M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Bear ($0.925M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $69.524 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $70.854 million
Space with $78 million cap: $7.146 million
Space with $82 million cap: $11.146 million

The acquisition of Hoffman would not be enough to offset the loss of Klefbom in my opinion. Niether would the acquisition of Pacioretty or Galchenyuk. I don’t envision Chiarelli moving a big piece of the roster out along with the 1st round pick for any of these wingers.
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Finally, just for fun, I’ll show you what it would look like if Chiarelli were to make a massive trade involving Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi, the 1st round pick, and a prospect to LA for Drew Doughty:

Lucic ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Rattie ($0.8M)
LW Draisaitl ($8.5M) Yamamoto ($0.925M)
LW Strome ($3M) Aberg ($0.65M)
Caggiula ($0.874M) Khaira ($0.675M) Kassian ($1.95M)
F

Nurse ($0.874M) Doughty ($7M)
Klefbom ($4.167M) Larsson ($4.167M)
Sekera ($5.5M) Russell ($4M)
Gryba ($0.9M) Benning ($0.874M)

Talbot ($4.16M)
Montoya ($1.06M)

Total Cap Hit = $68.576 million
Buyouts: Pouliot – $1.33 million

Total: $69.906 million
Space with $78 million cap: $8.094 million
Space with $82 million cap: $12.094 million

The defence issue would be solved, but the left wing would be in an absolute crisis. Chiarelli could find two left wingers with the remaining cap space, but he would need to save some cap space for Doughty, Talbot, Rattie, Khaira, Aberg, and a back-up goalie for the 2019-20 season. This absolutely will not happen; but like I said, that scenario was just for fun. For more fun, check out what it would look like if the Oilers were to trade for Erik Karlsson.
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Basically, don’t expect the Oilers to trade the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft unless it results in them moving up or down in the draft.

I feel that the best possible outcome would be to trade up in the draft to pick one of Boqvist or Bouchard. The teams that Chiarelli would need to talk to in order to get that done would be Ottawa (4th), Arizona (5th), Detroit (6th), and Vancouver (7th). Ottawa’s GM Pierre Dorion basically said that Ottawa will be keeping this pick instead of giving it to Colorado as a part of the Duchene trade. Ottawa will therefore forfeit their 2019 1st round pick to Colorado. I don’t see Ottawa trading down in this draft. Arizona wouldn’t likely trade their pick to a divisional rival, but the idea of getting additional picks might appeal to a rebuilding team like the Coyotes. It’s hard to imagine Vancouver trading this pick to a division rival either, especially Edmonton. That leaves Detroit as the team most likely to trade down to allow the Oilers to get Boqvist or Bouchard. It would likely take at least a 1st round pick in next year’s draft to get that kind of trade done. It would be expensive, but I’d strongly consider trading that pick to get one of these two players if I were Chiarelli. It would be cheaper than trading Nugent-Hopkins to get a top offensive defenceman or signing one as a free agent. However, I don’t think the Oilers will be able to make a trade to move up in the draft.

There will be good players available at positions of organizational need for the Oilers at 10. Having Ethan Bear and one of the available defencemen in the system would be beneficial to the Oilers, while taking Farabee would add more speed and skill on the wing.

My prediction for the draft is that the Oilers will take Bode Wilde with the 10th pick because he will likely be the highest ranked right-handed defenceman available.

Stay tuned to the Oilers Off-Season Game Plan 2018 series. Next week, I’ll explore what trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would get the Oilers in return.

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