Tuesday night brought the annual NHL Draft Lottery, which saw the Edmonton Oilers retain their pecking order at number three. After losing the first round pick last year, the Florida Panthers won the lottery this year. Buffalo will pick second, the Calgary Flames fourth and the New York Islanders fifth.
Chatter in the local media pointed to the Panthers drafting Aaron Ekblad, with Bob Stauffer saying on 630 CHED’s Inside Sports that the Panthers lack a big, franchise defenseman type player. It would make sense after fine picks in Alexander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau in the past two years.
Buffalo is in dire need of scoring. The Sabres divested themselves of much of their offensive skill, so will be looking to acquire an explosive forward. Center depth is poor in Bisonville, so expect to see one of the two Sam’s–Reinhart or Bennett–go to them.
Edmonton selects either one of the leftover Sam’s or the hulking center from Germany, Leon Draisaitl. Stauffer also sees this as the likely pick for Craig MacTavish who needs size and offensive ability, which Draisaitl brings.
Mactavish was front and center today holding a half hour press conference on the state of the team going forward. Here are some choice quotes:
“We’re way further ahead in my mind. I know that is debatable. You can analyze that and draw your own conclusions. But in my mind we’re way further ahead right now than we were at this point last year.”
Is he right? Yes. With the addition of David Perron, Boyd Gordon, Matt Hendricks and the signings of Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens, the team is indeed in better shape than it was at this time last year. Despite the 28th place finish, the team we are icing now is better.
“There’s a lot of optimism internally and I would hope externally with the core group of defenceman that we have. So if we have to go young, we go young.”
While it is clear that the young d-men the team are developing have a ton of upside, especially in Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom, this line from our GM shuts the door on second and third pairing defensemen. That is not to say that if an effective defender came knocking that MacT wouldn’t listen. However, outside of a top pairing guy, he appears willing to let the current core develop. The potential for a steep learning curve defensively could spell another season out of the playoffs.
“We drafted him for the right reasons. We still believe he’s going to be a great goal scorer, and there’s a premium on goal-scoring…There’s lot of upside in Nail. He was a very legitimate number one pick and we still feel that we made the right decision.”
I am happy to see the Oilers have a little faith in Yakupov. He had a poor second season, but he’s not alone. Many top NHL players took a season or three to heat up. Yak is learning a new game under a very different system, so I am on board with Mactavish and the Oilers brain trust when it comes to this player. We already have 3 25+ goal scorers on an uneven team. Add in a big center at the draft, the continued growth of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and suddenly Yak is in a better situation. Let’s keep in mind, folks: In two years, the Oilers could have FIVE 30+ goal scorers if development and injury stay the proper course.
All in all, MacT said little we didn’t already know, but regardless of that, the off season promises to be an entertaining one,