2018 NHL Draft: Oilers to Have a Crack at the Next Paul Coffey?

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 28: Rasmus Dahlin
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 28: Rasmus Dahlin /

The Edmonton Oilers have a great shot in this upcoming NHL Draft to select a defensive prospect. Can that player be the next Paul Coffey?

Oilers: The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is chalked full of excellent defensive prospects starting with the Swedish sensation Rasmus Dahlin and then moving to someone who’s been described as Erik Karlsson 2.0 in Adam Boqvist. After the two Swedes, there’s the American, a puck rushing savant named Quinn Hughes and a Canadian, who might be the best of them but marches to the beat of his own drum, known as Ryan Merkley.

I’d like to take the time to introduce to you, briefly, the latter three names from above. I’m not going to get into Dahlin because if you don’t know what you need to know about him, you’re probably living under a rock.

Curious about more than a few skilled defenders as the draft relates to the Oilers? Check out this article for the top ten NHL draft prospects and how they’d help the Edmonton Oilers.


Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Height / Weight: 5’11, 168 lbs
Born: August 15, 2000 | Falun, Sweden
Nation: Sweden

Scouting Reports:

Steve Kournianos (@thedraftanalyst):

"Smooth-skating puck mover who plays with flair and grace while owning one of the hardest shots of any draft-eligible defenseman. Boqvist is an attack-first option who loves to use his speed and agility to dart and weave around opposing zone schemes. He can quarterback a power play with the best of them, and he’s not shy towards unloading his howitzer with or without shooting lanes being clogged. His puck skills — especially stick-handling — and play within the offensive zone are extraordinary, and he appears to have a firm grasp on how critical his job is as his team’s center of gravity. Boqvist has a lightning-quick first step and uses it to escape trouble or interdict an opposing pass. (source)"

Cam Robinson (@CrazyJoeDavola3):

"Dynamic puck skills, terrific vision, speed, smarts, and a heavy shot. His late birthday means he is just a month away from being eligible for the 2019 class further illustrating how massive his potential is. If we’re nitpicking, we’d like to see him hit the net more but his ability to get shots off is very impressive. He’s been far too good for the J20 circuit yet sees too few minutes in the SHL. The Allsvenskan sounds like a good middle ground and that’s where he is now. His omission from the WJC does nothing to push him down draft boards and he’ll play a prominent role next year for the Swedes. (source)"

Dave Stephenson (@baltimoredavey)

"Boqvist will have to beef up a little bit in order to have a better chance of making an impact in the NHL. Somewhere around 180-190 should be fine. His upper body strength will be critical because he struggles to move guys off the puck. Though it is worth noting Boqvist is opportunistic when it comes to creating turnovers.Boqvist tends to get too fancy with the puck at times. Like many prospects, he has to learn when it’s OK to get creative and when he should just make the safe move. Boqvist also has to be better in the defensive zone. (source)"

Analysis of Adam Boqvist

Adam Boqvist is going to be drafted in the top 5 in my opinion unless one team likes Oliver Wahlstrom more. The upside to Boqvist’s game and the fact that he’s right-handed is simply too much to pass on to teams like Detroit, Ottawa, Montreal, or Edmonton.

What we do have to be careful of with players like Adam Boqvist is how they handle the North American ice and the game. Boqvist sometimes gets bogged down in his zone whereas a bigger player could just use his strength to move the puck along. The game is much faster paced in North America than it is in Sweden. The reason why is because the rink is smaller, and the game is more physical. Although that will be changing in the near future, and because that is changing we’re probably going to see less Lars Jonssons or Dennis Perssons drafted in the first round.

What a team could do though is take Boqvist and have him play a year in the CHL, or because he’d be drafted out of Europe, they could put him on their AHL team like what Toronto did with Timothy Liljegren this season.

If you want a guy who can shoot the pill, Adam Boqvist is your man.

QUINN HUGHES (Univ. of Michigan)

Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height / Weight: 5’10, 170 lbs
Born: October 14th, 1999 | Orlando, FL
Nation: United States

Scouting Reports:

Peter Harling (@pharling)

"Hughes has excellent skating, his quick acceleration gets him to top speed in two or three quick strides, his edgework and mobility allow him to angle off defenders as he carries the puck through the neutral zone and gain the offensive zone possession. Once set up his vision and puck skills allow him to distribute the puck quickly, decisively and effectively. Hughes has a very high hockey IQ and offensive vision, but at the same time has strong defensive instincts and reads plays well defensively. He uses his skating and mobility well to anticipate and intercept plays and passes and take away passing lanes. (source)"

Ryan Wagman (@RAWagman)

"A true power play quarterback who can be counted upon to play heavy minutes and pick up occasional shifts in defensively critical situations, he will need a bigger partner, but demonstrates that he can play against the best in his age class, as well as a few classes higher. I would prefer to see him given a second year playing NCAA hockey to give him more time to mature physically, but his game is very close to NHL ready. A team can go far with a defender like Hughes in the #1 role. (source)"

Adam Herman (@adamaZherman)

"Thanks to Hughes’ agility and brain, he defends well one-on-one, displays proper gap control, and intercepts passes. However, he does struggle in front of the net and during board battles.The best defense, of course, is not letting the other team possess the puck in the offensive zone. When Hughes is on the ice, his team tends to have sustained pressure. Furthermore, his skating and vision allow him to kill the opposing attempts at entering the zone and transition the other way.In the age of analytics, the ability to make clean entries into the offensive zone with possession has been highlighted as an effective first step towards creating threatening shifts. Hughes’ previously highlighted abilities plus his fearlessness when dealing with the opposition’s forecheck make him elite in creating these types of shifts. (source)"

Analysis of Quinn Hughes

Listen, this kid might be no bigger than Torey Krug, Shane Gostisbehere, or Jared Spurgeon but none of those guys can skate like Hughes. What he can do winding it up in his own end and bringing it into the opposition’s zone is very reminiscent of what Paul Coffey used to do for the Dynasty Edmonton Oilers.

He’s also prone to the odd giveaway like Coffey was early in his career, and he doesn’t own a shot like Adam Boqvist, but if you’re a team that has trouble transitioning the puck from your end to the other, Quinn Hughes is your guy.

No doubt in my mind he’s going to be one of the more electrifying defensemen starting as early as the 2019/2020 season. He needs another year of NCAA before making the jump to the pros if anything to beef up a bit.

RYAN MERKLEY (Guelph Storm)

Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Height / Weight: 5’11, 170 lbs
Born: August 14, 2000 | Mississauga, ON
Nation: Canada

Scouting Reports:

Dan Marr (NHL Central Scouting)

"Merkley has the potential to be classed as a ‘special’ player where size is not relevant. He possesses elite skating and quickness that allow him to make a difference on the play and he plays a very dynamic offensive game which, when combined with good decisions and competitive instincts, often translate well in draft consideration (source)"

Peter Harling (@pharling)

"Merkley is an exceptional skater with an explosive first step acceleration, high-end top gear and shifty lateral agility. Merkley sees the ice offensively very well, is an exceptional puck distributor and generates offensive transition as good as any defenseman in his draft class.The concerns with Merkley are he is undersized and struggles with physical battles against bigger stronger opposition. But the main concern is his inability to defend effectively, his reads in the defensive zone are weak, and he chases the play out of position.When he has the puck on his stick, he is an elite player, but when the other team has possession he becomes a liability. The question is can he continue to develop his defensive game and evolve similarly to Samuel Girard, or will he fail to establish an adequate defensive skill set and cap out in the AHL like Anthony DeAngelo? (source)"

Grant McCagg (@grantmccagg)

"No defenceman in this year’s draft will offer more “high risk, high reward” moments than the highly-talented blueliner, who is infinitely more impressive with the puck in the offensive zone than without it anywhere on the ice. For a player who skates so well with the puck, Merkley sure gets caught flat-footed a lot defensively, and will need to clean up his game in his own zone if he hopes to get drafted in the top ten no matter what his point totals this season. Merkley handles the puck and skates around opponents with ease on the powerplay, finding open teammates with precision passes several times per game. (source)"

Analysis of Ryan Merkley

What you’re going to hear in connection to Ryan Merkley leading up to the draft is the term “High-risk, high reward” and that’s him in a nutshell. You’ll probably also hear about some “character” problems, or he lacks maturity, and that’s never good for a player who’s as skilled as Merkley is, just ask Josh Ho-Sang.

But make no mistake about it, Merkley can shoot, skate, pass, and dangle through entire teams. He could be better than Hughes or Boqvist, but it’ll require quite a bit of effort on his part to make the right decisions more often than not, and that includes off the ice as well as on it.

OHL Scout Brock Otten describes Merkley as being an elite PP quarterback due to his finely tuned offensive point-producing game on the PP. Ultimately this might be his downfall because most of the game is played 5×5 and he’ll need to contribute their as well as on the man advantage or else he’ll be a career AHLer.

I’m willing to bet that Merkley will be “that guy” who drops and is a gift to a team who has multiple 1st rounders. Whether this rearguard magician can put it all together and make an NHL career out of it will be the billion dollar question, right? He certainly has the tools to do it.