NHL Entry Draft: Oilers Should Draft Corson Ceulemans at #19

Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

All the buzz this week when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers has to do with subtraction. Which players does general manager Ken Holland see as expendable, and which one will the team lose to the Seattle Kraken at the Expansion Draft on July 21? But, only days later, a much more positive storyline will emerge at the Entry Draft, when Edmonton will select a draft pick that could end up being a cornerstone piece of their organization.

This year, more than any other in recent memory, the consensus scouting lists are anything but in agreement. Players played little, or not at all, or far away, depending on how their particular league ended up handling the risks and realities of Covid19, and beyond the first couple picks off the board, nobody is sure which potential NHL players will turn out to be stars. Edmonton picks 19th (technically 20th but the Arizona Coyotes lost their selection at 11) and if a certain player is still on the board, the Oilers should run up to the podium and grab him.

Oilers’ Defensive Depth is Thinning

The team has had a nice pipeline of defensemen coming along for a while now, from William Lagesson, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones, through Evan Bouchard and Dmitri Samorukov, all the way up to Philip Broberg. Results have varied, as they always do with prospects, but with Bear established, Jones gone, Lagesson a highly likely selection by the Seattle Kraken, and the other two likely to crack the pro roster over the next season, the development cupboard will suddenly look rather bare.

But what if I told you there was a right-shooting, offensive D-man, with decent size and great defensive awareness, who has averaged a point-per-game at every level of hockey at which he has competed? Corson Ceulemans is all of that, and potentially more. His point totals are within a stone’s throw of top-ranked Owen Powers at a similar age (Ceuleman’s is six months younger), and his production hasn’t dropped off against elite talent, maintaining an impressive scoring rate even at the World Under-18 tournament, where his Canadian squad took home the gold.

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Oilers Have Recently Preferred Forwards at the Draft

Unlike the defensive cupboard, Edmonton doesn’t need to add another young forward into their development mix. Numerous apparent hits over the past two drafts (Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie, Carter Savoie, and Maxim Berezin are all progressing well) mean an eighteen-year-old mid-first-round pick is looking at an uphill battle to get noticed, and at least a couple of years away from cracking the NHL roster.

"“The star of Ceuleman’s game is his shot and the ability to activate off the point to fire it.”"

EPRinkside.com 2021

With Ceulemans taking the U.S. college route, he’ll get the development time he needs to perfect some areas of his game, and work on others. Scouts say the number one drawback in Ceulemans’ game is his skating mechanics, but skating is a very teachable skill, whereas with the Saskatchewan native’s offensive talent, you either have it or you don’t.

Edmonton employs former Canadian figure-skating legend David Pelletier as a development coach, and he’s done well with other prospects when it comes to getting around on the ice.

Your author has known Ceulemans was on his way for a few years, having worked closely with a relative of the prospect for years. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, and he got a full season’s worth of production in, the odds are high that the player wouldn’t be available when the Oilers make their selection.

That may still be the case if his highest ranking holds true, but the odds are he’ll still be on the board. Certain teams are going to be very happy with themselves when this year’s crop of talent begins to make its mark and, if the Oilers make the right call here, they’re unlikely to regret it.