There was nary an Edmonton Oilers prospect in sight, as Canada celebrated a 5-2 win over Finland in their tournament opener on Boxing Day. In fairness though, this is not something which will be restricted to just these two teams during the World Juniors in Sweden.
That's because the Oilers are one of only two NHL teams, who have no representation at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship. The other team is the Colorado Avalanche.
This is the first time in more than a decade, when the Oilers do not have even one prospect representing them at the World Juniors. However, it's not as bad as it might at first seem to certain people.
For a start, a player must have been drafted within the past two seasons to even have a chance of being eligible. This is simply because only those under the age of 20 can be considered for the World Juniors.
The second factor which impacts the Oilers having no representation ties into their drafting the two previous seasons, or lack thereof. They only had three draft picks in seven rounds last season and four a season earlier.
Third, there is the potential quality upside of any draft picks a team makes, with the Oilers only making two picks in the top four rounds of the top drafts combined in question. More specifically though in the case of the Oilers, other mitigating factors have to also be considered.
Consider that the players the Oilers selected high, were Beau Akey in the second round last season and Reid Schaefer in the first round the season before. Akey recently suffered a season-ending injury, while Schaefer was traded to the Predators as part of the Oilers package in return for Mattias Ekholm. (Shaefer was too old to take part in this season's World Juniors in any event.)
In some respects, this all alludes to the Oilers' preference towards a win-now approach. Which we appreciate is understandable, given that the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are in their prime.
However, as much as it makes sense to try and establish a roster capable of winning it all now, the front office still needs to find prospects to develop for the longer term. Assuming McDavid and Draisaitl do both re-sign, they'll be in Edmonton for a while yet and will surely appreciate having quality young talent on the roster to help them achieve their ambition of Stanley Cup glory.