Monday, 9 April 2012

Looking forward to the Oilers' draft

a.m.k. starts ball hockey practice Wednesday. He's sort of a Cam Barker type.

As the Oilers' season ends, there are two major things to look forward to between now and the fall: draft day (June 22) and Free Agency (July 1). Of the two, I think draft day will be more interesting because so many possibilities remain: this year, it's trickier for the Oilers than just picking between Hall and Seguin or picking between Nugent-Hopkins and no one. There are about ten different scenarios that could possibily happen for the Oil.

As for Free Agency day, there really aren't that many players the team could successfully target that would be a meaningful or certain upgrade, so it looks like the veteran change will be through trade, which might occur on any given day before camp. My bet: 1-2 free agency signings, 1-3 trades that see the Oil get approximately five new players/picks, and 1-3 players graduated from the minors. I also bet their (first) first round pick plays on the NHL roster this fall as well, provided they don't trade it or trade down.

Scenario one: Oilers trade their first-round pick (plus other stuff) for an established defenseman

There are many teams that would trade to get a top three pick, because the chances of a top-3 pick completely busting are pretty unlikely. Teams that have a solid core will be thinking about renewing and refreshing their solid core, and adding an elite or very good player at this year's draft will go a long way to continue a strong base from just one transaction. If a team can give up an NHL defenseman aged 20-28, either already a top-4 or top-6 in his early twenties and projecting well, to get a big 1 or 2C, they very well might do it.

97% of you know better.
But there are a few questions about this approach: yes, trading away the pick might make the Oilers better next year, but will they be better in three years? I am more interested in how the team will be in 2-3 years than they will be next year. I want to win games, but I'd rather continue building the core. With what we currently have and the fact that we will be adding something good by virtue of drafting high and having talent bubbling under, I can't see us being worse next year than we were this year, which is a hopeful sign.

I don't want to trade the top pick. Would you trade Hall or RNH for a top 4 defenseman now? 97% of you wouldn't, and neither would I. The guy we're going to be trading is akin to a Hall or an RNH, we just haven't gotten attached to him yet. Whoever we pick will likely have higher trade value a year from now, or else he'll be good enough for us to never mention trading him. Again, I wouldn't trade this pick.

Scenario two (slightly different): Oilers trade down

Is Griffin Reinhart more of an ideal player for the Oilers than Ryan Murray, or similar enough that they don't know who is better at this point? If so, why not trade the #2 or #3 pick down to something 6-10 so we can add a good prospect, maybe a power forward type one or a big centre?

This line of reasoning isn't faulty, but normally, there is something real that separates someone who goes #2 or 3 from someone who goes #8. Of course, there are sometimes #8s who go on to outperform that #2s and 3s of their draft class, but I'm not betting on that. Chances are that Ryan Murray is going to be a better player than Griffen Reinhart, though they both will have good NHL careers. Am I 100% confident? Absolutely not. But it's a guess based on various scouting reports from multiple people. To be more certain of something, it's best to take several opinions into consideration. The Oilers might really like Reinhart, but it's a gamble to overrule what every other scout says. That being said, I have more confidence in Stu MacGregor than virtually anyone else high up with the team, so if he actually thinks Reinhart is as good as Murray, I will skeptically trust him.

I wouldn't trade down, although I would rather trade down than trade the pick entirely. A #2 or 3 overall pick is just too likely to turn out really well.

Scenario three: Winning the lottery

Done deal.
This is one of the few things people agree on. If the Oilers manage to win the lottery, we take the best player available, and the best player available is Nail Yakupov. Yakupov's superiority is perhaps the only thing people agree on, and I don't think you can give him up. I don't care how big he is. That leaves us a big #2 centre away from having a truly elite top 2, and I think it's easier to get that guy if you have a combination of ten spare parts to give away in several different trades to eventually land him. It will take some management work, but I bet it can get done. I like Gagner but not a #2C in an elite group yet. Work on intensity and and two-way play and maybe he can be #3.

If we win the lottery, I take Yakupov. Done deal.

Scenario four: drafting at 2 or 3 overall

It seems likely that the Oilers will draft 2 or 3 overall, though they could fall as low as four. If they are at three, who the Canadiens (or whoever picks at #2) choose could really help the Oilers make their decision for them: if Montreal takes Grigorenko, Oil takes Murray. If Montreal takes Murray, Oil takes Grigorenko.

Is it as simple as that? There is, at least theoretically, something to worry about with pretty much all of the highly-touted draft kids this year. Not only that, but there is not universal agreement that Murray and Grig are 2 and 3, not even close. Some rankings have them each closer to #10. Here's a brief look at the other names that Oilers might consider for a #2 or 3 pick:

Filip Forsberg

Another done deal.
If the Oilers don't take Grig or Murray with #2 or 3, they will most likely take Forsberg. He has the makings of a power forward, which aside from a top 2 defenseman, is arguably the biggest need (#1 goalie is also in that conversation). The thing about the draft is it's a lot easier to add a good forward and be confident about it than it is to add a good defenseman. Also, Forsberg could potentially play in the NHL this fall and do well, while a defenseman might still play in the NHL but not be a significant contributor. However, I hear comparisons between Forsberg and Pajaarvi, and I like Pajaarvi, but he's far from a sure thing. We also have a lot of potentially good power forwards on their way, and I'm not sure how much more of an upgrade Forsberg is. He might be a big upgrade, but I just don't know, and I don't think there is consensus thinking that he is a for sure upgrade. If Oilers draft 4th and Murray, Grig and Yakupov are gone I take him, but I don't think I take him ahead of one of those three.

Matthew Dumba

Craig Button from TSN has this guy as #2 overall. A lot of other scouts have him as the highest defenseman. He is also the one guy in the top ten who really worries me and who I hope the Oilers don't take. Anyone described as raw with a high ceiling but making defense mistakes as a defenseman makes me want to hide in the corner and panic. We have about a million players who have potential high ceilings but are rusty, approximately. The last thing I want to do is add another one. Yes, he might put it all together and be a great top 2 guy. He also might not. We also might have 10 quality NHL defenseman already in the system. We have enough chances in the depth pool to make me more than comfortable, we just don't have really any sure things. Dumba is not a sure thing, so don't take him. I know no one is really a share thing, but he is more of a gamble. Oilers do not do well with gambles, it seems. Plus he's small. We also have about a million guys who are too small, approximately. Again, this is the one guy I'd pass on, even if I traded down to something like #8 or 9.

Morgan Rielly

He spent most of the year injured. He is also a defenceman, and since there are a handful of other defencemen who are similarly touted that weren't injured all year, I don't think the Oilers need to make a gamble on him. Also, missing a major developmental year means that he is that much further behind everyone else, and I'd like to have a prospect ready sooner than later to mix with the current talent and developmental paths, and Ds take longer than usual anyway. I'd pass on him almost anywhere in the top 10.

Alex Galchenyuk

Trouba, Dumba, Reinhart, Rielly,
Galchenyuk, and the elegant Radek Faksa.
This is perhaps a player who could go anywhere from 2-lower in the first round. He is a centre, and like Rielly, he has spent most of his draft year injured. Before his injury, he was ranked as one of the top prospects. How much does missing a major developmental year push him back? Should the Oilers risk taking him? Again, because I want our next 2C centre to step in right away, I don't want to take him. However, good centres are hard to find and I'd say can become effective quicker than good D, so I would rather take him than Rielly and think he is a bit less of a gamble. Still a big gamble though. I wouldn't take him before Grig, but if the Oil decide they want a 2C and Grig isn't there anymore, I might want them to take Galchenyuk. Hell, even if Grig is there, I think Galchenyuk should at least be in the conversation if they want to go the C route instead of D.

Radek Faksa

The third and final centre I think who should be in the conversation for the Oilers is Faksa. Grig has the whole attitude/lack of try thing people complain about, and Galchenyuk had the injury, might be further behind others, people aren't sure how much of his offense is him and how much is Yakupov (they play on the same team), etc., but there do not seem to be any doubts about Faksa. Faksa is decently sized and I think he could fill out to be a big enough 2C guy (bigger than Gagner, for example, but not as big as Grig). The only thing is he doesn't seem to be regarded as having the same elite skill as I'm hearing mentioned in the same breath with Galchenyuk and Grig. In that way, he might be a safer bet. #3 seems to be a bit high for him to go, but if the Oil end up taking him, I wouldn't mind. At least that way I could say the team having a legitimate 2C that they need, and I think he projects to be that. Maybe not next year, but the year after I think he could be that guy, and I'd be less worried about him than the other centres on this list. Still, is he enough of a talent to take with the top pick? I think you have to talk about him, but ultimately don't take him that high. Unless, again, you decide you really need a centre and want to pass on Grig and Galchenyuk.

Jacob Trouba

Out of these ten prospects, Trouba is the one I hear least about. From what I understand, he is a good player, calm, and could be a great addition to the blueline. However, he isn't supposed to be as good as the other D on this list, so why take him over any of them? Out of the D, I would consider taking him ahead of Dumba and Rielly because there is some element of worry associated with them, but not above the other two D on this list.

Griffin Reinhart

Lastly, there is a D prospect who I really like: the Oil Kings' Reinhart. He is not quite as highly-touted as the top 2 or 3 defensive prospects, but it wouldn't be a huge stretch for him to go top 5. I can't see the Oilers taking him ahead of Ryan Murray, since Murray seems to exemplify more of what they're looking for, but he plays for the WHL team in Edmonton, so the Oilers I'm sure have gotten lots of good looks at him. He is big and mobile, and I am not hearing too many negatives about his game. Overall, he seems like a safe bet, but not as elite as the other names on the list, kind of like Faksa. However, like Faksa, I'm not sure the Oilers can take him unless they trade down, which I don't want them to do.

A maker of bold moves?
What I'd like them to do

The final scenario I'm going to mention is what I would like them to do, but let me preface it by saying I don't think it's going to happen. It'd be a bold move, and the Oilers don't seem to make too many of those types of moves. However, I am going to argue why I think it is in the best interest of the organization to make this move.

Keep their top pick and trade for someone else's pick between 6-10.

But that's not going to get us some immediate help, you say, we should be saving our picks to trade for a top-4 defenseman! That is a valid opinion, and I wouldn't cut myself if that happened. But adding both a 2C and good young defender excites me way more. I do not expect to challenge for a cup this year, and I think that adding two of those guys helps more in the long run than adding neither and instead adding a top-4 guy now. If we can get one defender in the off-season via free agency (Justin Schultz would be perfect), I will be happy. Hell, I would even take two defensemen with two top ten picks if everything fell into place that way. If we pick third and Grig and Yakupov are gone, I wouldn't mind seeing Murray and Reinhart picked up. Ideally we would do one of the following scenarios, though:

First pick: Grigorenko
Second pick: Reinhart

First pick: Murray
Second pick: Faksa

First pick: Forsberg
Second pick: Faksa or Reinhart

Right now, I see five major problems for the Oilers. Some of them might be able to be taken care of via farm. Two of those problems are defenders. One is goaltender. Another is a top-6 power winger. The last is a big 2C.

We could fix two of those issues at this draft. The defender might not step in next year, but probably the year after that. I know we'd have to give up something to get that high first round pick. Maybe a couple lower picks and a couple prospects, but I bet there is a market for Peckham and Omark, and I'd even give up some other guys -- maybe a combination of Martindale, Pitlick, Hamilton, Bigos, or Marincin. Think about this in two years:

Hartikainen - RNH - Eberle
Hall - Grig or Faksa - Hemsky
Good bottom 6 players

Murray or Reinhart - Schultz
Fedun - Klefbom
strong vet

These guys might not all work out, but luckily we have about a thousand other prospects bubbling under who can still up their ante and impress enough to make it and be solid contributors. There is so much we can cut loose and still be successful, but I'm hoping we can add more top-level talent and give away some of this bubbling under talent in order to attain it. In the hypothetical world where we're asked to give up Pitlick, Hamilton, Marincin, Teubert, Plante, Martindale, Peckham and Omark just to land Reinhart, I'd do it. We have a huge log jam anyway.

a.m.k. would like a time machine to visit the year 2015, when the first-place Oilers have moved to Gary, Indiana.

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