Yesterday, the draft was only four days away. So you know what that means?! Today, the draft is only THREE days away!!! I don’t mean to brag, but I can count with the best of them as I just proved. So wanting to do so much draft stuff in the week leading up I decided I’d dedicate a blog to the Oilers draft and look at just what they could or might do with their six picks on Friday night/Saturday morning (MST).
Originally, I was going to do this like a mock draft. But that’s just too damn tough. You end up rattling off more and more names the deeper you go and the fact is that a guy you may think will go in the 3rd round ends up going in the 7th, if he even gets drafted at all. The draft does nothing but opens up more and more and more the deeper we go. So doing a mock draft is kind of pointless. So I’m not necessarily going to do that (though I will talk about who I believe could be in range with certain picks), but I’ll look at who I like for the Oilers, and who the Oilers track record suggests they could look for.
With my last mock draft, I had Brady Tkachuk falling to them. The big reason for this is the need for D with teams in the 4-7 range of the top 10. Kotkaniemi is going 3rd, so if D-men are going 4-7 its going to leave Zadina, Wahlstrom and Tkachuk there for 8, 9, and 10. I believe most Oilers fans would view this as a massive win for the organization. Zadina and Tkachuk are both going to step right into the lineup of the team which drafts them next fall. Wahlstrom won’t, but he is that deadly right handed sniper Oilers fans have craved to be put with McDavid since he arrived. So anyone of those three would just be so incredible to land.
Having said all that, it is crystal clear that the organization is in love with Ty Smith. Bob Stauffer won’t shut up about him. Stauffer and Jack Michaels both basically said on the Oilers TV mock draft that it’ll either be Smith or Barrett Hayton with Vitali Kravtsov also being in the mix. Would that be at the expense of one of the wingers mentioned above?! I sure hope not. And hey, I’m basically anti winger! But those three wingers are all elite level guys. I’m sky high on Smith too. I’ve got him in my third tier with Tkachuk and Wahlstrom (Zadina is in the second tier), and I truly believe that if he were 6’2 he’d be the clear cut number two ranked D-man in this draft. But he’s not. He’s not even quite 5’11 (5’10.8 to be exact). So that’s a concern, because for all that talk of how much less of an emphasis there is now on size, if you go look at all the legitimate number one guys in this league, they’re all bigger than Smith. I personally think Smith can become a number one guy. A guy you want to use 25-28 minutes a night and not only can play but excels in all situations. But I also wouldn’t say he’s for certain going to be that guy either.
Something that peaked my interest yesterday when speaking about Smith on Oilers Now, Bob Green said that he prefers Smith to play the right side, believes he’s more comfortable on his off-side. That could be a big reason the Oilers seem to have him higher than Adam Boqvist. And in fairness, that is something we do too often is get caught up in the hand a guy shoots and not the side he’s more comfortable on. Hell, case in point look at T.J. Brodie. Glen Gulutzan continually tried to use Brodie on the left side, and the success Brodie had playing for Bob Hartley was on the right side. Jonas Brodin, Dion Phaneuf, even this years top pick Rasmus Dahlin are all guys who seem to prefer playing their opposite hand. Even growing up playing D, I always wanted to play my right side (righty shot), but would come across guys who had legitimate reasons as to why they were more comfortable playing their opposite side. So if they’re viewing Smith as a right side D-man, combine that with his extremely high IQ, passing ability, elite skating, work ethic, coachability, etc. then it does make a lot more sense as to why they love him so much.
So with the 10th pick, none of us know who for sure is going to go. I’d say the safest bet is that it’ll be Ty Smith. I personally don’t like to go the wishful thinking route which is what projecting Tkachuk or Wahlstrom to the Oilers feels like. However, I really don’t think its far fetched that one of those two fall to them. And even though its further fetched, Zadina wouldn’t completely shock me either. The draft really opens up from four on (at least with it now looking as though the Habs are taking Kotkaniemi). As for Barrett Hayton…I love my centres, and I’ve argued hard for a couple years now that they need to start loading up with centres in the draft. I compare him to Ryan O’Reilly and believe he’ll produce along the lines of what Jordan Staal does. If he’s a Ryan O’Reilly or Bo Horvat, yeah, that’s tough to pass up. But you better be DAMN sure that’s what he’s going to be if you’re taking him. He has skating issues, which this team doesn’t need more of.
It doesn’t get talked about, but while I wouldn’t be very interested in trading out of the pick, I definitely would be interested in trading back. What if the Kings were to offer 20 and their 2019 (a ridiculous draft class) for the 10th pick? Obviously the pick would be protected, but perhaps you could have lighter restrictions than simply “lottery protected”. Maybe you could say its only top five or three protected? And that’s just an example, no clue if the Kings would want to trade up. Point being here though, this scouting staff has done a good job thus far, so I feel as though we can trust them to move back in certain situations and get great value with the picks they have.
A guy who could be both on the radar and fall to that pick is Jack McBain. I got him 28th, but McKenzie has him 35th so I do think its possible. Big, physical, intelligent, high end distributor, known for his work ethic, he fits the type of player Chiarelli likes, and he fits the need of a centre. He’s fallen a lot since the start of the season, but I personally just keep coming back to the physical ability combined with a high IQ and great work ethic…not sure that formula can fail.
Would they dare take a swing on Ryan Merkley with this pick should they get one of those wingers at 10? I think it would open the door for the thought, but I can’t see them being the team to do that. As much as I’m down on Merkley myself, at the 40th pick, especially if they go with any kind of forward at 10, I believe its worth doing. The thing with Merkley though is you have to get him help. You have to have the right people working with him, and he has to be open to getting the help. It didn’t sound like he was very aware of his faults from the draft combine interviews, which turns a few red flags into a few more red flags. Teams want to hear you be aware of your flaws, not in denial of them.
Two other guys he has in that range though are Jacob Olofsson and Calen Addison. Olofsson’s drop this season has essentially been due to him not being flashy enough, but he’s really a lot like Barrett Hayton in that he isn’t a terrific skater but he does everything so well. Addison has a game a lot like Merkley, just without the baggage. Can move it and skate it out of his own zone, undersized, RH shot, if he can clean up the play in his own zone he’ll be a top four guy in the league.
If you want a kid who is safe in his own zone but has questionable offensive upside, then perhaps you take RH shooting Okotoks Oilers defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker. Smooth skater, great puck mover, high IQ, not much flash at all but has the ability to be a top four guy in the NHL.
Then you have the kid who maybe would have the biggest upside of the kids who POSSIBLY could be available at 40 and that’s Kirill Marchenko. I don’t think Marchenko will be on the board, but McKenzie has him 44th. Power forward who plays an excellent 200 foot game, and maybe his biggest issue is his skating but it simply just looks to be a case of lack of strength. Once he gets the strength to match his frame, the kid could be a star.
McKenzie’s list has Nils Lundkvist still down at 36. That’s the dream for him to fall to 40, but it ain’t happening. I have to believe he’s going in the first round with how some rave about him.
A lot of who I’d take at 40 depends on who I get at 10. If they take Smith at 10, then I definitely want a centre at 40. If they get one of the wingers at 10, then my focus might change to one of the RH shooting D-men, though in either of these scenario’s if a good centre is there to be taken I believe they have to pull the trigger as its just become far too big of a need for the organization. Its not as though you don’t have more picks to add to that, but this is a good spot to do so as I believe a lot of quality centres will be on the board here. Having said that, if a kid like Marchenko is still around….TOUGH to pass up.
First guy who comes to mind for me is Jan Jenik. He’s a natural centre even though he played the wing this season, and this kid is much like Marchenko in that he just needs to pack on the weight and gain strength and it will likely solve a lot of his issues. Good skater, plays 200 feet, willing to go to all the dirty area’s on the ice. He’s also the youngest kid in the draft, so he’ll need some time. But in three or four years, the team which gets him could have a hell of a player on their hands.
I don’t love Allan McShane, but if he’s on the board at 71 he’s a centre well worth looking at. We’re talking about a kid who skates well and has terrific vision. The book is that he prefers to play on the perimeter, but if the kid has the right makeup that is something that he can overcome. Its as much a playmakers league these days as it is a skating league.
McKenzie doesn’t even have him ranked, which I’m guessing speaks volumes on where NHL teams are going to rank a kid re-entering the draft (no collusion here folks….), but this is the pick I’d start looking at Adam Mascherin. He’s a made prospect. Steps right into Bakersfield next season and maybe even sees some games in the show should they take him. He reminds me so much of Mike Cammalleri, whom the Oilers got too late, but if they had got the 2009 Mike Cammalleri this season to pair with McDavid it would have been lethal.
I’m a big Cole Fonstad fan. I fully admit, I went a little too nuts with his ranking on my last list (I want to say I had him around 31 or so…just not right), but you can still have a kid down around the 40-50 range and still love him. The P.A. Raiders winger is another high end playmaker, who right now is yet another kid who has strength issues. PPG player on an average Raiders team this season, but the league has become tailor made for players like Fonstad, and the Oilers can’t take enough skilled wingers in these later rounds to possibly pair with McDavid or Draisaitl down the line.
133rd, 164th, and 195th picks
Its just easier to lump these in together. I’ll start with one of my favourites.
Will he still be on the board with this pick? He is one of those kids who could go anywhere from the 3rd round on in my opinion. But this is where I’d be taking my guy Chase Wouters. For how long has Wouters been “my guy” for the 2018 draft? Well I’ve been watching him play since Novice or so, and I believe I was first saying “he’s playing in the league” in his second year pee-wee. He has always been willing to do anything asked of him on the ice. He’s a 200 foot centre, he’s a great playmaker (51 points in 72 games on a weak Saskatoon Blades team this season, 36 of them five on five), size is good enough (big frame too, probably can put on another 25 lbs or so), skates good, really high IQ, the kid is a coaches dream. I really believe that Wouters can be one of those Casey Cizikas, Matt Cullen, Derek Ryan types who are elite fourth line centres, with his ceiling being a Tyler Bozak type. That might not excite fans too much, but while the ceiling isn’t enormous, I view him as a very safe pick since I believe he’s going to play in the league.
Another kid I’m really intrigued by in this range is Martin Pospisil. 37 points in 49 games this season with 253 PIM’s. I LOVE this kid as a later rounds guy because the knock on him is that he takes far too many penalties and acts like a dip shit out on the ice. PERFECT! As long as he checks out in the interview process and teammates don’t have an issue with him, you can reign in the other shit and he’ll eventually figure out to tone it down. He’s got the talent to play otherwise. Quick, good hands, good vision, and he’s got a good frame that he can still add 25 lbs or more to. He could be a HELL of a pick. An agitator who can play which is so damn tough to find.
I know Matt Moss (A.K.A. EDM Prospect Watch on Twitter) is really high on centre Luka Burzan as a latter rounds pick and I agree. Burzan has a pretty big ceiling if you’re looking to take a big swing with some of these later picks, but has a very questionable motor. If the pilot light ever gets lit, the kid could really be a player. While I’m on the topic of kids he likes, Moss has also mentioned LW Eric Florchuk who I’ve heard a few people also mention as a kid they like in the later rounds. A lot of Florchuk’s shortcomings should be overcome with added weight and strength much like Marchenko and Janik whom I previously mentioned. The skating and the shot specifically.
Dennis Busby is a kid I’m really high in my rankings, but not to suggest he’s going to go high in the draft. He was being discussed as a first round pick prior to the season, and then he ended up only playing two games all season due to injury (collar bone). But he’s another smaller (5’11) RH shooting D-man who can really transport the puck and produce on the blueline. Obviously he’ll need some time, but if he happened to still be around in the later rounds, I’d absolutely be grabbing him. The only knock is that he missed a season? And the injury wasn’t a back or knee AKA something that could linger? He’d be a great get, and this scouting staff has loved their OHL kids in the middle rounds in the last two drafts, taking four in the last two drafts.
Speaking of RH shooting D, something this organization has loved to do in the Chiarelli era is take a RH shooting D-man with good size, good skating ability and a high IQ late in the draft. John Marino, Vincent Desharnais, and last year Philip Kemp. So this is something to keep an eye on. With that in mind, here are a few guys who fit that bill.
Michael Kesselring even fits the bill for someone going the college route as those previous three picks did. The one thing with Kesselring is I’m not sure the IQ is considered great, but as I often bring up….is it his actual smarts, or is it just that he’s never been forced to think the game? But he’s a good skater, great size, RH shot, and put up some great offensive numbers for a D-man this season (albeit playing high school hockey). Another kid really fitting this bill well is Alex Green. Much like Desharnais in that he’s in his third year of eligibility, and just finished his freshman season at Cornell where the Oilers scouts may have seen him while watching one of Matt Cairns whopping ten games. Green is a terrific skater and can really move the puck, pretty much exactly what the Oilers have looked for late in the draft.
Another thing Peter Chiarelli has been hell bent on doing since taking over as Oilers GM is ensuring that they’re deep in goal. So I think its likely they take another tendy this year, but I’d have a few ground rules with this one. A) needs to be a 2000 born, get some separation from Wells and Skinner. B) it would be ideal for him to be going the NCAA route or in Europe so they’ll have an extra year to make a decision on him. Which leads me to someone who really fits that bill in Erik Portillo. He’s huge, one of the youngest tendy’s in the draft (September 3rd, 2000), he fits the Oilers mold of goaltender, and he fits the criteria that I believe is a must if they take a goaltender in this draft.
Another kid who fits that bill is Swiss born Akira Schmid. Another big tendy (though not as big as Portillo) who moves well in net and much like a lot of the kids I love the later rounds, is currently really lack size (weight) and strength.
I know Jack Michaels brought up during the Oilers TV mock draft that he believes they’ll have eyes for Olivier Rodrigue. At 40, that’s absolutely disgusting and will be yet another example of how inept this organization is taking the very last need for the organization with such a high pick simply because his dad is the goaltending coach. Humiliating…at that pick. However, if he falls due to his size (very possible) and can be had with one of the last three selections I wouldn’t have a big issue with it.
To me, the ideal draft is to walk out with two centres minimum, two D-men (both on the right side), and two wingers. You can afford to pass on a goaltender in this draft with two entering pro hockey this fall. If they must take one though, do it at the expense of the second winger. Having said this…you can’t plan a draft like that. You have to stick to your board, especially later in the draft. And I’ll say it again, this team doesn’t have one need. They need pretty much everything.
I trust this scouting staff to make the right picks come Friday night. However, the front office is a different story. The front office has lost the trust of the fan base, so its vital that they stay out of the way of the scouting staff and simply let them do the job that they have been crushing thus far.
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