Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Blessing And The Curse

So, there I was, sitting there, watching the draft lottery unfold thinking, there is no way the Oilers can win the lottery, the NHL can't possibly let this happen. The Oilers will end up with one of Murray or Grigorenko and the evolution of the Oilers can continue to unfold. But once the Oilers logo was uncoverd in the #1 envelope, everything changed, and I mean everything. While most of Oilerdom look on with gleeful disbelief, I was my more looking on in an "OH NO!" type state. This is a spot where winning the lottery could set the rebuild off its course.

There is a fine young prospect, Nail Yakapov, who is the "consensus" #1 pick and as expected from the time the lottery ended right up until now, the chants for name to be spoken by the Oilers at the draft are getting louder and louder. And while I don't deny he's a fine prospect, I wouldn't label him a franchise player, nor would I label any of the prospects in this draft a franchise player. Yakapov might be the best player at what he does in the draft but the gap between #1 and #5 is not as big as all the pundits seem to want to suggest. This group includes, Yakapov, Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk, and Jacob Trouba. All of these players will be fine high end additions for any franchise, but I wouldn't label any of these players as "centerpieces" to a hockey team. A player that you would build a team around and expect to win.

All of this leads me back to the Oilers. Of course, the Oilers don't need a franchise player in this draft, they have at least two, perhaps three already skating on Rexall ice. The question you have to ask is.... which player can make the biggest impact on this club, now and in the future, regarding skillset, ability to play, where do they slot in the depth chart, position played...yada yada yada, and on down the line. Which player will help this team win? Do the Oilers really need a 2nd line left or right winger, now or in the future? And is it more important than a first pairing Dman or a 2nd line center? In my mind, its not. I guess that depends on what you think becomes of Taylor Hall and/or Jordan Eberle. Magnus Paajarvi and Ales Hemsky are also a part of that conversation. If you are worried about Taylor Hall's injury history or Magnus Paajarvi becoming a bust or Ales Hemsky never finding his groove again, then the rebuild is a failure anyway. That's when the Oilers find themselves in a perpetual rebuild. Out with the old, in with the new, over and over again. Enough with the shiny new toys, its time to give the pieces the Oilers currently have, some complementary pieces they can work with, pieces that will mask their own weaknesses. Just because the Oilers happened to win the lottery on a stroke of luck, doesn't mean the plan should be deviated from. The Oilers need to continue to limit the weaknesses of this hockey club until they are so small, no NHL coach or manager will be able to identify it.

The beef I have with a large portion of Oilers' fans these days is they think in terms of goals = wins. Score a butt tonne of goals and we will win a butt tonne of games. Goals, goals, goals, wins. wins, wins. While I partially agree with this, I try to break down things into finer points. As in, how the goals are going to be scored, where are the goals coming from, and are we going to be able to score more than the other guys? Hockey has turned into a puck possession/retrieval game. The more you have the puck and protect the puck, the better the chance of winning the game. While the Oilers are trying mightily to work on puck possession, puck retrieval is sorely lacking and will continue to lack until the Oilers find some puck moving Dmen, game-managing centers and robust wingers who can win a board battle. Nail Yakapov is a stout winger but is much more effective in open space than he is along the boards, so he will be a lot like the rest of the forwards on the Oilers. Hockey isn't basketball where we can run isolation, 1on1 type plays. Puck movement and puck retrieval are very important in todays game.

All in all, Steve Tambellini is in a real tough spot, made tougher with the lottery win. All it did was add another unneeded option to the ledger. The Oilers' brass are stuck in no man's land. If they take Yakapov and don't deal with other weaknesses, they will likely be back in the lottery next year, in which case Tambellini should be out of a job at that point. If they leave the alleged "best player available" on the table and he turns out to be a very important piece for someone else, the fans will be on the witchhunt, regardless of how well the Oilers improve themselves. If the Oilers were drafting 2nd or 3rd, they would add a Murray or Grigorenko, add a piece they need and could use, all while drafting the "BPA". But with Yakapov now being added to the mix and being highly touted by everyone, including Oilers' fans, I don't see this ending well. Is Tambellini going to have the balls to go against the fans like Glen Sather did when he took Steve Kelly over Shane Doan? If he did, I feel it would be met with better results. This is where the trust in scouting and player development needs to be top notch. Can the Oilers take a little less to gain a little more?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oilers Offseason 2012 Pre-Draft

Another year, another first overall pick. Like the recent past, the Oilers will continue to turnover the team until they get the right mix, hopefully sooner rather than later. Its time to check the offseason, to see who should be coming, who should be going and how those spots will be filled. I'll do another writeup after UFA day as there will changes between now and then.

Here's what I've pieced together at this point:

Belanger CCCCCC



Gone - Sam Gagner, Theo Peckham, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk, Linus Omark, Lennert Petrell, Corey Potter.

Taylor Hall - Cements himself in the first line LW spot. The only concern is whether he will be ready for the season opener as he is recovering from shoulder surgery. All this talk about Hall moving to center isn't something I would consider for the time being. Hall's speed off the wing is something the Oilers need a lot more of, not less and he's the ace of spades when it comes to bursting off the wing. Hopefully his shoulder injury isn't hampering his ability to work on his core strength.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - RNH has cemented himself as the first line center of this hockey club. He just needs to continue to build on his rookie season. He established himself as a pillar of this hockey club and the Oilers need to construct around him. Hopefully more strength is on the way for him and the others around him.

AAAAAA - This spot needs to be occupied by a power forward type. The more experienced, the better. Someone to ride shotgun with the kids, back them up in physical battles and be reliable in all ends of the ice. Offensive pedigree would be nice. This would allow the other two on the line some time and space, something they'll need to get into that superstardom range.

Ryan Smyth - After looking at the UFA options, the best and most affordable option is Ryan Smyth. I would consider a 1 year deal around 3 mil per year. Give Smyth steady minutes but don't play the crap out of him. Give him either PK or PP time, not both. The Oilers could use a more veteranized 2nd line. Barring that, Teemu Hartikainen might be Plan B, not a terrible Plan B, but one that would most definitely hurt depth. I'd re-sign Smyth to a 1yr/$3 mil deal, if Smyth can handle the pay cut.

Jordan Eberle - The guy on my list that will undergo the most amount of change, but the player, I figure, is the most equipped to handle it. He's my vote to be the player to move to center, reasons being, he's a cerebral player, positionally sound, quick to learn, he's right handed, he gives Hemsky a shooter on his line. Playing center is a different beast in the NHL, but its something I think Eberle would be up for.

Ales Hemsky - I still cringe to see this player on the Oilers. Not because of who he is, but what he represents. He represents "getting your ass kicked over and over" type hockey, and now that he is here, the Oilers have no choice but to build a line to suit him. Eberle seems to have chemistry with everyone because of his versatile game, maybe he can kickstart Hemsky's career back on track.

Ryan Jones - Just keep doing what your doing. Get another kick at playing the toughs and hope to break even, all while chipping in 15+ goals. Jones has been undervalued by a lot of Oiler fans. To me, he has been perfectly fine and to ask for more is asking too much. Perhaps a few more hits wouldn't hurt but all in all, a solid 3rd liner. I expect a big season from him in a contract year.

Shawn Horcoff - Horcoff just flat out needs to be better next year. Cannot hang out in the -20 range, needs to be closer to even while playing the toughs for this team to move forward. Horcoff needs to understand and embrace his role a lot better this season. That keeping the puck out of his own net is more important than putting the puck in the other team's net. Hopefully he can find a balance and chip in 15g, but for now, I just want him to hang out near the even mark of the plus/minus. Like Smyth, he can't play on both sets of special teams, more PK, no PP. If the Oilers can find another home for him, its something that should definitely be looked at.

BBBBBB - Ideally I would like this player to be an above average skater, but more importantly, a player with experience playing on the 3rd line is needed in this slot. PK is an asset needed here along with an ability to help this line overall break even while playing the toughs.

Magnus Paajarvi - The 4th line would be a good spot for Paajarvi to start next season. Limited expectations while having the ability to push those above him on the depth chart. I would teach Paajarvi the finer points of the penalty kill giving him a more versatile game from here on out.

Anton Lander - From here on out, I think Paajarvi and Lander should be joined at the hip. Forging 2/3rds of an eventual 3rd line going forward, maybe even a 2nd line. One day Lander will be the go to PKer on the Oilers, so keep grooming him for that role. If the Oilers are truly about rebuilding then he should be playing over Belanger if all things are equal.

Ben Eager - Many people clamouring for Eager to be gone this offseason. I think the Oilers need him more than ever. He does need to up his hit total and become more engaged into the game more often. If Tom Renney mismanaged two players on the Oilers, it was Magnus Paajarvi and Ben Eager. Paajarvi, for tying him to the boat anchor in Belanger and Eager for not throwing him a carrot and play him with the young guns more often to create space and get him engaged. Eager needs to do more, but the Oilers need to do more for Eager. The 4th line gets bumped up to about 10 minutes a game, most of it 5v5.

Eric Belanger - I'd turn Belanger into a jack of trades type forwards, play him at center, play him on the wing, play him wherever a hole needs to be filled or someone is slumping. Belanger needs to buy into this role as an extra forward, otherwise I'd find another home for him. The vets need to buy in, its the biggest thing holding the rebuild back.

CCCCCC - Essentially the same type of player Belanger, verstatile player, maybe with a little more umph to his game, and someone who would be happy being in the NHL earning an NHL paycheque. Someone who shoots right preferrably, to give the lineup some balance.

Ryan Whitney - Ryan Whitney enters his contract year. What he will give the Oilers is anyone's guess. I think the key with Whitney is to just let him go play and let him give what he will give and re-evaluate at the end of next year. If Whitney can get back to last year's form, great, if not, start moving him down the depth chart. The Oilers need to keep their options open here. He's been a good soldier in his time here.

DDDDDD - The better this player is, the better the Oilers will be for it. This player could be any number of types. Could be a young grade A prospect ready to make an impact, or a grizzled old vet, who's legs might be going, but his expeience makes him better than most. This spot along with 1st line RW are vital spots that need to be filled. Offensive minded definitely needed here.

Ladislav Smid - Smid just needs to continue to be what he was this past season. Hit giving, shot blocking machine. Breaking even on the plus/minus ledger while playing the toughs is also something that is needed from him. Improvements from everyone else but a regression from him, would likely keep the team from moving forward. That's how important his role is to this team.

Jeff Petry - Another player that took a big step in solidifying his NHL career. The next stage for Petry is trying to add more to his offensive dimension without taking away from the defensive side. Petry should be given the opportunity to grow and receive significant minutes next season. I'd re-sign Petry 4yr/$3.5 mil/yr deal.

Ryan Murray - My choice for the 1st overall pick. Him breaking in on the bottom pairing, paired with a veteran Dman is good way for him to kick off his NHL career. Give him 2nd unit PP and PK time. Work him in slowly but make sure he is getting the right education to become an NHL defenseman.

Nick Schultz - Nick Schultz will be the security blanket for Ryan Murray. They will rely on Schultz to keep his own end clean while helping out with the transition game. He and Murray should become a solid puck possession combo.

Andy Sutton - Should be able to settle into the 7th Dman role, getting games in against more aggressive teams. He and Murray should be subbing for each other when everyone is healthy. Sutton gives the defense some much added bite that it would be otherwise lacking without him.

Devan Dubnyk - Dubnyk is prime to get 40-60 games in this upcoming season. It would be better if Dubnyk had someone other than Khabibulin pushing him as the backup but that remains to be seen what happens there. Dubnyk has derserved the opportunity to run with the ball to start next season. I'd re-sign Dubnyk to a 2yr/$2 mil/yr deal.

Nikolai Khabibulin - Here's where we will find out how much Mr. Katz values his money. If he has grown tired of wasting money on inept free agents, Khabibulin will be back as the backup next year. If Katz has money to burn, he'll place Khabibulin on some European club and bring another goaltender. I think Khabibulin will be back next year, but thats just me.

Players That I Feel Will Be Moved Along:
- Sam Gagner - Some are still holding out a flame for him. Others can't wait to get rid of him. For myself, its kind of bittersweet as he was the first poster child of the initial rebuild. Hoping he would flourish into the first line center everyone would hope he would be. But the team has gone into a different direction and the focus on bigger players means Sam Gagner gets cut out of the picture. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the new, improved version making Gagner redundant. If the Oilers had taken Sean Couturier like I recommended, maybe Sam Gagner may still have a place. The Oilers long term are likely better off for Gagner moving along.

- Theo Peckham - Peckham is coming off a setback year where he didn't play with as much toughness as he once did and the Oilers decided to keep Andy Sutton around for one more year, likely meaning the end of the tenure for Theo Peckham. Peckham can play in the NHL on most clubs as long as he gets back to playing the game with an edge and a hard aggressiveness. But with the Oilers needing more offense and puckmoving ability on the backend, Peckham should be a casualty of this.

- Cam Barker - Was a gamble that didn't pan out. For all of those telling us that Barker was a terrible signing, well duh, yeah it was. But its not like there was a variety of options to choose from. Barker was the best gamble. It didn't work out, but it was a gamble that was worth the risk of a one year deal. Time to upgrade on Barker.

- Darcy Hordichuk - Hordichuk was a great soldier in his time here. But what the Oilers need now are more versatile pieces to push everyone up and down the lineup. No one's spot should feel safe and production in terms of pucks in and pucks out are the only things that should matter. Hordichuk is short in hockey ability but seems like one heckuva teammate.

- Linus Omark - Simply no room for him one this club and everyone knows it. Omark wants to play in the NHL and I think he should be given that opportunity to play in another organization. Omark's time with this club has been interesting to say the least.

- Lennert Petrell - Petrell is a 50/50 proposition. He's versatile enough to be the 14th forward on the club but I'm hoping for someone with a little more speed and a little more of an agitator. The fact that he shoots left doesn't help him either. If the Oilers brought him back as the 4th forward, I wouldn't complain. Essentially I'm hoping for a right handed version of him.

- Corey Potter - The Oilers gave Potter a 2 year deal and now I can't even see him breaking camp with the big club next year. He still might if the Oilers can't find a suitable player to fill in the DDDDDD spot. Potter lost his biggest advocate in Tom Renney, so the door is wide open for anything to happen here. Potter is going to have to legitimately play well to make the club next season, otherwise he could be a waiver wire casualty.


AAAAAA: Options
1) Shane Doan (2yr/5.5mil/yr) - Shane Doan would be ideal but unlikely candidate. Big robust winger that will put up 20+ goals and and 150+ hits, to go with that he will stick up for the kids. He's been a lifer with the Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise, so its unlikely to see him moving.
2) Steve Bernier (2yr/1.5mil/yr) - Would be an interesting case study as a UFA. Bernier looked like he was going to emerge as a stud power forward when he was in San Jose. Fell off the map in his time in Vancouver and in Florida, had a subpar season in New Jersey but has made a contribution during New Jersey's playoff run. I could see Bernier as a solid 3rd cog with Hall and RNH, but he will have to toughen up a bit.
3) David Moss (2yr/2.5mil/yr) - Moss is coming off an injury plagued season with the Flames. Doesn't hit enough for my liking but does have some offensive dimension. It will be interesting to see if he tests the market or not.
4) David Jones (3yr/3.5mil/yr) - Jones is much like Moss in that he doesn't hit much but does have offensive dimension. Problem is, he is coming off a good year and will likely get paid for it. Jones would be better than nothing, but could tie up a spot on the books if something better comes along.
5) Mike Knuble (1yr/1mil) - Knuble is a last ditch effort to fill that spot. He'll be 40 in July and will likely have his tires worn down to the nub. Even if you give him a contract offer like that, he'll likely retire anyway. Coming off a year with low goal total and an ugly +/-.

BBBBBB: Options
1) Jordin Tootoo (3yr/1.8mil/yr) - Tootoo isn't an ideal 3rd liner but it gives that line some bite and overall gives the team another bullet to put over the boards. Tootoo would have to find another gear in his goal totals as a 3rd liner he would have to find the 15 goal range when his career high is 11. Would cure a lot of things that ail the Oilers.
2) Jamie Langenbrunner (1yr/1.5mil) - Langenbrunner is coming off an off year where he only tallied 6 times but still managed to finish +7 on the Blues. Langenbrunner is turning 37 this summer, so he is diminshing returns at this point but would stabilize the third line. Not sure Langenbrunner would come here at that price, but you at least have to make the phone call on that one. No longer hits as much as he once did.
3) Lee Stempniak (1yr/1.5mil) - Stempniak has been a 3rd liner most of his career so he knows his role. He scores enough to fit the bill but doesn't hit enough, at least he didn't last year. Stempniak is versatile enough to play all over the lineup, so may be a good fit for a young Oilers team.
4) Scott Parse (1yr/1mil) - Parse would be a bit of a gamble coming off a year where he missed most of it due to a hip injury. While I think he would be defensively responsible enough, whether he would hit enough or score enough would remain to be seen. A low risk gamble.
5) J.T. Wyman (1yr/750K) - Built to play a 3rd line role. Responsible defensively but doesn't score nor hit enough to fit the bill. This player is much like Parse in that he is a low end risk, but requires a lot of work to get to the needed level.

CCCCCC: Options
1) Adam Burish (2yr/1.2mil/yr) - Burish is a perfect 14th forward to have. plays wing or center, brings intensity, pushes others to get better, can PK, and chips in where needed. The biggest thing with Burish is he'll make sure Eager stays sharp. Could also potentially fit in the BBBBBB spot, but fits in better here.
2) Joey Crabb (2yr/800K/yr) - Enjoyed a semi breakout year by putting up 11 goals and over 100 hits this past season with the Leafs. Another hard working, honest effort type. Someone might pay him more, but I wouldn't go much more than this. Underrated role player. Could also fit in the BBBBBB spot.
3) Byron Bitz (1yr/750K) - Big bodied winger who isn't afraid to take the body. Has had injury issues the past couple season, but is a game player when in the lineup. Limited to a bottom six player although played well with the Sedins in a short stint with them. Bitz has some untapped ability in his game.
4) Brendan Yip (1yr/750K) - A player that I was hoping the Oilers would claim on waivers last season. A thick bodied winger that play up and down the lineup. I wish he would hit more, but like Bitz has some untapped ability in his game.
5) Tim Wallace (600K/1yr) - Wallace is an honest up and down winger who has spent most of his time in the AHL. Debatable if he'd be an upgrade on Teemu Hartikainen at this point. Goals have not come easily for him in the NHL.

DDDDDD: Options
1) Justin Schultz (900K/2yr) - Is one of the prized soon to be UFAs on the market. Over the next month, this player should create a lot of drama on who will get his services. A puckrusher extraordinaire that test other teams defenses over and over. A real offensive weapon from the backend that isn't too shabby at defending either. An ideal solution to what ails the Oilers.
2) Sami Salo (1yr/2.5mil) - Salo is a Plan B that really doesn't exist. He's been with Vancouver for quite some time and they both seem faithful to each other. If he goes to free agency, you have to at least put in a phone call.
3) Matt Gilroy (1yr/1mil) - Gilroy is a player that is trying to establish himself in the NHL after a strong collegiate career. Gilroy at this point is a long way from the Schultz, in terms of effectiveness and potential. Settling on Gilroy would be disappointing to say the least.
4) Joe Corvo (1yr/2mil) - Corvo is nothing more than a rusted out old cannon at this point in his career. Limited mobility and limited defensive awareness. All of his value would be in his shot and effectiveness on the powerplay. If he's playing in the top 4, the Oilers are in trouble.
5) Dennis Wideman (3yr/5.25mil) - Wideman is still effective at this point in his career but after coming off a solid offensive year, will likely get paid in full. I'm not sure the Oilers want to pony up for this when a more effective option may not be that far away. Wideman could end up being "fools gold".

Those are my long winded thoughts on things. The Oilers are inching closer and closer to a finished product. Depending on what kind of impact moves are made will determine how far away the playoffs are. I will update this once again after the draft and UFA season. Hopefully the team takes on a slightly bigger and more physically intimidating version.

Until the next time...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Edmonton Oilers Mock Draft 2012

Here I will look at the specific spots where the Oilers will draft and try to slot the ideal player who I think will be available with that spot. The Oilers will have to make a concerted effort to draft size and strength this year. Its lacking all over the lineup and in the prospect pool. Centers and defenseman that shoot right are also in need. I know, I know, BPA, BPA, BPA, well the Oilers aren't trying to build a fantasy team, they are trying to build a hockey team. I get the feeling sometimes that Oilers' fans try to build their teams like they would their fantasy hockey teams. It's more complex than that. So with all of that, here are my picks for this year:

Round #1 Pick #1 - Ryan Murray D Everett - As mentioned in my first round mock draft in the NHL, its a pick I have wrestled with all year. I guess the question, what's more important, a first pairing Dman, or a 2nd line forward? Murray will enhance the defense and help the forwards. His decision making with the puck will help the Oiler forwards get puck into the offensive zone. Should fit in nicely with the other youth on the team.
While he won't help with the strength quotient plaguing the Oilers, he will easily become the Oilers best defensive prospect. Murray is a cerebral assassin on the backend. Kind of like a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that happens to play the defense position.

Round #2 Pick #32 - Damon Severson D Kelowna - Picking another Dman with the 2nd pick might be a bit of overkill especially with the amount of D prospects that are starting to pile up, but Severson is a player that is very intriguing. He's also a player that has something on most of the other D prospects, he shoots right. Severson brings a little a bit of everything, a lot like Murray does, but not to the degree that Murray does. Severson has size and continues to grow. Has put on 20 lbs. since the end of last year. He has a projectable frame to grow more without losing too much mobility. The potential for a Murray-Severson top pairing in time, is there.

Round #3 Pick #63 - Branden Troock RW Seattle - Troock might be a reach at this spot. But its a soft spot in the draft where a lot of smaller forwards and Dman are projected to go. Troock has a lot of measurables that would go into being a power forward. Has a fantastic hockey frame, but needs to work at getting stronger and applying more stamina. Very much a project but a project that has a lot of skill and ability to his game. Has had a couple of injury plagued seasons playing the WHL.

Round #3 Pick #91 - Frank Vatrano LW USNTDP - Nicknamed "Frank the Tank". Very stout winger that plays the game in trenches, but posesses a very quick, hard shot. Vatrano would add a board presence sorely lacking to the Oilers pool anywhere, be it current team or prospects. Vatrano has been recently accepted to Boston College, so he will likely be a 4 year player there.

Round #4 Pick #93 - Ryan Olsen C Kelowna - Played the past year in Saskatoon but was traded to Kelowna at the WHL Bantam Draft. Olsen had a very inconsistant season with Saskatoon this past season. Showed glimpses of greatness and long stretches of ineffectiveness. Much like Troock, a player that will be a project. Olsen is a bigger body that skates well, but seems to lack the drive to be a difference maker night in, night out. He's a right handed center, something the Oilers have very little of in their prospect pool.

Round #5 Pick #123 - Rhett Holland D Okotoks - Holland plays the game with high compete level and intensity. Doesn't have a lot of offensive acumen, but does skate well and has a good first pass. Plays the game like a current Ladislav Smid, but fights a lot more and has a propensity for a high PIM total. Already tipping the scales at 220 lbs, he looks ready for the pros anytime. Very dedicated player. Committed to Michigan State, the Oilers can store this player away while they deal with other defensive prospects. Oh yes, and he shoots right.

Round #6 Pick #153 - Peter Quennville C Sherwood Park - Crafty, cerebral center that was 2nd in AJHL scoring this past season. Kind of a Sam Gagner type center. Needs to work on strength for the time being. Who knows, the Oilers may have a need for this type of center down the line once again. Quennville is committed to Quinnipiac, likely a 4 year player there. Another right handed shooter.

That's the rundown for this year's draft. I look for the Oilers to draft stronger, heavier players this time around, especially ones that shoot right. In my rundown, I drafted 3 defensemen, 2 centers and 2 wingers. I expect the same ratio from the Oilers this season. I don't expect the Oilers to go heavy into the WHL/AJHL like I have in this rundown, as they have more eyes and ears at their disposal. The draft is always one of my favorite times of the year. It should be a good time once again this year.

Round #4 NHL Playoffs 2012

4th Round
(6) New Jersey Devils vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Kings in 6

3rd Round:
Western Conference:
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Coyotes in 7
Actual: Kings in 5

Eastern Conference:
(1) New York Rangers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Prediction: Rangers in 5
Actual: Devils in 6

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mock Draft Top 32 2012

Here is my rundown of the top 32. My choices are based on a blend of projected spots, team needs, a team's draft tendancies and where they are in their evolution ie. rebuilding, ready to win, needing a complementary piece. So with all of that, here we go.

1. Edmonton selects Ryan Murray D - Wrestled with this pick forever. While they might be leaving something on the table in terms of pure skill, they shore up a weakness on this club by picking a player that can play on their top pair for the next 10+ years. Very cerebral, puckmoving, big minute Dman. At worst a #2 Dman, perhaps might even be a #1. Murray would play on the Oilers as soon as next season. The Oilers need someone to play immediately in order to mesh with the other younger players on the Oilers. Preferrably a defenseman.

2. Columbus selects Alex Galchenyuk C - A bit of a risky pick taking a player coming off an ACL injury, but the Jackets would like to stay away from the "KHL" factor. Galchenyuk is a smooth 2-way, playmaking centerman that would form a nice 1-2 punch with Ryan Johansen and now the Jackets can start their ascent out of the basement of the NHL. Galchenyuk is more American than Russian but does have dual citizenship. Galchenyuk could play in Columbus as soon as next season.

3. Montreal selects Mikhail Grigorenko C - Montreal badly needs center help and takes Grigorenko to stabilize that position. Grigorenko is a creative offensive center that is equally good at shooting and distributing pucks. There is a "KHL" factor with Grigorenko but his commitment to play in the QMJHL this past season eases that somewhat. Grigorenko could play in Montreal as soon as next season.

4. Islanders select Nail Yakapov LW/RW - Islanders would feel fortunate to grab Yakapov in this spot. A consensus #1 on a lot of people's lists. I don't believe the gap is as big as everyone would like to believe. Yakapov is a dynamic offensive winger that could play pitch and catch with John Tavares and finally their rebuild can get off the ground. He'll play on the Island this year if they can get him.

5. Toronto selects Cody Ceci D - Toronto ends up being the biggest loser in all of this by not getting the center they need. So they continue to stock up the defense and take 67s Dman Cody Ceci. Ceci plays both ends of the rink very well. QBs a good powerplay with a wicked shot and good reads, defensively sound through positioning. Lacks agility but hockey smarts puts him in the right spots. Ceci could play on the Leafs as soon as next year if they choose to.

6. Anaheim selects Jacob Trouba D - Anaheim adds to their D prospect pool. Anaheim is near the end of their cycle where a possible retool looms. Trouba would be a good place to start as he will likely go through the NCAA route and be there for four years, but when he comes out, they should have a full fledged stud on their hands. An all around, tough nosed defenseman that can contribute offensively.

7. Minnesota selects Matthew Dumba D - This pick deviates from past Minnesota picks where this pick is more about "pushing the play" as opposed to "positional hockey". Dumba is a push the pace Dman that does that through rushing the puck or making big hits. I'm not sure if Minnesota would know what to do with Dumba, as Dumba would force them to change their style which clearly isn't working for them anymore. Dumba would likely head to junior to refine his skills.

8. Carolina selects Zemgus Girgensons C - Carolina usually doesn't like the European flavour this high in the draft but Girgensons isn't a typical European. Latvian born player that played in the USHL this past year. Girgensons is a big bodied center that has decent offensive potential, but is just as good on the defensive end. He would be a nice #2C behind Eric Staal. With two big bodied centers, they will be able to keep in the arms race in the Eastern Conference.

9. Winnipeg selects Morgan Rielly D - Rielly would be a nice addition for Winnipeg as its a team that lacks mobility on the backend. Rielly would give Winnipeg a puckrushing, smooth skating Dman to complement the forwards coming through the pipeline for Winnipeg. Great vision and tempo setter on the backend. Needs to work on defensive game.

10. Tampa Bay selects Filip Forsberg RW/LW - This is a team that could really use some help on the backend but could also use some help on the wings, especially if Nikita Kucherov opts for the KHL. Forsberg doesn't deserve to fall much further as he is a big bodied, smooth skating winger that can be a terror on the rush. Could be a suitable replacement for Martin St. Louis in due time and could be setting up one-timers for Stamkos.

11. Washington selects Radek Faksa C - Washington badly needs a 2nd line pivot behind Niklas Backstrom, Faksa fits that bill. Faksa is a big bodied center that plays both ends well. Should be able to complement Washington's offense while helping out on the defensive end. Washington needs to keep working on their depth. This pick is a gift they got from the Avalanche in the Semyon Varlamov deal.

12. Buffalo selects Tomas Hertl C - Center is a position that lacks depth in the Buffalo organization even with the addition of Cody Hodgson. Hertl is another big bodied center with offensive upside that could create a nice 1-2 punch with Hodgson in the future. Hertl would be better served to play in the CHL next season. As of now, he plays in the Czech Republic.

13. Dallas selects Griffin Reinhart D - Dallas has needs at most positions, so they settle on Reinhart. They have another bigger Dman in the system in Jamie Oleksiak but lack depth in the Dman spot. Reinhart would be a good piece to build around. They could ideally use a center but would be reaching for one in this spot. Reinhart is a large and somewhat mobile Dman will help Dallas out in a variety of roles at both ends of the ice.

14. Calgary selects Olli Maatta D - Another team that could use a center but would be reaching for one here. So, Calgary should take the next best Dman on the board which is Olli Maatta. Maatta is a very stout defensive Dman who is finding his offensive game over the quarter of the season. Most 1st year Europeans tend to fizzle as the season goes, Maatta on the other hand, just got stronger.

15. Ottawa selects Pontus Aberg RW - Ottawa's rebuild took very little time and look to build on the wings with Alfredsson at the end of the line and the Filatov experiment failing. So they look to speedy Pontus Aberg. Aberg has speed and sniping ability off the wing, two things Ottawa is looking for. Ottawa has solid winger prospects but none as dynamic as Aberg.

16. Washington selects Sebastian Collberg RW - With a center in their back pocket with the #11 pick, its a good time for a homerun pick for the Capitals. Collberg will give the Caps more skilled depth with playmaking ability. He would be a good insurance policy in case Kuznetsov doesn't come over to North America. Would look nice on a line with Ovechkin in the near future.

17. San Jose selects Hampus Lindholm D - San Jose is near the end of their cycle and closing in on a rebuild. Lindholm is a good piece to start the next cycle with. With being able to store him Sweden for a couple of years, it will give San Jose time to clear the deck for him. Lindholm is an all situations Dman that could become a cornerstone Dman.

18. Chicago selects Teuvo Teravainen LW - Chicago is in a good spot where they can truly take the best player available. They have a propensity to find bigger players that can play in later rounds and are filled with such types all over their lineup and prospect pool. Teravainen is a good player to select to give their prospect pool some balance. Speed and playmaking skill is Teravainen's game. If Chicago ever tires of Patrick Kane's off ice shenanigans, Teravainen would be a decent replacement down the line.

19. Tampa Bay selects Brendan Gaunce C - With Tampa Bay selecting Forsberg at 10, its a good time to work on center depth for the Lightning. Gaunce is a solid bet to be at worst a 3rd line center, at best a 2nd line center. He would be good to have around to combat all of those offensive minded centers in the Eastern Conference. Safe pick for the Lightning.

20. Philadelphia selects Henrik Samuelsson RW/C - Flyers prospect pool is pretty thin considering a lot of their best prospects are playing with the big club. Samuelsson is a fine pick with the philospohy the Flyers preach. Big-bodied, physical forwards that play a puck possession game. Samuelsson fits that bill with an added degree of versatility of playing either the wing or center. Samuelsson will be hotly coveted by a lot of teams drafting in this area.

21. Buffalo selects Martin Frk RW - Buffalo has a nice pleathora of prospects in a variety of positions, so they are in a position to gamble with a player with high upside and that player is Martin Frk. Highly touted to begin the season but suffered through an injury plagued season and watched his draft stock plummet. Had a mediocre season but ended with a strong playoff for a strong Halifax team. Frk is a thick bodied winger with some nice offensive dynamic. His game looks to translate well to the pro game.

22. Pittsburgh selects Nicolas Kerdiles RW - Pittsburgh centers are pretty solidfied and their defense pool is deep, the only thing to do is keep drafting power forwards. They miss out on Samuelsson, so I have them taking Kerdiles. Kerdiles is a big bodied winger with some decent offensive instincts. He's likely to test the NCAA route so they can allow him to develop there with their main club mainly intact.

23. Florida selects Ville Pokka D - Florida prospect pool is pretty deep, a product of being bad for so many years. After Brian Campbell, Florida doesn't have a lot of puck moving defensemen. Enter Ville Pokka. Pokka is a fantastic puckhandler and distributor from the backend. Struggles at times with physicality but isn't terrible defensively.

24. Boston selects Derrick Pouliot D - This goes against the grain of Bruins tendancies. Mobile, slight, puck moving defenseman. I don't think they have had one since Bobby Orr graced the ice. I believe its time for them to put one into the system. Pouliot's ability to distribute and push the pace from the backend will give Boston a different look. Pouliot struggles with reads and strength battles but will enhance the offense of the Bruins. Makes good decisions with the puck.

25. St. Louis selects Colten Sissons RW - St. Louis adds to their robust forwards crop by taking Sissons. Sissons at worst will be a 3rd line up and down, crash and bang type winger. He potentially could add an offensive game at the next level as well. Finishes his checks and is a demon on the forecheck.

26. Vancouver selects Cody Corbett D - Vancouver is another team with a pleathora of prospects across the board. Good idea to add to the prospect pool and make a safe play on Corbett. Corbett is a strong 2-way defender is excels more in his own zone but has offensive upside. At worst I believe he'll be a middle pairing Dman, but has interesting upside to say the least.

27. Phoenix selects Charles Hudon LW - Phoenix needs to up their offensive skill quotient in their prospect pool badly and Hudon is the player with the most offensive upside left on the board. Although undersized, he is a very crafty player in the offensive zone, much like Ray Whitney is with the current Phoenix team. Hudon is a player that will put pucks on sticks, something the current Phoenix team is lacking.

28. Rangers select Matt Finn D - Rangers love Dmen that do a little bit of everything and can play big minutes doing that. Matt Finn fits that bill. An all around Dman with good mobility and the potential for offensive upside. Rangers go safe and pick a Dman with the pleathora of Dmen available in this area of the draft.

29. New Jersey selects Stefan Matteau C/LW - This could be the year New Jersey decides to forfeit their first round pick due to the Kovalchuk signing fiasco. I don't think they will be picking much lower than this in the next 2 years. But if they decide they want to keep the pick for argument's sake, Matteau would be a good find for them here. A hard nosed, borderline dirty, physical forward that can play the wing or center. Has some offensive upside but likely is to play a 2nd or 3rd line role in the pros.

30. Los Angeles selects Phil DiGiuseppe LW - I know it goes against the grain of the Kings picking bigger, brawny forwards, but they could use some speed and skill on the wings. DiGiuseppe just finished his freshman year at the University of Michigan, so he has 3 more years of eligibility if the Kings decide they want to store him away. The Kings are not only a good team but a team that is relatively young, so storing players away may not be a bad idea.

31. Columbus selects Slater Koekkoek D - Columbus needs to fill out its defense prospect pool and Koekkoek is a good player to fill that spot with. Koekkoek is a bit of a raw defenseman but has a variety of tools that makes him an attractive prospect. Very mobile with excellent puck moving skills, his defensive skills are average at best for the time being but getting better with experience.

32. Edmonton selects Damon Severson D - Edmonton selects their 2nd defenseman of the draft by selecting Severson. Severson is a two-way defender that comes with unpolished but good offensive upside. The fact that he shoots right help with the pleathora of left handed Dmen the Oilers have stockpiled. Severson is mobile but plays tough and is defensively sound. Reliability is a big selling point in Severson's game.

A rundown of the the Oilers 1st and 2nd pick:
- The Oilers need to keep stockpiling Dmen, because even mediocre defensemen get better returns than solid wingers. Every team, especially the good ones, are always looking for defensemen. Defensemen are the trade chips that are needed in order to upgrade the areas that need to be upgraded. Ryan Murray could play on the Oilers as soon as next year. Severson will have to take the more conventional route, but there should be room for him as the RH Dmen on the depth chart (ie. Teubert, Plante, Fedun) will likely be moved along or on the big club when its time for him to graduate to the AHL. Oilers don't need more high end diminutive forwards. What they need is currency either in players or cold hard cash, so if/when the time arises, they will be able to outbid everyone when the piece they absolutely have to have is on the market. In the meantime, the Oilers need to sit, wait and grow.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who's Next? Or Perhaps Who's Left?

Today was the day Tom Renney was officially told to move on by the Edmonton Oilers, something many felt was coming. Personally, I would have let him go the day after the season ended. Why play the charade up until now? I don't see the benefit for either the Oilers or Tom Renney to do so. Tom Renney had a very subpar year for my standards. His team came out of the gate like gangbusters and he was pushing all the right buttons. And then on one fateful night in November, Ales Hemsky returned to the lineup from injury and the season went to jebus from there. Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger forgot how to check, the defense pairings got mangled into oblivion, and the Bulin Wall took on leaks. The team toughness that was apparent in the first month became more diluted with the return of Ales Hemsky.

With all that said and done, let's have a look at some of the candidates that will get looks. In my mind, it will be one of these 4 gentlemen.

Brent Sutter - Led Calgary to another inevitable 9 place finish and just recently led Team Canada to a 5-0-1 record in the round robin only to lose to Slovakia in the first elimination game. Brent Sutter would find a way to get this team to play tougher, even with all of its pansification, but Sutter isn't enough of an X & O's guy for me to get this team to play winning hockey. Tom Renney ran the vets ragged and I have the feeling Sutter would do much of the same.

Marc Crawford - Has had success with offense heavy teams in Colorado. Preaches very much an attacking style something that would be perfect for the Oilers. Would preach much tougher play, even if his tactics leave you wincing at times (see Todd Bertuzzi). One thing is for certain though, Crawford's teams don't get pushed around. I think Crawford would rely on the kids a lot more than most coaches, something that needs to be strongly considered. Crawford is my personal choice for next head coach as to lead the Oilers to the next step in their evolution.

Todd Nelson - Has had a lot of success this season with the Oilers farm club in Oklahoma City. Nelson's clubs play a very structured games based a lot on strong defenisve play and solid goaltending, something the main club is quite thin at. I'm not sure Nelson is an ideal fit for this club as it would taking a team that is in motion and having it do a 180 in midair and head in another direction. While I do like and respect Nelson's methods, I'm not sure he is the perfect fit for the Oilers at this time.

Derek Laxdal - Has done a bangup job with the Edmonton Oil Kings this season. Has taken a mediocre club and put them in the highest stratosphere in junior hockey. Love the way he gets his team to play with an attacking style off the wings, with the right amount of dedication to defensive play. His teams really pressure the puck something the current Oilers team can excel at. The problem with Laxdal is he may be a bit too green for the gig as of now, and with the amount of greenness on that bench, the Oilers are going to need to rely on someone's experience to get them through the tough spots.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So, How's That Rebuild Going?

Lots of chatter about who the Oilers are imitating to get the rebuild of the ground. The Detroit model, the Chicago model, the Pittsburgh model, yada yada yada. One model that is starting to look eerily similar, is the Washington model.

Take a look at these draft picks over a 5 year span, in order:

2002 - WSH takes Alenander Semin 13th overall, a winger
(They took Steve Eminger 12th overall but we'll ignore that)
2008 - EDM takes Jordan Eberle 22nd overall, a winger

2003 - WSH takes Eric Fehr 18th overall, a winger
2009 - WSH takes Magnus Paajarvi 10th overall, a winger

2004 - WSH takes Alexander Ovechkin 1st overall, a winger
2010 - EDM takes Taylor Hall 1st overall, a winger

Bypassing 2005 because that was the "draw your name out of the hat" lottery.

2006 - WSH takes Niklas Backstrom 4th overall, a center
2011 - EDM takes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1st overall, a center

2007 - WSH takes Karl Alzner 5th overall, a defenseman.
2012 - EDM takes ?????

It just goes to show what happens when you put the cart before the horse. Most teams preach defense while trying to enhance the offense. The Capitals and the Oilers are preaching offense while trying to enhance the defense. The Capitals are trying deperately to change their ways but its a difficult stripe to change. Essentially, Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom were waiting for Alzner and 2008 draftee defensemen John Carlson to emerge as top notch defensemen. Alzner and Carlson may have finally made it to that level as shown by this years playoff run, but it comes at the expense of the years taken off of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin. Capitals are fortunate to have locked up Ovechkin and Backstrom to long term deals, Semin on the other hand, will likely be moving along. Washington's rebuild is a roundabout rebuild. There will likely be some fruition to it, but there will be a lot of wasted years in the middle of that, waiting for the Dmen to come to form. This is the stage where the Oilers are. Waiting for an Alzner or Carlson type to emerge. It's either that or a miracle in the form of Shea Weber or even a Justin Schultz, could cut off some of these wasted years away. Ryan Murray could be the Oilers Karl Alzner.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Candidates 2012 Revisited

Earlier in the month I did a writeup about the top 6 potential candidates for the upcoming 2012 NHL draft. I feel this year is different than others as there seems to be many shades of gray when it comes to this draft. In this writeup, I will give the pros and cons of each candidate and how they will fit into the Edmonton Oilers system and depth chart.

Nail Yakapov:
Pros - Dynamic offensive player. Would give the Oilers another top 6 threat off the wing either as a puck carrier or shooter. Can play immediately. Another trigger man on the powerplay.
Cons - The Oilers already have three puck carriers on the wing in Hall, Hemsky and Paajarvi, Eberle is no slouch with the puck either, along with RNH down the middle. Yakapov is no bigger than anyone in the top 6 in a top 6 that needs to get stronger. Drafting Yakapov leaves gaping holes down the middle and on D. Then their is the Russian/KHL factor, I don't think its as big of a deal as it is with another player that will be on the list.

Jacob Trouba:
Pros - All around defenseman the Oilers are looking for. Can play physically, shutdown the other team's best players, all while contributing on offense. Cannon for the power play, playing pitch and catch with RNH on the powerplay is very appealing. Big minute player.
Cons - Committed to U of Michigan, meaning he could be a 4 year player there, so the team drafting him will have to wait for him, something the Oilers don't have the time for. The Oilers need to move this team forward ASAP.

Ryan Murray:
Pros - All around Dman, not quite the same frame that Trouba has. Has the calm, cerebral play the Oilers need on the backend. Has a very well rounded game and does it all very well. Can play in a variety of roles and can play in all situations. Can play immediately.
Cons - Has issues with strength battles, like 90% of the Oilers team. Shoots left which all the Oilers young stars do, outside of Eberle, which doesn't make for a good powerplay. Oilers have an abundance of left handed shooting Dmen, on the current team and in the pipeline. His offensive upside is debatable at the pro level.

Mikhail Grigorenko:
Pros - All around centerman that is working feverishly to get better at his defensive game, something the Oilers need. Equally good at shooting as he is at passing. Grigorenko would be the perfect complementary 2nd line center to RNH over time. Grigorenko's size would help out the top 6. Would be able to contribute immediately to the Oilers despite contrary reports.
Cons - Russian/KHL factor is a bigger deal here than it is with Yakapov, as its rumoured that CSKA Moscow has already been sniffing around this player. Faded down the stretch with his junior club in Quebec, something a lot of first year Europeans struggle with. Ended the year with mono. Doesn't play with a high motor.

Alex Galchenyuk:
Pros - Much like Grigoranko, an all around centerman, another strong complement to RNH. More of a playmaker and less of a shooter than Grigorenko. Very cerebral player.
Cons - Only played 8 games plus 6 playoff games this season, so there is still a bit of an unknown quality to his game. Tough to gamble on a player that is recovering from an ACL injury when there is more healthy choices out there. Not overly big, but if chosen by the Oilers would be one of the bigger players in the top 6.

Mathew Dumba:
Pros - High energy, impect player from the backend. Skates miles and hits like a truck. Shoots cannons from the point and shoots right, much like Trouba, can play pitch and catch with RNH on the powerplay much like they did in their days with Red Deer. Very much the type of puckmoving type Dman the Oilers forwards could use.
Cons - His smaller stature could lead to injury woes, something the Oilers have had their fill of over the last few years. Dumba's defensive game is a still a work in progress, mostly on positioning and reading of the play. I don't see him as a strong penalty kill player.

I, initially had Murray as being the pick, but when I wondered about the offensive upside of Murray and him being a top pick, I jumped on the Grigorenko bandwagon. Grigorenko is a silky, smooth center, that ran out of gas down the stretch, but wondering about the KHL factor, left me cold. Had a look at Trouba during the U18 tournament and he, along with Seth Jones, 2013 draft eligible, were lights out for the Team USA. Trouba's skillset would be ideal for the Oilers, but after I heard an interview with Trouba, he reaffirmed his commitment to the University of Michigan. The Oilers cannot wait for him, when the train desperately trying to leave the station. Back to sqaure one. I think I might be coming full circle on the Murray pick even if it isn't a total fit. Yakapov isn't even in the discussion for me. The Oilers are pretty full on the wings, and no one wants to trade centers/Dmen for wingers. It just doesn't happen in today's NHL, and if it does, its usually of the B-grade variety. Teams are wising up to the fact that a teams' core lies in the centers and the defense. Wingers are luxaries in todays NHL, they are still needed to win, but usually one of the final pieces added. People will be surprised at the return Rick Nash will get in the summer. I will be releasing the first round of my mock draft towards the end of the month, up to #32 so I include the Oilers 2nd round pick as well. As well as a Edmonton Oilers mock draft that will include all of the Oilers picks.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Round #3 NHL Playoffs 2012

3rd Round
Western Conference:
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (8) Los Angelas Kings
Prediction: Coyotes in 7

Eastern Conference:
(1) New York Rangers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Prediction: Rangers in 5

2nd Round:
Western Conference:
(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angelas Kings
Prediction: Blues in 6
Actual: Kings in 4
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators
Prediction: Coyotes in 7
Actual: Coyotes in 5

Eastern Conference:
(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Prediction: Rangers in 5
Actual: Rangers in 7
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Prediction: Flyers in 5
Actual: Devils in 5

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Candidates 2012

Another year of living in the basement for the Oilers, another year they get to reap the rewards from the NHL draft. Here we will have a look at 6 potential draftees and how they could possibly fit into the long term plans of the Edmonton Oilers.

Nail Yakupov RW Sarnia - Yakupov is an offensive dynamo cut from much of the same cloth Taylor Hall is. He can score from in tight or launch bombs from far away. There is no denying what he can bring to any club. Microwavable goal scoring. Speed and shooting are his game. The thing that sets apart Yakupov from Hall is winning. Everyone wants to win but Hall has a burning desire for it and when that isn't achieved, it pains him. Yakupov, in my mind, is a poor man's Taylor Hall. I don't know if the Oilers have the luxary of picking someone of Yakupov's ilk with so many other holes on defense and at center. Drafting Yakupov would immediately make a player like Paajarvi redundant and now the Oilers would start turning over recent draft pick making the rebuild a fallacy. The Oilers could take Yakupov, but mark my words, the Oilers will be no closer to a playoff spot next year than they were this year. This to me, is just lazy GMing. Take the best player regardless of how he fits on your team and worry about other issues later. Sometimes less is more. The Oilers' fans seem to want this pick, the Oilers smoke signals seem rather mixed on this player at this point.

Ryan Murray D Everett - Murray is a cerebral, puck moving Dman. Excellent dictator of tempo from the backend. Equally effective in all zones. Might be a bit undersized but makes up for it in guile and positioning. The Oilers might be tipping their hand in choosing Murray by inviting him to tag along with Team Canada on the WHC team. Understandable, as the Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor has Murray playing in his back yard in the WHL. Murray is a fine defender but I'm not sure if he is even the #1 defender in the draft, so taking him in the #1 slot might be a reach. The Oilers propaganda machine is in full force, trying to sway the voters away from Yakupov and more towards Murray.

Jacob Trouba D USNDTP - Trouba is my pick for the Oilers to take, at the moment. After having a strong U18 tourney on a strong US team, I don't know how the Oilers could overlook this player. While Trouba might not be as puck savvy as Murray, he makes up for it in size, physicality and lights out ability to defend. Rarely gets beat one on one. Trouba has everything the Oilers are looking for in a Dman. Strong defenisvely, can play big minutes and owns a cannon from the point on the power play. Is a strong puckmover in his own right and makes good reads on when to jump up in the play. Trouba has committed to the University of Michigan, he may be a 4 year player there, so it might be awhile before the team that drafts him, sees him. I wonder if the team that drafts him and plays him right away would be enough to change his mind, because, in my eyes, he is NHL ready now.

Mikhail Grigorenko C Quebec - Grigorenko's year has been filled with hyperbole and innuendo. Grigorenko is a magnificent offensive talent from the center postion that has come a long way in his defensive game as well. Grigorenko's year started strong but ended with a whimper as it appeared he ran out of energy to become effective. Thoughts of him being a big, lazy Russian I thought were a bit much. Word came down today that he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. I think he had issues that most new Europeans have, they succomb to the wear and tear of the schedule. The good ones usually deal with it better the 2nd time around, and I have no doubt Grigorenko will do so. Grigorenko was my choice for a good portion of the year and I still think he will be a solid pick for whoever takes him, but with the emergence of Trouba down the stretch, Grigorenko is now the 2nd best pick for the Oilers in my view. The center play on the Oilers just isn't strong enough collectively, even with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the fold. Grigorenko would help bridge that gap.

Alex Galchenyuk C Sarnia - Galchenyuk's year was very short to say the least. Suffered a torn ACL before the season started and only got into 8 games the whole season, much to mixed results. I think Galchenyuk is a fine two-way center that will become a very successful hockey player, to what degree is still up in the air. I'm not sure the Oilers are in a position to burn a first overall pick on a player that only played 8 games this season. They would be leaving a lot on the table, to be sure.

Mathew Dumba D Red Deer - Dumba's game is a lot like the current Oilers team. Lots of excitement but little in terms of wins. Dumba had 20g 37a all while his team missed the playoffs in a tough Eastern Conference in the WHL. Dumba is a strong complimentary player but not a player that I'd want to build my defense around. While his offensive game and his ability to play in offensive situations is top notch, his defensive game leaves a lot to be desired at times. If the Oilers defense was a smidge stronger than it is now, he'd be a player to look at. But since the Oilers D is very porous defensively at the moment, it would be a tough spot to insert a player like Dumba into.

All in all, whomever the Oilers decide to draft with their first pick will tell us where they are in the rebuild. If they take the winger, it means the rebuild will still have a long way to go and the roster will continue to be turned over. If they take the center, it means they are getting closer to going forward with their team, but will need a prayer to fix the backend. If they choose the defenseman, it means that they are happy with their forwards and Jebus help us all that they will be good enough going forward.