Here is a look at Edmonton’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
The fans of a team that had picked first four times and in the top seven in each of the past seven drafts are going to have to get used to the idea of waiting until the 20’s (22) to see the Oilers step up to the draft podium for the first time. Fans aren’t complaining, of course, because it finally means that a team that picked premium prospects year-after-year is finally reaping the rewards with a promising young team that should be a Cup contender for the foreseeable future.
At 22nd overall the Oilers will most likely focus on picking up a defenceman or a center after using a top-four pick on winger Jesse Puljujarvi last season, and as luck would have it, there promises to be several highly-regarded pivots and blueliners still on the board at 22 overall. Given that the team has used just one top 60 pick on a defenceman in the past five drafts, odd are high that the Oilers look at shoring up the position even if Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones have overachieved as mid-round picks from 2015 and the club still has high hopes for 2012 fourth overall pick Griffin Reinhart.
A run on the second tier of defencemen is expected to take place between the 15th and 23rd picks, and Edmonton will be able to add one of Urho Vaakanainen, Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki, Cal Foote, Conor Timmins, Erik Brannstrom or Nic Hague with their top pick, with the last four being the most likely to still be available.
Timmins would be a nice addition as he’d be able to contribute on the powerplay and with improved footspeed has the all-around game to play top 3-4 minutes in the future in all situations. Brannstrom is the riskiest pick given his size and lack of physical attributes, but certainly would bring a skill/speed dynamic to Edmonton’s blueline that hasn’t been present in many years.
Foote comes with some risk as his skating is an issue,… if that comes the Oilers would have a big shutdown defenceman to complement the high-powered offence in the mould of Randy Gregg from the club’s glory years. Hague is the least likely to be chosen that high as he has skating and defensive issues that may keep him from making an impact in the NHL for 3-4 years or more, but with his shot and long-term upside if he ever puts it all together Edmonton may deem it worthwhile to take a flyer on him at 22.
Centers that may be available at 22 and interest the club would include Ryan Poehling and Josh Norris, both which could fulfill vital third-line center roles on a stacked contender. Poehling is more of an ideal third-line candidate given his defensive acumen and high work ethic, while Norris may have more offensive upside and give Edmonton the option of keeping Leon Draisaitl on the wing when he’s ready to contribute.
With two picks in the 80’s, the Oilers may look again at defence as there should still be some half decent blueline prospects on the draft board, but usually a team choosing on the 80’s will get a player ranked in their top 40 or 50, so the club will likely just take the highest players on their draft board regardless of position.
Edmonton has five picks in rounds 4-7 and will be hoping to get some darkhorse projects who can surprise as much as Bear and Jones and help fill out a prospect cupboard that has been thinning in recent years due to graduations to the big club and a lack of second- and third-round picks.