The first round is mercifully over and and now we can get on to the Taylor Hall vs. Jordan Eberle debate (coming soon to a message board near you). I've noticed every other Oilers' media outlet offering even more words about Taylor Hall and, I gotta be honest, I've had enough. So rather than write yet another recap of the first overall pick, I've decided to look forward to today's pick, the thirty-first overall. Check out Western College Hockey for a nice recap of the evening. Check everywhere else - literally, everywhere else - for Taylor coverage.
Ben, Darren Dreger and even Joe Magaratz reported that Steve Tambellini was trying to move up into the first round, talking to the Bruins about the second pick and the Panthers about the 15th pick. He was attempting to move Cogliano for the 15th, and Dreger said that he offered Hemsky and Eberle for the 2nd. He was after players that were going to make a difference and was willing to give up assets to do it. But Tambo caught a break.
Tambellini found a stroke of luck as the first round went a bit sideways. Names like Mark Visentin, Kevin Hayes, Beau Bennett, Joey Hishon and Jaden Schwartz were all called in the first round, meaning a number of highly-ranked prospects remain in the second round. Depending on who it is you take your draft lowdown from, there are six to eight impact players remaining. For an in-depth look at a number of prospects that might be moving early tomorrow, check out our second round mock draft.
Stu MacGregor's early Saturday selection must be an easy one to make, as there are four players who really stand out.
The top four remaining prospects on most every draft list are left wing John McFarland, defenseman Jon Merrill, center Tyler Pitlick, and center Tyler Toffoli. Aside: Even if we don't agree on the pick, I think we can all agree that there are too many Tylers in this draft... it doesn't help that they all play center.
First up among the big four is John Merrill, the big defenseman from the U.S. National Program, and the youngest player ever to verbally commit to an NCAA school (he was 14 at the time). He's got all of the right people saying all of the right things about him, but no one raves about his game. He's a decent skater, with a decent shot and above-average passing ability. The one area where he's head and shoulders above the rest of the competition is understanding and awareness of the game. He's intelligent and he studies the game. He's big and muscular and can throw booming checks. His coaches give him rave reviews on his work ethic and his vision on the ice.
Next up is John McFarland who skates like Taylor Hall, shoots like Brett Connolly and finishes like Nino Neiderreiter. He's got all of the tools to be an offensive force and a dominant player, but he's available in the second round for a reason. His maturity level has been questioned, his defensive zone play has been shredded, his consistency has been diced, his work ethic is poor and he's not particularly apt to give you his highest level of performance night in and night out.
We've profiled Tyler Pitlick previously because of the SBN second round mock draft, and I didn't think Pitlick would last:
Being able to select Pitlick with the 31st pick was a complete surprise and I don't expect that this option will be available to Steve Tambellini and Stu MacGregor. If it is, someone in the Oilers' organization should be sprinting to the podium to pick Pitlick.
Now that he's available, I believe the OIlers should start the day by drafting Tyler Pitlick. Not only do they get a two-way center, they get their own Tyler. From his profile:
Other scouting reports on Pitlick talk about his work in both zones and his superior faceoff skill. Essentially, he's ready-made for the NHL, even if he doesn't become a high-end scorer. He's big, fast, possesses finishing ability, play-making ability, a nice shot, faceoff skill and is quickly becoming a good defensive player.
The other Tyler available for the pick is Tyler Toffoli, the center from the Ottawa 67s. Toffoli isn't big and he's not especially strong, but he is a skilled player who keeps his feet moving - always. He's got very strong finishing ability and can play Oates to a teammate's Hull. He's being called "the poor man's Alex Tanguay".
Those are the big four, but there are still others who might be selected. Two of the most likely in the next group are both from Sweden. Calle "Iron Hook" Jarnkrok, the diminutive playmaker that skates like he's being chased, and Ludvig Rensfeldt, the hulking center that enjoys working in traffic and on the walls.