This morning, Oilers' GM Steve Tambellini had a quick press conference to discuss the 2011 NHL entry draft plan and to answer questions from the local media. His answers were as expected, no surprises really, but it's good to hear him speak on the subject. Especially when so many rumours are flying. Typically there are more rumours before the first round, than the second day and rounds two through seven. This year seems to have more rumors than usual for some reason or another. It may be linked to how evenly the top prospects seem to be ranked. There is of course the discussion on whether or not the Oilers would trade their first overall pick down to pick someone other than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the prospect of the Oilers trading the LA Kings 19th overall pick and maybe even a player for a lower pick. What the Oilers will do won't be decided until the conclusion of the draft.
Tambellini was all smiles as he approached the podium and waited for the first questions. He expressed gratitude to his amateur scouting staff and reiterated just how much faith he has in them. "I'm really impressed with the work of Stu McGreggor... I think that Stu has brought the amateur scouting staff to a different level." This is something that most fans can agree with, and very few are concerned about that end of trades this weekend in St. Paul Minnesota. It is the professional scouting staff that makes many fans nervous.
On moving up in the draft from the 19th, or any of the other picks the Oilers hold Tambellini said "If we feel so passionate about a player that we have to have him no matter what, then we'll move up." Which makes sense, but the question of course becomes who out there might the Oilers feel so passionately about? Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson is of course a possibility, but so are any of the larger centremen that are projected to go in the first round. Remember though, "If it was the right deal, I would consider anything." Tambellini said with a sly look.
On the first overall draft pick "I know we'll make the right decision... It's important that we make the right decision for the organization right now." Tambellini told the crowd. This leads some to believe that they may not be too interested in defensemen that may take years to develop, and years of waiting before they can make the team. However, Tambellini did express that he felt his team has a lot of holes, and in every position. He feels "When you really look at our organization, we're a year into this as far as introducing a lot of new players to our organization... we need a lot of help in a lot of places. We need elite players... we're in a mode here where it's acquisition of elite talent." And in terms of what positions he may focus on "If you pick a forward first, or a defenseman first, but you would like to come out with some balance." By this, the Oilers must be looking to get a good balance at least in the first round. This makes sense and likely isn't a surprise to anyone.
On speaking about the draft, Tambellini clearly didn't tip his hat, nor did he show any cards. Maybe he really did mean "I'm going into this wide open. I don't feel that I need to add in more young players to our roster... If there is something special out there... I'll consider it." In all likelihood, Tambellini is looking at trades and deals, but if they are only fair in his mind, they aren't going to happen. Of course the opposite is true as well. We hope. If you hope for anything at this draft, it's likely that the Oilers brass don't sell the farm looking to sign this year's Hossa.
Tambellini did field a question or two on Oilers forward Ales Hemsky. "[Hemsky] is excited. I think, for the first time, that he's going to start the season in great condition." Tambellini went on to say that Hemsky is feeling healthy in regard to both shoulders and that he is "going to come back here in early July. I think he's in a great frame of mind, this is a big year for him." Could this be trade talk, or is it truly that Tambellini is hoping for a great year from Hemsky to complement his youth core on the team. My money is that both he and Hemsky are excited that the winger is healthy and is working on his fitness for next season. This is the same team that doesn't want to give up on Jean-Francois Jacques; they can't be ready to trade Hemsky now.