Photo by Matt Wagner, All rights reserved
That happened. The Oilers walked into the 2012 NHL Draft in the catbird's seat and walked out having confused everyone.
#1 - Nail Yakupov, F, Sarnia Sting: The Oilers did the smart thing, taking the best player available rather than drafting for need, and landed the unanimous best player available overall. Yakupov is a superstar, on par with Taylor Hall (and maybe better), and is going to be a fantastic player. Yakupov is believed to be the first practicing Muslim ever drafted. Yakupov is going to have to overcome Alberta and Canada's xenophobia, especially directed at Russian players (even though he's not Russian) and if he should falter at all, I'd expect the fanbase to grumble relatively quickly. Grade: A
#32 - Mitch Moroz, F, Edmonton Oil: The Oilers did the stupid thing, taking a player they wanted to draft, but taking him 40-60 spots too early. Moroz was ranked somewhere south of 60, and there were three projected first rounders still available to them, but they went with the local kid instead. I could list the alternatives at #32, but there's not enough time. Steve Tambellini said that they believed Moroz would be gone by the time they picked again at #63, so they jumped on him. This is the draft. When you pick at #32 and #63, it's difficult to get a guy ranked at #50, unless you blow things up and get negative value out of your #32 pick. That's exactly what the Oilers did. Moroz became a press row joke as soon as his name was called. Grade: F
#63 - Jujhar Khaira, F, Prince George Spruce Kings: Boom or bust time from here on out and the Oilers went for broke here. Khaira will head to Michigan Tech in the fall and the NCAA will give him a chance to fill out. He's a big kid, bigger than listed (I'd guess 6'3, closer to 6'4), and has offensive ability. He's the first player of East Indian descent drafted into the NHL, and could blaze a trail into the NHL by stopping in Edmonton. This is a player who could become a real power forward and it's not a longshot, like it is for Moroz. Grade: B
#91 - Daniil Zharkov, F, Belleville Bulls: Boom or bust once again, with the Oilers delivering an extremely talented Russian with no interest in returning to the KHL. Zharkov admitted that he struggled with the transition to North American hockey, but that he's got the game down now and considers himself a "Canadian forward". The Oilers managed to get a kid ranked in the 30s at #91 after getting a kid ranked in the 100s at #32. Zharkov is another player who might pan out as a real power forward - he's been referred to as one of the best pure goal scorers in this draft. Grade: A
#93 -, D, Djurgårdens IF: Overagers were in vogue this draft and the Oilers used their next two selections on them. Gustafsson improved his offensive output and looks like a guy who could be one of those late developing Red Wing defensemen, but with Anton Slepyshev and Nikita Gusev available, this pick could've been a home run. Grade: D
#123 - Joey Laleggia, D, Denver: Laleggia is a really nice defenseman, but he's so small that it's a longshot that he'll ever play an NHL game. Fargo's Brian Cooper is in the same boat - these guys have most of the tools and skills necessary to play at the next level, but are held back by their size. Again, this was another frustrating pick with these two aforementioned forwards plus Valeri Vasiliyev and Coda Gordon on the board. Grade: D
#153 - John McCarron, F, Cornell: McCarron is big and mean and is reputed to have some hands. He's an ivy leaguer, so he must have some brains, but big and mean and reputed hands are a dime-a-dozen. Of course, maybe he'll turn out like Kyle Bigos and become a real player. Grade: C
This is where the name Mitch Moroz would've been okay, unfortunately, the Oilers didn't have any seventh round picks.
Overall, the Oilers did the same thing they've done for the last three seasons - they got the easy part, the first overall pick, right. It's all of the rest of the details that they struggle with. Take away the Yakupov pick and there's a real mess here. Alternatively, they could've drafted Yakupov, Collberg/Finn/Aberg, Khaira, Zharkov, Slepyshev , Gusev, Gordon. Lordy.
Oilers final draft grade: C