Is Ekblad Out of Reach? Maybe Not.



The last thing I want to be doing at this time of year is writing a blog about prospects, I'd rather write about a push for the playoffs or preparing for a cup run but the Oilers have left us with the circumstances that caused me to become exhausted with writing about how bad they are and simply cease to write at all. However, as the blogs surrounding the Oilers begin to focus more and more on the draft I find myself noticing a common theme, "We don't have a shot at Ekblad. Trade the draft pick for immediate help."

If you follow me on Twitter, you may know I'm not as keen as many on trading the pick. If you follow closely you may have picked up that I'd trade it for immediate help in a heart beat, but I simply don't believe that the immediate help is out there for what we can give up without being destructive. This however, is a matter for a different post and I'd love to debate it further on Twitter if you'd like, but this particular piece is centred around building the defence from the draft and why I think the Oilers have a real chance at doing just that.

The first and most important part when trying to predict who teams will draft, is attempting to foresee the draft order and which players will be available in their draft position. In my mind, the Oilers draft no lower than 4th overall and that is counting on two extreme events, one involving a surprise in the lottery that would cause a low percentage team to win and draft 1st overall, the other being that the New York islanders, who have lost their top two offensive weapons in Jonathan Tavares and Thomas Vanek as well as their top defenseman, Andrew McDonald in the past 2 weeks, replicate the Oilers Death March of '07. Now I realize an event this extreme wouldn't be necessary for the Oilers to pass the Islanders, but the Oilers are on a pace for approximately 60 pts this season and the Islanders are currently at 57 pts with two remaining games to Buffalo and one to Florida. Ruling these two possibilities out, I don't see Edmonton catching either Calgary or Florida.

I will assume, that neither major event takes place, this leaves Buffalo with the 1st overall selection, Edmonton with the second overall selection. So, to guess at who Edmonton will draft, one must first speculate on who Buffalo will draft. Now, there are two general trains of thought when teams draft, do they take the best player available or draft based on a position of need? In general, teams tend to take the best player available and draft based on position, if neither player is clear and away ahead of the other. Edmonton did this when drafting Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov and Nurse. Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov, far and away had more upside at the time as Adam Larsson and Ryan Murray, and at the time strong arguements could be made either way over drafting Darnell Nurse or Valeri Nichushkin (I personally was pulling for Nichushkin, but I'm glad MacT made the decision he did).

So this poses the question, is there a clear and away best player in this draft? This is where the debate really starts, it appears that in many parts of the Oil Country, Aaron Ekblad is seen to be the clear and away best player in this draft and I can't help but wonder if this doesn't stem from the initial thought that, Edmonton doesn't need more forwards, which in turn put Ekblad on a slightly higher pedestal than is warranted. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mean to knock on Ekblad, there is a lot of hype surrounding him from people more in the know than I. But that is exactly why I wonder, when Ekblad became the clear top player in this draft, like myself, I assume that most people in social media discussing the Oilers, don't watch these prospects on a consistent basis, and therefore rely on the thoughts of others who do. Well, for me one group that I look to for information on prospects is the Central Scouting Service. On their midterm ranking, Ekblad was not ranked #1 or even #2, those positions were held by Sam Bennett and Leon Draisailt respectively. In fact, the CSS surprised many with this list in January, when the #1 ranked player from the begining of the season, Sam Reinhart, had fallen to #4, Ekblad, who was ranked #2 at the start of the season, was listed at #3 at the mid season mark, they explained this by saying that there was no consensus #1 overall in this draft.

To me this, means that Buffalo will be looking at this top 4 list for the player that best fill their own organizational need. What needs, does Buffalo have? Well, a primary cause for Buffalo being where they are, is plain and simple an inability to score. They are averaging a measly 1.92 goals for per game played. To mean that screams that Buffalo needs an offensive talent in a bad way. Added to this, the Sabres are currently sitting on defensive prospects, 6'4" Rasmus Ristolainen, 6'1" Mark Pysyk, 6'1" Jake McCabe, 6'5" Nikita Zadorov and 5'11" Chad Ruhwedel all of which project as top 4 defenseman, in addition to 6'8" Tyler Myers. To me that means Buffalo is no more looking for a big top 4 defenseman than Edmonton is looking for a small skilled forward. I strongly believe they will draft one of Samuel Bennett, Leon Draiailt or Sam Reinhart.

Obviously I'm not inside the brain trust of the Buffalo Sabres but I strongly believe that they will pass on Ekblad and he will be there for the picking if Edmonton drafts 2nd overall.

Let me know your thoughts.




Oilers are on pace for 67 points, this definitely provides, a better chance for the Oilers to pass the Islanders, but I'm still not overly convinced, they do.


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