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2015 NHL Draft Review

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We grade the Oilers' work at the NHL Entry Draft, because we're judgmental, and because we can.

Peter Chiarelli has glasses.
Peter Chiarelli has glasses.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is officially complete, and we at the Copper and Blue are here to pick up the pieces and catalog them for your convenience.  Yesterday saw the Oilers draft one of the most important Canadian teenagers ever.  It also saw the Oilers deal some pretty dear assets for a pretty questionable return.  Today the Oilers dealt some mid-round picks for some promising help in net, but also saw them deal Martin Marincin for a small collection of yarns and other string.  Let’s take a look at all of the Oilers wheelings, and their dealings, below:

1st Overall – C Connor McDavid

Grade: A+

Mr. Superlative himself.  The Oilers were fortunate enough to be in the most enviable position of welcoming Connor McDavid to their organization.  This guy is the bee’s knees, if said bee were already wearing the cat’s pajamas.  Connor McDavid is the truth, and as I argued previously, may already be the most important Edmonton Oiler ever. No brainer, no problem.

Trade – 16th Overall + 33rd Overall for D Griffin Reinhart

Grade: C-

For me, this deal is mostly lateral.  The Oilers dealt 16th (Matthew Barzal) and 33rd (Mitchell Stephens) to acquire former 4th overall pick Griffin Reinhart from the Islanders.  In Reinhart, the Oilers are getting a guy with great pedigree, great bloodlines (ugh), and all the tools to be an effective shut-down guy.  What’s concerning to this corner of the Copper and Blue is the fact that he’s never been a point producer, and he didn’t knock anyone’s socks off in the AHL last year.  Lingering concerns about his foot speed gives me the Whitney’s.  That said, he’ll be given a shot to compete for an NHL job next year – likely a bottom pair gig - at camp, almost certainly.  But the fact that Matthew Barzal was still available at 16 makes this one a little hard to justify for me though.

Trade – 57th Overall + 79th Overall + 184th Overall for G Cam Talbot + 209th Overall

Grade: B+

This is good business by Peter Chiarelli.  If the rumor that the Rangers turned down two second round picks is to believed, and I think it is, the Oilers made out quite well here.  Talbot was one of the best available options at the position this summer, and the Oilers got him for a very reasonable price.

Compensation – 86th Overall for Todd McLellan

Grade: A

I may be in the minority here, and this may not be a deal worth grading, but Todd McLellan might be the most qualified coach the Oilers have ever hired.  I’m not saying he’s better than Sather, but McLellan’s resume is quite impressive.  If you were to ask me if I would trade a third round pick for Todd McLellan and his absurd 311-163-66 record as a head coach, I’d have said absolutely.  I’d make that deal in a New York minute, and the depth of this draft isn’t enough to prevent me from giving the Oilers an A for the hire.

Trade – D Martin Marincin for F Brad Ross + 107th Overall

Grade: D-

I am not a fan of this trade at all.  For all of his warts, Martin Marincin was still a young, tall, fairly skilled young defenseman who had already shown glimpses of brilliance at the NHL level.  Brad Ross is a guy that I’ve never heard of.  I’m not the most thorough guy out there; I can’t name all of the top prospects for a given team, but I’ve usually at least heard of notable guys in rival systems.  I had to do some digging.  Well, according to eliteprospects.com, Brad Ross is:

A tough winger, Ross is the kind of player who can really get under your skin as an opponent. He plays with a lot of energy and loves to hit. Also owns some offensive instincts.

These offensive instincts have yielded middling numbers in junior, poor numbers in the AHL, and just over a point per game in 10 ECHL contests.  Yeesh.  Given that the 4th round pick has about an 18% chance of being an NHL player, and Brad Ross has probably 0% in an ideal world, this deal stinks.  It stinks like MacTavish.  It stinks like Howson.  It stinks like Lowe.  Ryan Batty and Zach Laing gave this deal a deeper look here, so peruse at your leisure.  I actually woke up to a text that read ‘Marincin is gone.  Ugh.’  I don’t think I can say it any better than that.

Trade – C Travis Ewanyk + 107th Overall for D Eric Gryba

Grade: C-

I can give this deal a passing grade because, in a vacuum, Travis Ewanyk and a lottery ticket for an NHL player seems pretty reasonable.  I could even give it a C if he wasn’t effectively replacing Martin Marincin, but he is.  Or, he will attempt to.  Scouting reports on Gryba are far from flattering, with people I respect describing a player who is very much a #6D and nothing more.  That would be reasonable enough if the Oilers didn’t already have all the bottom pairing guys.  If the Oilers were moving Marincin I’d have certainly preferred they aim a little higher than another soldier for the third pair, but I digress.  A paltry 26 points, and a 49% CF% over the last three seasons is underwhelming for me, but the Oilers certainly could have done worse here.  They didn’t, so I’ll give this one a pass-ish.

117th Overall – D Caleb Jones

Grade: C

The Oilers selected Seth Jones’ younger brother Caleb, of the USNTDP, with the 117th pick.  A gold medalist with the USA at the U18 level, Jonathan Willis gives a nice breakdown of the player here.  This guy is certainly no big reach at 117 (115 NA by CSS, 130 overall by ISS), and by most reports he did appear to make some positive strides this year.  Eliteprospects.com gives us a bit more background on the player:

A versatile two-way defenseman that can fill many different roles and team needs in certain situations due to his workmanlike approach to his position. Possesses a tireless motor and is aggressive on the blue-line. Physicality and board battles are the anchors that hold his game together. Works hard in all situations and is a step ahead in problem solving. Exhibits good mobility, a quick, accurate shot from the point, and an active stick. All-in-all, a heads-up defenseman who plays a solid, smart all-around game.

Jones, like his brother, was drafted by the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and will spend next season marinating in Oregon.

124th Overall – D Ethan Bear

Grade: B+

Bear is a big, mean, physical defenseman from the WHL who only just turned 18 on Saturday.  Ranked 78th overall by ISS and 97th NA by CSS, Bear represents an excellent value pick here with some good upside for the Oilers.  With 57 points in 128 GP in the WHL it doesn’t appear as though Bear’s value is his offense, but the comments about his work in the defensive zone are very encouraging.  From Bruce McCurdy’s profile of the player here, I found this from the ISS:

Bear is a strong physical defender and has displayed strong shutdown upside this season with Seattle in the WHL and with Team Canada at the U18 World Championships. Does a lot of things well, but mainly plays a strong defensive and physical game. Strong in front of the net and along the boards, doesn’t run around in the defensive zone and has good positioning. Developing decision making on the puck although prefers the simple smart plays. Has shown above average hands and puck control with a good shot from the point. Upside is his ability to anticipate and read the defensive zone but able to move the puck with ease and showing improved confidence.

There’s a lot to like about this pick.  All signs point to value with upside, which is exactly what you want in a late-round pick.

154th Overall – D John Marino

Grade: A-

John Marino is a smooth skating, right-shooting defenseman with some size.  Ranked 63rd NA by CSS, and 95th by ISS, this is a pick that represents even more of a ‘steal’ than the Ethan Bear pick – a similarly ranked player a full round later.  This speaks to some solid identification in the amateur scouting department, and another pick with upside and value.  From this Jonathan Willis profile on Marino, I found this report from the ISS:

John Marino has been highly regarded for a few years now and there is good reason for the hype. He’s a smooth-skating defenseman with excellent vision and strong poise and confidence with the puck. Some have questioned his play in the defensive zone, but he’s gotten much better at coverage in his own zone and has a good stick. He doesn’t have the biggest frame, and could definitely stand to put on some added weight, but he does a nice job of containment and maximizes his physical tools. Pound-for-pound, he’s as solid as they come. He does a nice job bringing the puck out of his own zone and is effective on zone entries into the opposition’s end. He’s the type of player that can hold on to the puck due to his agility, stick skills and awareness of his surroundings on the ice.

Marino is committed to Harvard next year, and will benefit greatly from having some time to develop in the NCAA.  Maybe the Oilers just found their next Jeff Petry.  Cross your fingies.

Trade – 2016 7th Round Pick for 208th Overall – G Miroslav Svoboda

Grade: C-

There’s not much to know about Svoboda.  Jonathan Willis provides some insight on the player here:

Svoboda has had two strong seasons at the Czech junior level and his 6’3″ frame gives him good size for the position. He’ll be stepping up to the senior level next year, playing for second division Czech team AZ Havirov. On paper, he’s not a particularly compelling prospect, but he is just a seventh-round pick, he’s big and has shown well in flashes, and what we don’t know from looking at him on paper could probably fill volumes.

Another overaged goalie prospect with middling results from Europe.  Color me over it.

209th Overall – D Ziyat Paigin

Grade: B+

Another draft pick, another defenseman.  This one’s a hulking 6’6’’ Russian though, so there’s that.  In reality the Oilers made good here again with Paigin ranked at 112th by ISS, and 49th EU by CSS.  Blessed with NBA size, the young rearguard played 33 games in the KHL this season.  While his offensive contributions were so small they almost feel made up, there is enough here to be excited about.  I grabbed this from the ISS, which Bruce McCurdy included in his profile of the player:

The big, lanky defender was an imposing figure on the back end for Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL and with Russia at the 2015 U20 World Championships. Paigin’s upside is based around his raw frame and active, intense defensive game. Long active stick and angles well, needs to focus on foot speed and mobility which will benefit when he adds muscle to his massive frame. Thrives in physical play, likes to finish hits and mix it up along the wall. Can be beat wide by quick opposition forwards catching him on the pivot. Decent skill-set on the puck, although at his best when he simplifies his game. Good shot although not much upside in this department at the next level.

Paigin’s future remains unknown, and I imagine that his age and the concerns about his foot speed are what saw him fall so far in the draft.  The good news for us is the Oilers were there to mop up, and given the crapshoot nature of picks this late, there is enough good here to get behind this pick.

Conclusion

All in all, it was a reasonably successful draft for the Edmonton Oilers.  They got Connor McDavid, another former blue-chip defenseman in Griffin Reinhart, and addressed their pressing need at goaltender for a reasonable price.  By no means was it perfect, of course.  The Oilers did leave some exciting prospects like Barzal on the board when they dealt for Reinhart, and they dealt one of their own promising young defenders for an underwhelming return.  But Connor McDavid.  They got Connor McDavid.  Good value on the rest of their picks is not something to be scoffed at either, and though the Oilers didn’t acquire any top 4 help yet, the draft wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  And that’s absolutely something.  Baby steps, Oilers fans.  Baby steps.

Overall grade: C-

Dealing Barzal+ for Reinhart, losing Marincin for peanuts, and failing to address the dearth of top-4 defenseman is just concerning enough to take the shine off of Connor McDavid and the late-round value picks.  But hey, there's always next year.