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Draft Day Strategies at 16th Overall

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Draft by position, or best player available? That is the question.

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TSN Insider and hockey sage Bob McKenzie did a brief Q & A on Twitter the other day, during which he revealed his opinion on what the Oilers’ focus will be on draft day after they call Connor McDavid’s name.

Bobby Mac believes Edmonton will be calling primarily defencemen in Florida at the end of June, with a goalie likely mixed in there as well. This all makes sense. With Oscar Klefbom graduated to the NHL and Darnell Nurse knocking at the door after wrapping up his junior career against the Erie Otters in the OHL finals this past May, the blue line prospect corps are looking thinner than they previously did. It’s also common knowledge among Oilers fans that the situation in the crease, both at the NHL and prospect level after Laurent Brossoit, is an ominous abyss.

So it should come as no surprise if the Oilers, should they retain the 16th overall selection, take a blueliner with that pick. QMJHL import Jakub Zboril’s name has been tossed around a lot here at Copper & Blue.

A bit about him, from Elite Prospects:

Jakub Zboril is a smart, fleet-footed two-way defenseman that plays to his strengths in all three areas of the ice. While he doesn't aim to impress, he does all of the little things right and plays with an edge. The neutral zone is his launching pad: he is able to take off into the offensive end, or backcheck quickly into his own end. Very sound positionally. Smooth skater with lots of energy to burn. Not afraid to lay the body, or take a hit to make the play; can and will stand up for teammates. Possesses good hands and awareness on the ice, as well as a hard shot that is quite accurate. All-in-all, a complete defenseman that is relied upon to offset any oncoming attacks, as well as create chances in the opposing end.

But with nine forwards being ranked between 10-20 on ISS’ final draft rankings, and another five from 20-30, there will be a plethora of enticing forward options available at that spot as well.

With defencemen traditionally being slightly more difficult to project at the draft (more so in the very early goings of the process), it’s worth asking the question: should the Oilers draft by position at 16, or take the best player available according to their draft board (could be a d-man or a forward), which is generally viewed as a safe and sound draft day strategy?

It’s also worth noting that, outside of the centre position where Connor McDavid will soon join Leon Draisaitl in the prospect ranks, the cupboards are pretty bare on both wings. A quick glance at the Hockey’s Future prospect list for Edmonton confirms this (for instance, they rank Jujhar Khaira as our best LW prospect and Iiro Pakarinen as our best at RW).

There is an abundance of offensive upside at the forward position ranked in the middle of the pack, including Evgeny Svechnikov, Nick Merkley, Timo Meier, and my personal favourite, Travis Konecny. Those are a few examples of exactly the kind of player Edmonton will need to come in and provide secondary scoring on a cheap entry level contract, in three or so years when young players currently (or soon to be) on the roster are looking for a raise.

I'll take a closer look at some of the aforementioned players as we get closer to the draft, but in the meantime, have your say in poll below.