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So Much Winning: Edmonton Oilers 2016 Draft Roundup

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We're still freaking out about Puljujarvi, but the rest of the Draft was pretty solid, too. Is it time, perhaps, to be hopeful?

Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images

You know that moment in life, when you were expecting it to be a normal summer day but unexpectedly, defying all logic, get invited to the most epic pool party ever? Yesterday was that moment for Edmonton Oilers fans everywhere, as a beautiful Finnish man named Ville Siren, head amateur scout for the Columbus Bluejackets, stepped up to the podium, startled us with his intensely Finnish accent, and then uttered the words "from Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Pierre-Luc Dubois," gifting the Oilers with another beautiful Finnish man lad named Jesse Puljujarvi.

Oilers fans were not prepared for this. Even Peter Chiarelli was not prepared for this, evident by the fact that he called up "Jesse Pool-zhu-zhar-vee" (though most of us would probably have just gone onstage and said ‘Pool Party! Whoo!’) and the nameless Oilers jersey Puljujarvi received. But none of that matters now; not only did the Oilers get an extremely solid, consensus #3 pick, it’s that much sweeter because it came as a total surprise. For the duration of the evening after that moment, Oilers fans relished in drinking the salty tears of fans from all other 29 teams, as has been the custom for the past six years.

Rest assured, though, as no amount of saltiness will taint the pristine waters at our exclusive pool party—Jesse Puljujarvi is now an Edmonton Oiler, no takebacksies, and joining him are a host of other promising prospects selected throughout all seven rounds of the draft. Overall, Chia and team had themselves a solid draft, landing some local talent, big size, and most notably four defensemen, with a majority of the picks projected to go much higher than where the Oilers ended up drafting them.

Let’s meet the newest prospects of the Edmonton Oilers organization.

#4: Jesse Puljujarvi

Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images

Name: Jesse Puljujarvi

DOB: May 7, 1998

H/W: 6’4, 206 lbs

Place of Birth: Älvkarleby, Sweden

Position: RW

Shoots: R

Selected: 4th Overall, 1st Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #3 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#3 by ISS Hockey
Ranked
#3 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#3 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#3 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
Ranked #3 by TSN/McKenzie

Potential Nicknames: Pool Party, Pulley RV, McPoolParty (when playing with McDavid), McPouParty (when playing with McDavid and Pouliot)

The date is May 7, 1998. The world was buzzing with the news of Mercedes-Benz buying Chrysler for $40 million USD, forming DaimlerChrysler in the largest industrial merger in history. To Oilers fans, however, the biggest development that day would happen in the sleepy town of Älvkarleby, Sweden. In a town with a population barely above 1,600, a presumably adorable infant named Jesse Puljujärvi came into the world that day, quickly growing into a hulking 6’4, 206 lb right winger who would lead his team to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2015, be drafted by the Edmonton Oilers fourth overall in 2016, and may soon become the right-hand man of Connor McDavid.

His achievements as an 18-year old are already lofty- Puljujarvi was the MVP and scoring leader at the World Junior Championships last Christmas, with 17 points in seven games, a tally tying him with Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros and behind only the mythical Jaromir Jagr for all-time points in the tournament. From International Scouting Services:

Played for SM-Liiga powerhouse offense in Karpat and has developed his way into a core member of their offense. Was MVP and dominant at times at U18 and finished the tournament with a hat trick, as Finland beat Sweden 6-1 to win the gold medal. Forces opposition players to respect his shot, which is elite, and can create plays because of this. Big and strong with a long reach and he just shrugs guys off. Always seems to have good body position whether protecting the puck or defending. Has a powerful skating stride and has another gear when needed – responsible in all three zones – soft quick hands and a heavy shot. Reads the play well and plays well away from the puck. Has excellent hockey sense. Character guy with all the attributes to be a top end player in the NHL – Showed superstar potential.

If you are literally salivating after reading that, it’s okay—that’s the appropriate response. Wipe the drool off your keyboard and high five whoever’s around you because this is a big deal.

People often talk of fate and how one decision can alter the fate of individuals in a big way—in this case, the more one looks at the pick that landed in the Oilers’ laps, the more it seems like it will change the dynamic of the team’s future in a big way. Regardless of how Pierre-Luc Dubois pans out for the Bluejackets, and he may very well turn out to be a great player, a McPoolParty dynamic duo is tantalizing, to say the least. Puljujarvi, more of a playmaker than his Finnish trigger-happy compatriot Patrik Laine, is a great complement to McDavid on the right side.

There have already been multiple members of the media telling you to "enjoy McDavid." As strange as it sounds, this is what everyone is thinking, and the Kurri/Gretzky comparisons rolled out by the hundreds as soon as you put on the Oilers jersey. Let’s face it—everybody wants to be McDavid’s sidekick. Puljujarvi wants to, Dubois wants to, you want to, and I want to, no matter how pathetically ineffective I would be in such a situation.

The other implication of landing a big, skilled right winger is it provides depth for the Oilers in an area not quite as deep as many would think. The Oilers’ depth chart in right wing consists pretty much solely of Jordan Eberle (it drops off a steep cliff after that with Kassian and Pakarinen), and while I hate to say it, the addition of Puljujarvi gives the Oilers a lot more options when it comes to trading for a first-pairing blueliner. I don’t want to suggest that Eberle, my childhood hero, is expendable, because that thought alone makes me want to go fill a fish tank with my tears, but I just want to say that there are options, and that is all.

Puljujarvi, when asked if he was disappointed when Columbus did not select him, said he is excited to come to Edmonton and adding, "It is a real hockey town."

I like this kid already.

#32: Tyler Benson

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Name: Tyler Benson

DOB: March 15, 1998

H/W: 6’0, 201 lbs

Place of Birth: Edmonton, AB, Canada

Position: LW

Shoots: L

Selected: 32nd Overall, 2nd Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #34 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#55 by ISS Hockey
Ranked
#29 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#43 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#24 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Ranked #39 by TSN/McKenzie

Potential Nicknames: SVU

How many times growing up do you think Tyler Benson thought about pulling on that Oilers jersey and playing for his hometown team? Oilers fans witnessed a dream coming true today and some local flavour was brought in with the next pick as Tyler Benson, Edmonton native and captain of the Vancouver Giants, was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the 32nd pick. There’s always something warm and fuzzy about these stories, and while a look at the projections suggests the Oilers may have picked him a bit higher than expected, it’s not a surprise given the organization’s affinity for local talent and the possibility of more in-depth scouting and knowledge of his play due to the local connection. Either way, it’s not an egregious overreach, and by many accounts Benson, who was drafted 1st overall into the WHL in 2013, was ranked as high as 10th overall by ISS in 2015, two spots ahead of Patrik Laine, and could have been a potential late first round pick had it not been for injuries this past season.

After he was selected by the Oilers, Craig Button had nothing but good things to say about the pick. "Tyler's so smart, understands what his game can be. He's not going to lose the offense, but when you can kill penalties and you've got good play down low on the cycle game, take the puck to the net, really smart, that's a good fit." Projected to be a middle-six forward, the question is whether he can overcome his injury issues and prove he can make an impact at the NHL level in a few years.

From Defending Big D:

Benson is undoubtedly a very talented hockey player. He's not particularly flashy in any ways, but offers a complete, reliable, 200-foot game. He's very stocky for his frame of 5'11" and 196 pounds, which allows him to protect the puck well in the offensive zone and play something of a power game. He controls the puck down low and can both use his vision to set up his teammates for scoring chances as well as take the puck hard to the net himself.

What truly makes Benson special, though, is that he has an elite hockey IQ for a player of his age, which could make him a versatile, all-situations player at the NHL level and an excellent complement on a skilled line.

#63: Marcus Niemelainen

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Name: Markus Niemelainen

DOB: June 8, 1998

H/W: 6’6, 205 lbs

Place of Birth: Kuopio, Finland

Position: D

Shoots: L

Selected: 63rd Overall, 3rd Round

Draft Profile: SBN College Hockey

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #42 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#62 by ISS Hockey
Ranked
#63 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#48 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#52 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Ranked #38 by TSN/McKenzie

Potential Nicknames: Niemo (I saw Finding Dory last night and memories are fresh. I want to make Niemo a thing. Can this be a thing?)

How are kids thesedays so big? There must be something special about the food in Kuopio, a picturesque town in the heart of Finland known for Kalakukko, a national delicacy made from fish baked inside of a bread. I know what I’ll be feeding my kids in the future.

The Oilers finally draft a defenseman in the third round, and he’s a dandy. Beyond bringing substantial size, Niemelainen is also a smooth, mobile skater with great poise, positioning, and decision-making, described by Curtis Joe of EliteProspects as a "complete all-around defenseman…honestly lacking nothing." Curtis, I hope you’re right because that sounds really great. A big, defensively stable, smooth-skating defenseman at #63, ranked at #38 by Bob McKenzie, has the makings of a potential steal, and if all goes according to plan, the Oilers may end up with two great Finnish players from the 2016 draft.

From ISS:

Niemelainen jumps out on the ice due to his size but it’s his on ice smarts that make him an intriguing prospect. Tall and rangy defenseman he played a steady, reliable World U18 tournament helping win the Gold medal for the Finns. Good passer, good vision good shot. Has good hands but doesn’t carry the puck much. Has a good shot but would rather pass from the point. Not physical, good stick. Very good skater with mobility. Turns very well and has good acceleration. Gets back and takes care of his defensive duties. Pins players extremely well using his size, won’t finish any checks extremely hard but isn’t easy to play against. With his NHL ready frame, good mobility and quick decision making he only needs to improve his strength and offensive game to make an impact at the next level.

#84: Matthew Cairns

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Name: Matthew Cairns

DOB: Apri 27, 1998

H/W: 6’2, 190 lbs

Place of Birth: Missisauga, ON, Canada

Position: D

Shoots: L

Selected: 84th Overall, 3rd Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #77 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#110 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#100 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#86 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Potential Nicknames: Cairbear, Cairnivore (I’m trying, guys)

Teddy Purcell died for this pick.

With the third round pick that was part of the Purcell deal with the Panthers last season, the Oilers pick up another left-shooting defenseman in Cairns, a mentee of Paul Coffey from the OJHL’s Georgetown Raiders. Tallying nine goals and 24 goals in his 46 games with the Raiders this season, Cairns is headed to Ithaca as a freshman at Cornell in 2017, the alma mater of Ken Dryden and, more recently, Oilers legend Ben Scrivens. It’ll likely be a few years before he is NHL ready and he may even finish his degree, but scouts laud his size, speed, and offensive upside as a defenseman. Also, if you're the Oilers, hoarding defensemen like you have an addiction is never a bad idea.

#91: Filip Berglund

Leif Andersson/Norran

Name: Filip Berglund

DOB: May 10, 1997

H/W: 6’3, 209 lbs

Place of Birth: Skellefteå, Sweden

Position: D

Shoots: R

Selected: 91st Overall, 3rd Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #77 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#110 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#100 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#86 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Potential Nickname: Filipping Bergers

A right-shot defenseman! This is the Swedish prince that was promised, and parched Oilers fans rejoice at the sound of what is becoming the buzzword of 2016.

I almost don’t want to mention that this is the pick acquired through the Justin Schultz deal, so as not to curse this innocent child. Berglund hails from Skellefteå, a mining city nicknamed "Gold Town," also a well-known hockey town and soon to be the site of the hind legs of Stoorn, the world’s largest moose, spanning from Skellefteå to Arvidsjaur. I personally would really love it if we could draft Stoorn in next year’s entry draft.

Berglund is an overager in this draft and looks to be a solid, big defenseman with good hockey IQ, puck control, and passing ability, with skating being an area for improvement.

In addition, it looks like he’s also got some potential offensive upside to his game, according to the NHL Draft Black Book:

Filip Berglund is a pro-sized right-shot right-defenseman who significantly improved his last season’s total from 11 points to 41, especially notable however was the increase in goals from just 1 to an impressive 19 this year.  Despite the large frame and not the fastest stride, Berglund actually has good finesse with the puck. He controls the puck very well and uses his size to protect it. Berglund has good instincts both when starting the transition out of his own zone as well as in the offensive zone. Not only does he not struggle with starting the transition, he looks pretty comfortable for a big man in those situations and will handle the puck without any panic in his game.

#123: Dylan Wells

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Name: Dylan Wells

DOB: January 3, 1998

H/W: 6’2, 183 lbs

Place of Birth: St. Catharines, ON, Canada

Position: Goalie

Shoots: R

Selected: 123rd Overall, 5th Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #97 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#111 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#72 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#10 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Goalies)

Potential Nickname: The Great Wells of Edmonton

Edmonton’s only goalie of the draft comes to the organization sporting a rather scary 16-28-2-5 record, 4.28 GAA & .882 sv% in 54 career games, but it’s worth noting his junior team, the Peterborough Petes, were quite horrendous the past season. Scouts note his athleticism and quickness, while citing consistency as the biggest area for improvement. It’s quite normal for goalies to not have completely rounded into form at age 18, and with some patience, development, and seasoning, the Oilers will have two seasons to see if Wells continues to improve in the OHL before making any choices.

#149: Graham McPhee

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Name: Graham McPhee

DOB: July 24, 1998

H/W: 5’11, 172 lbs

Place of Birth: Bethesda, MD, USA

Position: LW

Shoots: L

Selected: 149th Overall, 5th Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #165 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#100 by ISS Hockey
Ranked
#123 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#110 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Potential Nickname: McPheenom

McPhee comes to the Oilers through a pick acquired through the Anders Nilsson trade, essentially swapping a giant for a normal-sized human. McPhee comes with a lot of potential, a hard-working energy guy who battles along the boards and seems projected to be a role player.

The son of former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee, McPhee will be playing at Boston College, the same school his father attended. It’s rather surprising this is the first Oilers pick with hockey pedigree, as this year’s top 30 felt like an Ivy League freshman class with legacy players abound, with seven sons of former players drafted in the first round alone.

It was an emotional moment for Papa McPhee, long in the business of drafting and development but having the feels hit him hard upon his son’s selection. The Standard-Times had a nice story and interview with him—

"It's an emotional thing. I was hoping it wouldn't be this emotional," he added, with his voice cracking. "Got the lump in the throat."

Oilers fans are also hoping Graham makes his father proud with a bright future on the team.

Per David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting:

Every time I see him I think he does more to give me the confidence to say this is the kind of player who will only get better," Gregory said. "You immediately notice his compete level for sure. He goes out and gives you everything he has each shift. Then you start to see the hockey sense and how he's capable of making the right play in almost every zone. Then there's the skill, which might have been unexpected because there were other people on the team that potentially had more of that role on the team. To me, he's a coach's dream in a sense that you can play him a lot of situations and you know what you're going to get out of him from his work ethic.

#153: Aapeli Rasanen

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Name: Aapeli Rasanen

DOB: June 1, 1998

H/W: 6’0, 196 lbs

Place of Birth: Tampere, Finland

Position: C

Shoots: R

Selected: 153rd Overall, 6th Round

Projections (via ElitePropects):

Ranked #135 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked
#157 by ISS Hockey
Ranked
#59 by Future Considerations
Ranked
#93 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked
#21 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)

Potential Nicknames: Aapeman, the Raspirator, Rasa Man

Rasanen is from the same town as Patrik Laine, and while he may not be Patrik Laine (let’s face it, no one in this draft comes close to the swagger of Laine), this looks to be another nice pick-up for a center projected to go significantly higher than where we landed him. Rasanen is an average-sized center with good leadership potential, having captained at multiple levels, and a top-three player on Finland’s gold medal World Juniors team this past Christmas.

In a full write-up from SB Nation College Hockey, Chris Dilks likes Rasanen’s puck sense, poised play, and strong stick, while pointing out his skating and lack of size as areas of improvement. The draft projection was "late-second/early-third round, though I can see him going closer to 3rd/4th round in the actual Draft," and if that’s not enough to be bullish on Rasanen, the pro projection looks pretty solid for a 6th round pick:

I think we've already covered the best case scenario, but even if Rasanen doesn't meet those lofty expectations, I think he's capable of playing center on a lower line at the NHL level and being a smart, effective two-way center. Rasanen will come over to North American to play in the USHL next season and then presumably will pick up a scholarship offer to play NCAA hockey, meaning the team that drafts him will get ample time to let him develop.

#183: Vincent Desharnais

Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images

Name: Vincent Desharnais

DOB: May 29, 1996

H/W: 6’6, 209 lbs

Place of Birth: Laval, QC, Canada

Position: D

Shoots: R

Selected: 183rd Overall, 7th Round

Projections (via ElitePropects): n/a

With the last pick, the Oilers went off the board and selected an overage but also significantly oversized defenseman, hoarding big, right-shot defensemen like there’s no tomorrow. Desharnais is a rising sophomore at Providence College, where he plays a physical game without much of an offensive edge. While I was not able to find much on him scouting-wise, a look at his Twitter account reveals a strong disposition towards hashtags.

By the time you get to the last pick, it’s almost like you’re writing about an average human on the streets, but it must have been a thrill for Desharnais to be selected.

***

At the end of the day, the consensus from the 2016 Draft should be that the Oilers got lucky again, and the potential combo of McDavid and Puljujarvi pretty soon in the future is another reason for Oilers fans to be hopeful about the future. I’m sure that’s the first time you've heard anyone say that after an Entry Draft, but really, we went into this draft not expecting immediately NHL-ready help and came away with a high impact right-winger likely ready to play when the season starts at Rogers Arena next season. Were people in Seattle marginally alarmed when I walked through the streets shouting "Pool Party!" to anyone in sight? Perhaps, but this was a really good two days for the Edmonton Oilers organization, so let’s jump in and hope Chiarelli makes an even bigger splash on the blueline when July 1 rolls around.