Draft Picks and Patience

The NHL Draft Lottery comes early this year, April 9th. Unless the Oilers get a major bump to the top of the draft, (about one chance in eight of grabbing the first or second pick), help won’t be on the way anytime soon from the class of 2019.

Let’s go back to 2016. Great jubilation when the Oilers snagged the much ballyhooed Jesse Puljujarvi with #4 pick. Sigh. Later in the draft, at pick #32 it was Tyler Benson. He’s leading the AHL Rookie scoring charts with about a point a game and all the signs are pointing up.

Should we be thrilled he’s on his way to the big club or disappointed it took so long – as in 3 years to have a genuine shot at breaking in to the NHL. I had a look at a few of the other early 2nd round picks from 2016 and that informs us we should be thrilled .

Pick #31 in 2016 was Yegor Korshkov – picked by the Leafs but unsigned. This year he’s in the KHL playing right wing to the tune of 5 points in 19 games.

Pick #33 was Rasmus Aplund a forward now in the AHL – 36 points in 70 games. Not Tyler Benson territory, but reasonable production.

Pick #35 was Jordan Kyrou, centre – now on the St. Louis Blues with 16 games and 1-2-3 boxcars.

From this sample, of the forwards chosen at the top of the 2nd Round in 2016, there’s essentially no impact on the fortunes of the NHL club and in the case of Toronto, it’s looking like another lesson learned in drafting Russians – don’t.

Moving on to 2017 there was the promise of Kailer Yamamoto chosen at pick #22. As you’ll see from the players chosen about the same time as Yamamoto – middle of round one – draft plus two doesn’t translate in to much NHL impact.

Pick #19 in 2017 was Josh Norris. He was at the University of Michigan this year with 17 games and 19 points. Yawn.

Pick #20 Robert Thomas, centre, is the bright spot in this bunch, earning 33 points in 66 games with the St. Louis Blues.

Pick #21 Centre Filip Chytl is now with the Rangers posting 23 points in 75 games. That’s enough to make Milan Lucic jealous…but not enough to turn any dials that matter.

Pick #22 Kailer Yamamoto. Not a great year with a few nagging injuries and just 18 points in 27 games for the AHL Condors.

Pick #24 Right Wing Kristian Vesalainen – he looked great at the Jets training camp but is now piddling along in the KHL with 17 points in 31 games.

I’ve seen both Josh Norris and Kailer Yamamoto play in person. Without question nobody has ever skated faster than Josh Norris in the pre-game skate. It’s really his strong point. Yamamoto has so many boosters on Coppernblue I’m keeping all my pins in a locked drawer and avoiding contact with any balloons. However, Chytl and Thomas are positives that might make a difference to their clubs in 2019/20.

And that brings us to this year’s draft!!

Assuming the Oilers draft in the 6 to 10 range, they’ll have a shot at some high quality picks, not unlike the talent we saw last year that gave us Evan Bouchard.

The names to consider can be divided in to two groups of three:

1. If we’re lucky:

* Byram Bowen – a left shot D man who is said to have Drew Doughty qualities. He’ll likely be the top Canadian chosen in the draft.

* Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens – both playing in the WHL, both centres.

2. Certain to be on the radar:

* Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zebras and Matthew Boldy – all play C

How soon could we expect one of these forwards to arrive in Edmonton…and matter?

In 2017 there were five forwards chosen in the range of picks # 7 to 11. And of those, three arrived in the NHL this year. Lias Andersson is with the Rangers grabbing 6 points in 40 games. Casey Mittlestatd notched 25 points in 76 games for Buffalo and Michael Rasmussen has but 18 points in 62 games for Detroit. Owen Tippett is still in the OHL and Gabe Vilardi was injured this year though he had arrived in LA.

The take-away from this is pretty obvious. We’ll get a talented player in the first round, but not one that is going to make a difference in next two years.

Oh yeah, the question is probably who would you pick? I’d move assets to get Byram Bowen. He’s a left shot D – line him up with Bouchard and we’ve got something every Cup contender needs.

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