As Oilers reach the final few games of the season, it is again time to look at the draft. The Oilers look to have another high pick but unless they win the lottery, they will be a footnote in this draft. This is the first draft in a while where there might be some trades in the top 10.
I am not going to mock draft this as the lottery can change and the standings aren't done. What I will say is that it is a good bet that the top 3 will be the top 3. The question is that they are not necessarily the best fit.
I will start by saying that whoever wins the draft will be taking Matthews. I can't find a site that suggests otherwise and I can't think of a reason why GMs would. He has had injury trouble but not to an extent that would have anyone skipping him. A strong overall player and a large frame for a young guy. He is a dynamic top line center that could make a huge impact as early as next year. He is going first. After that there are some question marks.
Take Toronto for example. They are currently being predicted in most drafts as having the first pick but if they don't, would they move down?
The Finnish players, Puljujarvi and Laine are both amazing. Big guys that both offer a lot to whichever team gets them. Most scouting services have Laine ahead of Pujujarvi sites like TSN and NHL.com are not convinced. These two will go 2-3 but in what order is a question. Truth be told, I don't think there is enough of a skill gap between them to go "best available player" like most GM's claim they do. With them being so close, I think the GM picking will take the one that fits his team best.
Still the leafs might be willing to trade to get another pick in the top 5 or trade down to 4. Many teams covet the top 3 to such a degree that the leafs could get a good return moving down. The reason they would hear offers is Tkachuk. Listed as a LW and not a huge size, some might wonder on paper why anyone would want him over the Finish two.
I think he has a huge value for the Leafs specifically. The young OHL player has been dominating on the Knights top line. He plays with Leafs highly coveted prospect, Mitch Marner. The leafs picked Marner fourth overall and hope he is their answer to the line one center position they want to fill.
Recently however, Marner has been struggling at center. The Knights have moved him most games to wing in favor of Tkachuk who seems comfortable playing RW, LW and Center. Grabbing a player that already has amazing chemistry with their top ranked prospect would be a huge addition. It also leaves them with two players that can play any forward role. Having these two on their top line long term would do wonders for the Leafs.
There have been some "experts" suggesting that the Oilers should pass on the top 5 players (Look for Nylander and Tkachuk most likely in that order after the Fins). The theory is that the Oilers should address their need on the blue line rather than taking a top forward. I think any Oilers fan will tell you that this is ridiculous.
The Oilers have a glaring need for 2 top 4 dmen. With that said, this draft has some differing opinions on who the top D is. Most likely we are talking about Jacob Chychrun. A large blue liner in the OHL that is said to be a strong defensive minded player. If anyone is going to slide out of the top 10, look for it to be Jacob. Most prospecting sites list him from 4-9 in rank but I am not convinced he will go ahead of Olli Juolevi or Sergachev Mikhail. I can do a whole blog on why these three can go top 10 or slip to late teens. Also which will go first. The long and the short, Defense men are harder to predict than forwards. Some team is going to luck out with one of these guys but that won't be a top 5 drafting team this year.
Oilers have a strong offensive setup long term. Not needing to add much in the way of top 6 but they are far from being so set up front that they would pass on large top line forwards. I expect them to pick Puljujrvi over Laine. In my opinion, Puljujrvi is a more complete player. Laine is a sniper and would be amazing with Eberle and McDavid. That combination would be silly good. Still Puljujrvi would be the better fit. He seems to edge Laine in the ability to make plays out of nothing. Much like McDavid (although no where close to Connor in talent).
Given "needs" of the other 3 teams most likely to draft in the bottom 5 (Columbus, Vancouver and Calgary). There is no reason to think either would go for a dman over a strong winger/center. This year the best players will be drafted in the order the GMs value them at but it is no mystery it will be all forwards. I don't think any team can be too set on defense but with such disparity in the rankings of the top blueliner, it is a safe bet that they won't go top 5. Not with such talented forwards in this draft.
Other than Toronto, I don't see the potential for trading in the top 10. Teams seem to covet those picks that the asking price is often way too much. It COULD happen but I am pretty sure we all know it won't. I am not sure Toronto would even trade their pick regardless. Not sure if they would trade down but for the first time in a while there is a chance.
I still like the Oilers chances of finishing last. Despite their odd win they are without RNH again. I know last place doesn't guarantee you the top pick but it would really make a lot of people mad if the Oilers drafted first again. I am half rooting for that just to see how mad the Leafs fans can get. Not all Leaf fans are bad but you know there are a few that would make the summer forums an interesting place to be.