EDMONTON – The teams picking one through four this year at the NHL Entry Draft can’t really go wrong. The top four prospects are all outstanding – that being forwards Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and defenceman Aaron Ekblad.
With the third pick in Friday night’s first round, a lot of fans are saying the Edmonton Oilers need to take Ekblad. He is the best defenceman by far in the draft; world junior teammate Matthew Dumba described him as a man-child. He’s 6’4″ and 216 pounds at the age of 18. He’s big. He’s good. Ekblad is the first defenceman to enter the OHL a year early under the ‘John Tavares Rule.’ He’s a building block for all teams.
But, here’s the thing, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Scott Howson said at the draft lottery that in terms of prospects, the Oilers are deepest on the back end. He’s talking about guys like Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. I don’t think the Oilers are planning to take Ekblad, which I know some fans will be very upset about. (Quite frankly, I don’t even think Ekblad will still be available anyway).
In my opinion, the Edmonton Oilers will go with a centre and considering their picks of small skilled forwards three years straight, the Oil will go with German centre Leon Draisaitl. He’s a power forward which is what the Oilers are in desperate need of. He picked up 105 points with the Raiders last year and scouts are saying he’s ready to play in the NHL this upcoming season.
The Oilers don’t have a second or third round pick at this year’s draft. There is talk of centre Sam Gagner being traded for a draft pick, but that would likely be late first rounder. It will be interesting to see if GM Craig MacTavish tries to get his hands on a second round pick. At the trade deadline he did say that he’d hoped to get a second or third round pick through his dealings of players.
Oil Kings to watch for
The Edmonton Oil Kings have three players that are likely to go in the first four rounds of this year’s draft.
At the top of the pack is forward Brett Pollock of Sherwood Park. Pollock won’t go in the first round, but he’ll be picked near the top of the second. The centre really dazzled during the Oil Kings playoff run – showing off his ability to make space for himself. His inconsistency, though, could scare some teams off.
Defenceman Dysin Mayo is likely go early in the third round. International Scouting Services has him ranked at 136, but it’s certain he got a lot of looks this post season by scouts. He played on such a good team that he may have been overlooked – but Mayo is good in a lot of situations. He’ll be a great two-way defenceman for whatever team selects him.
Rounding out the group that should go in the top 100 is WHL rookie defenceman Aaron Irving. He has had great blueliners to learn from; that includes the calm, cool, collected Griffin Reinhart and Ashton Sautner who isn’t drafted, but finished the year with a whopping +59. Irving’s role with the Oil Kings will increase with Reinhart likely to head to the NHL and Sautner graduating. He’s got a hard shot and is tough.
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