Not too long ago, it was passed around in hockey circles that Peter Chiarelli was ‘actively shopping’ the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
In actuality, all he said was that he would ‘listen to offers’, but that was lost in the sea of mixed reactions. Some fans are calling for the pick to be traded for other assets while some are hard set on the concept of ‘draft and develop.
But, what would actually be best for the club? Weighing up the options might give a clearer picture as to the path that Chiarelli and his team should take.
Edmonton needs to improve quickly to avoid wasting any more of Connor McDavid’s years. Having already burned 2 out of 3 of his ELC not making the playoffs, they really need to make the best use of the years they have with him on his current contract, which kicks in at the beginning of the coming 2018-19 season. The best way to improve quickly is to trade picks for known assets, however unsustainable this method is.
Leveraging the pick at the draft to secure players would be a favourable decision but only if it’s for immediate impact players. The Oilers are in desperate need of right handed defensemen and scoring wingers, but the haul depends on what other teams are willing to give up on draft day. Chiarelli specified that ‘if there is a trade, it would probably be on the draft floor’, so take from that what you will.
There is no guarantee that the 2018 10th overall will be a surefire NHL player, so there’s another angle to take into account. If the Oilers miss on their pick in a strong draft class with prospects such as Farabee, Veleno and Kotkaniemi predicted 10th or lower, then they only have themselves to blame. Chiarelli has been ridiculed for some of his non-draft decisions in the past few years, so hopefully his scouts lead him in the right direction.
On a roster that is full of holes in all areas, is it really a good plan to trade a pick with a high potential to be an NHL player in a year or two for a player with less to give on a long term scale? Just because the player may not make the NHL the year of his draft doesn’t mean that he won’t be a high impact player in a year or two. Look at Mathew Barzal (2015) and Charlie McAvoy (2016), key players on their respective teams shortly after their draft year, drafted lower than 10th overall.
The arguments for drafting and developing are clear: it gives a higher chance that the team will have a prospect pool in the future, something Edmonton has struggled with this last season. As far as prospects go, Ethan Bear and Kailer Yamamoto made the roster this year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them make the team again at some point next season.
The Oilers have had some trouble with developing players, so hopefully the new head coach in the AHL, Jay Woodcroft, will make a difference. However, if the Oilers are going to play young forwards (Jesse Puljujarvi) with Milan Lucic for 57% of their ice time, then it’s difficult to understand how how they expect players to flourish in the NHL as teenagers.
The AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors are struggling just as much as the NHL counterpart— finishing dead last in the Pacific division of the American Hockey League with just 72 points. 31 wins and 27 losses. While the Oilers had Connor McDavid to pull them out of last place in the division, Bakersfield had no such luck.
Drafting well ensures long term options for a team desperately in need of depth, particularly on defense and at wing. It’s arguable that they got lucky with Mcdavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins, but centre depth is about all they have, and $27 million is wrapped up in those three players alone.
This year looks to be a strong draft class, so if the Oilers can take advantage of this to secure future success for the organisation then it will provide quality teammates for McDavid for a longer amount of time. There are few players who wouldn’t jump for the chance to play with the Oilers superstar, but does the limited, predictable upside of an already seasoned NHL player outweigh the unlimited potential upside to a new prospect?
The answer of what Chiarelli and the rest of Edmonton’s management might do will become clear come draft day, but until then fans and media can only speculate.
Feature image source: CBSBoston