Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oilers Win NHL Draft Lottery Again

For the third straight year, the Edmonton Oilers will get the first pick in the NHL draft.

The Oilers, who finished 29th in league standings and had the second-best odds going into the draft lottery behind the 30th-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets, won the lottery even though their odds of winning were only 18.8 per cent to the Blue Jackets’ 48.2 per cent. It was the first time since the lottery was instituted in 1995 that a team going in with the second-best odds has won.

In 2010 the Oilers were 30th place, won the lottery and took Taylor Hall with their first selection at the draft.

In 2011, the Oilers were 30th place and the New Jersey Devils actually won the lottery, but the rules state teams can only move up four spots, so the Devils could only go from No. 8 to No. 4. The Oilers retained the first selection and took Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Now we’ll see if they go for Russian-born, Sarnia Sting junior winger Nail Yakupov, who is the consensus top youngster in the draft pool. They don’t really need more forwards with Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle in their lineup, but Yakupov is, as one scout said “explosive like Pavel Bure used to be.”

He’s a tantalizing talent, but this could be one of those times when the team with the first selection is in quandary.

“You could take Yakupov. You could keep the No. 1 pick and take somebody else. You could trade the pick and move back in the draft, couldn’t you?” TSN host James Duthie asked Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini.

“Yes, all of the above,” said Tambellini.

The Oilers have greater needs on defence with Ryan ­Murray of Everett Silvertips and the Edmonton Oil Kings’ Griffin Reinhart very high on their list.

They might want a big centre which would bring Russian-born Mikhail Grigorenko, who plays for Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts, into play.

The most likely scenario is Tambellini sits back, surveys the landscape, and waits for his phone to ring. When you have the top pick and you aren’t necessarily sold on taking the best player as the Oilers were with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, other NHL GMs will be calling with trade offers. If the Oilers could move back a couple of spots and still get a defenceman and also get an established player off another club’s roster, they might do that.

Last year, Tambellini had Nugent-Hopkins over to his house for dinner before the draft, a tip-off the Oilers were taking the Red Deer Rebels centre. Nugent-Hopkins finished his first NHL season with 52 points in 62 games. This year, everybody’s waiting to see who’s on Tambellini’s guest list.

“We may have to open it up,” he said, jokingly, on TV.

While Yakupov is the most talented player, he is a Russian and they have options. He could get offered a bundle of money, more cash than an NHL club can give a first-round pick, to play in the Kontinental Hockey League in his homeland after he’s drafted.

The spectre of Alex Radulov, also playing for Roy’s junior Renmparts, coming to the Nashville Predators for two seasons, then bolting for the KHL with time left on his contract, is still out there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The look on Brian Burke's face after getting 5th pick was priceless !!!! lol