The Edmonton Oilers began the 2013 NHL Draft with six selections, but after trading away their 37th pick to Los Angeles for the 57th, 88th, and 96th picks and then swapping the 57th pick to St. Louis for their 83rd, 94th, and 113th, the Oilers walked away with 10 new prospects.
Most notably of course was the addition of defenseman Darnell Nurse in what was a rodeo of a first round. Many wondered if the Oilers would select a defenseman – although a great asset to a team that is missing a player like Nurse, the top 10 was ripe with skilled forwards. In the end, the Oilers walked away with the big blueliner and added a mix of both North American and European skaters to their pipeline.
Notably absent was the selection of any goaltending prospects and the final totals came in at two defenseman, four centerman, and four wingers.
Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
1st round, 7th overall
Height: 6'4 Weight: 185
In drafting defenseman Darnell Nurse in the seventh overall slot, the Oilers acquired a big, tough shutdown-style player that has often been compared to former Oiler and defensive great Chris Pronger. At 6'4 and 185 pounds, Nurse brings a lot of size to the ice and with a bit more muscle on his tall frame, he will be an absolute menace in his own end. Nurse could not have been more pleased about the outcome of the 2013 NHL Draft as he spoke with Hockey's Future following the Oilers' selection:
“I'm just so happy for my whole family,” Nurse said, “and for everyone who's put in so much work, and sacrificed so much so that I could get to this point, that's the best part about it all.”
While likely not ready to make the jump directly to the NHL, Nurse shows promise and potential as an NHL-caliber rearguard. The 18-year-old tallied 12 goals and 29 assists in 68 games last season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. It is likely that he will return to his junior squad for the 2013-14 season, but will be high on the radar of the Oilers brass. He is currently participating in the team's development camp looking to gain some valuable experience amongst his fellow prospects.
Marc-Olivier Roy, C, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
2nd round, 56th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 175
After doubling his point production in 2012-13 from the 2011-12 season, centerman Marc-Olivier Roy (not to be confused with Oilers goaltending prospect Olivier Roy) grabbed the attention of a number of scouts. He scored 29 goals with 38 assists in 65 games, in his past season and was an integral part of a deep playoff run for the Armada. At 6'0 and 175 pounds, he is not huge, but is known as a hard-working player that is willing to dig deep into tough areas of the ice and is not without offensive talent. Roy was excited about his future with the young Oilers squad, citing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as one of his favorite NHL players. “I'm very proud to be part of his team,” noted Roy.
Roy's main strength is his skating ability, which will aid in making him a great two-way player as he can power through traffic in the neutral zone quite easily. His quick skating and desire to dig deep into the corners sometimes work to his detriment however, as he is sometimes caught out of position in his own end. He has a decent shot from the slot and is often a major contributor to the Armada's powerplay unit.
If Roy is able to stay healthy and can gain some strength and size in his upcoming year with his junior squad, he will be a valuable asset to the Oilers organization. His competitive nature and never-quit attitude make him an intriguing talent that is likely to have a steep development curve.
Hockey's Future shot video of the Oilers' top two picks, Nurse and Roy, at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view their extended remarks in this HF video
Bogdan Yakimov, C, Reaktor Nizhnekamsk (MHL)
3rd round, 83rd overall
Height: 6'4 Weight: 201
Russian centerman Yakimov does not just bear a similar last name to Nail Yakupov, but was also developed through the same Russian minor league program as the blue chip Oilers prospect. At 6'4 and 201 pounds, Yakimov is a monster on the ice. He has a strong hockey sense and good positional play, which makes up for his sub-par skating skills. He has impressive hands and good offensive skills considering his lack of foot speed. His size makes him a menace in his own end and hard to knock off of the puck in the offensive zone, but it is unclear whether or not he will have the top level skill to earn him a top-six spot at the NHL level.
Yakimov will need more time to develop and will hope to make the jump to the KHL, which will be a step up from his current junior squad in Nizhnekamsk or the second-tier VHL teams he skated with last season. His skills are strong in both ends and his offensive numbers are respectable at this point, but it still remains to be seen as to how he will measure up at the higher level.
Anton Slepyshev, LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
3rd round, 88th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 187
Anton Slepyshev is another Russian prospect who unlike Yakimov has had a cup of coffee at the KHL level. He played in 26 games in 2012-13, logging seven goals and two assists, which is respectable for an 18-year-old at that level. He is a good sized player at 6'2 and 187 pounds and has a high top speed. When combined with his strong hockey sense in the offensive zone, he is tough to catch.
Although he is quick and can easily find his way through traffic, his physical game is relatively weak. He runs into trouble sometimes if he comes up against a strong shutdown defensive team, as he simply does not have the physical strength to match up against some opponents, especially at the KHL level. Like Yakimov, he will need a year or two to continue his development and work on his physicality and hone his high-level skills.
WHL winger Jackson Houck reads as a very average prospect on paper, but makes up for his lack of brilliance in any one area by working hard on every shift and not shying away from tough battles. He lends himself to various roles on the ice and is a great team player with above-average hockey sense. He is creative with the puck once he is in the offensive zone, but lacks the skating ability to get him there quickly. He was the leading scorer for the Vancouver Giants with 23 goals and 34 assists in 69 games, but unfortunately the team finished with a dismal record of 21-49-2-0.
He is a positionally sound player with an intriguing offensive upside, but many of his critics cite his size and foot speed as major roadblocks on the way to an NHL career. Houck will likely play two more years at the WHL level.
Kyle Platzer, C, London Knights (OHL)
4th round, 96th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 185
Platzer is a smallish center at 5'11 and 185 pounds but does not let his size dictate his physical play. He is gritty and tough and is always the first one in the corners. He plays with a lot of heart and is often touted as a bit of an underrated player that is overshadowed by a deep talent pool within the London Knights squad.
Platzer finished the 2012-13 regular season with five goals and 17 assists over 65 games in a lower line role for the Knights and went on to gain valuable ice time during the team's championship playoff run followed up by a Memorial Cup appearance. He will continue with the Knights next year and will look to gain more ice time in a higher-line role as well as experience on special teams. He has a long development curve ahead of him with a good squad and only time will tell if his stats will improve with increased responsibility.
Aidan Muir, LW, Victory Honda U18 (MWEHL)
4th round, 113th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 182
17-year-old winger Aidan Muir is the only player in this year's draft to come out of the Midwest Elite Hockey League (midget AAA level). After failing to make the cut during tryouts with the OHL's Erie Otters, Muir made the best of his opportunity to play an extra midget year and has spent the past season developing his game in a leadership role. He led his team in the 2012-13 season with 40 points in 37 games. He is currently 6'3 and 182 pounds and is shaping up to be a strong power-forward type player, but he is definitely a project. Without any time logged at the junior level, it is hard to truly gauge at this point just exactly how Muir will turn out for the Oilers.
He has committed to Western Michigan University where he will play under former NHL coach Andy Murray but will spend at least one season with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. As of right now, he is an extreme long shot for an NHL career, but has all the right resources at his disposal to help further his skills and development.
Evan Campbell, LW, Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
5th round, 128th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 175
Evan Campbell is a 20-year-old overager currently playing in the BCHL who is in his third year of draft eligibility. The 6'1, 175-pound forward has committed to the UMass-Lowell River Hawks for the 2013-14 season and will spend some time in the NCAA system to continue his development.
Taking an overage winger playing Junior 'A' hockey this deep in the draft is guaranteed to be a bit of a gamble, but the Oilers tend to gravitate towards players to graduate from the BCHL (think Jujhar Khaira, Kyle Bigos (SJS), Joey Laleggia). Not all have panned out for them, but that does not mean that Campbell should be a complete write-off at this point. He put up a respectable 66 points in 51 games last season for a 1.3 points-per-game average. Granted, this is not at the major junior level and it is unclear whether or not the 2012-13 season was a breakout year for Campbell, or simply an anomaly. Overall, he is another long shot for NHL success but will be an interesting one to watch during his college hockey career.
Ben Betker, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
6th round, 158th overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 200
Everett Silvertips defenseman Ben Betker is big, tough, and has a mean punch. At 6'5 and 200 pounds with 100 penalty minutes logged last season, he spends a good part of his time on the ice with his gloves dropped. He plays a shutdown-style defensive game and has reasonably sound positional skills, but his skating is sub-par and his offensive upside is not particularly noteworthy.
Gregory Chase, C, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
7th round, 188th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 195
Calgary Hitmen agitator Gregory Chase was the Oilers' final pick of the 2013 draft. While often noted first for being a pest, Chase is not without strong hockey sense and a bit of offensive flair. He was originally ranked coming into the season to go earlier in the draft, so this pick is a steal for the Oilers at this point. He is big with good foot speed and never backs down from a tough battle in the gritty areas of the ice. He is tough to knock off the puck, has good hands, and sees the ice well.
His on-ice attitude is often a bone of contention for some (he recently blew kisses to the Edmonton Oil Kings' bench after scoring a shootout winner during their playoff series In 2012-13), but his intriguing offensive upside and raw talent make him a somewhat of a hidden gem for the Oilers as a deep draft selection.