Oilers 2006 draft preview

By Guy Flaming

Oilers Top 10 Prospects

1. Rob Schremp, C
2. Andrew Cogliano, C
3. Marc-Antoine Pouliot, C
4. Devan Dubnyk, G
5. Matt Greene, D
6. J.F. Jacques, LW
7. Taylor Chorney, D
8. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, G
9. Slava Trukhno, LW
10. Colin McDonald, RW

Team Needs

When a team gets to the Stanley Cup finals, it’s tough to say that the franchise really ‘needs’ a whole heck of a lot. However, like all organizations, the Edmonton Oilers do have areas that need restocking and other areas that simply need additional support to what already exists. Unlike some NHL clubs though, the Oilers have the luxury of terrific overall depth albeit a lack of high-end talent in some places.

At the NHL level the team may find itself parting ways with several higher priced free agents this summer in order to make way room for as many as half a dozen names on the top 20 list here at Hockey’s Future. Despite playoff performances worthy of high accolades, it is expected that many veterans including Michael Peca, Radek Dvorak, Sergei Samsonov, Todd Harvey, Igor Ulanov, Ty Conklin, Dick Tarnstrom and Rem Murray will most likely test free agency this summer. The team would like to re-sign Fernando Pisani, Dwayne Roloson and Jaroslav Spacek, but all are unrestricted free agents and are not guaranteed to be back. Fan favorite Georges Laraque is yet another player not certain to be return in September.

Organizational Strengths

At this time, the Oilers greatest organizational strength would appear to be up front. At the NHL level there is a young nucleus from which to build around; Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres, Shawn Horcoff, and Ales Hemsky are all just hitting their potential, three of whom have not yet hit their 25th birthday.

In the system, at all three forward positions the club boasts at least four potential NHL players, especially down the middle with their top three prospects, Robbie Schremp, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Andrew Cogliano. On the left side Edmonton has size, strength and scoring from the likes of J.F. Jacques, Alexei Mikhnov, Dragan Umicevic and Slava Trukhno. The right wing is equally impressive with Colin McDonald, Stephane Goulet, Zack Stortini and NHL rookie Brad Winchester.

On the blue line, Edmonton has a number of pro-caliber depth defensemen like Mathieu Roy, Danny Syvret and Bryan Young. Matt Greene had an impressive rookie debut in 2005-06 and will only get better from here on out. Tom Gilbert and Taylor Chorney are two collegians that the Oilers are expecting to bring a level of offense to the organization that they have coveted for several years.

Between the pipes the Oilers have a pair of netminders who are likely to play at the NHL level in Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers.

Organizational Weaknesses

Edmonton would still like to increase the skill level of their organization and will do so via both free agency and the draft, one as a short-term fix and the other for a longer and more defining impact.

The Oilers have scorers and checkers, playmakers and two-way penalty killers, but it is only at the center position where there are an abundance of all those players. Edmonton would do well to increase the number of natural wingers in their organization, especially of the pure scoring variety and preferably on the right side. The right wing is the one forward spot where the organization lacks a prospect with projected top line potential. McDonald, Winchester and Goulet have shown the ability to score at lower levels, but are generally viewed as third or second line players for the NHL.

Another type of player Edmonton has searched for over the past few years has been an agitator like Steve Ott or Darcy Tucker. They thought they had one coming up in the form of Dan Baum but the likeable pest has been sidetracked by injuries. Raffi Torres has developed that part of his game but with his growing ability to snipe goals, the Oilers would prefer to lighten the fan favourite’s agitating workload.

The ongoing search for offensive defensemen continues for Edmonton, who have designed a large part of their on-ice strategy from that position. It could be argued that a stud blueliner is the biggest need for the organization from a prospect standpoint, just the opposite of the NHL club that has the luxury of dressing Chris Pronger on a nightly basis.

While the team publicly says they have confidence in the netminders they have in the system, don’t be shocked if Edmonton drafts a goalie this year, and early. It’s been two years since they last chose one so it would be natural to have another in the system to follow the development of both Dubnyk and JDD. Glenn Fisher, playing for the Denver Pioneers, has not been able to establish himself as a starter in the NCAA and therefore could take on a long-term development plan in the organization.

Draft Tendencies

The Oilers tendencies on draft day have become somewhat simplified since Kevin Lowe and Kevin Prendergast took over the team. North Americans have been predominant over the last few years; 25 of the last 30 players chosen by Edmonton have come out of leagues west of the Atlantic. When it comes to Europeans, the Oilers have shown a preference to those who have either already moved to North America to play major junior, or have committed to do so after the draft. Fredrik Pettersson and Slava Trukhno are two such players and they follow in the footsteps of Ales Hemsky and Alexei Semenov who the Oilers drafted out of the CHL.

Often times Edmonton has taken a liking to players who shine despite playing on woefully bad teams. Pouliot in Rimouski, Trukhno with PEI, Dubnyk in Kamloops and Peterborough’s Liam Reddox were all by far their struggling team’s best player the year Edmonton drafted them.

When it comes to the NCAA, Edmonton seems to prefer players who are in or committed to programs belonging to the WCHA, CCHA or Hockey East. North Dakota (Greene, Chorney, Vande Velde), Michigan (Comrie, Rholfs, Cogliano) and Denver (Fisher, Paukovich, Glasser) have become popular schools with future Oilers.

Despite the claims of ‘Best Player Available’ being the predominant policy, it would appear that recently the Oilers have targeted different leagues depending on the estimated time until the prospect will be ready, or the team forced to make a decision on him. In 2004, eight of the 10 players chosen were from the CHL, showing the need to restock the AHL system in a relatively short period of time. However, in 2005, with the foresight of a future logjam at the AHL level approaching, the Oilers turned heavily towards the NCAA or players headed that direction. Five of eight players from 2005 will be spending the next two to five years tied up in college hockey.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: The Edmonton Oilers traded their first round selection to the Minnesota Wild at the deadline in exchange for Dwayne Roloson. Their first selection will be a second rounder, the 45th pick overall.

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