NHL Draft: Edmonton Oilers Must Pass on Nail Yakupov, Take Ryan Murray

Kevin Schlittenhardt@kevinschlitzCorrespondent IIJune 20, 2012

Ryan Murray is the top-ranked defensive prospect in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Ryan Murray is the top-ranked defensive prospect in the 2012 NHL Draft.

The Edmonton Oilers, for the third straight year, have the first pick in this year’s NHL draft. The Oilers snagged two promising forwards in the previous two drafts, now it is time to focus on defense—it is time for Ryan Murray.

"He never gets out of position and I've never seen him lose a one-on-one battle. He just does everything so seamlessly that he reminds me of [Scott] Niedermayer only because he does everything so well at such a high level and after a while, you don't even notice it," NHL central scout B.J. MacDonald said in his scouting report.

The Canadian native is just the behind-the-highlight-reel guy the Oilers need to help out Ryan Whitney and the other Edmonton defensemen behind the blue line.

In his 2010-2011 season with the Everett Silvertips, Murray led the league in points for defensemen with 46 points in 70 games. He also posted two assists in his five games playing for Canada in the 2012 Junior Championships, ultimately helping the nation to a bronze medal.

Whether or not Murray’s playmaking ability will show in his rookie year remains to be seen, but his innate ability to dominate one-on-one battles and maintain defensive ground will prove much more beneficial to Edmonton than adding Nail Yakupov to the Oilers' growing list of young offensive guns.

There is no doubt that Yakupov has a huge future in front of him. He helped Russia win a silver medal in the 2012 Junior Championships with a tournament-high nine assists and broke Steven Stamkos' Sarnia Sting record for most goals and points in a rookie season.

However, he is not what the Oilers need.

This past season, the Oilers were one of many offensively stacked teams that fell short of the playoffs alongside teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Anaheim Ducks and the New York Islanders. Edmonton fans might hurt knowing the Oilers might have passed on the next Stamkos, but keep in mind that even Stamkos, who led the league in goals during the past season, could not get his team in the playoffs.

It is more realistic for the Oilers to aspire to join the company of playoff-making defensive teams like the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins than to hope to become an offensive powerhouse like the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Chicago Blackhawks.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall will score the goals the Oilers need to win games. Murray will stop other teams from putting up those same game-winning goals against Edmonton.