I love my Edmonton Oilers, no doubt there, and I hate to root against them. It's become clear to me, and many other Oilers fans that this team is in need of one more top three pick in order to get the rebuild jump started.
With Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall up front, plus one of Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky, the Oilers are just about set up front for the future, lacking only one top six forward and a few third and fourth liners, but the grinders can be added on July 1st.
To find that last forward there are three options. Two of those options are centers, one of which is a left winger. Who should the Oilers take? I'll tell you my opinion right now.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Hopkins is called by some (including former NHL coach Ken Hitchcock), a young Joe Sakic. RNH is a very skilled forward who has a great shot, and is a natural goal scorer. According to some scouts, he is the best pure scorer in the 2011 draft class.
RNH is a top line center prospect but the knock on Hopkins is that he is a smaller forward, something that the Oilers badly need. Another thing about Hopkins—he isn't exactly great in his own end, which could be a problem if the defensive pairing out there with him isn't a very good one.
While Nugent-Hopkins has tons of talent, I'm not sure he is the guy that the Oilers really need right now. The Oilers need a shut-down defender or a big top line center. The Oilers would be thrilled to get him, but he shouldn't be the guy that the Oilers go to Minnesota to get.
Sean Couturier Another center, Sean Couturier, comes from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was seen as the top prospect coming into the season—but that has since changed.
Couturier is a big boy, and comparisons to Eric Staal have come up at times. He is a goal scorer too, who is actually responsible in his own end and is seen as a future top line center.
Couturier has a good mix to his game, as he is responsible in his own end of the ice, but can easily be a 30 goal scorer in his prime. He also has a good passing game, and is all around a very good prospect. In my mind, if you can draft Couturier, you do it, as he will fill a huge need on the team of a big top line center who can score, win face-offs and play well in his own end. Sean Couturier is what the Oilers need at forward.
Gabriel Landeskog The final forward on my list, Landeskog is actually a left winger, something that the Oilers have plenty of. If the Oilers have plenty of left wingers, then why is he on my list?
Well he is currently the top rated prospect in the National Hockey League Draft according to Central Scouting, and you have to consider him if he is that high on everyone's draft list.
The Oilers very well could move both Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner and give Landeskog a future top six spot in Edmonton. I think Landeskog will get a good look from the Oilers, but if Couturier is still around when the Oilers pick, I'd have a hard time thinking that the Oilers will pass up on another center like they did last year (no matter how well Hall over Seguin turns out to be).
Now, let's move onto the defense.
Ryan Whitney looks to be in for the long haul in Edmonton, which is a very good thing if you are an Oilers fan. Theo Peckham has turned into a very good young shut-down defender and physical player on the back end, and will be around for a while. Jeff Petry looks to have top four defender written all over him with how he has played this season, and looks to be sticking around.
That makes three defenders for the future already with the Oilers, and Tom Gilbert's strong play as of late could make it four. Alex Plante is currently in Oklahoma City, but could very well be moving on up to the Oilers next season and have a long NHL career ahead of him. Don't forget about last year's second round pick Martin Marincin, who is currently dominating the Western Hockey League.
With that being said, the Oilers would love to add another prospect to the defense, and Adam Larsson could be just the perfect fit.
Adam Larsson This brings me to my final player for tonight's blog, Adam Larsson. Larsson is a defender from Sweden who is currently playing over there. Larsson has seen himself be compared to Nik Lidstrom, but I think that comparison isn't fair for any young defender coming into the NHL, as Lidstrom is an unreal talent, and one of the best defenders to ever play the game. Larsson can put up points, is a very good defender with the first pass and has a good shot to go with it. His offensive ability is good, but he is a big boy who is VERY good in his own end. He very well could be a future No. 1 defender in the NHL, and would be a great pick for anyone with the chance to take him. I have him as No. 2 on my list for the Oilers.
After thinking everything over, I've decided to rank the top four prospects myself. Sean Couturier comes in at No. 1, with Adam Larsson at No. 2, Gabriel Landeskog at No. 3 and finally at No. 4 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Looking at things right now (and there is lots of time in which things can change), New Jersey would be picking first, with Edmonton second, the Islanders third and the Bruins fourth (thanks to the Phil Kessel trade).
I think the ideal situation for the Oilers would be to take Sean Couturier with the second overall pick, addressing the need of a top line center with size and scoring ability who can also play in his own zone and win face-offs. Couturier fixes that huge hole. I think the Oilers also can trade back into the first round and grab a defender in the 10-20 range.
I think that the Oilers will end up going center with their high first rounder, and going with a defender in the mid-first round thanks to a trade. There are that many good future NHL defenders out there in the upcoming draft.
Some names include Duncan Siemens, Joe Morrow and Scott Mayfield. Players like Ryan Murphy, David Musil and Dougie Hamilton could also slip, and the Oilers could jump up and get one.
My question to you is, who do you think the Oilers should take with their first round draft pick this coming June??? I look forward to reading your comments and responding to them!
I will also be posting a trade deadline preview for the Oilers in the coming week, as we will take a look at the players who could see the door, and what the Oilers will be looking for in return.