Oilers aiming to move up

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

The 10th pick in this year's NHL draft is good, not great, so general manager Steve Tambellini, whose self-declared mandate is to lift the Edmonton Oilers' development system into the NHL's upper echelon, will spend the next three days trying to butt in line for the podium.

Like most GMs, Tambellini has a pie-in-the-sky package assembled for the first or second choice overall and, like those offers almost always are, it will probably be rejected. But even moving up three or four spots could be worth an investment. The Oilers grabbed Paul Coffey (1980), Ryan Smyth (1994) and Sam Gagner (2007) in the No. 6 spot, Jason Arnott in the 7th (1993) and Grant Fuhr in the 8th (1981).

"We will try (to move up), we have been trying," said Tambellini, addressing the Edmonton media before boarding a plane to Montreal. "But you never really know till you get close to draft day, or you're on the floor. Once the teams evaluate where they are, does it make sense?

"There are some teams that think they can get the same player a couple of spots lower and they're not worried about it. We're going to explore that. We'll work hard at it.

"I'm not sure if we'll be able to move up or not, but we're going to work hard at it."

While fans drool over the prospect of landing a big fish like Marian Hossa or Dany Heatley, growing his team from the bottom up is one of Tambellini's biggest priorities. With the Oilers having limited success in the free agent market and with trades so difficult to make these days now that the money has to even out, growing your own talent is even more imperative than it was in the past.

"Drafting and developing is of primary importance to me," he said. "You have to be great at it, not good at it. We're trying to put a huge priority on that part of our organization right now, and how do we get better?

"From the development of our players in the American Hockey League to the development of our players with the Oilers, if you're standing still, you're behind. That type of program has to be in place, on the ice and off the ice, from strength-building, nutrition, knowledge of how to become the best player you can be is so important."

It starts with selecting the right kid, and that starts Friday in Montreal.

"Draft day is a day of hope -- it's an ex citing day," said Tambellini, adding it's just as exciting for the teams as it is for the kids and their parents.

"You think you know what's going to happen, but there's always one or two things that happen that change the look of the draft, whether you're drafting at 10, 5 or 25. The whole thing is preparation to make sure that you're ready for the unexpected."

If there aren't any surprises, they're still high enough at No. 10 to get a decent haul.

"Stu (head scout Stu MacGregor) is comfortable with his list," said Tambellini. "I know we'll get a good player at 10."

Don't expect them to try and fill today's holes with tomorrow's players, though. Just because the Oilers are desperately seeking gritty forwards doesn't mean they'll bypass superior talent to get one.

"If our scouts tell me that players are equal, then maybe you can side to what the organization needs, but we have to make sure we take the best player available," said Tambellini. "These players are sometimes three and four years down the road and this team will look a lot different three or four years from now. It's important, all things being equal, that you take the best player available."

Today's fixes will come via trades and acquisitions in the unrestricted free agent market, two areas Edmonton will be exploring heavily. The Oilers have been planting seeds of interest throughout the league and will see if any deals sprout up in Montreal. If not, there's still plenty of summer left.

"There's lots of discussion," said Tambellini. "It's almost like trade deadline."


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