LOS ANGELES - They say you’re supposed to go big or go home.
And since the pint-sized Edmonton Oilers have gone home early every spring for the last four seasons, well, you can guess which way they decided to go on the second day of the NHL draft.
“We think we really upgraded our depth chart as far as size, no question,” said general manager Steve Tambellini, who didn’t take a player under 6-foot-2 with any of his first five picks on Saturday. “Especially down the middle. The thing that grabs us is we’ve got size in the middle and size coming up on defence, that’s what we were looking for.
“And obviously on the skill side, with players like Taylor Hall (first overall) and Tyler Pitlick (31st), I really like what we brought in, it’s something we don’t have on our depth chart as far as prospects.”
Yes, the Oilers ended up getting Taylor with the first pick after all. It was just a day later and a round lower they selected the nephew of former NHL defenceman Lance Pitlick at the top of the second round.
They set the tone for their day with the 6-foot-2 and 194 pound centre from Minneapolis.
Asked about similarities between he and his uncle, he said: “Hitting. He was a hitter and I take that from him. I’m a big guy who’s not afraid to use his body who’s not afraid to make a lot of hits, but I also have some skill to make plays and score goals.”
He scored 11 in his freshman year at Mankato State University, which might not be the best launching pad into the NHL - that’s why he’s joining the Medicine Hat Tigers next year.
“When we interviewed him it was how do I get better, how do I get to the next step,” said Tambellini. “You love hearing that from a young player, that he’s willing to do whatever it takes. He knows he needs that next step of competition, it was a good message for us. When we saw him sitting there as the first pick (Saturday) we were pretty excited. Strong skater, heavy shot, that’s a good pick for us.”
After Pitlick, the Oilers took 6-foot-4, 187-pound defenceman Martin Marincin from Slovakia 46th overall. He’s bean pole now, but when he fills out he’ll do so on some pretty good wheels.
“Mobile guy, very good stick and can move the puck nicely,” said Tambellini. “He’s a big man who can play well against skilled players.”
In order to get the 46th pick from Ottawa, the Oilers gave up Riley Nash, who cost them the 21st pick overall in 2007. Not exactly trading up, but they’ve closed the book on Nash, who’s going back for a fourth season at Cornell.
“He wasn’t willing to come out at this time and in another year he’s free,” said Tambellini. “So we made a decision to move on.”
Two picks later at 48 they took 6-foot-2, 209-pound left winger Curtis Hamilton from Saskatoon, who had 16 points in 26 games for the Blades.
“I’m so excited to be picked by such a great team, I couldn’t be happier,” said Hamilton. “Words can’t describe it; so many great players have come in and out of this organization, so much winning, such a great history.
“I’ll do whatever the coaches tell me to do to play at the next level.”
They spent No. 61 on 6-foot-3 centre Ryan Martindale of the Ottawa 67s, who had 60 points in 61 games last season.
At this draft, size mattered.