SUN Hockey Pool

It's decision day

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:27 PM ET

With the 25th pick in the NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers are pleased to select ... the "best player available."

It's the mantra the Oilers have followed for years and they aren't likely to deviate from that path when the picking starts this morning in Ottawa.

The Oilers don't need a goalie with Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk in the fold, so that leaves them with the task of finding the best scoring forward or puck-moving defenceman still up for grabs at the bottom end of first round.

Those choices boil down to taking the best of the long-range hopefuls - which could sway them to take a European or a kid heading to an NCAA college.

The Oilers could go well off the map - like they've routinely done in previous years - with the No. 36 pick (possibly Camrose Kodiaks grad Mason Raymond), though that's more likely to come in Round 3 when they have three picks - their own, Philadelphia's from the Mike Comrie trade and a compensatory selection for Phoenix snatching up free agent Petr Nedved.

Even if they do wait to take a flyer on an unheralded youngster, the Oilers may still look beyond the consensus choices to fill the No. 25 spot.

"Our best player available might not be the same guy who everybody thinks is," said Oilers scout Brad Davis. "A player who is ranked 10 to 14 on our list could be there at 25 and we'd be ecstatic with that."

And just what makes an 18-year-old the "best player available" to the Oilers? It's simple, really.

"We always look at skating and hockey sense," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oil's director of hockey operations and draft kingpin.

Here's some the names the Oilers might ponder before making the call:

DEFENCEMEN

MATT LASHOFF: The Kitchener blue-liner earned rave reviews for his intestinal fortitude this past year, coming back from a battle with mono to become one of the Rangers' most impressive players in the playoffs. He then got KO'd from the post-season by a nasty elbow yet still wanted back in the lineup.

"He sees the ice very well and is very composed," said one NHL scout.

JOE FINLEY: The six-foot-seven, 240-pounder from the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede is heading to a solid program at the University of North Dakota. He's only ranked No. 33 by Central Scouting, but will go higher because of his size.

BRENDAN MIKKELSON AND SCOTT JACKSON: Mikkelson is top-flight skater for the Portland Winter Hawks with offensive upside, but there are questions about his willingness to raise his game, and he's rail-thin. Seattle's Jackson has as many pluses and minuses as Mikkelson, though he's more of a two-way rearguard with a better physical presence.

FORWARDS

KENDALL MCARDLE: The Moose Jaw Warriors gunner is a top-notch athlete (nationally ranked junior sprinter) and has a nose for the net - scoring 37 goals last season. He's the name being bandied about the most in some circles, but it's not a sure thing that he'll be available at No. 25 and reportedly did not fare all that well in an interview with the Oilers.

DEVIN SETOGUCHI: The positives: A good shooter with good vision and big upside. "I could easily see him as a second-line right-winger," said one scout. The negatives: mixed reviews on his character. "What guts does this guy have?" asked another scout.

RYAN STOA: He's a six-foot-three centre headed to the University of Minnesota with heaps of U.S. under-18 credits to his name. He's six-foot-three, 200 pounds and has decent speed and skills, though he's more likely to be a set up man than sniper.

NIKLAS BERGFORS: The European pool of talent isn't incredibly deep this year but Bergfors could be the choice thanks to his great wheels and sense and skill with the puck. He's been criticized at times for being too flashy.


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