Scouting list suits Oilers’ needs

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:38 PM ET

A late entry for Quote of the Year came from Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney Tuesday.

When his daily meeting with the media mob was breaking up at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park after practice, the columnist mentioned that Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings for the draft were released and that most of the guys at the top were centres and defencemen.

“Woooo hoooo!” he said.

It was a fun comment. But he was serious, too.

“Those are our biggest needs down the road,” he said.

The timing was perfect for the Central Scouting list to land Tuesday. Just when it’s really starting to sink in that the 2010-11 Oilers have been fabricated to fail, fashioned to fizzle, forged to flop and formulated to flounder, the list reminds you of the big picture.

Just when you’re starting to figure it out, that if winning were actually a motive here, then somebody would be here by now to win a face-off and there wouldn’t be all these ifs and stiffs on defence, every last one of them on a one-way contract, out comes the list of who will be at the top of the shopping list.

Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Adam Larsson, starting now, are about to become household names in Edmonton.

Just when you’re seeing the reality of a team constructed to collapse, built to break, designed for disaster. and invented to implode, you’re reminded of the joys of defeat not only by the Central Scouting list but by the arrival of the built-from-being-in-the-basement Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks for tonight’s tilt.

This Oilers team is being built through the draft. That means high draft choices. Hands up anybody who didn’t see that the Oilers weren’t going to improve in the faceoff circle this year? Stand up anybody who figured the defence wasn’t going to be iffy (although probably not quite this brutal). They’re 30th in goals against, 30th in penalty killing and 29th in faceoffs.

When the scores are 7-1, 6-2 and 8-2, and it’s embarrassing to be a fan, that’s bad. But then the Central Scouting list comes out and the big picture of what you’re really dealing with here comes back into focus.

And big is the operative word. If the Oilers maintain their position it looks like they’ll have a smorgasbord of what they most need — either a big boy to develop as a No. 1 centre or a large lad to anchor the defence.

The preliminary lists are organized according to leagues in North America and countries in Europe.

No. 1 in Quebec is Couturier. The Drummondville centre is six-foot-four and 195 pounds. Ranked right behind him are Saint John centre Jonathan Huberdeau and his teammate, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, who are both over six-foot-one and still growing into their 168- and 185-pound bodies.

Centre Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer is six-foot-one and 170 pounds and leads the Western Hockey League list, which features nine of the top 11 players listed as either centres or defencemen — all of whom are over six feet.

All but two of the top eight on the Central Scouting list in the Ontario Hockey League are centres or defencemen.

Adam Larsson, the six-foot-three, 200-pound defenceman from Skelleftea, has been talked about as the top prospect in Europe. He leads the list in Sweden, where 12 of the top 14 players on the list are either centres or defencemen and nine of the top 10 are at least six feet.

“It’s very early,” said Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini. “I’ve never been asked to comment on a draft in November before.

“But I’d say going forward would not be unlike when we started the second day of the draft last year and took took Tyler Pitlick (centre, six-foot-two, 195) with the first pick in the second round and then chose Martin Marincin (defence, six-foot-five, 195) with our next pick in the second round and chose Ryan Martindale (centre, six-foot-three, 183) with the first pick in the third round.”

Maybe he’s never been asked to comment on a draft in November before but, considering Central Scouting’s preliminary list and the Oilers’ organizational needs at centre and on defence, ought not Tambellini be trying to acquire as many draft choices as possible, and the sooner the better?

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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