Oilers look past No. 1

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:20 PM ET

EDMONTON - This time the drama comes AFTER the Edmonton Oilers announce their first pick.

Unlike last June, when the Taylor or Tyler decision turned into a six-month mystery that captivated the NHL, this time there is an obvious choice.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the clear-cut consensus No. 1 and if you add him to Taylor Hall, it’s as close to a teenaged version of the glory days as the Oilers can possibly get.

Nobody’s saying Nugent-Hopkins is Gretzky to go along with Taylor Hall’s Messier, but he is a skinny centre who sees the ice better than anyone else, is one step ahead of everyone else and makes everyone around him better, to go along with the bullish, fearless, passionate, hard-skating hockey machine.

The deja vu alone will make this pick for them.

It’s not what the Oilers are going to do with No 1, but rather what are they going to do with No. 19? And 31? What are they going to do with Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and even Sheldon Souray?

They even have next year’s first pick to play with (could be anywhere from first overall to the high teens) if anyone feels like gambling on Edmonton’s fortunes.

Given all the cards in his deck right now - three picks in the top 31 and a handful of talented expendable bodies to sweeten the pot is all the ammunition any GM could ask for - general manager Steve Tambellini has never been this well-equipped to make a draft day splash.

“That’s why that pick at 19 was so important to us,” said Tambellini, who can keep it and hope 19th this year is as good as 22nd in 2008 (Jordan Eberle) or try and package it with a live body to move up the draft ladder. “No question about it, 19 changes the way this draft looks for us; it presents some options.”

But which option Tambellini chooses for the pick he received in the Dustin Penner deadline deal with LA last season will depend just as much on the other GMs as it does on him.

As much as trading top picks is rumoured and discussed every June, it almost never happens. Tambellini tried hard last year to get another choice in the first few rounds and never came close.

“There was a lot of discussion last year, right up to the draft, but at the end of the day more teams are going to make the selection than move the player,” he said, adding he’s trying again this year, with similar results.

“I’ve had a lot of talks with all the teams in the top five or six, where we think the top end guys are. You get a sense of how difficult it is to move around that top five.

“Most teams at the top of the draft are trying to retain that asset unless you’re offering something that involves one of your very, very top-end young guys as part of the package.”

Which isn’t going to happen.

“You’re talking about people that you don’t want to move out of your organization. It’s one step forward two back, and I’m not going to do that with our core young players.”

While the top five or six are pretty close to locks, the value of the next 15 or 20 prospects is in the eye of the beholder. So if he can’t vault into the top six, then it might not be worth moving up at all.

“We know we’ll get a good player at 19,” said Tambellini. “If our staff is extremely passionate about a player who is sitting there, whether it’s two picks up or seven picks up, we’re going to be aggressive to try and move up and get him.

“But I don’t want to move up just to move up.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

TWITTER.com/TYCHKOWSKI


Videos

Photos