The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is set to hold a boatload of talent and has the potential to help strengthen a lot of lineups. Some of the top prospects in this draft are the consensus number one pick Rasmus Dahlin, Ontario Hockey League star winger Andrei Svechnikov, Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist, QMJHL star Filip Zadina and Brady Tkachuk, brother of Matthew Tkatchuk and son of former NHL legend Keith Tkachuk.
Although these players are widely considered to be the top five, their is still a lot more talented prospects in the draft that could one day become top NHL players.
The Edmonton Oilers looked to be set for the playoffs again after having a great season last year led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They were even considered to be potential Stanely Cup favourites before the season started. That all changed once the season started.
Draisaitl got injured at the beginning of the season and newcomer Ryan Strome was not performing as well as the Oilers had hoped he would when they traded Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in exchange for Strome. Strome has even spent time this season with the Oilers AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, where he has scored one goal and 4 assists in 10 games played.
This was not what Edmonton was hoping for when they traded away Eberle. Cam Talbot has also missed some games this season due to injury, but even when healthy has not been performing strongly for the Oilers this season. Due to their performance the Edmonton Oilers have been at the bottom of the standings for majority of the season and look to be a lottery team come postseason.
Although this is disappointing for Oilers fans who thought that they would be a strong contender, this year it might be a blessing in disguise. The draft is poised to be a strong one and if the Oilers are lucky enough to land a pick in the top 5, they could help build on their roster pool and possibly even strengthen their roster for next season.
If the Oilers are lucky enough to land the first overall pick, they will most likely select Rasmus Dahlin who is already being called the next Erik Karlsson or the next Victor Headman. A player of Dahlin’s skill would be a huge boost to the oilers roster. Imagine a team with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto, and Rasmus Dahlin! It’s almost scary to imagine, but it could soon be possible if the Oilers are able to get the first overall pick.
Even If the Oilers miss out on the first overall pick, they can still draft a very talented player. The real question is, what do the Oilers need? This season, they have shown that they need some help on the wing, and their defence has been full of holes and some might argue that they could use a new starting goalie if they want to make a deep playoff run.
If you look at their prospect pool, you will find that the Oilers have a few good prospects in the center position that have potential, and regardless of that, the Oilers do not need a center as they already have McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent Hopkins, and other players on their current roster who could play center like Mark Letestu, Drake Caggiula, Ryan Strome and Jujhar Khaira.
If you look at wingers, this is a spot where on their current roster they are not the most skilled in but they have a lot of talent in the position, With Jesse Puljujärvi still having time to develop and players like Kirill Maximov, Tyler Benson, Ostap Safin, Kailer Yamamoto, Ty Rattie, and more prospects with potential to play in the NHL. The Oilers also have goalie prospects that could also becoming starting goalies in the NHL.
Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner are Edmonton’s top goalie prospects and is an area for the Oilers that is not an immediate need. The one area that is the most vital need for the Oilers would be their defence. In both their current roster and their prospects, defence is the Oilers biggest concern. They do have a couple decent prospects that could become NHL starters one day but they have a lack of surefire top defensive talent. Filip Berglund and Caleb Jones are samples of their top defensive talent and it does not seem like it is enough to sustain their defensive corps for years to come.
Based on these factors, it would seem that the best move for The Edmonton Oilers would be to draft defence. And if they are lucky enough to land a top 5 pick then it would be smart for them to draft defensively. The top defensemen in the draft are Rasmus Dahlin, Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, Noah Dobson, Ryan Merkley, Ty Smith, and Jared McIsaac.
Although the draft ranking could change between now and the draft, it is safe to assume that the Oilers will have the chance to draft at least one of these players. The Oilers are currently sitting 27th place in the league overall and they currently have a 8.5% chance at the first overall pick. The order of who will get drafted is still widely up for debate as there is no surefire order, many mock drafts all differ in opinion of who will be drafted in the top ten.
Based on Edmonton’s needs the should use their lottery pick to draft a potential franchise defensemen. The top options for the team would be obviously Rasmus Dahlin, but if they do not win the lottery for the first overall pick, it would be smart for the Oilers to choose between Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, or Noah Dobson. Aside from Dahlin, these four prospects are considered to be the top defensemen in the draft. Each of these players would help strengthen a depleted blue line.
Of the four defensive prospects that the Oilers likely will be able to draft, the question now is who would be the best for Edmonton to draft. Obviously if the Oilers can draft Dahlin, he would be a no brainer, but the odds are not in their favour. If the Oilers were able to draft the next best defender in the draft then they should take Adam Boqvist.
Boqvist has been a top defender in every league he has played at this season. He has a plus minus +7 for his play in all leagues this season and has proven to be capable of playing strong offensive and defensive hockey. He has 21 points in 23 games in the SuperElit and an assist in 13 games in the SHL. Although his stats in the SHL may seem insignificant, it is important to remember that Boqvist is only 17 and has not had enough time to prove himself.
Regardless of this, his play in the SHL, his play for Sweden’s Under 18 and Under 20 international Jr team was enough to help cement him as a top ten NHL pick. His combination of a offensive and defensive style of play is what makes him the kind of player that the Edmonton Oilers could use to regain their winning ways and help bring the cup back to Edmonton.
If the Oilers cannot get Adam Boqvist, their next best options would probably be Even Bouchard. As it stands right now, Bouchard is the highest scorer in his entire draft class with 66 points. Bouchard has top offensive skill and is comparable in terms of point production at the OHL level to P.K. Subban.
Evan Bouchard has had to take on a higher workload this season due to the London Knights top defence leaving the team. Olli Juolevi and Victor Mete were the top scoring defensemen on the Knights, and their absence has opened the door for Bouchard to show his potential and prove his worth. Bouchard has also shown he is capable of playing a strong defensive game as well.
Bouchard is good at cutting off lanes and staying in excellent positioning. He sees the game well and is able to make speedy smart plays allowing him to always seem one step ahead of the opposition. Bouchard would be a great addition to the Edmonton Oilers due to the fact that Edmonton does not have an elite offensive defensemen who is capable of playing a strong game at both ends of the ice.
If the Oilers are able to draft Boqvist or Bouchard, their defence could look very good in the coming years. Boqvist or Bouchard could fill out the missing pieces in the Oilers defence and could prove to be exactly the kind of players they needed and Edmonton would hopefully go back to their winning ways.
Follow David Ciss on Twitter @David_Ciss
Follow The Puck Authority on Twitter @PuckAuthority1