The NHL Draft Combine is going on in Buffalo, NY, this weekend and the Oilers media team is all over it covering every angle possible. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the video above, do so, and pay special attention to which players they feature in those cut-away clips and also what Oilers Assistant GM Keith Gretzky says about what kind of players they’ll be looking for.
1. “You wanna know how hard they work. That’s the biggest thing.”
2. “We have size, we can add something, we need some skill and we’ll take the best player.”
Those two quotes don’t surprise me in the least. Ever since Peter Chiarelli has taken over there’s been an emphasis on adding players with the right moral fiber. Players who are more inclined to go to work day in and day out with a team first attitude. Players that “buy in” to what the coach is pitching them.
So far so good.
Now, the more you read on about potential players that the Oilers might draft and what the Oilers system lacks, the more you’ll read that the team needs forwards with speed and skill. I can’t disagree with that sentiment at all. At times during the regular season the Oilers were getting outmatched by smaller quicker opponents and it was also evident in the playoffs versus Anaheim where their highly mobile dmen were very effective against the Oilers’ bigger wingers.
Below are some reports on those players I told you to keep an eye out for in that Youtube clip above. I don’t think that these players were included in that video for nothing. I believe that these players are on the Oilers radar and we should pay special attention to them.
The NHLe I calculated here.
Kailer Yamamoto (RW) – Spokane (WHL) – 5’9″ 160lbs – 65gp 42g 57a 99pts (NHLe = 36pts)
- Small in stature but a giant when it comes to creating plays, he has an extremely high IQ with vision already at an elite level. Yamamoto is a fluid and graceful skater who skates with his head up at all times, and his ability to snipe off the rush or make precision passes makes him next to impossible to defend. He isn’t big, but he plays with bite and on occasion will duke it out with bigger opponents. – Steve Kournianos, thedraftanalyst.com
Kole Lind (RW) – Kelowna (WHL) – 6’1″ 178lbs – 70gp 30g 57a 87ots (NHLe = 30pts)
- Fundamentally, Lind is a smart player. He moves around the ice very well and has a good sense of where to be and where his teammates will be. He’s a very effective puck distributor and has an effective, though not amazing, shot – his 30 goals this season are as much a product of his positioning as his shooting. He’s not a huge guy, though he’s got the frame to add some muscle, but that hasn’t mattered; he plays a very effective physical game and often buzzes around the ice hitting everything in sight on the forecheck. Sometimes this gets him into some trouble away from the puck, with the physical side pulling him out of position, but he’s improved in that respect over the last couple of seasons. – Ryan Pike, The Hockey Writers
(I just want to add an interesting tidbit, Lind has an early birthday and it would make him eligible to play AHL hockey starting in 2018/19.)
Isaac Ratcliffe (LW) – Guelph (OHL) – 6’5″ 203lbs – 67gp 28g 26a 54pts (NHLe = 20pts)
- The power forward who can skate and possesses very soft hands has been coming on lately. I think he’s underrated offensively in some circles. He’s a physical beast who can play a very mean game. Almost impossible to knock off the puck and uses his size and strength to maintain possession. Right now, he’s probably the best prospect in front of the goal, battling for space and loose pucks and banging in rebounds. We caught a glimpse of that in the Top Prospects game. The scary thought is he’s still going to grow and get stronger. – Dominic Tiano, OHLwriters.blogspot.com
Eeli Tolvanen (RW) – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) – 5’10” 170lbs – 52gp 24g 30a 54pts (NHLe = 23pts)
- Tolvanen is an expert sharpshooter with a quick release, and his ability to pick corners off the pass is reminiscent of countryman Patrik Laine. He’s strong on the puck and escapes from the tough battles right into shooting position. He’s a strong skater who likes to speed down the wing before unloading a labeled shot. His ability to elude opponents and finish off the rush is unmatched by any draft peer. – Steve Kournianos, thedraftanalyst.com
Robert Thomas (RHC) – London (OHL) – 6’0″ 187lbs – 66gp 16g 50a 66pts (NHLe = 25pts)
- There are few players that think the game better and he can process things at an elite level. Thomas is an exceptional skater with high-end acceleration and top end speed, not only going north-south but can swing east-west, maintain possession while surveying the ice and set teammates up for scoring opportunities. He has an ability to slow the game down as well, buying time for his teammates to move into prime scoring position and then feeding them with slick, tape-to-tape passes. he is one of the Knights hardest workers – if not the hardest. He puts the effort required to be successful game to game, shift to shift. He puts that same effort in the defensive zone as he does in the o-zone. He has become a key member of the league’s sixth best penalty kill for Coach Hunter. – Dominic Tiano, OHLwriters.blogspot.com
Pierre-Olivier Joseph (LD) – Charlottetown (QMJHL) – 6’0″ 160lbs – 62gp 6g 33a 39pts (NHLe = 13pts)
- A qualitative jump in his all around play has hurtled him upward into the first round discussions. A player who always looked solid as an improving defender but who this season has gained scads of confidence in his ability to be a key component in the attack. Displays mobility and excellent hockey sense, and has that feel for where a play is going before it does. Breaks up rushes and plays in his end with a good stick and strong recognition. A power play quarterback whose frame will allow him to get bigger and as he gets stronger he will add more mustard to the heat he can bring from the point. – Bill Placzek, draftsite.com
Nic Hague (LD) – Mississauga (OHL) – 6’6″ 212lbs – 65gp 18g 28a 46pts (NHLe = 17pts)
- Potential big defender in more ways than one. NHL teams continue to have their love affair with huge men at the defensive position who have upside to be top four defenders, since in general, the dmen are getting smaller. For a fellow his size, he has excellent mobility and overall strength He puts his long stick in the passing lanes and covers ground pretty quickly. Uses his size along the wall and can throw devastating bodychecks. When on the back pedal, he doesn’t pivot as quickly as smaller men, but attackers trying to go wide find out how strong he is and long his stick is. Enjoys playing with an edge. He is growing more of his offensive game, by activated on the rush, and attempting to handle the puck more and more. Still needs work and must hone his carries and be more frugal in the time he holds onto it. Not the finished product, but there will not be a shortage of NHL teams considering him before the bottom third of the first round. – Bill Plazcek, draftsite.com
Just before I let you go, I’ve got a new Jesse Puljujarvi shift-by-shift up at the Beer League Heroes Facebook page. You should head over and give us a follow, a like, a share, a comment and anything else you have in your wallet! (Kidding!) Click HERE!
What do you think? Which one of these players would you like to see the Oilers draft in the first round of this year’s draft? Let us know in the comments below!