Everything considered it was a great draft weekend for the Edmonton Oilers. They didn’t get a top pairing defenceman and they weren’t able to trade Nail Yakupov (I expect both will get done in the week), but GM Peter Chiarelli got his man with the 4th overall pick. Even after losing all three lottery draws in April, the Oilers left Buffalo with Jesse Puljujarvi in their prospect pool. Hopefully Puljujarvi will be Edmonton’s last high pick for a long time as they continue to push toward becoming a playoff team.
The Oilers have done very well in the first round over the past 10 years. I mean, it’s hard to mess up when you are picking near the top of the order year after year, but it’s still not a sure thing as we’ve seen with Yakupov (1st overall, 2012) and Magnus Paajarvi (10th overall, 2009).
In today’s blog, I will rank the Oilers top 10 picks of the past 10 drafts.
10. Brandon Davidson (162nd overall, 2010) – Some might say I’m going out limb here, by putting a player who has only played 63 NHL games on this list, but he’s earned it. For a team that has had few hits beyond the first round over the past decade, Davidson was a pleasant surprise for the Oilers in 2015-16, emerging as a steady top four defenceman.
9. Darnell Nurse (7th overall, 2013) – After selecting a forward with their first pick in six consecutive drafts, the Oilers finally ended that streak by taking Nurse in the first round three years ago. Nurse was asked to handle way too much responsibility in his rookie year, and to no one’s surprise he struggled. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a big point producer in the NHL, but he’s still young, and has the size, tenacity and skating ability to develop into a top pairing defender.
8. Sam Gagner (6th overall, 2007) – Gagner got off to a great start to his NHL career, tallying 49 points as a rookie in 2007-08. He never bested that total in his next six years in Edmonton and would have been better served moving from centre to the wing. Gagner was still one of the Oilers offensive leaders for several years and the highlight of his career was when he tied Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey‘s team record for points in a single game (8 points) back in 2012.
7. Oscar Klefbom (19th overall, 2011) – Klefbom was most likely the Oilers best defenceman over the past two seasons and at only 22-years-old, his best years are ahead of him. I had no issue with GM Peter Chiarelli signing Klefbom to a seven-year extension last September, despite having played under 100 games in the NHL at that point.
6. Jesse Puljujarvi (4th overall, 2016) – I’m making a bold pick here considering Puljujarvi hasn’t even played a game in the NHL yet. But I feel confident ranking him this high on the list and think he would even higher if I were to re-do it in five years. Puljujarvi is perhaps the most complete player in this year’s draft and will likely be in the Oilers’ lineup on October 12th when they open Rogers Place.
5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st overall, 2011) – When Nugent-Hopkins was first drafted, some fans and media members speculated that he might be the best of the Oilers young guns by the time he reached his prime. That won’t happen now, but RNH has developed into a reliable two-way centre. He came into the league as a No. 1 centre, but in the past year has dropped to third on the Oilers’ depth chart down the middle.
4. Leon Draisaitl (3rd overall, 2014) – After 15 years of chasing a big, skilled centre, Edmonton finally got one in the draft two years ago. Draisiatl took a big step forward in his development last season, and even though he faded down the stretch, I believe he’s going to be a big part of this team for the next 10 years.
3. Jordan Eberle (22nd overall, 2008) – Eberle was a steal for the Oilers late in the first round eight years ago. A natural goal scorer, Eberle is one of the best right-wingers in the NHL as well as the best pure finisher on the Oilers. He’s led the team in scoring in three of his six years with the team and deserves to be one of Edmonton’s top three picks of the past decade based on that alone.
2. Taylor Hall (1st overall, 2010) – An elite scoring winger, Hall is a two-time top 10 scorer in the NHL and recorded a career-high 80 points in 2013-14. Hall became the first Oiler to score at least 80 points in over a decade. Like Eberle, Hall has led the team in scoring in three of his six years with the Oilers and has learned to take his foot off the gas a bit, which resulted in him staying healthy from start to finish for the first time last season. I will never understand why 30% of the Oilers fan base wants to trade him. Because he turns over the puck too much? Because he has perceived attitude problems? Unless Chiarelli gets a No. 1 defenceman for him in a deal, they are a worse team without him.
1. Connor McDavid (1st overall, 2015) – Was there even any question about this one? McDavid was dominant in his 45 games with the Oilers last season, registering the third-highest points per game average in the league (1.07) and only missed out on winning the Calder Trophy because of his broken clavicle. That’s alright, I have a feeling his NHL trophy case will be full 20 years from now he hangs up his skates. McDavid is the face of the franchise and will likely be named the youngest captain in NHL history this fall.
I hope you enjoyed my list. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. It’s always good to talk to fellow Oilers fans. Thanks for reading!