BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Gotta love draft week. It’s like Christmas for sports reporters. Seven days after the Stanley Cup final where there are no pesky hockey games to get in the way of pointless speculation about who’s going to pick who.
With six of the seven Canadian NHL teams picking in the top 10 at the NHL Entry Draft on Friday, (and the Ottawa Senators picking 12th) my Twitter feed has been filled to bursting with breakdowns and analysis of which prospect each team will pick or whether they’ll even keep their pick at all.
So with that in mind, I’d like to give my two cents on how I think Alberta’s two teams, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, should approach draft day.
Hey, I never said I was above the pointless speculation.
Let’s start with the Flames, who have the sixth overall pick this year.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Calgary’s biggest need right now is goaltending. With Kari Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio all gone this off season, the Flames are without a starting goalie and a reliable backup, not an ideal situation.
But somewhat overshadowed by Calgary’s need for a back stopper more reliable than a Shooter Tutor is their desperate need for size on the wing.
At present, the Flames have some of the most highly skilled young players in the NHL with Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan and, of course, Johnny Gaudreau.
That’s all well and good, but the biggest of those three players is Monahan at 6’3”, 195 lbs. When you put them up against a player like, say, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks, who weighs in at 6’4”, 221 lbs., you’re gonna have a bad time.
Luckily, there are a couple of good options for Calgary in this year’s draft. Alexander Nylander comes to mind as a skilled forward, but he’s pretty small. Then there’s Pierre-Luc Dubois, the likely fifth overall pick. He would be a great fit on the Flames but it’s unlikely that the Vancouver Canucks, who hold the fifth overall, will pass on him.
That leaves Matthew Tkachuck of the London Knights (6’2”, 188 lbs.), whose outstanding performance at the MasterCard Memorial Cup this year all but guaranteed that he’d go fourth overall and the presumptive third overall pick in Jesse Puljujärvi who, at this point, will be heading to Columbus.
So the way forward for the Flames is pretty clear – they need to trade up if they want to maximize the highest draft pick they’ve had in recent years.
Now for the Oilers, who hold the fourth overall pick – trade it and get some defensive help.
This is the only way forward for Edmonton, who have been great offensively thanks to four first overall picks in the last five years but who have been, to put it charitably, not that great on defense.
If Edmonton wants a veteran defender, they’ll likely be able to find one by trading down out of the top 10. They can then use the later draft pick to select one of the phenomenal young defenders that are available later in the first round like Olli Juolevi of the Knights or Jake Bean from the Calgary Hitmen.
The NHL Entry Draft takes place this Friday in Buffalo, New York with the Toronto Maple Leafs picking first overall.