The problem with drafting to fill a specific need on your current National Hockey League roster is that the need precedes the arrival of the player by at least two years. Or, at least, it should.
So, either you fill the holes in some other way before that drafted player arrives in the NHL, or you rush the player into the vacant position. Ready or not.
Which brings us to the Edmonton Oilers. We all know what option the Oilers have traditionally chosen, and that has much to do with the fact they are still a top-10 drafting club, this many years after Taylor Hall went No. 1 overall in 2010.
With the eighth pick in this 2019 draft, the only thing we know for sure is that there will be an excellent player awaiting Edmonton. One that, if handled properly, could play 1,000 NHL games. That is how prepared, and skilled, today’s top-10 draft pick is compared to two decades ago.
The Oilers, under Ken Holland’s new mantra of “stability,” fully intend to draft at No. 8. They are not talking of moving down — even to Vancouver’s No. 10 — wanting to show their fan base (and the rest of the NHL) that the new regime is ready to draft and develop its way to the top.
Amen, say Oilers fans.
This is hockey’s version of separating Church and State. Successful teams draft for tomorrow and take care of today through development, trades and free agency. Drafting for today is what has left Edmonton as a perennial top-10 drafting club.
The Oilers are rich in top-six centres and lean on wingers to play on the flanks of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They also dearly require a third-line centre who can win a faceoff, kill a penalty, and generally help to lock down a lead provided by the aforementioned top-six guys. And, they need another goalie.
Those itches cannot be scratched by selections made at this draft. Meanwhile, dealing away those picks for Band-Aid players might sound smart, until you realize that you’ve dealt the young prospect who is supposed to come in and replace the Band-Aid guy in a few years.
Sure, in the days leading up to the draft Holland may have to attach a draft pick to a heavy cap hit to clear some cap space so he can solve his immediate issues when free agency opens on July 1. That is acceptable for a team that is missing only a fifth-round pick in its arsenal for this draft.
If the Oilers can come away with a future star player at No. 8, hit on someone else the way they did on Dmitri Samorukov in Round 3 two years ago, and use another pick to alleviate their cap situation, then the 2019 NHL Draft would be termed wildly successful for Holland, assistant GM Keith Gretzky, and the Oilers.
So, who to pick at No. 8?
The Oilers’ system is rich with talented young defencemen: Evan Bouchard, Samorukov, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, William Lagesson, Joel Persson is coming from Sweden. They should probably draft a forward at No. 8. However, fitting uber-prospects Bouchard and Samorukov — who both turn pro in the fall — with a six-foot-three Philip Broberg, perhaps the best skating defenceman in this draft, would stock the Oilers blue-line for the next 15 years, a prospect that not easy to pass on.
That choice will be made by the teams drafting ahead of Edmonton — most importantly, Detroit at No. 6 and Buffalo at No. 7. If a highly ranked forward like Kirby Dach, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras or Dylan Cozens is hanging around at No. 8, there will be conversations at the Oilers table.
There is little reason to believe that Broberg will not be there for Edmonton at No. 8. They just have to decide on how badly they want him, how a team that needs forwards can pick another defenceman.
It’s the kind of decision that successful organizations make — and get right — every year at this time.
Now, under a new regime, it is Edmonton’s turn.