Oilers willing to trade a first-round draft pick

Edmonton Oilers vice-chairman Bob Nicholson joined Prime Time Sports to talk about the World Cup of Hockey, and how the inclusion of extra teams will spice up competition.

If there is some solace to be had in Edmonton, it lies, as usual, at the NHL draft table.

In addition to stockpiling losses (26, most in the Western Conference), the Oilers have been collecting early-round draft picks for this spring.

And they would be open to dealing one of those coveted selections for a body that can make a more immediate contribution.

General manager Craig MacTavish was asked during Tuesday’s press scrum — announcing Bob Green as the team’s new director of player personnel — if Edmonton would be open to trading its late-first-round or early-second-round draft picks.

“We’d be willing to make a deal to get a younger player a little further along than an 18-year-old,” MacTavish told reporters. “But at the same time, we hold those picks in very high value. We’re going to get some good players.

“The second-round pick is going to be a player we have high expectations for.

Watch: Craig MacTavish’s full press scrum Tuesday

“Our mandate has always been to build a championship-calibre team. And I know we’re not on schedule on the timeline that we’ve all wanted, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not recognizing the position we’re in. Our mandate has always been to build a sustainable, long-term successful franchise, and a big part of that is going to be through the draft.”

Led, of course, by phenoms Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, scouts expect the 2015 draft to be a deep one. The 29th-place Oilers are on pace to have a good shot at landing another star forward, but their options on June 26-27 in Florida will be even greater due to recent moves.

Combine the first-rounder acquired from Pittsburgh in the David Perron deal with the third-rounder recovered from Ottawa (Ales Hemsky deal), and the Oilers now hold four enviable picks in the first three rounds. They should have three of the first 31 or 32 overall selections.

Which is a big reason MacTavish said he’s placed an emphasis on scouting this season.

Green, who has been climbing the ladder since his success as the GM of the Edmonton Oil Kings, was crowned the Western Hockey League’s executive of the year in back-to-back seasons, 2011-12 and 2012-13.

“We’ve got to do a better job evaluating and procuring talent into our organization,” MacTavish said. “We’ve been really impressed by the detail of his work. He knows how to build a team and is on side with our preference to get bigger, stronger and faster athletes.”

MacTavish also said he was pleased with the early returns on 220-pound winger Rob Klinkhammer (the other piece of the Perron deal) and has noticed an improvement in the Oilers’ puck movement lately.

“We’ve seen some signs the last little while that the team is playing better and some positive signs – but when it starts to go, then it’s going to be sustainable for a long time,” MacTavish said. “And we’ll look back, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, in the rear-view mirror of all of this pain and suffering that we’ve all had to endure.”

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