Oilers now look to add size around skill players


PITTSBURGH — Edmonton’s Steve Tambellini had the first pick in the NHL draft Friday. And he liked what he added Saturday.

"Today was a good day," said the Oilers general manager.

The Oilers picked up another offensive weapon in Russian winger Nail Yakupov to kick off the draft. The goal Saturday was to add some size that could complement the skill players already in the fold or system.

"We talked about how do we get these people," said Tambellini. "Once in a while you may make a trade to get some size that has the skill to play with your top six or nine — once in a while. But more often than not, nine out of 10, you have to draft these people and develop them.

"So that was a major goal of ours coming into this draft and we think we accomplished that."

The Oilers used their second-round pick — 32nd overall — to take Edmonton Oil Kings winger Mitchell Moroz, who had 16 goals, nine assists and 131 penalty minutes last season.

"He wasn’t getting to our next pick. We knew that," said Tambellini. "And we knew the teams that had spent a lot of time with him, interviewing and testing. He’s got a great attitude. He’s got quite a presence for a young man. There’s a lot of upside there because he can contribute both with the puck and we obviously know that he’s got the courage to stand up and take care of a lot of people too."

The Oilers organization got a lot more colourful with the addition of six-foot-three, 208-pound Russian winger Daniil Zhakov, who plays for the Belleville Bulls.

"It’s my goal to be better than Yakupov," said Zhakov, who knows and likes the Sarnia Sting star.

He went in the third round, 91st overall, holding court with reporters afterwards. Zhakov says he considers himself more of a Canadian than Russian player.

"If you listen to his coach in Belleville and watch him play, he’s a big man that’s got great skills for that type of man but he plays a two-way game. … Another big man that knows how to use his body, that has good skills to play with good players," said Tambellini. "He fits the bill."

Edmonton used its other third-round pick (63rd overall) to select six-foot-three Prince George winger Jughar Khaira. Also taken were Swedish defenceman Erik Gustafsson (fourth round), University of Denver defenceman Joey Laleggia (fifth round) and Cornell winger John McCarron (sixth round).

Tanbellini said the Oilers already have six or seven defencemen "poised to turn pro in the next year to two or three."

"We have good depth there," he said.

Still, he said one remaining goal is to add some defensive help now.

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