Articles about Connor McDavid, by this point in the season, are almost a dime a dozen.
We talk about how Buffalo’s going to get him, then we talk about how Edmonton will. Arizona Coyotes fans make a case for him heading to the desert; other fans argue that they need to stay terrible and get Auston Matthews next season. We haven’t seen this kind of draft excitement in a good while; even the Taylor Hall – Tyler Seguin drama didn’t get this kind of attention.
While Connor McDavid is undoubtedly a phenomenal hockey player, though, we’re looking a bit too much at what The Greatest Player On The Planet can bring a terrible team… and not looking enough at what each team truly needs.
While I’m the poster child for end-all-be-all advocacy of a Mitchell Marner to the Arizona Coyotes draft selection, I’m also extremely wary of a Connor McDavid to the Edmonton Oilers draft selection — for a number of reasons.
To preface this, let me say it one more time — Connor McDavid is not only a spectacular player, he’s the best in his draft class. Compared to other players his age, he’s on another level altogether.
Compared to players at the NHL level — or, at the very least, close to it — though, he’s simply an elite player. Compared to players twice his size and multiple years his senior, he’s no longer able to skate circles around the competition.
Keeping this in mind, I think he’d be a terrible fit for Edmonton.
The Edmonton Oilers are the polar opposite of the Arizona Coyotes, the New Jersey Devils, and — to a lesser extent — the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve got a fairly well-stocked (if ill-fitting) offensive lineup — and while they could certainly use a decent, two-way center, that’s not exactly what I would market Connor McDavid’s strengths to be.
The Edmonton Oilers need a playmaker — but before they get a playmaker, they need a good blue line and a decent top-six penalty killer.
What the Oilers need now on offense will come in a player that has to be developed within the system; the biggest problem they’re facing is attempting to build a top six exclusively of players who are NHL ready the day they get drafted. At this point, they need to spend a few years being kind of terrible (well, a few more) — without their first round picks. They’ve done the right thing with Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl, but that will kind of negate itself if they draft Connor McDavid.
Watching Connor McDavid at the World Juniors solidified this for me; while he showed offensive prowess and insanely in-tune hockey sense, you have to think about what’s best for the team in the long run.
Connor McDavid will still be good next season; based on how Aaron Ekblad has looked this season, he’ll probably even be great. There’s no doubt that he’ll inject a significant boost in scoring his rookie season for whatever team drafts him — and unless he wants to play in the NCAA, he’ll be in the NHL by next year.
The Edmonton Oilers don’t need an injection in scoring, though; they need a chance to increase their own scorepower through a decrease in turnovers and a stronger ability to navigate the other team’s ice space. It doesn’t matter how many top league scorers you add to a roster; without a sound, secure ability to control your own end of the ice, there’s very little that will improve offensively with each subsequently added scorer.
Want proof? Look at the Oilers’ record since they swapped David Perron for Rob Klinkhammer.
David Perron and Rob Klinkhammer are so far from being similar players that it seems almost laughable to mention them in the same sentence; while Klinkhammer has surpassed his own projected talent ceiling, he still shows little to no likelihood of ever reaching the potential that Perron has already reached this early in his career.
Although the Oilers lost significant offense with the swap of the two skaters, though, their record has still improved in the post-Perron era; with the massive shift in possession statistics due to the addition of Klinkhammer and fellow two-way pickup Matt Fraser, the Oilers have provided their remaining offensive pieces an increased opportunity to score.
If the Edmonton Oilers get the first overall pick, adding Connor McDavid would no longer be the worst thing that could happen to them. Earlier in the season, when they still had David Perron and were stunting Leon Draisaitl, I would have said drafting him would have been disastrous.
The first overall pick isn’t about not being disastrous, though; it’s about having the power to select the best possible player for the roster a team currently possesses — and the best way to use that first overall pick for the Oilers wouldn’t be by selecting Connor McDavid.
Instead, they should trade the first pick for the third or fourth pick — and use it on Noah Hanifin. (But that’s for another day.)