The shock factor when the Edmonton Oilers had the gold card at the draft lottery presentation on Saturday night was overwhelming. The Oilers had the first overall pick in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts, and it seemed as though they had finally met their quota for making the first selection. In fact, a new lottery system was introduced for this year alone, and it was seemingly geared toward stopping perpetual cellar-dwellers like the Oilers from picking first year after year.
There was a level of disappointment and outcry in the moments following the reveal, and even Connor McDavid himself seemed a bit caught off-guard and flustered in the immediate aftermath. Edmonton now has the chance to make its fourth first overall selection in six years and the chance to draft hockey’s next greatest player.
But what if they don’t?
Prior to Saturday night’s reveal, there were plenty of ideas floating around about how the Oilers should trade the first overall pick if they were to win the lottery; those were all hypothetical of course, since North Alberta was about the last place fans would have expected to see the right to draft McDavid land.
But now that it’s happened, we should look at some potential scenarios – though unlikely – in which Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would trade perhaps the most desired pick since Sidney Crosby was eligible for the 2005 NHL Draft. MacTavish seemed pretty adamant on keeping the pick and selecting McDavid:
I can’t tell you how exciting it is for us to win this lottery. Any team would have been just over the moon about winning the lottery, and we’re the same. It’s a game-changer. Zero [chance of trading the pick].
– Craig MacTavish
Despite his comments, the Oilers seem like the one franchise that could potentially trade the pick. Edmonton is so deep at the forward position organizationally but so weak on defense and in goal, so if they were to round out their roster to fill the weak spots, trading the right to draft McDavid would give them perhaps the biggest return possible. It would also set them in the right direction and speed up the seemingly never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.
The draft lottery win comes just days after it was reported that some of the Oilers’ core players were told they would not be traded:
[MacTavish] has informed Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins not to worry about listening to rumours because those players will not be traded. He said you can add Nail Yakupov to that list as well. He believes very strongly that these are players, and the types of players that they [or] other teams have given up on too early. He doesn’t want to make the same mistakes and he wants to give them a chance to grow together.
– Elliotte Friedman
MacTavish has clearly identified the forwards he would like to build around and the players he trusts to right the ship in Edmonton with. But help is certainly on the way, with forward Leon Draisaitl likely to go pro next season as well as dynamic defenders Darnell Nurse.
Interesting matchup in OHL playoffs. Sault Ste. Marie (Nurse) vs Eerie (McDavid). Oilers brass will watch this series very closely.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 19, 2015
Edmonton has the chance to build a better support group around these top young players, and they could use a top defender as the key piece coming back in a potential trade. Buffalo GM Tim Murray was very vocal in his disappointment of losing out on the chance to pick McDavid first overall, so it wouldn’t be outlandish for the active GM to pull the trigger on a deal to move up one spot.
Murray’s got the second overall pick, two-way right-handed defender Rasmus Ristolainen, and veteran forwards like Tyler Ennis or Matt Moulson to offer up to the Oilers, or they can dip into the prospect pool and add players like Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching or J.T. Compher to the package.
Sidney Crosby tells @JoshYohe_Trib that Connor McDavid is going to have to deal with Gretzky comparisons: "It's to be expected."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 19, 2015
Drafting Eichel could be good for the Oilers, as they lack a top-six right-handed center, and adding Ristolainen would certainly help the blue line tremendously. They could even trade down from second overall as well and select left-handed defender Noah Hanifin. Or they could control the whole draft, trading down several times and acquiring many players/prospects before finally picking Lawson Crouse – a much-needed big, tough two-way forward.
Or the Oilers can send McDavid home to Toronto, preparing to acquire a huge package that includes the Maple Leafs’ fourth overall pick, defenseman Dion Phaneuf and perhaps Phil Kessel, as well as many other smaller pieces to help surround the current Oilers core with a much better support system and get the team to a more competitive level much faster.
As for lottery result: I love it. All that young Oil talent is moving towards their primes, McDavid will be put in a position to succeed.
— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) April 19, 2015
Whatever MacTavish has planned, it could be subject to change until draft day come June. We could see the Oilers select McDavid first as expected, or they could own this entire draft by trading down and adding plenty of established, veteran NHL talent. They could even dip into free agency, picking up bottom-six players like Gregory Campbell and/or Daniel Paille – both of whom were told by the Bruins organization that they would not be re-signed and brought back to Boston next season.
But regardless – though one must be cautious in saying this – it seems as though Edmonton is finally headed in the right direction, whether they trade the pick or keep it and select McDavid. We will find out soon, but there’s a good chance Oilers fans will finally see an end to their decade-long misery pretty soon.