The Myth Behind Late First Round Picks (Spoiler: They Aren't That Good)
With a regulation win against the Bruins won in fairly convincing fashion, the Edmonton Oilers have taken another step in working to right the ship that nearly capsized in December. Kailer Yamamoto in particular has shown well in his first couple of appearances and has helped to give Edmonton a second line that can be a scoring threat.
This only helps reinforce the fact that Edmonton's biggest need right now on their roster is top 6 wingers but don't expect Ken Holland to do much before the deadline to address this.
The reason? Holland's refusal to consider trading his draft picks.
Let's go back a few weeks to when Taylor Hall was traded to the Coyotes.
A few reports have come out regarding whether or not the Oilers were interested in Taylor Hall; they were. What made any potential Oilers trade fall apart, was Ken Holland's unwillingness to trade a first round pick.
The prospects the Coyotes traded were B level prospects or players with some potential upside. For Oilers fans, think dealing the likes of Lagesson, Marody, and maybe Safin. Players who could become NHLers but who likely won't be impact players for at least another 2 or 3 seasons...if they ever do turn out.
However if Edmonton wasn't going to trade a first round pick, the Devils would instead have wanted a higher end prospect. That is why names like Broberg and Bouchard kept popping up.
So Ken Holland, in my opinion made the right choice by not moving a Broberg or Bouchard for a rental. If the team was allowed to discuss extension that would be different.
This idea though, that a first round pick, and a late one at that is too valuable a piece to trade is baffling to me.
This isn't meant to be purely a Hall blog, but Taylor Hall is a player who would absolutely be worth losing a first round pick for. By winning even a single playoff round, that pick would be between 24-31 overall.
So what kind of player could Edmonton get with a pick in that range?
Going back to the 2014 NHL Draft, here are the players selected in that grouping:
#23) Conner Bleackley - Centre - No NHL Games Played
#24) Jared McCann - Centre - GP 275 - 47-60-107
#25) David Pastrnak - Right Winger - GP 354 - 160-172-332
#26) Nikita Scherbak - Right Winger - GP 37 - 6-2-8
#27) Nikolay Goldobin - Right Winger GP 125 - 19-27-46
#28) Josh Ho-Sang - Right Winger - GP 53 - 7-17-24
#29) Adrian Kempe - Centre - GP 221 - 34-48-82
#30) John Quenneville - Centre - GP 33 - 2-3-5
Obviously David Pastrnak is the name that stands out here. Pastrnak spent a year in the AHL after being drafted then joined the big club. It's easy to think of Pastrnak as one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL but he didn't really start to earn that status until his third season. He had a total of 25 goals through his first two seasons before jumping and scoring 70 points in 75 as a 21 year old in season #3.
Kempe and McCann are fine young players who can bounce in the middle six and have potential higher futures ahead of them but are not established top 6 forwards. The rest of the list is a group of replacement level players, players who have been put on waivers, or have yet to play a game.
2015 NHL Draft
23.) Brock Boeser - Right Winger - GP 182 - 72-83-155
24.) Travis Konecny - Right Winger - GP 272 - 71-89-160
25.) Jack Roslovic - Centre - GP 151 - 21-34-55
26.) Noah Juulsen - Defense - GP 44 - 2-6-8
27.) Jacob Larsson - Defense - GP 84 - 1-8-9
28.) Anthony Beauvillier - Left Winger - GP 258 - 58-53-111
29.) Gabriel Carlsson - Defense - GP 23 - 0-3-3
30.) Nick Merkley - Right Winger - GP 1 - 0-0-0
Again we can see a few of high end forwards in this group. Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny have both become 20-30 goal scorers for their respective teams while Anthony Beauvillier and Jack Roslovic are trending towards being legitimate top 6 players.
Drafting one of these players would be exactly what the Oilers need right now but once again, these players did not become what they are overnight. In the case of Boeser, Konecny, and Beauvillier, none of them scored 20 goals until three years after they were drafted.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that the 2015 draft was described as one of the deepest drafts for over a decade, drawing comparables to the infamous 2003 draft. Few drafts reach this level of status so this draft should not be looked at as the norm.
2016 NHL Draft
23.) Henrik Borgstrom - Centre - GP 58 - 9-10-19
24.) Max Jones - Left Winger - GP 60 - 6-5-11
25.) Riley Tufte - Left Winger
26.) Tage Thompson - Right Winger - GP 107 - 10-11-21
27.) Brett Howden - Centre - GP 107 - 11-23-34
28.) Lucas Johansen - Defense
29.) Trent Frederic - Centre - GP 17 - 0-0-0
30.) Sam Steel - Centre - GP 58 - 9-15-24
By the same rules as the previous two drafts we have looked at, last season should have seen at least some of these players reach the 20 goal mark. Not only did that not occur, but now four years removed from that draft, no player on this list is even close to hitting 20 goals this season or even reaching that mark over their cumulative NHL career.
2017 NHL Draft
24.) Kristian Vesalainen - Left Winger - GP 5 - 0-1-1
25.) Ryan Poehling - Centre - GP 16 - 3-0-3
26.) Jake Oettinger - Goalie
27.) Morgan Frost - Centre - GP 18 - 2-5-7
28.) Shane Bowers - Centre
29.) Henri Jokiharju - Defense - GP 81 - 4-19-23
30.) Eeli Tolvanen - Right Winger - GP 7 - 1-1-2
31.) Klim Kostin - Centre - GP 4 - 1-0-1
As we approach the present, the info to give about these players grows smaller and smaller. Again, going by the three year post-draft mark, we would like to see some of these forwards trending towards being top six players. Eeli Tolvanen and Morgan Frost remain skilled prospects but have yet to find a way to become regular NHLers yet. The only player in this group who has done so is defenseman Henri Jokiharju.
2018 NHL Draft
24.) Filip Johansson - Defenseman
25.) Dominik Bokk - Left Winger
26.) Jacob Bernard-Docker - Defenseman
27.) Nicolas Beaudin - Defenseman
28.) Nils Lundkvist - Defenseman
29.) Rasmus Sandin - Defenseman - GP 6 - 0-2-2
30.) Joe Veleno - Centre
31.) Alexander Alexeyev - Defenseman
Will Joe Veleno or Dominik Bokk become legitimate NHL producers? Set a reminder in your calendar for three years from now and we will talk. In the meantime, enjoy watching Veleno in the World Juniors.
2019 NHL Draft
Philip Tomasino - Centre
Connor McMichael - Centre
Jakob Pelletier - Left Winger
Nolan Foote - Left Winger
Ryan Suzuki - Centre
Brayden Tracey - Left Winger
John Beecher - Centre
Ryan Johnson - Defenseman
Here we are finally at the draft from this past season and unsurprisingly not a single player from this group has seen an NHL game. Some exciting players to watch in the World Juniors right now, including the early second round pick and Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie.
GET TO THE POINT!
Good teams in the NHL build through the draft and have a constant pool of talented prospects that are ready to compete at the NHL level. This season, the Edmonton Oilers have seen some of the fruits of this labour with their defensive prospects. Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and William Lagesson have all seen NHL time after being drafted and developed by the team. The weakness for Edmonton is clearly in their forwards with limited options existing in the AHL for callup.
Of course the Oilers need to focus on building and developing a prospect pool, but right now Ken Holland is speaking as if this is his entire plan to improve the NHL roster.
Looking at the past six drafts, there is a clear pattern present. Low first round picks are not guaranteed to become NHLers and the ones who do won't be impact players for at least 3 years.
Edmonton has two of the best players in the NHL right now in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Alongside Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Ryan Nugent Hopkins, this is the core of the team... a group of players in the 22-27 age group.
Fans of the Oilers are exhausted and sick of watching a team fail to make the playoffs year after year, and the players themselves are clearly frustrated too. Simply put, the team cannot afford to wait three years for a drafted player to come in and save the team.
There must be a balance as always between trading picks away and drafting but right now Holland needs to place priority on the NHL roster in front of him as opposed to a 25th overall pick next summer that might eventually do something.
Thanks for reading.