Lowetide: Early look at Oilers’ options for 2022 NHL Draft

Barring a change that impacts the final number, selection No. 22 will be the Edmonton Oilers’ spot in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft.

The club has chosen at No. 22 four times: Marc Pouliot (2003), Jordan Eberle (2008), Kailer Yamamoto (2017) and Xavier Bourgault (2021). That’s a solid group for a later first-round pick, and the Oilers will be looking for a similar talent this summer.

It’s a good time to look at areas of possible need in the future, and apply that list to the talent that will be available at this year’s draft. Central Scouting’s final list is out, and it appears to be heavy on forwards. That could mean defencemen and goaltenders are drafted out of order for need, and some of the names that remain on the board at No. 22 overall could be top-15 or higher talents.

How will that impact the Oilers?

The pipeline of talent in the AHL this season is heavy on left-handed defencemen and there’s a pile of wingers on the way to the Bakersfield Condors this fall. That should mean those positions are covered for the next several years.

Edmonton graduated right-handed defenceman Evan Bouchard (12-31-43 in 81 games) and left-handed center Ryan McLeod (9-12-21 in 71 games) this year, two areas that would have been under scrutiny if each of these players struggled to make the grade in the NHL.

If we project Edmonton’s roster ahead three seasons, to 2025-26, the potential roster holes become clear:

LEFT WING CENTER RIGHT WING

Zach Hyman

Connor McDavid

Jesse Puljujarvi

Dylan Holloway

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Kailer Yamamoto

Matvey Petrov

Ryan McLeod

Xavier Bourgault

Tyler Tullio

LEFT DEFENCE

GOALIE

RIGHT DEFENCE

Darnell Nurse

Stuart Skinner

Evan Bouchard

Philip Broberg

Markus Niemelainen

Dmitri Samorukov

It’s safe to assume the Oilers will move heaven and earth to re-sign Leon Draisaitl before he hits free agency in the summer of 2025, but Holland can not be certain and the Oilers have to anticipate the possibility. The center position would still be strong, with Dylan Holloway also available behind Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and McLeod.

Areas of potential need include goaltender, right-handed defense and left wing.

Targeting specific positions

Using the four Central Scouting lists, we can estimate the 21 selections that will come off the board before Edmonton makes its first selection. Bob McKenzie’s midseason list for TSN is also a great frame of reference to estimate the top 20 selections.

Using the three positions identified above, and filtering out the names likely to be gone, what kind of talent pool could Edmonton be looking at for the first round in 2022? Here are the most attractive candidates using only areas of need:

Player Position League Points-Game

Liam Öhgren

LW

Swedish Jr.

1.93

Luca Del Bel Belluz

LC

OHL

1.12

David Goyette

LC

OHL

1.11

Ty Nelson

RD

OHL

0.9

Mattias Havelid

RD

Swedish Jr.

0.66

Noah Warren

RD

QMJHL

0.39

Tyler Brennan

G

WHL

.899 SP

The most attractive name on the list, Liam Öhgren, could be gone by Edmonton’s turn to pick. If he’s available, the Oilers would do well to choose the skilled winger. He is 6-foot-1, 187 pounds and a January 2004 birth date. Exceptional passing skills are his most noticeable asset, and the buzz around him is increasing. Mattias Havelid is a puck mover with good wheels, his being a righty would make him an attractive addition for Edmonton.

Among North American players, Luca Del Bel Belluz has great hands with speed a slight concern, Ty Nelson is a small but effective puck-moving defenceman and Tyler Brennan is the top goalie in the draft, according to Central Scouting.

Noah Warren has strong shutdown abilities, and has size (6-foot-5, 216 pounds) and is a late birthday (July 2004). It’s possible Oilers director of scouting Tyler Wright looks to add another shot suppression RHD to the list – as he did one year ago with German defenceman Luca Munzenberger.

David Goyette is the most attractive player from the CHL on the list, based on size and range of skills. He’s a center, but could easily make the NHL on left wing. He is an expert puckhandler and a fine passer. It’s unknown where he’ll land on the final rankings for McKenzie and The Athletic‘s Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler (he is No. 13 on the Central North American list), but if the Oilers have targeted a forward who can play left wing, Goyette should be high on the list.

He’s one of three who is the class in this group (Öhgren and Havelid).

Targeting best player available

If Wright and his scouting staff use the No. 22 selection on the best available player, the overall quality rises. Here are four names who could be available:

Player Position League Points-Game

Rutger McGroarty

LC

USHL

1.32

Marco Kasper

LC

Swedish Jr.

1.08

Denton Mateychuk

LD

WHL

0.98

Kevin Korchinski

LD

WHL

0.97

I believe it would be difficult for Wright and his scouts to pass on any of these four talents.

Rutger McGroarty has scoring talent and power in his game, the only question surrounds where he’ll play. If he spikes as a scorer, this would be a steal at 22. Marco Kasper is closer to being a finished product, and will be a more complete player, but lacks the outer marker offence McGroarty might bring.

Denton Mateychuk and Kevin Korchinski are both on the Oilers’ radar based on the own own past. Mateychuk is a fine skater, can make a strong pass or carry and is good in coverage. Korchinski is a similar player, he’s a little bigger and is a strong puck carrier.

If Ken Holland walks to the stage at No. 22 and one of these names is on the board, it would be no surprise to see him chosen by Edmonton.

Trading down

It’s possible Edmonton trades out, as happened in 2021 with Bourgault. If that happens, it’s more likely we’ll see Edmonton choose someone like Nelson or Goyette close to the end of the first round.

The Mangiapane list

Years ago, the Oilers called it “the touch list” which contained specific players the scouts or general manager would produce if the senior main list ran out of names.

For some astute teams, late picks are now the domain of prospects who deliver impressive offence but might have one or more areas that are lacking. It’s usually size, but there’s value there.

A good recent example is Andrew Mangiapane, whose offence was obvious in 2014 and 2015, before he was chosen in the sixth round of the 2015 draft by the Calgary Flames.

Here are several players who are likely to go later in the draft (or pass through without being chosen) who could make NHL teams regret passing on them.

Player Position League Points-Game

Jordan Dumais

RW

QMJHL

1.6

Ludwig Persson

LW

Swedish Jrs.

1.49

James Stefan

RW

WHL

1.16

Christian Kyrou

RD

OHL

0.88

Stuart Rolofs

LW

OHL

0.83

Jordan Dumais is ranked No. 73 on the final North American list from Central Scouting, but as an offensive player, he’s a first-round talent. The NHL still fades undersized players, despite the fact Mangiapane, Yamamoto, Johnny Gaudreau, Alex DeBrincat, Conor Garland, Cole Caufield and others delivered strong offensive seasons for their teams in 2021-22.

One or more of these men will find their way to the NHL, and all of them will have been passed over at least once (and likely several times) by big-league scouts.

The bottom line

There’s plenty of time to drill down on this year’s draft, but math has all it needs: The final numbers.

Math has endorsed much of the Oilers’ recent drafts, and last year selections of Bourgault and Matvey Petrov have a chance to be home runs.

Based on the rankings, expect Edmonton to linger around players who can help due to position (Öhgren, Goyette, Havelid, Nelson) but pick the best player (if available) among McGroarty, Kasper, Mateychuk and Korchinski.

In later rounds, players like Dumais and Christian Kyrou may be appealing.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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