Gregor: Edmonton Oilers have to be prepared with more draft options this year


Not only do they have to look at candidates for the seventh pick, but also be prepared for a later selection in first round

67s Sean Monahan and Otters Troy Donnay.

67s Sean Monahan and Otters Troy Donnay.

Photograph by: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers’ amateur scouting staff has seven weeks to debate, argue and defend which player they would recommend Craig MacTavish should draft seventh overall at the NHL entry draft.

The scouting staff, led by head amateur scout Stu MacGregor, has to be prepared for many different outcomes, unlike the past three years where it controlled everything by picking first overall.

This spring, MacGregor and his staff won’t know for sure which players will be available at No. 7. Seth Jones, Nathan McKinnon and Jonathon Drouin will most likely be the first three picks, but after that there, are copious possibilities.

“You have to be a little more prepared for different scenarios,” said MacGregor. “You have to decide that if we choose to trade back that we could still get the same kind of player later on.

“Craig (MacTavish) has got a lot of lines in the water right now. He’s looking at many potential options that would involve a variety of different moves which would involve our draft picks and specifically the No. 7 pick. We have to be prepared.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all day; discussing the potential players and positions they’re in,” MacGregor continued. “We are having discussions such as, ‘If this happens and we move to this spot, are we comfortable with this player? Is the value there for us to move back and select this player over the one we’re bypassing by trading back?’

“We also have to look at what else we’re gaining within that trade and is it going to be an advantage for us. We have to be prepared for multiple scenarios, certainly for the circumstances that we’re involved in at the moment.”

Along with the possibility of trading their draft pick, MacGregor also has to analyze a wider scope of players who might be available for that seventh pick than he did when the Oilers were picking No. 1.

In four of the last five drafts, the Oilers have chosen a winger — Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov — with their first selection. While all four look to be solid NHLers, it is clear the Oilers desperately need some depth down the middle and on the blue-line.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise that we need to add depth at centre ice and, obviously, any type of additional D-man that could help the organization,” said MacGregor.

Here’s MacGregor’s scouting report on some players who could be available at No. 7:

Sean Monahan — born Oct. 12, 1994; six-foot-two, 193-pound centre; shoots left; played with Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League

“He’s a tall, lanky guy who is only going to get stronger. His leg power and strength is going to improve as he gets older and trains and develops physically. He’s a smart player in his game management and he has good puck skills and good puck support on both sides of the puck. A player who gives a consistent effort game in and game out. Ottawa was the worst team in the OHL this year and he had 78 points. Last year, he played on a great team in Ottawa and he had 78 points, as well. He can obviously produce on a team that’s not as good and he’s been a captain and is a good leader.”

Aleksandr Barkov — born Sept. 2, 1995; six-foot-two, 194-pound centre; shoots left; played with Tappara Tampere.

“He’s big, he skates well. He’s a competitive guy. He played successfully against men all season, racking up over 40 points in the Finnish elite league and he was one of the key members of the team. He was a go-to guy on the power play, penalty-killing as a 17-year-old. At the world junior tournament as a 16-year-old, he was very good when the tournament was in Edmonton and in Calgary. He passes the puck extremely well. He is strong on the puck and he has a very competitive 200-foot game.”

Darnell Nurse — born Feb. 4, 1995; six-foot-five, 192-pound defenceman; shoots left; played with Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in OHL

“He’s a great skater, big guy, very athletic. He’s very competitive, plays a hard game and he wants to be a factor, almost to a detriment at times. He wants to do so much that, sometimes, he gets out of his game a little bit and he’ll turn the puck over here or there. But that’s part of evolving as a young player. He’s a 17-year-old who just wants to make an impact on the game. I really like his heart, his drive, his physicality. He’s a great skater, a solid defender. The offensive side of his game is improving.”

Rasmus Ristolainen — born Oct. 27, 1994; six-foot-two, 190-pound defenceman; shoots right; played with TPS Turko in Finland’s elite league

“He has a solid two-way game and skates very well. He’s played in the men’s league for two years already in Finland. He’s been effective logging key ice time on the penalty-kill and a little bit of power play. He was a key member of the world junior team for Finland the last three seasons. Has a very good shot off the offensive point. Not what I would call a quarterback of a power play, but he’s a real solid two- way defender who makes intelligent passes to get you out of pressure in your own end.”

Another player who might be available is rugged Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin (18, six-foot-three, 200 pounds). He is currently ranked higher than seventh, but might drop down the list because he has two years left on his Kontinental Hockey League contract. MacGregor said rumours he has an out-clause after the first year are incorrect.

“The only way he can get out of that contract is if he bought his way out of it,” MacGregor said.

Nichushkin’s rights were recently traded from Chelyabinsk Traktor to Moscow Dynamo for a reported $3 million US.

“When a player is under contract in the KHL, it’s a factor (drafting him). It’s something that has to be considered, but it’s not insurmountable. You have to determine exactly the timeline of when the player wants to come over, if he wants to come over, and his commitment to actually coming over,” said MacGregor.

You can listen to Gregor weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the TEAM 1260 and read him at

On Twitter: jasongregor

67s Sean Monahan and Otters Troy Donnay.

67s Sean Monahan and Otters Troy Donnay.

Photograph by: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen

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