Chiarelli Snowed Under

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The 2012 NHL draft was absolutely loaded with blue chip defensive prospects.

For much of that year leading up to the draft, there was a lot of chatter that Ryan Murray might be taken 1st overall but as often happens, Murray fell while the Oilers blew a foot off and selected yet another scoring winger who can’t play a 2 way game.

See the photo above and you’ll instantly recognize that 4 of those teenage defensemen were from the 2012 draft and, if not injured I imagine they would have been joined by Murray.

Not pictured is 4th overall pick Griffin Reinhart who has managed only 8 NHL appearances and those came a season later.

The next 6 picks in that draft were all D and all of them have played significant games in the NHL others selected later in the 1st round and even the 2nd and 3rd rounds have become NHL regulars.

Here they are sorted by GP.

Hampus Lindholm 156

Morgan Rielly 154

Jacob Trouba 130

Cody Ceci 130

Olli Maata 98

Mat Dumba 71

Damon Severson 51

Derrick Pouliot 34

Connor Carrick 34

Petteri Lindbolm 23

Jake McCabe 9

Griffin Reinhart 8

Slater Koekkek 3

Shayne Gostisbehere 2

Brett Kulak 1

Obviously, Reinhart has fallen way behind the pack and I’m sure the NYI would have loved a mulligan on their pick and, of course, shipped Reinhart to the Oilers at the draft when the Oilers dangled the 16th and 33rd picks which the Islanders used to take Mat Barzal and, after a small trade. Anthony Beauvillier.

The latter may have been a bit of reach but Bob McKenzie had Barzal ranked 9th and I believe he would have been rated even higher if not for a freak off ice accident that broke his kneecap.

Despite the injury, Barzal scored more than 1PPG in the WHL and projects to be a dynamic potential winger for John Tavares.

While doing my Sunday morning whip around the web I ran into this somewhat contradictory comment from Lowetide:

LOWETIDE says:

One thing I wonder about Reinhart is his current trade value. If Edmonton decided to deal him today (which they won’t, this is just blue sky) what could they get in return? I suspect it’s fairly close to what they gave up but in a year the value will differ. By that I mean he’ll either have established himself a great deal more than he has so far, or he’ll be trying to break in to the NHL and his value will have gone down. It’s an important year for him.

While I can certainly agree with LT’s final point, I can’t get on board with the rest of it.

Given Reinhart’s slow progress post draft, I doubt you would find many GM’s who would trade a high 1st round pick in a very deep draft never mind throw in the 33rd pick.

Garth Snow absolutely picked Peter Chiarelli’s pocket on this one unless Reinhart arrives next season in a very big way.

And, even if he does, Mat Barzal may make the Oilers look very, very stupid on this one.

That will be an interesting race to watch but even more interesting is the development of Thomas Chabot  who the Oilers could have taken at 16 if they wanted a defenseman.

Craig Button:

His year-to-year development has been terrific. Plays a very assured game with and without the puck. He possesses excellent mobility and it allows him to be very effective defensively and to transition to offence quickly. A very good passer who gets the puck into the right spots at the right times. He showed glimpses of being in the group of top three defencemen of this draft, along with Hanifin, Provorov and Werenski.

In looking at drafts, I’ve always believed you can find tremendous value by keeping any eye on players who rise rapidly through the rankings in their draft year….and that fits Chabot to a tee.

From Defending Big D:

Thomas Chabot has had a pretty impressive rise up the draft rankings since the beginning of the year. On the NHL Central Scouting watching list before the season began he was listed as a ‘B’ prospect. One that could go between the second and fourth rounds. He now ranks 16th overall in North American Skaters in their final listing.

His rise up the rankings is reminiscent of Philadelphia Flyers first round pick last year, Travis Sanheim.

So who is Thomas Chabot? He’s a two way defenseman from the QMJHL who has stepped up into an important role for the Sea Dogs. Last season he was a rookie and relied upon a veteran to show him the ropes, this year he has become the veteran.

He’s doubled his points totals from his rookie season and it’s clear that he considers the special part of his game to be the offensive side. His skating is very good and helps him when he joins the rush up the ice. He’s also developed a reputation for his quick and clever plays over the past year, something that won’t have hurt his draft ranking at all.

Like many defenseman who like playing in the offensive zone they also have some defensive issues. His rookie season was seen as being quite one dimensional, with much of the focus on the offensive zone. It was this season that he’s started to use his body more and to focus more on the defensive aspect of his game.

It’s paid off, he’s scoring more but he’s also much better in his own zone than he was before.

That sounds to me like a player who is a great fit for the quick transition game that is becoming de rigeur in the NHL and, if he continues to improve defensively, he may make Reinhart look like an average #4 D that now seems like his upside.

Of, course lots of things can happen on the way to Grandma’s House but I think we have the basis of a very good story to unfold over the next few seasons and I would wager it’s not going to be a happy ending for the Edmonton Oilers.

Top Pairing Defensemen

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Where do top pairing defensemen come from?

I was “in conversation” with some Oiler fans last night…pretty much all of whom are counting on Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to soon be a cheap source of high level defensive acumen while the team spends all its resources on the top 6 forwards it has received via the draft.

That may happen but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Let’s take a look at the best defensemen in the WC and how they got to the NHL.

Anaheim: Hampus Lindholm – Drafted  6th overall in 2012. Spent part of 1 season in the AHL and made an immediate impact in the NHL at the age of 20. (6G 30P +29)

Arizona: Oliver Ekman – Larsson – Drafted 6th overall in 2009. Made an immediate impact in the NHL immediately after being drafted.

Calgary: Here is your outlier. Mark Giordano was never drafted but instead spent 4 seasons bouncing between the Flames, the AHL and Russia before finding his game.

Chicago: Duncan Keith – Another crooked development path as Keith was drafted in the 2nd round in 1983 and spent 2 full seasons in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular. (this was before the salary cap era which pushes teams to have more cheap youngsters on their rosters.)

Colorado: – Erik Johnson – Drafted 1st overall in 2006 and played in the NHL as an 18 year old.

Dallas: Alex Goligoski -Picked in the 2nd round in 2004 but made his NHL debut as an 18 year old.

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty – Picked 2nd overall in 2008 and made an immediate impact in the NHL as an 18 year old.

Minnesota: Ryan Suter – Picked 6th overall in 2003 (again pre-cap) and spent 1 season in the AHL but made an impact in the NHL as a 20 year old

Nashville: Shea Weber  – Picked in the 2nd round (OMG) in the generational 2003 draft. That was the draft that also produced Suter, Burns, Coburn, Phaneuf, Seabrook, Stuart, Klein and Carle who were all taken before Weber. Weber spent part of 1 season in the AHL but was already a beast at 21 year of age.

San Jose: Brent Burns – Drafted 20th overall in 2003 and spent 1 season in the AHL.

St. Louis: Alex Pietrangelo – Drafted 4th overall in 2008. Spent another year in junior but was an impact player as a 20 year old.

Vancouver: Alex Edler – Drafted in the 3rd round in 2008. Spent part of 1 season in the AHL but was an NHL regular at the age of 21.

Winnipeg: Tyler Myers – Drafted 12th overall in 2008. Won rookie of the year in the NHL and then struggled. With noting the Jets also have Jacob Trouba who was selected 9th overall in 2012 and spent one year in NCAA  hockey before making an impact in the NHL at the age of 21.

So, that brings us to Klefbom and Nurse.

Klefbom was 19th overall in 2011 and despite showing some promise in 60 games this season at the age of 21. One would think, if he’s going to emerge as a top pairing D, we should see evidence of that next season. If that doesn’t happen, I would think he career trajectory would most likely to be compared to that of Alex Edler who I believe might be the weakest #1D on this list.

Nurse was elected 7th overall in the 2013 draft and is spending another season in junior hockey and may need a season in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular. As you can see from the above, that would be very unusual for a player with his draft pedigree considering most of the players on this list were impact players at the age of 20-21.

Obviously, every player has a different development path that is affected by all sorts of factors but it is also pretty clear that elite defenders emerge very early,

And, almost without exception, you cannot win a Stanley Cup without one.

Dum Luck

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The Edmonton Oilers are likely a much better hockey team today than they were yesterday but they are also a team that is being rewarded, handsomely, for a decade of incompetence.

It is true that the NHL draft lottery exists to give a leg up to teams that have fallen on hard times but the Oilers will now have FOUR 1st overall picks in their lineup and unless their management can deliver a winner in short order, they will deserve every bit of scorn from hockey fans all over the world will heap on them.

With Connor McDavid in the fold, Kevin Lowe and Co. have likely bought themselves more time with fans and, most importantly, owner Daryl Katz but unless they can surround all that young talent with the right veterans (something they have shown little aptitude for), the stakes will be very high.

I would say they have the length of Connor McDavid’s entry level contract to win a Stanley Cup and, if they haven’t, it will be time to blow it all up again.

There are a few reasons for that.

The most important of those is that the Oilers will be in a very tenuous cap position with all of Hall, Eberle, Hopkins and, perhaps, Yakupov earning big dollars and, one would imagine if McDavid lives up to his draft billing, a second contract that far eclipses the $6 million now being paid to Hall, Eberle and Hopkins.

When you consider they have to acquire (and pay) TWO top pairing defensemen and a legitimate starting goaltender, they are likely to have very little remaining cap space to fill out a team with good complimentary players.

Of course, they will likely rely on some of their prospect depth to fill out the bottom of the order but, bear in mind, in 3 years time some of the players will also be needing second (more expensive) contracts as well.

Prudent management I think should already be looking 3-4 years down the road and realize that they need to make some moves now to prevent that situation from developing.

If we assume that two top pairing D are likely going to cost north of $5 million each, you could see a situation in Connor McDavid’s 4th season where the Oilers are paying him $8M, Hall, Hopkins and Eberle $6M each and Yakupov perhaps $5M.

That would be a minimum of $41M to pay 7 players and, depending on where the cap is at, could make it exceedingly difficult to round out a winning roster.

The Oilers can, of course, move any one of those highly paid pieces at any time but, considering they desperately need to fill out they D corp and get solid goaltending, it make a whole lot of sense to start that process right away and get on with trying to win.

Tomorrow just arrived.