Saturday, 18 April 2015

Are Too Many 1st Overall Picks a Bad Thing?

The Newest Edmonton Oilers' 1st Overall Draft Pick

As it is now known, the Edmonton Oilers have won the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery.  In a couple months, they will draft Connor McDavid – a touted generational talent with the capabilities of turning a franchise around. The Oilers winning the 2015 lottery will result in their fourth 1st overall selection in six years. Their previous three 1st overall selections came in a row, where they selected Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), and Nail Yakupov (2012). This year’s lottery win signifies the second time in four years the Oilers have won the draft lottery (2012). 

The 1st overall selection in the NHL draft allows an organization to add high end prospective talent to help make the team better. With now four 1st overall selections in six drafts, the Oilers must surely be on their way to the top of the NHL. But why hasn’t that success started to appear? Each of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov are starting to enter the peak of their careers. Three cornerstone pieces are more than enough to start turning the ship around. Yet, the Edmonton Oilers continue to find themselves in the lower third of the league. Shouldn’t this team have seen some promise of better times by now? Of course, there are many components as to why the Oilers still find themselves low in the league standings, but let us focus in on why the luxury of multiple 1st overall selections can be a negative.

If an organization had the 1st overall selection in the draft and passed on the clear-cut number one prospect for that year, they would be deemed foolish, incompetent, and idiotic. It is always the goal to add the best player available to your team, but this doesn’t necessarily help build your team. Take the Oilers for example. They finished last in 2010 and drafted Taylor Hall. A player deemed the best prospect at the time, but who was only ranked slightly ahead of Tyler Seguin. Either player in this year would have worked out well, but most tend to lean towards a center, and in this case, like Seguin. The following year they took the consensus top prospect in center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In 2012, the Oilers finished 29th in the NHL and were slated to pick second in the NHL draft until they won the lottery. Again, they took the consensus top prospect and ended up with Nail Yakupov, another winger. Had they chosen in the 2nd position, they could have drafted number two prospect, defenseman Ryan Murray. Murray would have made more sense from an organizational build perspective. Having that top winger, center, and defensemen is crucial in today’s NHL. Continuing on from 2012, the Oilers did get a top prospect defensemen in Darnell Nurse in 2013. In 2014, they drafted a big, strong, and skilled center in Leon Draisaitl. Had the Oilers lost the lottery in 2012, they would have been off the hook for having to draft the top prospect and could have drafted based on need. At this point, they would have had two high end centers, two high end defensemen, and a high end winger. 

That theoretical aside, the draft for 2015 started to shape up that the Oilers would be able to take another top prospect defenseman in Noah Hanifin. Instead, the Oilers win the lottery and will add generational center, Connor McDavid to their organization. Again the Oilers will take the best prospect available, and rightfully so considering who that prospect is, but are they better off for it? This is a team who desperately needs blue chip, cornerstone defensemen and has only taken one in 10 years. They have a wealth of offensive talent, but with the Oilers rushing these players into the NHL, some have had their value diminish greatly due to poor performance. Adding high end talent, especially on defense, is very difficult in the NHL and is typically accomplished through the draft. Good fortune for the Oilers has caused a bit of a mess in their organizational makeup. With all that talent up front, is it a sure thing that they will move up and make a run at the league’s greatest prize? Or will they continue to hang around the bottom, winning the loser's greatest prize?