On Saturday, April 18, the long-awaited Connor McDavid Sweepstakes essentially came to an end. The lottery was chosen to see who would end up getting the first overall pick in this summer’s NHL Draft in Florida, with the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes being the heavy favorites to win the lottery.
When it was all said and done, however, it was not the Sabres or the Coyotes who came out on top, but the Edmonton Oilers. The Sabres, with a 20 percent chance of winning the lottery, ended up with the second overall pick, the Coyotes, a 13.5 percent chance, got third, and the Oilers, with an 11.5 percent chance, earned their fourth first overall selection in the past six years.
The Oilers last three first-overall picks are still on the team, but haven’t exactly excelled in their young careers. Taylor Hall was the first, chosen in 2010. He scored 22 goals in his rookie season and had a career year last season with 27 goals and 80 points. This season, however, Hall only played 53 games, scoring 14 goals and 38 points, his lowest totals in his NHL career. Next was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011.
He came onto the scene and scored 18 goals and 52 points in his first year, but he only managed four goals and 24 points in 40 games the next year. He has had 56 points with 19 goals in 2013 and 24 goals in this past season. Finally there’s Nail Yakupov, who was drafted in 2012. He played 48 games and had 31 points in his rookie season but hasn’t really improved much in his last two years. He only had 11 goals and 24 points in 63 games two years ago and 33 points in 81 games this season.
Granted, this Oilers team does not have a good defense, no solidified starting goaltender and is in a great deal of flux, which might attribute to these individuals’, and the team’s, lack of production in recent years. It is a little disconcerting, however, to see them continue to be at the bottom of the NHL with all the talent they have picked up in drafts in recent years. So, why will McDavid be different? Well, the eighteen-year-old center has 44 goals and 120 points in 47 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and scored 11 points with Canada’s gold-medal-winning World Junior team.
Even though he missed time due to an injury suffered in a fight in the OHL this season, McDavid looks to be as complete a player to come out of the OHL since Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And, while it is not certain whether or not the Oilers will for sure draft McDavid, with the numbers he has put up it’s hard to argue against it.
The other option for the Oilers at number one would be center Jack Eichel. The Hobey Baker Award-winning Boston University hockey player scored 26 goals and 71 points this season and is supposedly the second best player in this year’s draft. I don’t think anyone getting that first pick would be passing up on a talent like McDavid, even though Eichel does have great potential as well.
The big question, of course, is whether or not McDavid will finally be the number one draft pick difference maker that the Oilers need to return to relevance in the NHL, and even with all the talent he possesses, he still might not be able to pull Edmonton out of the hole by himself. McDavid will certainly help solidify a weak center position outside of Nugent-Hopkins for the Oilers and give wingers like Hall, Yakupov and Eberle better chances to score and take some of the weight off them offensively, but there are still major issues on this team.
Ben Scrives and Viktor Fasth isn’t exactly the best goaltending tandem in the league, and outside of Justin Schultz and youngster Oscar Klefbom, the defense could really use some work also.
McDavid will obviously be a great addition to the Oilers if they decide to draft him. He has the potential to be a franchise-saving, multiple-year All-Star and MVP caliber player. But, like years previous if the Oilers fail to build the rest of the team around him, it won’t matter all that much.