Growing up the son of an NHL general manager means you’re around the sport a lot. It also means you’re probably no stranger to the Draft. Such is the case with Edmonton’s fifth-round pick, Graham McPhee.
The son of former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee says he “grew up in the Capitals locker room.”
Alex Ovechkin lived with the McPhee family during his rookie season. Being around that kind of atmosphere was helpful for Graham, who hopes to further his hockey career in the NHL some day.
“You learn a lot of little things the pros do like unwritten rules and stuff like that,” McPhee said. “All the guys there were extremely kind to me and always welcomed me, which really made me feel good.”
When McPhee was a young kid he was one of the draft runners for Washington. And now, McPhee was one of the prospects in the stands waiting on his name to be called.
“That was cool being part of past drafts and now, being a player drafted. It’s pretty cool,” he said.
Watching prospects get drafted when he was a kid provided a little reward to work toward.
“That’s something that always kind of motivated me. Guys that Washington drafted, how happy they were there with their families.”
And now, McPhee has experienced it himself and he says it lived up to his expectations.
“It’s awesome. It’s an incredible day. It’s something I dreamed of as a kid, to get drafted in the NHL. Now it’s finally becoming a reality and I couldn’t be more proud of being a part of the Edmonton Oilers organization.”
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli has said all along the team is not on a time crunch to get a deal for a defenceman done by the draft. So when the first round came and went and no deal was stuck, that was OK. Saturday, the remaining rounds went by and the Oilers, although they drafted defencemen, were still without a freshly acquired NHL piece. Once again, that’s alright for Chiarelli and the Oilers because the team’s hockey ops boss still laid some groundwork.
“I had some discussions, so I furthered those along,” said Chiarelli. “I thought it was actually a pretty productive day. It didn’t result in a deal, but I thought I had some good talks today.”
Despite no deal being made yet, Chiarelli is pleased with the work done in Buffalo.
“I had positive discussions this week and if I didn’t have any discussions I’d be a little disappointed. But I had positive discussions and we’ll see where it goes.”
When it comes to adding a top-end, right-shot defenceman, it takes time. That’s what Chiarelli says is and has been the plan. Over time, and with more dialogue, high asking prices can come down. Chiarelli continues to say he wants to make a deal because it’s the right one, not for the sake of just making a deal.
“I’ve just got to grind away,” he said. “For example, a couple of the discussions I had today the positions had softened. What usually happens is whenever there’s a deadline or a milestone there’s a loosening up. The next one is July 1. We’re in the shopping period, there’s some movement there."
With the 63rd-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Edmonton took big, Finnish defenceman Markus Niemelainen.
“Very proud and excited to be a part of the Oilers organization, and looking forward to see what is coming next,” he said.
At 6-foot-6, Niemelainen towerd over much of the competition in the Ontario Hockey League this season. In 65 games for the Saginaw Spirit, Niemelainen recorded 27 points (1-26-27).
Niemelainen describes himself as a two-way defenceman, who is more defensively inclined than offensively. However, the Oilers do see a little offensive upside in his game. A tough year for his Saginaw squad perhaps limited production.
“It was a tough year in Saginaw,” said Oilers Director of Player Personnel Bob Green said. “He lost his defensive coach early and then they fired the head coach later. It was a tough year for those kids on that team. He’s big, he can skate, he can move the puck. He likes to play the game with a little bit of offensive flare. I don’t think his numbers this year are indicative of his talent level. There’s more there than just a 6-foot-6 shutdown guy.”
Toward the end of the pre-draft process it seemed as if Niemelainen’s name was being associated with a second or even first-round pick. So the Oilers were surprised to see him there at 63.
“We were,” said Green.
There’s potential Niemelainen returns to his home country next year, but it isn’t confirmed. The Oilers just want him to go somewhere to grow his game.
“We want him to go somewhere where he’s going to play and develop,” said Green. “We’ll have that discussion with him. He’s got options for sure. We try to let the player determine that. If they need help, we can help but they have plans where they want to go. It’s tough to alter that for them. They have to feel comfortable with it.”
The Oilers have selected Vancouver Giants winger Tyler Benson with the 32nd-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Benson, an Edmonton native, played just 30 games this season for Vancouver. He scored nine goals and added 19 assists for 28 points as the captain of the Giants. Benson battled through injuries, but has an impressive past resume.
He averaged almost five points per game in his final season of Bantam AAA. He recorded 146 points (57-89-146) in just 33 games. His numbers set the Major Bantam Hockey League record for points in a season. He won the league’s MVP in 2012-13.
Benson’s brother, Cole, played for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
It’s a common thought that big deals happen at the Draft. You get all of the general managers in one room together and expect the trades to start flowing. While that can be true, the Oilers desire to add an NHL defenceman was not dampened by a lack of action on day one.
It would only be a problem for Edmonton if the only deals they’ve looked at involved the fourth-overall pick, which they used to select Jesse Puljujarvi.
But, as Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli described, the fourth pick was only involved in one serious offer. It was an offer that got close, but never came to be.
“I’ve said it’s been difficult to get a defenceman,” said Chiarelli. “We put four in a couple of scenarios that we moved along. At the end, one became very real. It just didn’t happen. Sometimes those things just don’t happen.”
Despite that deal not happening, there are more conversations to be had.
“It will be a good discussion day tomorrow where if something moves along where it’s to the point we have to execute a deal we’ll do it,” said Chiarelli.
“Today there was really only one deal involving the pick. So it doesn’t really change it that much. What happens is you build momentum on these deals and think let’s get it done on draft day, the first day. But it’s not essential it gets done on draft day if it doesn’t involve the pick which is essentially what happened.”
When the Oilers dropped to the fourth-overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery, their GM Peter Chiarelli said he felt that meant not getting an NHL-ready prospect. But, as it would turn out, Columbus chose Pierre-Luc Dubois third, allowing Edmonton to take Jesse Puljujarvi a pick later.
Puljujarvi was one of the prospects, along with Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, some predict will make the jump to the NHL this season.
The Oilers own staff believes that too. He's a big-bodied player who played well in Finland's top league, playing against men. Although there's still work to be done by Puljujarvi to get there, the Oilers feel he could contribute right away
“That’s what I’ve been told by our staff, and throughout the season — even before we picked him — that these three players we thought had the best opportunity of playing in the National Hockey League next year. A lot of things have to happen before that occurs. He’s got to adjust to his environment in Edmonton, the language barrier is a bit of a thing, he’s going to have to learn some things there and he’s going to have to come to camp and we’re going to have to determine the type of camp he has, how he fits our team and what the best development path is for him. If he’s ready to play, we think he can contribute and we’re doing the right thing organizationally for him and us then he’ll play. But I think we’re talking about something we can’t pin down at this moment. We’ve got to wait and see what happens and we’ve got to take a look at what our team looks like at that point as well.”
Many expected Jesse Puljujarvi to go third overall in the first round of the Draft, but when Pierre-Luc Dubois’ name was called, that meant he slid to the Oilers at four.
It didn’t completely shock Edmonton, who had obviously done extensive legwork to determine a course of action for a variety of scenarios.
“It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out who may be available at four,” said Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli. “But what we started doing was, at one point, we started to look to move down. While that was happening, we got the sense that maybe Puljujarvi would drop. We kind of backed off. You kind of know what other teams’ needs might be, and while there’s some speculating and it happened that he was available. We’re fortunate. He’s a big, strong kid, a smart player who can shoot the puck. Happy to get him.”
The Oilers selected the 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger from Finland. They were prepared for a number of things to happen Friday night, it just turns out they got a prospect who many believed would have been gone.
“The staff led by Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the group did a tremendous job because they anticipated a number of different scenarios and we played them out,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “One of them was one of those top two or three guys falling to us at number four. Of course, it happened and we were prepared to react and make the pick immediately. It’s interesting how much strategy and stress maybe goes into figuring out what you’re going to do. Are you going to move down? Are you going to trade the pick? And as it turned out, we got a player we coveted and we’re excited about joining our organization. We think he has chance to be a long-time Oiler.”
VIDEOS: Puljujarvi 1-on-1 | Puljujarvi Media Avail | Watch Puljujarvi's selection
The Oilers selected Finnish right winger Jesse Puljujarvi fourth overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Puljujarvi is 6-foot-3, 203 pounds and ranked third on NHL Central Scouting’s list of European skaters. Puljujarvi played 50 games for Karpat in Finland, scoring 13 goals and adding 15 assists for 28 points. In the playoffs, Puljujarvi tallied four goals and five assists in 10 games.
“I’m really happy now. It’s a nice city and a great team. I’m ready to play next year for the Edmonton Oilers,” said Puljujarvi shortly after being drafted.
“It’s a good thing to get on a team that has a lot of young players and who are only going to get better and start winning at some point too,” he added, through a translator.
Puljujarvi was asked about the potential of playing with last year's first-round pick Connor McDavid.
“Connor is a very good player and I hope I play next year with him.”
He was also asked about playing in the Finnish League, where he had 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games plus nine more in 10 playoff games.
“(I) learned a lot about what it’s like to be a professional hockey player and play with men and have to fight for a spot on the roster.”
- FEATURE: Chiarelli engaged in ongoing discussions to better defence
- BLOG: McAvoy gives credit to older teammates
- BLOG: Tkachuk eager to know where he's going
- BLOG: Juolevi on Puljujarvi
- Peter Chiarelli 1-on-1 Interview
- RAW | Chiarelli Press Conference
- DRAFT | Matthew Tkachuk at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Logan Brown at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Alexander Nylander at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Jakob Chychrun at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Auston Matthews at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Olli Juolevi at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Charles McAvoy at Media Avail
- DRAFT | Pierre-Luc Dubois at Media Avail
Charlie McAvoy finished his freshman campaign at Boston University with 25 points (3-22-25) in 37 games. That was good for second in defensive scoring.
It was a good transition for the player, who is expected to go in the first round Friday night at the Draft in Buffalo.
McAvoy credits his older teammates for helping him jump right in and contribute.
“I think it was our upper class,” said McAvoy. “Our upper class and our seniors. You come in as a freshman and you’re not really sure where you fit.
Guys like Matt Grzelcyk, Daniel O’Regan, Matt Lane, Mike Moran, Sean Maguire were guys who right away made you feel like part of the family and I can never thank those guys enough for that,” said McAvoy. “That’s really what led to the year we had, was making everyone feel so close.”
McAvoy finished sixth on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters.