Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn't expect to go early in the Fantasy Draft tonight as All-Star festivities kick off. The 21-year-old pivot said that didn't matter, however.
“Just being here is for sure a big honour. The fantasy draft is just a fun part of the event. No matter where you get picked, I don’t think anybody’s going to be mad about it,” he said. “I think I’ll go pretty low tonight. I’ll be one of the last guys picked, I think. And if I am, I wouldn’t mind going last and getting the car. We’ll see. It’s all going to be a lot of fun and we’ll see how that goes.”
The last player chosen in the Fantasy Draft wins a car. Nugent-Hopkins said he hasn't really thought about who might get the vehicle if he wins it.
“It’ll probably go back home to one of my family members. We’ll see. They’ll have to fight for it.”
Having just got in last night, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hasn't had a lot of time to mingle with his fellow all-stars but he's definitely looking forward to. When asked who he was looking most forward to meeting, he was quick to answer.
“Jonathan Toews," he said. "I’ve watched him for a long time now. The only other time I got to meet him is when I was in Bantam, we played in the Western Championships and it was in Winnipeg. He actually dropped the puck to start the final game.
“I’ve been playing against him for a few years. He’s definitely a guy that I’ve looked up to in the past.”
The Oilers selected William Lagesson with the 91st pick in the 2014 draft. Now the defenceman has selected his next career stop. Lagesson has committed to play college hockey at the University of Massachusetts.
Lagesson, playing in his first USHL season, has 12 points (1-11-12) in 25 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He leads all their defencemen in scoring.
Lagesson played for Sweden at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
Bob Green talked about being named as the team's Director of Player Personnel on Tuesday morning.
“It means a lot. It’s exciting. It’s a huge challenge. That’s what makes it so rewarding. I’m just excited to get going and move forward,” said Green.
As part of his duties, he'll be overseeing not only everything on the amateur side of things with scouting, but also pro scouting. Green talked about having a lot on his plate.
“It’s a lot. I’ll spend lot of time with the amateur draft. A lot more than I’ve had in the past. And with pro scouting as well. It’s a bigger umbrella for me. It covers a big area in the organization,” Green continued. “It’s great to have a strong voice and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
The former Oil Kings GM was also asked about working with Stu MacGregor, head amateur scout, and Morey Gare, head pro scout.
“It should be good. I’ll concentrate more on the amateur draft for sure. I’ve known Stu for a long time and we’ve worked well together. With Morey, things are going to keep moving on the same as they have in the past, concentrating a lot on preparing for the trade deadline, unrestricted free agency and those things. Continue to evaluate other teams’ players and prospects as well. Nothing’s really going to change a whole lot there.”
He did add that there will be -- and already are -- changes implemented in terms of how the team scouts amateur players in the hopes of getting more results in the later rounds.
“We’ve made some subtle changes in how we’re going about things with the amateur guys, keeping guys in their own territory. It’s something we started a little bit this year, having the guys concentrate more on their areas. We’re going to keep them in their areas for the rest of the year, hoping that’ll give us a lot more information on some of the later picks and kids that are slower to develop, late bloomers and that type of thing.”
The Oilers are on the ice for practice just outside of Washington, D.C.
Taylor Hall is battling through a bit of a goal-scoring slump right now, only finding the back of the net once in his last 12 games after he scored twice and had three points against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 21.
He does have seven assists during this past dozen, however, and continues to lead the team with 29 points. Coach Todd Nelson said Monday post-practice he has been impressed with Hall’s commitment to the team game and believe the goals will begin to pile up again as long as he stays committed and determined.
“I like Taylor’s game right now,” Nelson said. “He’s doing a lot of little things that maybe go unnoticed. He’s conforming to the team philosophy, playing the way that we want him to play and working hard at it. I’m not concerned with goals. I think those will come if he sticks with what we want to do.”
Hall’s commitment to the team philosophy and system is a reflection of his growth as a player, Nelson said. The bench boss got to know the 23-year-old quite well during the 2012-13 work stoppage when Hall scored 34 points in 26 games as a member of Nelson’s OKC Barons in the AHL.
“That’s maybe growth with him,” Nelson said. “It shows signs of maturity. From when I coached him in Oklahoma City, I see a lot of maturing in his game.”
Hall was +1 with two shots on goal during Edmonton’s 3-2 win over Washington on Oct. 22 at Rexall Place and has one goal in three career games against the Caps.
The last stop on the current Oilers road trip is a homecoming for a couple of veterans and linemates, as Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon each played for the Washington Capitals earlier in their careers.
Hendricks suited up for the Caps for three seasons between 2010 and 2013, while Gordon played in Washington a little earlier, starting his NHL career there in 2003 and spending seven years with the organization. Hendricks and Gordon both played on the 2010-11 Caps squad that finished first in the Eastern Conference during the regular season but bowed out to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs.
Following a strong WHL career with the Red Deer Rebels, Gordon was selected in the first round (17th overall) by the Caps and spent his first three seasons up and down between the NHL and AHL before becoming a full-time big leaguer in 2006-07. He set a career high in points that year with 29 and appeared in 36 post-season games during his tenure with Washington.
“It’s good to be back,” Gordon said following Monday’s Oilers practice at the Caps facility in Arlington, Virginia. Since it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, many hockey fans took advantage of the holiday to watch the Caps and Oilers practice, so Gordon was frequently approached by locals who welcomed him back to the city.
“I played here quite a while and met a lot of great people and teammates. Any time I come back it’s always pretty special for me. I really enjoyed my time here, really nice city. There’s a lot of great history, which is something I enjoyed while I was here.”
Hendricks also had his most productive offensive season as a member of the Caps, as he put up 25 points in 2010-11. He too built a nice post-season resumé, appearing in 28 playoffs games. And while Hendricks didn’t play quite as along in Washington as Gordon, he echoed his teammates sentiments about their former city.
“It was a great time playing here, great fan base and great organization,” Hendricks said. “I played on some real good teams, teams that challenged in the playoffs, and made a lot of great friends. I had my kids here, they were born in Virginia over at the hospital, so it brings back a lot of great memories. It’s a great place to live.”
Both Oilers also agreed they’d like to close out the trip with a W against their old squad.
The 2015 NHL Draft has been speculated by many to be the deepest since the 2003 Draft mined the likes of Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Anze Kopitar among many others.
Oilers GM Craig MacTavish talked about the importance of the draft for the club.
“It’s an extremely important draft. The primary focal point of our organization right now is in preparation for this upcoming draft. We now have Pittsburgh’s first-round pick. We have two first round picks. We’re going to get an early pick in the second round so that’s going to be a pick that we’ve got to utilize very well. And then we’ve got two third-round draft choices. It’s essential that we do very well at this year’s draft.”
In addition to being deep, at the high-end the talent is extremely highly touted with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
“They’re both generational players. I’ve seen Jack play at BU. I’ve seen Connor McDavid play before, going into this tournament. Both players really accounted for themselves well against older, tougher competition. And that’s really a good measure.”
MacTavish was recently at the World Junior Hockey Championships when both 17-year-olds McDavid and Eichel were among their respective teams' best players in a tournament normally dominated by 19 year olds.
“It’ll probably be the last time we have an opportunity to see both those players competing on the same ice surface. Both players, any team would be ecstatic to get. There were many, many good players that were in that tournament as well. Lawson Crouse is another guy for Canada that did very well. Noah Hanifin’s gotten a lot of notoriety at Boston College. Pavel Zacha, Czech-born player who plays for Sarnia, Mitch Marner in London. There are a lot of high-end players in the draft.
“From what I’ve been told by Stu MacGregor and Bob Green it’s a very deep draft.”
Today, Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish confirmed the rumours swirling around that Bob Green has been promoted to the position of Director of Player Personnel for the club.
“These are things that normally are done internally but there’s been quite a bit of information that Bob Green has taken over as Director of Player Personnel for the Edmonton Oilers. He’s going to oversee all aspects of our scouting department,” MacTavish began.
“This is really a confirmation of some of the rumours that have been out there. When I go to the rink and run into scouts of other teams who are asking me about this, I felt it was time to reveal some of this information. Other than that, it’s really our policy and my policy to keep these changes as internal as we can. But this is an effort to really fortify the horse power of our amateur and pro scouting staff.”
Green has an impressive resume which includes building an Edmonton Oil Kings squad that made the WHL Finals three years in a row with two Memorial Cup appearances and one Memorial Cup victory.
“He’s been working in our organization now for a few years with the Oil Kings highly successfully, getting a lot of attention for building a Memorial Cup team. Then he took a full-time job with the Edmonton Oilers last year and has been on the job for just over a year now. We’ve been really impressed by the detail of his work. He knows how to build a team and is on side with our preference to get bigger, stronger and faster athletes.”
Heading into a very important draft for the Oilers with two first rounders, a high second-round pick and two third rounders in the deepest draft since 2003, MacTavish felt it was important to have someone in this role who works well within the group.
“He’s shown he can work with this group and do an excellent job. Those qualities were obvious to me and the rest of the management in the organization. Bob’s going to do a really good job for us in this capacity.”
The Oklahoma City Barons have skyrocketed up the standings to first place in the entire AHL. They have 58 points in 40 games, with a record of 27-9-2-2.
“I think there’s got to be a lot of credit given to Gerry Fleming and Tony (Borgford) and Kelly Buchberger too as well,” said Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. “It speaks to the tradition and culture here which was really been started through Bill Scott, who now works for us, and Todd Nelson. It’s a very close-knit group of players. We’ve got a really good mix of veterans who help set the bar for the youth. And we’ve got a good mix of youth. Bogdan Yakimov last night was exceptional. JJ Khaira, Mitch Moroz is down here. That’s to really complement a really good, young D-core.”
MacTavish added that he feels the future is in teams having a mobile blueline and the Oilers are very well prepared for that with the young, mobile defence in Oklahoma City.
“Defencemen that can move the puck, move their feet, get the puck up ice. Dillon Simpson, Jordan Oesterle, David Musil, Gernat, Brandon Davidson who we’ve seen and Marty Marincin who everybody knows. There’s a lot of guys on the back-end who have potentially bright futures in the NHL.”
Having better calibre of players at the NHL level has helped improve player development.
“We’ve been talking about adding more competitive people and more size to our lineup. I’m seeing the evolution of a lot of that. It takes time to draft these players, bring them in and develop them, develop them the right way. I feel like our organization up top is strong enough, deep enough and growing up top so we have the time to put these guys and leave them down here at the American League level where development best occurs. We’re seeing that firsthand.”