Adding size up the middle of the ice was something the Edmonton Oilers knew they had to do to become more competitive against the bigger centres and teams in their division and conference. At 6-foot-2, 213 pounds (and still growing), Leon Draisaitl was the pick for the Oilers at third overall.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke with TSN following the pick and talked about what Draisaitl brings.
“We all know how difficult big centres are to obtain,” MacTavish said. “You’re going to have to draft big centres to get them because they’re very hard to come by. Leon really fits that build for us. We play in a very difficult conference, a very difficult division and we feel Leon’s skill set fits in incredibly well for us in Edmonton. There will be a lineup of wingers that will be ready to play with Leon when he gets to Edmonton.”
Some fans might have noticed that the Edmonton Oilers first round draft pick wasn’t wearing his new hat like the rest of the draftees. Leon Draisaitl put the jersey on but a certain member of the Oilers coaching staff didn’t allow him to take the hat. Head Coach Dallas Eakins played defence and blocked Draisaitl from putting on his new lid.
“He told me he is not going to give me the hat because he doesn’t want my mom to be mad at my hair,” Draisaitl said with a laugh.
Hat-hair crisis avoided.
Draisaitl also says that he thinks the Oilers are moving in the right direction as they have brought in players through trades like David Perron and their young stars continue to mature.
“I think I’m going to have to do my job and earn my spot if I want to play in that league and on that team,” Draisaitl said. “I think they’re moving forward. They’ve made some good trades like for Perron and I think the guys are getting older and more mature and this is just awesome right now.”
On the possibility of playing with Hall, Draisaitl had nothing but good things to say:
“He’s probably the fastest skater in the league and he’s an exciting player to watch. He’s a star in the league. It might be a good fit but you never know. It’s up to the coaches to put a line together and I can only do my job.”
The Edmonton Oilers made Leon Draisaitl the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft tonight. Having his size (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) and his skill (105 points this season), Draisaitl could make an immediate jump to the NHL from the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL.
Earlier today, Oilers Head Scout Stu MacGregor said he felt any of the top four prospects have an “outstanding chance to play” this season. Draisaitl says he feels like he has some things to work on but should be ready after the summer.
“I think I have to work on some stuff but that’s what I’m going to do this summer and I think I’m ready next year,” he said.
It was expected that the Edmonton Oilers were interested in Leon Draisaitl. The day before the draft, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke of the team’s need of a centre and how size was also a factor. Draisaitl fits that description and the Oilers made him the third overall pick in this year’s draft.
Draisaitl didn’t know for sure if he would hear his name called when the Oilers took the stage in Philadelphia, but he had an idea that they liked him.“I think this year was really unpredictable," Draisaitl said. "No one really knew what was going on from the players’ perspective. I had really good meetings with them and knew they were interested but you didn’t know what was going on with the trades and all that stuff but right now, wearing that jersey is phenomenal.”
The Edmonton Oilers will have a decision to make when it’s their turn to submit their selection with the third overall pick in tonight’s draft. A question that has come up in the scouting meetings has been whether or not the Oilers rank immediate help above future impact or vice versa.
“That’s an interesting question and something we’ve been throwing around a lot over the last year,” Oilers Head Scout Stu MacGregor said. “Positional need, a desire to have a player that can make an impact today or who will be the best player in five years.”
MacGregor says the scouts always lean towards future projections over the short-term value of a player.
“Obviously longterm for a scout, you’re projecting five years ahead,” he said. “Management may look at things a little realistically on a shorter term basis. We do need to make some strides. Hopefully those strides forward will come from the group that’s already there and a coaching staff that’s solidified in working with that group and a comfort that the players believe in the direction we’re going on the team. Adding something that can help immediately would be a great benefit but it’s like anything, you’re judged longterm and what type of success you’ll have. One good year may buy you a few more years of employment but if you can get through those development years, probably five great years on an on-going basis probably buys you 15-20 years of employment. It’s an interesting process but scouts project longterm.”
The Oilers are in position to take one of the draft’s top four prospects: Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart or Leon Draisaitl. MacGregor said he thinks all four of them have the ability to make the jump to the NHL right away.
“I really believe all four have an excellent chance. I don’t think there is any varying degree of difference in their opportunity. Opportunity will have to present itself with the team that they’re with and their development plan and there’s a lot of factors that come with that. But I would expect that all four of them have an outstanding chance to play.”
PHILADELPHIA - Holding the third pick overall, the Oilers can't definitely say who they are going to take at the 2014 NHL Draft but even if they could, MacTavish said that there's still a lot to decide before they step up to the stage on Friday night.
- RAW | MacTavish Media Avail
- WATCH | Top Prospects Clinic Feature
- RAW | Draisaitl
- RAW | Dal Colle
- RAW | Bennett
"There’s six pending scenarios that we could be presented with in terms of packages of players. Couple of players we’re going to have to decide between. We’re still content to do our homework in terms of character assessment. It’s very unusual that we’re down to the last 24 hours before the draft and not completely sure which way we’ll go in terms of certain scenarios. That tells you that these players are very equally rated."
The one defenceman at the top of the draft class is Aaron Ekblad, though he's expected to go first overall. The other top players are all centres, which suits MacTavish just fine.
"A lot has been said about our need on defence, which is clear. But it doesn’t trump our need at centre. An argument could be made that centre is our most needed position. Someone who’s got some size and who can play some big minutes in that division and that conference.
"We’ve got more defence coming and more depth on defence. I think it’s an open question on what our greatest need is."
PHILADELPHIA - Oilers GM Craig MacTavish is hoping to find a good bargain in this year's crop of free agents.
"There are a couple still available," he started.
"Who are the Grabovski’s of this year that Washington picked up last year. They paid less for a guy like Grabovski and added a good element to their team. Those are some of the guys we’re going to be trying to find as this period and process goes on."
Grabovski, who was bought out by the Maple Leafs last summer, had 13 goals and 35 points in 58 games for the Capitals. He was on a one-year, $3 million deal.
MacTavish hoped to snag one of those value-type players for his blueline.
"There are a few of those (who are) puck-moving defencemen, I think. And Nikitin certainly fits into that category (as a puck-moving defenceman)."
MacTavish was pretty clear on what the team is looking for.
"We need one more defenceman, ideally, and possibly a forward or two."
“It’s not a revelation that UFAs are expensive," said MacTavish, who signed Nikitin to a two-year deal at $4.5 million per year. "We felt that we very much needed to upgrade our defence. I’ve been talking about that for a long time. We had a great need at that position and we had an opportunity to land a defenceman that we think will fit very nicely into our top four. He’s a very versatile defenceman. The term was attractive to both the player and us. It buys time for us to develop our young defencemen appropriately, whether that’s sending them back to junior if they’re not ready or putting them in the American Hockey League.
"It made sense on a lot of fronts to pay the price that we paid and we look forward to getting the player in here at training camp."
MacTavish was asked if the interview process that is now in place — where teams can contact free-agents-to-be a handful of days before free agency hits on July 1 — is driving up the price. He said it did not.
"The price was always exorbitant. The mistakes that we’ve made — and a lot of teams have made in the past, in this regard — is undervalue what the price is going to be to land the player. Ultimately, you want the player and we were in a pretty enviable position to pay the price. It gives us a little bit of protection as we proceed in this UFA market, knowing that we have a piece which helps us achieve our fundamental objective."
PHILADELPHIA - Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko is above the rest in many minds. He is NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American goalie and will possibly be the first of his position off the board when the draft gets underway in Philadelphia.
Demko says it is his love of the game and his will to win that separates him from the pack of draft-eligible netminders.
“I think just my will to win,” Demko said. “I work really hard off the ice to make sure I’m getting myself prepared to play. Definitely in the off-season too, I am making sure that I’m getting better for next year so when I do get back to the next season I will be ready to go. I think I just love the game more than most guys do and I want to be in the NHL.”
Demko, 18, is a native of San Diego, CA. He finished his freshman year at Boston College with a 2.24 goals against average and .919 save percentage.