The NHL has released their final rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft, which will be held in Buffalo, NY June 24-25. NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its final ballot of draft-eligible skaters, and forward Auston Matthews tops that list.
Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr says Matthews is “an extraordinary prospect with NHL size, speed and smarts combined with an exceptional work ethic and a relentless compete level.”
Matthews, a Scottsdale, AZ native, skated for Zurich in Switzerland this past season, leading his team in goals with 24 (24-22-46). Matthews ranks at the top of the European skaters list, followed by Finnish wingers Patrik Laine (Tappara) and Jesse Puljujarvi (Karpat).
Laine is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger who scored 17 goals and had 33 points in 46 games for Tappara in Finland. He was a part of the Finland team that won gold at the 2016 World Junior Championship.
Puljujarvi was also on that Finnish team. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound right winger had 28 points (13-15-28) in 50 games for Karpat.
Atop the final rankings for North American skaters is Cape Breton left winger Pierre-Luc Dubois. The next two are London’s Matthew Tkachuk and Alexander Nylander.
Dubois scored 42 goals and finished his season with 99 points and 112 penalty minutes for the QMJHL’s Screaming Eagles. He is a big left-shot winger at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds.
Tkachuk played for the OHL’s Knights, potting 30 goals and adding 77 assists for 107 points in 57 games this season. He comes from a hockey family, as the son of long-time NHL winger Keith Tkachuk and the brother of 2018 draft-eligible Brady Tkachuk.
Nylander, a winger, played 2015-16 with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League. The son of long-time NHL player Michael Nylander and brother of Toronto prospect William Nylander finished the year with 75 points (28-47-75) in 57 games.
The final rankings feature the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders from the U.S. and Canada, as well as the top 150 skaters and 15 goaltenders from Europe.
The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will be held on April 30.
Hockey Canada announced today their first 18 players and the Oilers will be well-represented at the IIHF World Championships next month. Forwards Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall will be joined by goaltender Cam Talbot on Team Canada.
The Oilers have also confirmed over the last two days that forwards Patrick Maroon and Matt Hendricks will skate for Team USA, while defenceman Andrej Sekera will represent Slovakia and centre Leon Draisaitl will play for Germany.
Todd McLellan echoed his players’ comments from yesterday when he spoke to the media wrapping up the 2015-16 season. Almost every player interviewed applauded the leadership of rookie centre Connor McDavid at locker room clean-out day at Rexall Place.
When the Oilers head coach took to the podium, he too spoke highly of young McDavid’s ability to lead. McLellan was asked if McDavid is ready to be a captain at the NHL level and he said he’s close.
“Connor was a tremendous leader this year in his short time with us,” said McLellan. “His presence alone when he walks into the room, and he knows it, he exudes confidence, he carries himself properly. I think leaders attract people. You want to be in his corner, you want to be around him, and when leaders attract people they care about people too and Connor has that going. He’s still 19 years old. I think he’s close to being the guy and ready for it. We’ll talk more over the summer with that. He’ll need a very good supporting crew around him, and we’ll see what our team looks like in the fall to determine whether or not that’s the right thing for our group.”
The Oilers had 360-plus man games lost due to injury this season, many of them to major role players on the team. Oscar Klefbom missed 52 games, Connor McDavid’s outstanding rookie season was cut short by 37 games. Eric Gryba, Brandon Davidson and Benoit Pouliot all got hurt down the stretch, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was also plagued by injuries.
The injury bug made it difficult on the Oilers coaching staff when it came to evaluating their roster. Injuries and health of the roster is something the Oilers will look at moving forward.
“One of the disappointing things, amongst others, was the fact that we just couldn’t get or stay healthy and we have to look at that as well. We have to look at why. Did we rest enough? Were we over-aggressive in some practice situations, did nutrition or our work off the ice, did any of that cause injuries?” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“We never really had our group together and got it to roll a little bit, but I think we saw snippets enough to know individuals and how they react and respond in certain situations.”
Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom saw his season cut very short due to two separate injuries. A knuckle ailment, which was expected to need a quick recovery, turned into an infection and the blueliner missed 52 games.
Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli provided a fairly in-depth update on Klefbom, who could be back skating soon.
“It was a frustrating thing, and it was almost like the perfect storm as far as kind of two successive infections and really, a cut on his knuckle resulted in an infection in his ankle and there have been some players going through the same thing right now,” said Chiarelli.
“Timeline, I think if we were in the playoffs he would have been available. I basically just shut him down. I said, ‘Klef, enough. You’re probably trying too hard to come back,” and it was aggravating it a little bit. He’s going to get the proper equipment. We’ve been looking at getting the proper skate, customized, and the silver lining is he’s in terrific shape. I would anticipate him back skating in a month’s time.”
Chiarelli confirmed there is no tendon or ligament damage, so Klefbom should be hitting the off-season hard in a few weeks’ time.
Connor McDavid came to the Edmonton Oilers with big outside expectations, and even bigger internal ones. The rookie first-overall pick posted 48 points in an injury-shortened 45-game season. He impressed his teammates, even the veteran ones, with how he carried himself through his first NHL season.
“Great person,” said Matt Hendricks. “You couldn’t ask any more of him in that regard, for sure, and I don’t know if you could ask any more of him as a player either. He came into our group this year, into a struggling group, as a young player with a lot of expectations and overwhelmed a lot of us. He’s a heck of a player and a heck of a player to be around and I’m real fortunate to be able to play and enjoy his rookie season with him.”
The players have consistently voiced their pleasure and surprise about his leadership in the room as well. Taylor Hall a week ago said although McDavid is the youngest player in the room, a lot of players look up to him. When asked if McDavid could be a captain some day, Hendricks had no hesitations.
“Absolutely. Absolutely, he could be.”
“That’s not a question for me, but you’ve seen players at his age wear the ‘C’ after their first year or so, but I have no doubt in my mind he’d excel at it,” Hendricks said.
The Oilers finished this season 29th in the NHL, and of course that means plenty of room for improvement for the club that has not made the playoffs since 2006. Patrick Maroon, who was acquired by the Oilers at the NHL Trade Deadline, knows a thing or two about playing meaningful hockey late into and following the regular season, coming from the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s very frustrating,” Maroon said. “This is kind of weird for me because the past four years I’ve been in the playoffs and playing almost until June every year. Now, leading up to it, you’re kind of like ‘God, I wish I could play, go play that 28 games that you have a chance to win,’ There’s a lot of room for improvement with this team and for us to get there we’ve got to ask ourselves if we can play that 28 games right now against Anaheim, the LAs and all that. I don’t think we’re ready as a team, but I think we’re on the right path.”
Anaheim is among the best in the NHL this season, playoff bound for the fourth straight season. When asked what the biggest difference between Anaheim and Edmonton was, Maroon talked about youth and culture.
“We have a really young team here, so it’s a different culture,” said Maroon. “In Anaheim, we had a lot of older veterans, a lot of older guys so it’s obviously a lot different. That being said, there’s room for improvement everywhere, on the ice, off the ice and being leaders. The coaching staff does a great job of preparing all of us and making sure we’re ready and focused to go out there every game.”
“Obviously, there’s an opportunity here for me to grow as a player, grow as a leader,” said Maroon. “Playing with Connor too is an opportunity for me to succeed in this league and an opportunity to put up some good numbers.”
Putting up good numbers is something Maroon has done since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL Trade Deadline. Maroon has 13 points, including seven goals, in just 15 games for the Oil.
“He’s one of those unique players that can play physical and tough and have the size, but still complement high-end skill players, whether it’s finishing or making plays. That’s what’s really unique about him,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He’s got a lot of experience from Anaheim, doing that with (Corey) Perry and (Ryan) Getzlaf. I think that he has the opportunity to have a really healthy, long career here with us. His summer is going to be extremely important. I think he’s beginning to realize this would be a real good landing spot for him long-term so that’s a great thing.”
For Maroon, he wants to keep his good situation going. He didn’t like the way things ended in Anaheim, in terms of his demotion down the lineup. His focus going into the summer is locking that spot down with hard work.
“If the opportunity is there and I’m on the left side with 97 then I’ve just got to run with it. I can’t look back,” said Maroon. “I’ve got to perform, I have to be ready and that’s just playing good and performing and putting the numbers up you’d like to put up. If you don’t do that then you’ll see yourself drop pretty far in the lineup. I don’t want that to happen again. It happened in Anaheim, and I don’t want that. I want to be a role player on this team moving forward. It’s a big summer for me. I can come here and prove to them I want it. You can always improve on things.”
“It didn’t work last year in Anaheim, so what is he going to change, what is he going to do different that he can keep that spot?That will be the challenge,” said McLellan. “I think he’s a great kid. He fits our team well. He’s got an energy, a passion and a smile all the time, he takes every moment to heart and wins and losses affect him emotionally. We need more of that around here.”
Some may have been surprised to see Darnell Nurse skating with the team Friday morning.
The Oilers defenceman took a puck to the throat in the Oilers win over Vancouver on Wednesday. He left the game and did not return, taken to the hospital as a precaution and to determine the extent of the damage. And yet, there he was taking his normal rotation with Adam Pardy as the Oilers skated in Leduc.
“He worked hard. He didn’t show any indication of suffering from anything,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “The doctors have, from what I understand, cleared him so if he’s ready to play, we’ll play him. He is a tough customer and I think that’s part of what makes him an attractive player. That’s a real good characteristic to have.”
Nurse’s throat was swollen after the incident and his voice was a little raspier than normal on Friday, but he looked ready to play when the Oilers wrap up the season on Saturday in Vancouver.
Nurse is just happy he wasn’t seriously injured, as taking a puck to the upper body, face and neck area is no laughing matter.
“It is scary because you feel like you could eat your Adam’s apple,” said Nurse. “You get hit in areas like that and it’s kind of scary. You just want to make sure you can breathe and, obviously, the medical staff we have with the team and the medical staff at the hospital helped me out a lot. I’m lucky. It could have been a lot worse than it was and I’m fortunate to come out just a little swollen with a couple of vocal cords messed up.”
The Oilers have hit the ice for their final practice of the 2015-16 season, at Leduc Recreation Centre.
Darnell Nurse, who left Wednesday night’s game after taking a puck to the throat, is on the ice with the team. Benoit Pouliot, who has been out with a shoulder injury since March 1, is on the ice as well.
As @TheChrisWescott mentioned Darnell Nurse is on the ice and Benoit Pouliot is out there as well. Suffered shoulder injury Feb. 28th— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) April 8, 2016
The bottom six rotated through the first drills, but the top six have been as follows:
Per Bob Stauffer, the bottom six is likely as follows:
Gazdic-Lander-Cracknell are also skating.