LOS ANGELES – The opportunity to take Taylor Hall with the No. 1 overall pick virtually guaranteed the Edmonton Oilers would leave California as the big draft winner among Canada’s six NHL teams.
As it turns out, the Oilers might’ve had the most productive weekend even without the selection of the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) superstar.
This refreshing reality for the league’s last-place club in 2009-10 coincides with team management’s promise last month to rebuild through the annual prospect derby. They certainly gave it their best shot. Edmonton scooped up 11 players at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – behind only Florida’s 13 – including three second-rounders and the first pick of the third round after the selection of the explosively skilled Hall at No. 1 overall.
“They have so much history behind them,” said an ecstatic Hall of the Oilers, soon after being drafted. “With the five Stanley Cups they’ve won, it would mean a lot to me to join the organization and hopefully bring another one up there. That’s the ultimate goal for me and the franchise.”
That’s the kind of quote that will quickly endear Hall, who was born in Calgary, to Edmonton fans. And with his combination of talent and competitiveness, it’s easy to see Hall leading the Oilers back to respectability in the not-too-distant future.
“Hopefully I can make that team next year,” said Hall, who has nothing to prove in junior after back-to-back Memorial Cup championships (and MVP awards). “That’s my first step. We can really recreate some of the magic they had there.”
Edmonton was one of only two Canadian teams to even have a first-round pick, with the Montreal Canadiens grabbing house-sized defenseman Jarred Tinordi – son of former NHL defender Mark Tinordi – with the 22nd overall selection. The Canadiens’ next pick didn’t come until late in the fourth round, when they chose forward Mark MacMillan out of the British Columbia Jr. A League at No. 113.
But back to the Oilers.
Edmonton nabbed Minnesota State (NCAA) center Tyler Pitlick with the first selection of Round 2 (No. 31), and used their other second-round selections on Slovak defenseman Martin Marincin at No. 46 and Saskatoon (WHL) left winger Curtis Hamilton at No. 48. The 6-foot-2 Pitlick is an all-around player who skates well and has good instincts in the offensive zone, plus he boasts one of the fastest shot releases in the draft. Marincin is another big body, a 6-foot-4 specimen who skated for Slovakia’s under-20 team this year and plans to play in the Canadian Hockey League next season. Hamilton was limited to just 26 WHL games after breaking his collarbone (twice) and separating his shoulder, but the 6-foot-2 winger is learning to use his size and he skates well.
The Oilers’ pattern of picking extra-large forwards with offensive skill continued with the selection of Ryan Martindale (No. 61) to kick off the third round. The Ottawa (OHL) center is 6-foot-3 and his playmaking and speed are his best traits.
In Hall, the Oilers have a top-quality talent, while the quantity of picks that followed – including five of the first 61 selections – also bodes well in what is expected to be a deep draft that yields NHLers in every round.
“The depth is as deep as I’ve seen,” said NHL central Scouting director E.J. McGuire. “But now, depth isn’t always first round…People often ask, ‘How good is this draft?’ Often when they say that, they mean how good is the top half of the first round, the shiny people.
“I think the third- and fourth-rounders of this draft, many of them are going to play in the NHL, probably two years from now.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs hope McGuire is correct in that calculation. The Leafs, who sent their first-rounder to Boston last September as part of the Phil Kessel(notes) deal, made feisty left winger Bradley Ross their first pick midway through the second round at No. 43. Ross was the third member of a lethal line in Portland (WHL) that featured top picks Ryan Johansen (fourth overall, Columbus) and Nino Niederreiter (No. 5, New York Islanders). Ross, a hustler who scored nearly a point per game and racked up 203 penalty minutes in 71 outings, plays a style that should translate well to the pro game (not to mention, he should fit in with GM Brian Burke’s truculent approach).
The Leafs added two more forwards in the third round – center Gregg McKegg out of Erie (OHL) at No. 62 and Swedish winger Sondre Olden at No. 79 – and three of their four picks in the later rounds also play up front.
Edmonton’s arch-rival in Alberta, Calgary, had to sit and watch the Oilers walk to the podium five times before the Flames announced their first selection. And it was a familiar name to Calgary supporters as the Flames took Maxwell Reinhart 64th overall. The son of longtime Calgary defenseman Paul Reinhart, Maxwell is a creative center who collected 51 points in 72 games in his second season with Kootenay Ice (WHL). After taking Reinhart’s Kootenay teammate, defenseman Joey Leach at No. 73, the Flames continued their family philosophy by selecting defenseman John Ramage 103rd overall. The son of former Calgary blue liner Rob Ramage, John is a 6-foot-5, 185-pounder coming off his freshman season with the University of Wisconsin (NCAA) after playing for the U.S. under-18 program in 2008-09.
Finally, there’s the understated draft experience – to put it kindly – of Ottawa and Vancouver. The Senators’ first pick was left winger Jakub Culek, a Czech Republic native who played for Rimouski (QMJHL), at No. 76, and Ottawa had just three other selections.
Vancouver, meanwhile, didn’t choose a prospect until drafting defenseman Patrick McNally late in the fourth round (No. 115). The U.S. high-schooler will bring his offensive stylings to Harvard next season. The Canucks had four other picks, including Finnish goalie Jonathan Iilahti at 175th overall. But at least they were involved in the only notable deal of the 2010 draft when the Canucks sent their 25th overall pick along with forwards Steve Bernier(notes) and Michael Grabner(notes) to Florida in exchange for gritty two-way defenseman Keith Ballard(notes) and young winger Victor Oreskovich(notes).
In the end, the real proof of which Canadian teams “won” the draft will come in a few years when we see which club’s prospects develop into NHL players – and which ones fall short of hockey’s biggest stage.
But Edmonton has a Hall of a head start and the Oilers’ star-in-waiting might very well get some help from his 2010 draft brethren.
“I have a lot of work to do,” Hall said. “Sure, I went No. 1, but I still have a team to join and a team to make better.”