Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

By Sean Patrick Ryan

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The Edmonton Oilers enter the 2021 Draft with a good amount of prospect depth at most positions all at different stages of their development. One needs to look no further than next season’s projected Condors’ roster that should include: Dylan Holloway, Kirill Maksimov, Raphael Lavoie, Dmitri Samorukov, Philip Broberg, Michael Kesselring, Stuart Skinner & Ilya Konovalov. That is a very talented and promising group that should give Oilers fans plenty to be excited about.

One blemish is the Oilers 2019 4th round draft pick – Matej Blumel, who I had ranked #13th in my most recent Prospect review. The team did not sign him before his eligibility window to do so expired, thus he is now not a part of the organization. Having tracked this player all year I would call this a blown opportunity to sign a good prospect with a legitimate shot at an NHL job one day. Edmonton should have signed the 100th overall pick in my opinion, but he has now signed up for 3 more years in the Czech league. Even so, I suspect this won’t be the last we hear of him….

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Heading into this year’s draft the Oilers have a shortage of picks again (barring any trades). Normally, I’m usually all for taking the best player available but this year’s draft is unlike any before. The OHL, which is arguably the best Junior league in the world in terms of the number of prospects that ultimately play in the NHL – didn’t even have a season. The WHL & QMJHL had abbreviated ones. Meanwhile, European leagues played pretty much their entire seasons and the NCAA & USHL also got the majority of their games in. So in terms of rankings and looking for a “consensus” they should be all over the map. Which means, the term BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE is more subjective this year than ever before and should not be used as a crutch in terms of evaluating who goes where. Edmonton needs hard-working, skilled players who’s games will translate well to the NHL. That has always been my focus in doing these and will continue to be moving forward.

That being said, I have to use something as a guideline in projecting who’s going to be available when Edmonton selects. So the availability is based on the final NHL Central Scouting List rankings which tends to be pretty accurate when it’s all said and done. Once the draft is over, I do a recap post where I adjust the selections based on who was actually still on the board at the time which is much more realistic. Here is 2020’s post draft recap. But for now, here are projections of who might be available when the Oilers pick based on the NHL CS rankings. Currently, here are the picks the Oilers have:

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courtesy of Puckpedia.com

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Edmonton Oilers Mock Draft

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1st Round (19th Overall)

Sebastian Cossa is ranked as the #1 goalie prospect in North America, and 2nd behind Jesper Wallstedt overall by most. While it’s possible he is gone before EDM picks at #19, it’s important to remember that 2 goalies have not been selected in the 1st round of an NHL draft since 2012 (Vasilevskiy 19th, Subban 24th). Last season, Yaroslav Askarov was far and away the best goalie prospect but still didn’t go till pick #11. So the further Wallstedt slips, the further Cossa likely does too which means Cossa could be sitting there when the Oilers are on the clock – and they should pounce.

There’s no question Cossa had a monster draft year for the Oil Kings. He finished with an outstanding stat line: 17-1-4, 1.57 GAA, .941 SV%. However, it should be noted that he really only faced his own division during the season. Plus, with a November birthdate he is one of the older goalie prospects in this draft. So in terms of context and judging objectively, I look at what he did in 2019-20 and compare it to similar goaltenders from the WHL like Carey Price & Carter Hart (both two of the youngest goalies in their draft years). To account for age, I compare Cossa’s stats from his draft-1 year to both their actual draft years and it still comes out very favourably:

Now if you compare Cossa’s stats in his draft year it’s no wonder why he is so highly touted. But this isn’t just all about his stats even though they pass the test. I’m not a goalie scout but in terms of his skillset, he’s a 6’6″ butterfly goalie who has terrific athleticism, good fundamentals and a quick glove. His movement both post to post and up and down are very impressive, and he’s almost always square to the shooter. He’s an imposing figure in net & a terrific athlete. He doesn’t challenge the shooters by coming out of his crease as much as a lot of goalies do, but that’s clearly by design as he doesn’t lack confidence. In many ways he reminds me of Dallas 1st round pick Jake Oettinger (minus the terrific puck handling). Big, athletic kid who kind of checks all the boxes. Heard a lot of reports of what a great leader and high character Cossa is too which is just gravy at this point.

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There are some who feel that Edmonton is in “win now mode” and already has good goalie depth in the organization, and anyone of Skinner, Rodrigue or Konovalov could eventually be an NHL goaltender. To that I would say, don’t pass up a future #1 starter for a POSSIBLE backup. Goaltender depth is not a bad thing and should not sway you from taking the #1 North American goalie in this draft. That would have been like passing up on Darnell Nurse because you had Martin Marincin in the system already. Plus, any forward you take at #19 isn’t going to have a real impact for at least 3 years anyways.

Final thought: This notion Edmonton is in “win now mode” so has to take a forward is a fallacy. Go back and look at the 2018 draft and see how many players after pick #15 have made major contributions in the NHL so far. Carey Price & Carter Hart were in the NHL in their draft+3 years and there is no reason to think Cossa won’t be either. Make the pick and get your future 10+ year starting goaltender.

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1st Round (19th Overall)

Francesco Pinelli played a bit in the Alps hockey league this past season while the OHL status was still up in the air. While he scored 11 points in 13 games in a rather pedestrian league, it was more about getting into game shape than anything else. He then proceeded to play for Team Canada at the U18’s where he was excellent – registering 4 goals, 11 points in 7 games centering mainly the 3rd line. He used primarily in more of a shutdown role and excelled as a 2 way forward, though he did get some PP time against Switzerland as well and capitalized.

Before that, Pinelli played for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL in the 2019-20 season. There, he led all 16 yr old rookie forwards in assists with 23 and had an impressive +15. He played primarily on the wing that season and proved to be equally dangerous as a puck distributor or trigger man. He finished with a very respectable 18 goals, 41 points as a rookie.

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Pinelli is a 5.5/6 tool prospect. The only thing truly holding him back is his overall lack of explosiveness or agility as a skater. But, he is a strong straight line skater with a good top gear and is so smart he finds those open areas on the ice to create for himself and his teammates. Plus his work ethic is top notch. He rarely gives up on a shift and will take a hit to make a play. He is also equally dangerous as a shooter or playmaker. His shot and release are close to elite and his playmaking & vision are high end. He reads the ice so well and has great anticipation to get into a shooting position or bait defenders before he dishes the puck. Pinelli is the type of player who makes a lot of those smart but subtle plays that don’t always get noticed at first unless you watch him consistently. He’s so smart and so skilled.

If you’re a big fan of intangibles, Pinelli also checks all the boxes there. He is a terrific 200 foot player who usually hustles back hard on the backcheck and knows his defensive responsibilities. He’s also highly regarded as a natural leader who takes great pride in being a good teammate and doing whatever his team asks of him. Real unselfish kid with a great attitude who can fill a variety of roles on any team as we saw with Team Canada at the U18s.

Ranked as the #15th best North American prospect, there is a very good chance Pinelli is still on the board when the Oilers pick. He would fill a big hole for an organization that has little to no center depth behind Ryan McLeod & Dylan Holloway (who both could start in Edmonton). Plus, he can play the wing, on the Powerplay, or on the PK too so you can use him just about anywhere in your lineup. Make no mistake though, he is one of the most intelligent players in this draft who reads the ice and controls the puck like most top prospects do. He has the ability to score a lot of goals but also to setup just as many making him a multi-faceted playmaker.

Final thought: This is a lot of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Pinelli’s game – elite hockey sense, high end skill, versatility & reliability. This kid gives you a bit of everything. The terms “high character” & “complete forward” are tossed around for good reason. For an organization complaining of wanting more leadership in it’s ranks, you’d have a hard time finding a guy who prides himself on being a leader more than Pinelli. Sure, his skating isn’t perfect but with his hockey IQ & work ethic this is the kind of kid you bet on to improve. If Cossa is off the board at #19, Francesco Pinelli would be my pick.

Other good possibilities at #19 : Matt Coronato, Cole Sillingerboth terrific shooters & goal scorers.

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3rd-4th Round

2020-21 : 29 GP – 10G, 13A, 23 Points

Manix Landry is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft. Despite being arguably one of the best QMJHL prospects in several categories (skating, hockey sense, work ethic, 200 ft game), he is ranked as the 21st best Q prospect by NHL Central Scouting, which is an absolute shame.

Landry checks pretty much all the boxes for a prospect. He’s versatile, he’s a leader (team captain at age 17), he can play in all situations. But his real strengths are his skating & work ethic. It’s tough to find a prospect who competes as hard as he does on every shift and in all 3 zones. He creates a ton of turnovers with his relentless puck pursuit & fabulous skating. His strides are nearly flawless and his acceleration is elite. He also protects the puck extremely well and isn’t afraid to battle along the boards or take a hit to make a play. The kid is a gamer.

On top of all that, Landry has some serious skill. He doesn’t shoot a ton but he has a very good wrist shot and quick release. His vision is also high end. He makes a lot of good reads game in and game out with his head up and is a very capable playmaker. Being the Captain of his team likely limited his offense somewhat, as he was so responsible defensively being the F3. He even played regularly on the PK. But there’s no doubt he can create offense with his speed, skill & hockey IQ.

At a minimum, Landry appears to have the all the tools to be an excellent shutdown / penalty killer type at the pro level. He’s a terrific skater with an abrasive style & defensive mentality, but can also be a relentless puck-hound with finishing ability. There are a lot of similarities between he and Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli (who only scored 36 points in 68 games in his draft year). He’s got the drive but also the puck skills to go with it. He needs to get a bit stronger like most prospects do but other than that, tough to find a more intelligent and complete player than Landry.

Final thought: I’m not going to lie, I watched a ton of the QMJHL this season including just about every Gatineau game. I have Manix Landry as the 3rd best prospect out of the QMHL this season (behind Bolduc & Nause). People slept on Cirelli in his draft year and I think they’re doing the same here. Landry is a terrific prospect who is an absolutely steal if he is still on the board when Edmonton picks in the 4th round. In fact, I would absolutely trade up to the early 3rd round just to make sure I got him. He’s a late 1st-early 2nd round pick in my books.

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3rd-4th Round

Ranked #90 NA Prospect, Trevor Wong is ranked as low as he is because of his size – plain and simple. He is highly skilled and has a relentless motor but he is small by NHL standards, which means some team is going to draft a helluva talented kid in the mid rounds.

Wong only played 16 games for Kelowna of the WHL, but I watched his shifts from all of them and he’s a terrific prospect. Talent wise, he’s right up there with Logan Stankoven for me (who’s also small but has 15 lbs on Wong). Kelowna wasn’t nearly as deep a team as Kamloops but Wong still averaged a point per game and played in situations. He scored 2 SHG’s in 16 games and was 56.2% in the faceoff circle. He was also hustling and was a force in all 3 zones. Loved his compete level – one of the best in this draft.

Wong has elite offensive instincts. The only real knock I have on Wong is he needs to shoot more. Sometimes he over-passed the puck when he had a chance to shoot. He only averaged just over 2 shots a game (Stankoven was 5 shots/game) which is a shame because he can absolutely rip the puck when he wants to. His speed & motor are his real assets though. He is so dangerous in transition and just flies through the neutral zone. He puts a lot of pressure on defensemen with his speed & aggressive forecheck. He’s not afraid to go hard to the net despite his diminutive stature, and in many ways reminds me of Kailer Yamamoto (who is almost the identical size).

Final thought: First of all, this notion the the Oilers can never draft another small, skilled forward because they have Kailer Yamamoto is preposterous. Secondly, any forward drafted in this round is likely not making the NHL for 3-4 years anyways. So who knows if Yamamoto will even still be an Oiler by then. Perhaps, you draft his replacement now just in case. Either way, bet on skill – and Wong has loads of it. He has all the makings of being a solid 2 way center at the next level similar to a Tyler Johnson and will likely destroy the WHL next season. Tremendous value if he drops this far and Landry is off the board.

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5th-6th Round

Ranked 146th NA Prospect by NHL CS

While I disagree with his NHL CS ranking completely (146th NA prospect), I at least understand it a bit. Montgomery is a kid who’s stock really took a hit with the OHL not playing. He was a bit raw in London last year and was logging mainly 3rd pair minutes so didn’t have a lot of hype around him. He even played a bit of forward. But his size and athleticism were quite apparent even in training camp as he beat out fellow Knight teammate and draftee Logan Mailloux for a spot in London. He was also set to get a bigger opportunity this season in a more prime role but that never materialized for obvious reasons.

So instead, Montgomery didn’t play much hockey this year other than in the newly formed Pandemic hockey league. While it certainly wasn’t ideal in terms of scouting, the main thing I was looking for was improvement in the puck control and puck rushing ability that he flashed in training camp in 2019-20. That showed up on tape for sure which was a great sign. But I was blown away by the power and strength is in his skating – especially in the backwards crosscuts and moving laterally. Watch these clips and remember: he’s 6’5″, 220 lbs.

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Montgomery is a very toolsy prospect. His real strengths are his mobility and hockey sense. He has great range for such a big man and makes a lot of good decisions with the puck. Has a knack for making the smart but subtle plays. Shows real good poise. He’s also a hard worker on and off the ice. He’s physical, he outmuscles opponents, and he stands up for his teammates. Defensively, Montgomery plays the position very well. His closes gaps quickly and is good clearing the front of the net. He makes a good first pass but can also skate it out if he has to. There’s a lot to like about the kid. His shot & puck skills appear to be improving so if his hands ultimately catch up to his head – watch out. Ton of upside with this kid as a potential physical, puck rushing d-man.

Final thought: The Oilers did well drafting Michael Kesselring a couple years ago and could end up with another similar player here if they’re lucky. I still find it hard to believe he’s ranked where he is especially considering some of the names ahead of him. You can never have too many mobile, Right shot defencemen like this – especially with Montgomery’s upside. He’s scheduled to be back in London of the OHL in 2021 anchoring the blueline on a strong Knights team. I’d trade up and draft him in the 4th round for sure if I could. If he’s still somehow here in the 6th round – make the pick without hesitation. Not going to find a kid with a better toolkit and ceiling than Montgomery in the mid to late rounds.

6th Round & 7th Round

It’s a crapshoot who’s going to still be on the board at point so I’m just going throw some names out there and if any of them are still there – make the pick. It was tough to choose any of the Euro players as I haven’t seen much of them projected in the later rounds.

Martin Rysavy (F) – Ranked #89 European skater which means he’s probably available though I’ve seen some outlets have him in their Top 100 overall so who knows. Got to see him play for Czech Republic at the World Juniors and he looked good. Scored a couple of nice goals, good speed, physical, real aggressive on the forecheck. Watch shifts from a couple league games and he certainly looks the part. Doubt he’s still on the board here but if he is make the selection.

Ville Koskala (LD) – Small finnish d-man but has some nice puck rushing ability and explosiveness. Listed at 157 lbs but looks stockier than that. Makes a lot of smart, subtle reads in the d-zone similar to what Ethan Bear does. Strong at breakouts and in transition. Has good offensive instincts & competes hard in his own end. Worth the pick here.

Stuart Rolofs (LW) – Would have had a big year in London if not for the OHL stoppage. Has elite speed (beat Liam Foudy for fastest skater in 2020) and has a big shot. Good work ethic, 200 foot game coming around. Doubt he gets drafted due to lack of exposure but if you want a deep sleeper, can’t go wrong with this talented London Knight forward.

Connor Trenholm (C)From the hockey factory of Cole Harbour, Trenholm overcame a heart condition at age 10 where he missed 3 years of minor hockey so he’s a bit of a late bloomer (QMJHL). One of the youngest kids in this draft too. Real smart. Works extremely hard. Good shot. Tough to play against. Could improve skating. These are the kind of kids I would take chances on in the 7th round.

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RECAP

The perfect draft scenario based on current picks and projections:

  • 1st round – G Sebastian Cossa
  • 4th round – F Manix Landry
  • 6th round – RD Bryce Montgomery
  • 6th round – F Martin Rysavy
  • 7th round – LW Stuart Rolofs

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