As the Edmonton Oilers are no longer in contention for the Stanley Cup, it is time to start looking ahead to the offseason. The existing Oilers roster is more or less a mess of ending contracts with no cap space to sign them and potentially retiring veterans holding up said cap space. But we’ll save untangling that for a later date and focus on the 2022 NHL Draft instead.
The Oilers will be picking 29th in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft. This is the latest they will make their first selection of a draft since the 2006 NHL Draft, in which their first pick was Jeff Petry at 45th overall. This is kind of uncharted territory for a team that, over the past 16 years, is used to picking in the top 10 somewhere.
Unfortunately, drafting becomes much harder in the late first-round where the prospects are not sure-fire NHL’ers or top-line, franchise quality players. So we fans have to place a bit more faith in the scouts and talent evaluators within the organization to pick a quality player at 29th.
With that being said, we have enough prospect rankings and scouting reports at our disposal to pick and choose a few of our favourites and hopefuls for our team to draft.
Edmonton Oilers 2022 Draft Strategy
Looking at the team’s roster, prospect pool, and competitive status, I think the best bet for the Oilers is to draft wingers. Specifically, scoring wingers, but they could also use some who are more defensively minded to round out their group a bit.
At this point, the goaltending situation is a bit too far gone to be solved through the draft. The Oilers need a goalie as soon as possible, not in three to five years that a recently drafted one would likely take. The current internal option, Stuart Skinner, is poised to be on the NHL roster full-time next season anyway, so we will be able to gauge his future potential soon.
For defenders, the team’s previously strong prospect pool is weakening with the trades the team has made. If there is a solid defender available, especially a right defender, Ken Holland should jump now so they are ready for NHL action while the team is still competitive.
Edmonton Oilers 2022 Draft Targets
Aside from having one of the best names in the NHL draft this season, Jagger Firkus possesses a skillset that the Oilers will find valuable. His scoring touch is near the top of the draft class. With 36 goals, he was 14th in the entire WHL in scoring. For forwards under the age of 18, he was second only to Connor Bedard.
In terms of playstyle, he has incredible offensive instincts that focus on pushing play towards the net, something that could mesh well with another forward providing a strong net-front presence.
However, he is a bit on the small side at 5”10’ and 153 lbs, and Edmonton does not really need another small right-winger with Kailer Yamamoto already there. This makes his place a little bit questionable as it might create some team composition issues. But if the team has size down the middle and on left-wing, it is absolutely worth the pick as long as Firkus shows he will be able to physically handle or adapt to the NHL game.
Ryan Chesley is yet another excellent NHL draft prospect coming out of the United States National Development Program. He is regarded as a two-way defender who has shown occasional offensive talents (such as recording five points in six games at part one of the 2022 World Junior Classic and 29 points in 59 games with the US Under-18 Team), but his offensive instincts are not quite there yet. This works okay for the Oilers as they already have Evan Bouchard as an offensively-minded right-shot defender.
Most crucial to his game is his defense. His defensive awareness is key to what might get Chesley drafted in the first round. Positioning, gap control, and timing are all things he gets praised for and all of these traits are impressive from a young defender yet to be drafted. If he already possesses these defensive talents, his future as a successful NHL defender is extremely promising and certainly something the Oilers could use.
Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP
Isaac Howard’s ranking in the upcoming NHL draft is a bit of a contentious topic. Some have him as a top-15 pick, but others drop him out of the first round. His skillset at this point in his career, generally regarded as an offensive force but lacking in size and many of the defensive aspects of the game, will explain why scouts are so out of sync on his rankings, with even our own writers not agreeing where he should be placed.
If he drops all the way to 29th, the Oilers have an opportunity to get a scoring winger with impressive offensive instincts. The team is slowly working on this but they need to find ways to surround their insane centre depth with consistent wingers who can actually score on their own. They have prospects working their way through the system, but none of them are guaranteed to fit in with the team or develop as expected.
Howard put up 82 points in 60 games with the US Under-18 team this past season, including 33 goals. His offensive talents help create chances and goals, his shiftiness and mobility on the ice help to shake off defenders and find ways to push play towards the net, and his hockey IQ let him be an effective player in the offensive zone even without the puck. The Oilers need players like this who can compliment and take advantage of the playmaking skills of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
These are a few of the 2022 NHL draft targets for the Edmonton Oilers. With the NHL Draft taking place on July 7th-8th, is there anyone else on your radar? Drop a comment down below!
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