Not much has gone right for the Edmonton Oilers the past few seasons, but once again they will own draft day.
The Oilers, who finished with the second fewest points in the NHL, won the draft lottery on Tuesday night and claimed the No. 1 pick for the third year in a row. Edmonton had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the top selection, and jumped over the Columbus Blue Jackets to get it.
Already stocked with a pool of young players that any team would covet, general manager Steve Tambellini arrived at the lottery without any thoughts of winning it. His club then beat the odds for its biggest win of a disappointing season.
”I guess if you’re in the lottery and you come here you might as well win it,” Tambellini said. ”I feel really excited about the fact that now another young talent, hopefully at the level of what the past few picks have been (is coming).
”To add another player like that is pretty exciting for our organization.”
If the Oilers making the pick at the draft in Pittsburgh on June 22, they will be only the second franchise to make three consecutive No. 1 selections. The Quebec Nordiques did it from 1989-91 and went on to win the Stanley Cup five years later after moving to Denver and becoming the Colorado Avalanche.
With Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already playing key roles, and another topflight prospect potentially on the way, the Oilers could be headed for much better times soon.
This has been part of the rebuilding strategy Tambellini laid out for fans in the ”City of Champions,” which has endured three tough seasons with finishes of 30th, 30th and 29th.
”We articulated a plan two years ago that we felt we had to develop and draft our own,” Tambellini said. ”We knew that in our market that we weren’t going to attract the A-plus free agents just to come without us being a good hockey club. We know that this is our only way to really, as a core, to get better.
”We have to do an incredible job drafting, to be the best in the league as far as developing from our American league to our big club, and then we can worry about adding those pieces on that are profile pieces.”
The Oilers’ lottery win came at the expense of the Blue Jackets, who entered with a 48 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. It’s just one more thing that didn’t go to plan during a dreadful season for Columbus.
”We’re disappointed, but this draft is challenging,” Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said. ”I know we’re going to get a really good player at No. 2. … It’s really a good chance for us to move our franchise forward in a positive direction.”
The Montreal Canadiens will pick third followed by the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.
There isn’t a consensus choice at the top end of this draft class beyond Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, who is listed as the best North American-based skater by NHL central scouting. However, there are a number of other intriguing prospects after him.
`’It’s very significant,” Canadiens assistant GM Larry Carriere said of his team’s pick. ”You look at this pick and you look at the number of top five picks – and certainly No. 3 picks – that have good impacts on teams over the years, and there’s quite a few of them. We’re pretty excited, and looking forward to having a real good young player.”