This season did not go as planned for the Edmonton Oilers. They were expected to easily make the playoffs and possibly contend for a Stanley Cup under the leadership of Connor McDavid. Inexperience, however, proved costly for the Oilers, as they fell way behind early in the season and never recovered. To make things worse, they did just enough to not get lucky in the draft lottery, which had been their staple, and will be drafting 10thoverall in this year’s draft.
Fortunately, the Oilers are not in a desperate need for a star center because of McDavid, and there are plenty of wingers and defensemen that could help seal up the anemic power play unit (dead last in the league) and underachieving defense.
Of all the wingers that are most likely to be available at 10thoverall, the Finnish right-winger appears to have the best upside. The Oilers are all set at center, with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Drake Caggiula, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all primarily centers, but it has to be concerning that the top goal scorer for wingers was Patrick Maroon, and he was traded to New Jersey in February. He had 14 goals before being shipped east. Jesse Puljujarvi led current Oiler wingers with 12, but the hope is that he can break out and match his expectations as the fourth overall pick from 2016.
Although Kotkaniemi will not be available right out of the gate, and that is likely to happen since he has been playing in Finland, he would be a welcome addition to a team that needs more bodies near the goal crease. He is one of the better forwards in the draft at reading plays and getting opportunities, especially from short range. He also has excellent puck handling abilities.
By the time Kotkaniemi makes the permanent transition to Canada, there will be a clearer idea of where the ceilings are for Caggiula, Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, and Kailer Yamamoto. If they can break out in a redemption year for Edmonton, then adding another Top 10 draft pick should easily put the Oilers into championship talks. In order for that to happen, however, there must be more consistency on all four lines and not just passive reliance of McDavid.
The defense for drafting a defenseman? Simple. Edmonton has had almost no luck finding reliable defenders over the years. In fact, they blew an awful trade in the hopes of adding defense, and it turned into Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Not a good look.
After the first five picks, it is anyone’s guess as to which players are better for Detroit, Vancouver, etc. Boqvist, for example, was once in several top five mock drafts in the beginning of this season, but now lots of drafts have him going ninth overall to the New York Rangers.
Despite having excellent stick handling, skating, and shooting skills, the Swedish defenseman is also very small. Despite being just less than six feet tall, he only weighs in at 165 pounds. In other words, he is a taller version of Johnny Gaudreau, but he tends to have more trouble battling for pucks at a position that requires more battles in its own zone.
Whichever team drafts Boqvist should not expect him to be ready until at least 2020 because of his likeliness of staying in the SHL and need to fill into his body a little bit more. Packing on some weight can help him hold his ground on the blue line as long as it does not hurt his agility that much. Even if he remains as a smaller defenseman, expect him to make an impact for his ability to control the puck. If he does fill out, however, then the Oilers have an opportunity to find a physical leader on defense.
So what happens if Boqvist goes to New York, Chicago, or gets picked even earlier? One option is to look at Kotkaniemi, but another defenseman could be the biggest steal in the draft.
Yes, Woo is named after the famous actor and Wushu champion Jet Li, and his ability to withstand and inflict hits is comparable to plenty of Li’s martial arts movies. While he does not strike as the biggest offensive threat on the draft board for defensemen, he does have a strong power play presence that Edmonton lacks.
The biggest concern is that injuries plagued him this season, limiting him to 44 games with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. That, however, did not stop him from setting personal WHL highs in goals (nine) and points (25).
Woo will likely get more work in the WHL for at least this season, especially with the injury concern. Still, Woo is one of the most intriguing defensemen not projected to be a Top 10 pick, and the Oilers would be smart to give him a look knowing he will likely be taken a few picks later.
As of now, Draftsite predicts that he will be taken 16thoverall (Colorado), which would likely be another step toward the Avalanche’s sudden rise to glory.