LOS ANGELES - Edmonton Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini has certainly been a busy man this week with naming a new head coach and making a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. But he knows an even bigger decision awaits in less than 24 hours when his team is on the clock to make the opening pick of the 2010 Entry Draft at Staples Center. It'll mark the first time in the organization's 31-year history that the Oilers will be choosing No. 1 overall.
The million dollar question is who will it be Steve? Will it be Taylor Hall of the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires or Tyler Seguin of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers?
"We're close, but haven't formally sat down as a group and said this is who we're taking," Tambellini told a throng of reporters during a press conference outside the JW Marriott on Thursday afternoon. "Our scouts are excited and not too many will sleep (Thursday) night. They're looking forward to that moment where we can make a selection with an impact player that will be a huge part of Edmonton, a huge part of the team, a huge part of the team's success."
The Oilers have nine picks, but it's their first one that everyone is focusing on. They also have a pair of second-round picks, giving the Oilers three choices in the top 48. Considering the Oilers have missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs the last four seasons, that's certainly a good start.
Tambellini was asked by NHL.com what impresses him most about the two frontrunners, Hall and Seguin.
"The one thing that stands out when you talk to them is how incredibly focused they are on what they want to do," he told NHL.com. "You can talk about their ability, but their maturity and focus for what they're doing right now, what they had to do to get here, and what they're looking for past this day, is so impressive.
"Not all young players … I know these are two special players … but not all young players have a plan in place, but they have a plan."
Tambellini said he's received a number of calls from teams interested in trading for the No. 1 pick and he's reached out to Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to see what it would take to snare the No. 2 selection as well. Not surprisingly, neither is willing to budge for a small price.
"I think any deal made for a first-round pick is very expensive and costly," he said. "But managers seem to be more proactive this year. I don't know if depth in the free-agent market is a reason, but if there's a player out there and teams have a hardship with regard to the cap, maybe you can solve a problem (within your team) now rather than wait until July 1 and go through the process of a bidding war."
The Oilers were 27-47-8 this past season, earning 62 points, the fewest in the NHL. Tambellini hired Tom Renney as his coach earlier this week and announced Thursday that he had acquired forward Colin Fraser from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Edmonton's sixth round draft choice (151st overall) this weekend.
"We were talking to a lot of teams," Tambellini said. "We were in need of a bottom six forward that can kill penalties and take pride in that. In addition, someone who is good on faceoffs. We're going to have a young team, but we want character guys and good people surrounding those young players. Colin is that type of player."
He also admitted that his head of amateur scouting, Stu MacGregor, has a very strong opinion on who the club should draft No. 1.
"His opinion certainly means a lot, without question," Tambellini said. "I trust his thoughts and, in the end, my opinion will match his. We'll take a total consensus (Friday), but I know at the end of the day, the responsibility comes down to me. We'll all excited and raring to go."