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Oilers open to trading down at 2019 NHL Draft

Hold No. 8 pick with eyes on improving forward depth

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Edmonton Oilers do not expect to move up from the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS), general manager Ken Holland said.

As for the possibility of moving down to accrue more capital, Holland's ears are wide open.

"Up? Not really go up. I don't see us using assets," Holland said during a recent interview with NHL.com. "I think after the first two there are a lot of good players and it goes for a bit. I think there are a lot of good players between picks No. 3 through No. 11. I think we're at the stage where we're going to get one of those guys.

 

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"Of course, if the phone rings and someone else wants to move up to [No. 8], I'll certainly answer the phone and see what they have to say."

To Holland's point: The expectation is that the New Jersey Devils will select USA Hockey National Team Development Program center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick, and the New York Rangers will choose right wing Kaapo Kakko from TPS in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, at No. 2.

After that is anyone's guess.

Consider that NHL.com writers Adam Kimelman, Mike G. Morreale and Guillaume Lepage each selected a different player for the Oilers at No. 8 in their mock draft.

Kimelman went with wing Matthew Boldy (NTDP) who has grown four inches to 6-foot-2, 196 pounds in the past two years. Morreale predicted the Oilers will take center Trevor Zegras, (6-0, 173) Boldy's teammate who is known for his precise passing skills. Lepage gave the nod to wing Cole Caufield, a third gifted forward from the same program whose diminutive size (5-7, 163) did not hamper him from setting an NTDP record with 72 goals this season.

The Oilers already have a skilled cache of young defenseman prospects: Dmitri Samorukov, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, William Lagesson, Joel Persson and Evan Bouchard, the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. With the talent pool of forwards so rich at the top end of the first round in 2019, don't be surprised if that's the direction the Oilers go.

"I think there's some young defensemen coming up in our system," Holland said. "I think you can never have enough good players. If you have too many good players at a certain position you can always trade them. Now when it comes to Pick 8, there'll be a lot of good players on the board. Maybe we'll talk about position but get the player we think -- the scouts think -- is the best player down the road.

"We've got to get a little deeper up front. We've got to get a little more depth in scoring. I think the defense, we have a lot of NHL defensemen and I think it's up to coach Dave Tippett to get them to play with structure."

If the Oilers trade down in the first round, it won't be a surprise. Holland did it five times in the past 13 drafts when he was GM of the Detroit Red Wings. He was with the Red Wings organization for 36 years before being hired by the Oilers on May 7 and has been stressing the importance of the draft from the moment he accepted the job.

"It sounds simple, but the good teams draft good," Holland said. "Especially with the introduction of the salary cap in 2005, you have to draft good and you have to find players up and down throughout the draft. And you've got to be patient. Certainly, it's all about drafting and developing. Good organizations draft and develop.

"We have a vision to make the Oilers an elite team again. I don't think it will happen over the course of the summer. There will be growing pains, but certainly there's some good pieces not only on the team but in the organization. 

"We have the eighth pick in the draft but beyond that you need to wake up and find two or three players out of a draft or two if you really want to end up being an elite team. Certainly, that's a goal of ours going in, to hit on pick No. 8 but to also find players deeper in the draft."

The Oilers have six picks in the 2019 draft: No. 8, No. 38, No. 85, No. 100, No. 162 and No. 193.

 

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