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Oilers win lottery, move up to No. 1

by Mike G. Morreale
SCARBOROUGH, Ont. -- Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini wasn't expecting to win Tuesday's 2012 Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery here at TSN headquarters.
Well, that's just too bad, because for the third straight year, Tambellini will have the opportunity to step to the podium and announce the first overall pick when the 2012 NHL Draft commences June 22 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. 

2012 NHL Draft Order
1 Edmonton Oilers
2 Columbus Blue Jackets
3 Montreal Canadiens
4 New York Islanders
5 Toronto Maple Leafs
6 Anaheim Ducks
7 Minnesota Wild
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Winnipeg Jets
10 Tampa Bay Lightning
11 Washington Capitals
(from Colorado)
12 Buffalo Sabres
13 Dallas Stars
14 Calgary Flames
The Oilers, the 29th-ranked team in the League this season, supplanted the Columbus Blue Jackets with the No. 1 overall pick despite having just an 18.8 percent chance at winning the lottery. The Blue Jackets, who finished 30th this season, will now have the second pick.
"It's something you don't expect, but I guess if you're in the lottery, you might as well win it," Tambellini said. "I feel really excited with the fact that now we can add another young talent, hopefully at the level of our past few picks. That's pretty exciting for our organization."
The lottery win by the Oilers snaps a string of four straight times that the last-place team in the regular season retained the top pick. Tampa Bay won in 2008 (Steven Stamkos), the Islanders in 2009 (John Tavares) and the Oilers in 2010 (Taylor Hall) and 2011 (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins).
Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Larry Carriere, whose team retained the No. 3 pick, was sitting right beside Tambellini on the TSN panel when Edmonton was announced as the winner of the No. 1 pick.
"They've done a really good job of rebuilding and pulling together some good young players," Carriere said. "He seemed like he was not challenged when he got the pick. It would have been nice to have been there, but we weren't."
While Columbus GM Scott Howson will get a quality player with the second overall selection, he was a tad disappointed at losing the top choice.
"Sure we're disappointed; you'd like to be able to control the draft at the top end, but we'll move on," Howson told "It's an exciting day for us since we got the second pick and a chance to get another pick in the first round. We also have two picks in the second. It's a positive day for us."
Only time will tell what Tambellini will do, but he can rest easily knowing he'll have the option of selecting either a game-breaker on offense in Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting or stabilizing force on defense in Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League.
"Yakupov is an extremely talented, emotional, explosive player," Tambellini said. "He's very, very, top-end talent."
What is he looking for in the No. 1 pick this year?
"[Director of amateur scouting] Stu MacGregor and his staff have done an incredible job as far as bringing together a book so deep and impressive that we really feel, at the end of the day, we know what this person is really like," Tambellini said. "To be a No. 1 pick overall, you have to really be comfortable with the fact that you're the guy. There's lots of great players but not everyone wants to be that person, so you have to make sure, when you're talking about the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft, he's ready to play and he wants it."
Yakupov and Murray were the top two North American skaters ranked by NHL Central Scouting on its final release of draft-eligible prospects on Monday. Sweden's Filip Forsberg was rated the No. 1 overall prospect among European skaters.
Yakupov finished third on his team in scoring with 69 points, including 31 goals, in 42 games for the Sting this season. He also has a plus-15 rating and 12 power-play goals. Murray produced career highs in goals (nine), assists (22) and points (31) in 46 games as captain for the Silvertips.
Forsberg, a 17-year-old playing with men in Sweden's second-highest league, the Allsvenskan, had 8 goals, 17 points and 33 penalty minutes in 43 games in 2011-12. He's expected to go among the top five picks in this year's draft.
"There's going to be a lot of good players in this Draft," Howson said. "No doubt about that. There will be a lot of good players picked, especially early on. You just have to make sure you get one of those good players."
If the Oilers do target Yukopov with their pick, he'll be the first player from the Sting to be drafted first overall since Stamkos was tabbed by the Lightning in 2008.

We all know how that turned out.
Rounding out the top five, after Edmonton, Columbus and the Canadiens, were the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.
"This is a very significant pick for us," Carriere said. "You look at this pick and certainly there have been No 3 picks in the past with good impact. There are a number of them, so we're excited to get a good young player.
"This was the first time I've taken part in something like this. It's an interesting process and I think everyone knows how impressive it would be to get that No. 1 pick. But each of the teams here will get a quality player."
The Oilers selected Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels with the first overall pick last year after he led his team and finished tied for third in the league scoring race with 106 points, including 32 multi-point performances, in 69 games. His 75 assists led all WHL players.
"The nice part of being where we are is that we're coming into a phase where it does present options and we don't need a player necessarily to play right away but can talk about whether or not we need to have a forward or defenseman," Tambellini said. "We have time to dig and find out why this player is going to be No. 1."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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