All of the scouting of the top prospects, the meetings, the debates, the rankings, the player interviews and draft board tinkering will come to an end tonight as teams make their selections for the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia.
Edmonton Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor says his team of scouts is comfortable with the work they’ve done leading up to tonight.
“We’ve had tremendous meetings the last few days,” he said. “We’ve really been able to get down deep and get after it and everybody’s opinion has been laid out and I think everyone is very comfortable with where we stand right now. I feel great about where we are.”
The Oilers currently hold the third overall pick in the first round, which puts them in position to select one of the so-called “Fantastic Four” prospects. That group includes defenceman Aaron Ekblad and the three centres: Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl.
Each one of those prospects brings something different to the table and MacGregor has his opinions on every one of them.
For Bennett, the top-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, MacGregor sees a competitor who can create offence.
“Sam Bennett is a skilled, offensive attack player that brings a lot of energy along with a high skill level and an ability to create and distribute offence,” MacGregor said.
Reinhart brings high hockey intelligence.
“Sam Reinhart is a very cerebral, smart, 200-foot player with offence. He has tremendous puck skills and hockey intelligence that are probably as high as we’ve seen certainly in this draft and maybe over the last number of years. He creates offence, plays well on the defensive side and can play in just about every situation that’s required.”
As for the final centre, Draisaitl brings size to the equation at 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds. But don’t forget his skill.
“Leon Draisaitl is kind of the bigger package,” MacGregor said. “Tremendous offensive upside, maybe not quite as developed at this point as some of the others because of coming from Europe and adjusting to the North American game. But he has tremendous upside. He’s a great passer, one of the best passers we’ve seen in a number of years. He creates offence, used his power and strength to add to his skill package.”
The lone defenceman at the top of the rankings is Ekblad and he brings good size and production to the draft conversations.
“Aaron Ekblad is obviously the big defenceman that many, many organizations covet,” MacGregor said. “He can pass the puck and he’s a strong defender positionally. He’s not a pounding guy but is in the way and uses his strength to win puck battles. He has a great shot and a real good head for the game. He’s a leader, a player that you would look at as a perspective impact player on the backend.”
Different scenarios may present the Oilers with a few decisions to make with the third selection. Regardless of which order they’re picked, MacGregor is sure of one thing.
“They’re going to be longtime contributors in the National Hockey League, no matter who they’re playing for.”