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Forwards plentiful in Oilers range

Forward prospects are plentiful in the range of the Oilers first pick of the 2017 NHL Draft

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

The Oilers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, selecting 22nd overall in the first round of next month's NHL Draft. That spot is the lowest selection the Oilers have held in the first round since they took Jordan Eberle in the same spot in 2008.

Scouting talent further down the board takes more digging and more research than when selecting in the top five. Generally, there is some consensus with the top-tier players. Further down the board is where discussions amongst scouts really get interesting.

If you base your rankings on those provided by multiple scouting services, you find the range of prospects near the 22nd pick pose intriguing options - the majority of which play up front.

At this point, ahead of the NHL Scouting Combine (June 2-3 in Buffalo, NY), everything is just guesswork, but centres and left-wingers appear to be plentiful in the Oilers range.

As it pertains to potential wingers available, Sioux City's Eeli Tolvanen could be among the better prospects. The Finnish forward, in his second year of North American hockey, potted 30 goals and added 24 assists to lead the USHL's Sioux City Musketeers in scoring.

The Oilers would certainly have knowledge of the player, having a prospect of their own on Sioux City's roster - 2016 sixth-round pick Aapeli Rasanen.

Tolvanen is ranked eighth among NHL Central Scouting's North American skaters, but is 17th overall according to International Scouting Services. If Tolvanen were to drop a few spots he may be available for the Oilers.

Another winger to consider would be another Finn: Kristian Vesalainen.

Vesalainen played the 2016-17 season for Frölunda in Sweden and then jumped to the Finnish League. The 6-foot-3 left-winger had a big performance at the U18s, scoring six goals and adding seven assists in seven games. He is ranked as Central Scouting's seventh European Skater and is 19th overall on the ISS big board.

Isaac Ratcliffe is another interesting winger from Guelph in the OHL. Ratcliffe had a career season in 2016-17, potting 28 goals and adding 26 assists in 67 games. He is the CSS 15th-ranked North American skater and The Hockey News lists him as their 20th-overall prospect.

In addition to those three, wingers Lias Anderson and Kailer Yamamoto fall in the same range.

As for centres, there are plenty to choose from in that 22-range.

Elias Pettersson from Sweden is ranked by Hockey News as their ninth-best prospect. ISS has him at 20 and CSS has him as their second-best European skater.

Robert Thomas continues the trend of good prospects coming from the OHL's London Knights. The intelligent, right-shot centre had 66 points in 66 games this season. CSS and ISS have him in the 22-range.

Central Scouting's 15th-ranked North American skater, Joshua Norris, is also in the 23rd-overall spot for ISS. However, there is a wide range of opinions on the US National Team prospect. The Hockey News has him in the 45-hole of their top 100 prospects list. He is seen as an under-the-radar pick that scouts like enough to hear his name called early in the draft.

Kole Lind from the Kelowna Rockets - coached by former Edmonton captain Jason Smith - is another forward name in the general range of the Oilers first pick. His name, along with all the others, joins a large group of talented prospects looking to find their future home come day one of the draft.

Looking at the scouting rankings for this year we see a common trend. Nine of International Scouting Service's 10 prospects ranked in the 15-25 range are forwards. We see a similar trend among Central Scouting Service's lists of skaters. Six of their top 10 European prospects are forwards, while 14 of their top 20 North American skaters are also up front.

Should the Oilers choose to stay at 22, they'll have a plethora of different types of forward prospects to select from. And of course, they could always go in a different direction. We'll be previewing some of the other positions and prospects leading up to the draft and will be on location for the NHL Scouting Combine June 2-3.

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