Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini chats with TSN's James Duthie during the 2011 NHL Draft Lottery (Getty Images).
Edmonton, AB - Not wanting to be cast in a third straight episode, TSN's pre-playoff TV spectacle has put Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini in an uncomfortable position once more.
Following a placement in the league's standings one off the Columbus Blue Jackets' 30th- and last-place model, Tambellini won't be on James Duthie's hot seat. The Oilers have an 18.8 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall selection, while the Blue Jackets will have the best odds, 48.2 percent, of retaining the coveted pick.
In 2010, Edmonton won the lottery; a year later, it was the New Jersey Devils, moving up in the order from eighth to fourth. In both circumstances, the Oilers chose No. 1 and assembled a duo in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that combined, put up 105 points this past season.
"I feel good about it," Tambellini said I spoke to him over the phone in an exclusive pre-lottery interview. We're going to be getting another incredible player (in June). The upper echelon of this year's list is strong is and presents us with several options in regards to forwards and defencemen. That puts us in a better position than we've been in several years."
NHL Central Scouting Services released its year-end rankings earlier this morning. Nail Yakupov of the OHL's Sarnia Sting holds the top spot among North American skaters, chased by Ryan Murray (D, WHL's Everett Silvertips) and Mikhail Grigorenko (C, QMJHL's Quebec Remparts).
With an 18.8 percent chance of moving up, but even greater odds that they'll hold on to the second spot or even drop to No. 3, all three are in the Oilers' wheelhouse and are being considered by Tambellini and Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor.
"I'd say a couple years ago our goal was to try and get the very, very best player available," Tambellini said, noting that Yakupov, Murray and Grigorenko all possess special skill and could help in different ways. "Of course we're going to try and do that again, but we have more choices this year in how we do it. We can look at a forward, we can look at a defenceman -- we could even look at trading down into a position where we can still get a great player and maybe an asset to go with it."
The age-old debate about choosing a player based purely on high-end skill vs. position circles a new dimension when you consider the team's stage in the rebuild. But there has to be a balance, Tambellini explains.
"It depends," he said. "We can choose based on a player's position, but only if there isn't a big drop-off between his talent and another's."
In addition to skill, the right people and personalities need to be brought in. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall all proved it as they addressed the media Monday morning at Rexall Place. All are pivotal components to the club's success, but they're equally as vital to growing a championship team off the ice and in the locker room.
"They're great hockey players, obviously, but they're also becoming a bigger part of the organization as a whole," Tambellini said. "Just as important, they're great people. That's how you sustain the ability to handle success, discipline and the heartbreaks that go along with it. You need to have character people, and we're proud that those types of people are part of our organization."
With concerns about certain prospects' character, attitude and willingness to do it all and become role models in the Oilers' Big 3 ilk, Tambellini made no qualms about not wanting to damage what they're constructing with a problematic addition.
"If they don't match up with the character that we believe is required to build a championship team, then it's pretty tough to make that choice."
That's not to necessarily suggest that someone who's available does, but in the growth and maturing process, it's worth strong consideration. Regardless, the abundance of high-end skill is as appealing as it's ever been.
"It's very good," Tambellini said of the crop's top end. "Every year there's discussion about how next year's will be better, but the players always go on to have great careers, and deservedly so. We're extremely excited about it this time around, too, because we're going to get another excellent player no matter where we end up selecting."