Later this month in St. Paul, Minnesota the Edmonton Oilers will again be at the epicenter of action at the NHL Entry Draft. With three picks in the top 31 (1, 19, 31) the copper and blue are yet again poised to add some blue chip prospects to their rapidly growing stable.
Heading up this operation, per usual, is Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor, who has been in charge of the last three drafts. Names that have been procured on his watch include: Jordan Eberle
, Magnus Paajarvi
, Taylor Hall
, Anton Lander
, Teemu Hartikainen
, Curtis Hamilton
, Olivier Roy
and Martin Marincin
. Yesterday, MacGregor signed a three-year contract extension to stay with the club in his role as draft boss. Listen: Dan Tencer interviews Stu MacGregor
In the world of hockey, not much is unanimous. Every decision, on the ice and off, is subject to a whirlwind of criticism, especially in a market like Edmonton. With MacGregor, however, I sense a bit of a break in that trend. To a man (or woman), I believe Oilers fans numbering somewhere in the 90th percentile are absolutely supportive of MacGregor and his decisions. Once knocked for bumbling even their highest draft selections, MacGregor has been an integral part of stabilizing an area of the franchise that is of critical importance, especially during a rebuilding phase.
MacGregor does not live in Edmonton, but told me last night that he does sense the confidence in his work. "I feel a real confidence certainly from the organization and I get a sense that people trust us as a scouting staff," he says. "That feels good and gives us confidence to move on and do our job."
With a clear mandate from Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini at the top of the Hockey Operations hierarchy, MacGregor and his staff have been put to work drafting not only for skill, but last year in particular, drafting for size as well. With holes in the organization at various positions, it'll be largely up to MacGregor and his scouts to identify prospects that will plug those holes over a period of time and lead the team back to the playoffs and further.
"Our staff has really jumped up and really worked hard to dig down and, hopefully, source some information that we require to make sure we make the correct picks," says MacGregor, when asked about how his team is handling the challenge. "It's not an exact science, scouting, but I think that as a group or guys have done a tremendous job."
This year, for the 2nd straight Entry Draft, MacGregor has the podium first. For months last year his staff weighed the merits of Taylor Hall
and Tyler Seguin, before ultimately settling on the former. This year, MacGregor acknowledges that it's a different situation.
"This is a different draft than we've been in previously, it's not maybe quite as clear," he says. "So, there's more players involved in the selection and the water's a little muddier."
When pressed, MacGregor admitted that there were four and maybe even five players in the inner conversations regarding the first overall selection. Here's a quick thought from him on each of the five that I identified as the most probable to comprise that group:
|Will Stu MacGregor encourage the Oilers to select Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or another highly-ranked pick? Fans will find out later this month. |
"Highly skilled, highly intelligent. Very creative."Jonathan Huberdeau:
"Very tenacious worker, great hockey sense. The real desire and will to rise to the occasion."Sean Couturier:
"Great hockey sense, strong on the puck, excellent vision, very competitive."Adam Larsson:
"Great first pass, very intelligent and great patience with the puck. Excellent offensive sense and solid, solid defender with a will to really compete."Gabriel Landeskog:
"He's a leader, he's a competitor, he's got good offensive sense. He will be a player that will be very prepared to play in the NHL next year."
Whether it's first overall, 19th, 31st or later, MacGregor dispels the notion that the team will struggle to draft well because of a weaker class of players. He says that a year ago the feeling was that this draft could be softer, but that attitude has changed, as it usually does, over time.
"Every draft gets better as you move through the season because more prospects jump up and present themselves to you, so they add depth to the draft," MacGregor says.
"I think this draft is a B+ draft. I think we'll do well right through the whole draft. I'm quite confident we'll be quite happy with what we're able to acquire."
The big question for me is: can you do as well at #1 as you did last year with Taylor Hall
"I think we can, yes," says MacGregor. "Taylor is a special player but there's a group of players (this year) that are special players as well."
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft goes June 24th and 25th in St. Paul, Minnesota.