NHL Entry Draft: Analyzing the Edmonton Oilers and Their First Overall Pick

Riley KuftaContributor IIIJune 22, 2012

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24: (L-R) General Manager Steve Tambellini of the Edmonton Oilers, first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers and a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization stand on the podium for a photo during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As you may know, the NHL entry draft is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday. 

It is widely expected that a few minutes following, Nail Yakupov will be the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers, as he joins the plethora of young talent already on the roster. 

Many people, however (me included), don't see where Yakupov would fit on what will soon be an offensive powerhouse. 

With other young stars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it would be a fair prediction to say that the Oilers will not be able to adhere to the salary cap a few years down the road while holding on to all of these players—especially when they still have gaps on defense and in net to address. 

Because of the gaps on defense, some have gone so far as to suggest that the Oilers might select defenseman Ryan Murray with the first overall pick. 

If this is the case, Steve Tambellini should re-think his strategy. 

To clarify, I am not saying Ryan Murray would be a bad fit with the Oilers. In fact, I think he would be perfect. But if that's who they want, the first overall pick should be traded down to Columbus. 

The Blue Jackets, who hold the second overall pick, will be looking for a forward on Friday, as the imminent departure of franchise star Rick Nash will leave them weak up front. 

In doing this, the Oilers would not only get who they want in Ryan Murray, but they could also pick up some other pieces from Columbus, whether prospects or future draft picks.

As mentioned, a few years down the road these Oilers will have to re-sign their young stars. Edmonton has not been known as the most desirable destination to raise a family, which means if they plan on retaining these players, they will need to create a winning environment prior to the end of their entry contracts. 

If this is the plan, then perhaps a top pick should not be a priority. 

Late on Thursday, Eklund of HockeyBuzz reported that Montreal, Pittsburgh and Washington were interested in trading for Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle. Although Edmonton wasn't listed, if Yandle really is available, this could be a perfect fit. 

Yandle already has the experience to bring immediate help to the Oilers, and the Coyotes are not exactly the most offensive team. Even more importantly, he is signed through 2016/17. 

Of course, a deal involving the first overall pick and Keith Yandle is purely speculative, and other pieces would be required to make the deal feasible, but it would definitely be a good fit. 

Another strong option would be for the Oilers to trade down to Toronto for the fifth overall pick. Toronto is in desperate need of some offensive help, and this would likely allow the Oilers to select defender Griffin Reinhart (if not, an earlier projected forward), as well as a defensive piece from the Leafs such as Luke Schenn or Jake Gardiner. 

With the prized first pick, the Oilers have all the power in the hours leading up to the draft, as they could potentially turn anywhere to trade the pick, or even Nail once he's drafted. 

The Oilers are expected to hold on to the pick and select Nail Yakupov, but the NHL entry draft has a long history of bringing big surprises. 

So prepare yourself for anything.