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Lowetide: Should Oilers general manager Ken Holland trade the 2023 first-round pick?


For much of the 2022-23 season, Edmonton Oilers fans have been scouring NHL rosters and feverishly searching for the latest trade rumors involving the top four defensemen. At the end of December, his colleague Daniel Nugent-Bowman from Athleticism listed four names – Jakob Chychrun, Joel Edmundson, Vladislav Gavrikov and Mattias Ekholm as part of a potential wishlist for general manager Ken Holland.

Two weeks later, the names remain in the rumor mill and the Oilers are among the teams likely to aggressively seek significant solutions on the left defense.

The cost will be expensive.

Edmonton’s last four first-round selections (Philip Broberg, Dylan Holloway, Xavier Bourgault, Reid Schaefer) all have value. A team firing a veteran defender could consider Broberg as a possible replacement, giving him added value in a possible trade of this type.

The real gem, the trade asset with the highest value, could be the team’s 2023 first-round pick. It’s a deep draft with exceptional quality well into the first round.

Should Holland consider trading the pick?

Stanley timeline

The Oilers have Connor McDavid under contract for this season and three more after that. The captain would reach free agency in the summer of 2026. Leon Draisaitl is unrestricted a year early, following the 2024-25 campaign.

This is the schedule for Edmonton to win the Stanley Cup.

One of the main considerations for Holland in distributing the pick is calculating how long it will take for the chosen player to help in a substantial way. In a normal year, the selection would be at least two years away from playing in the NHL, probably three full seasons away from contributing enough to make any difference.

Three years after the 2023 draft, it’s 2026-27, after McDavid and Draisaitl reached free agency.

Chances are the player picked with Edmonton’s 2023 pick won’t contribute within the current contract range for ’97 and ’29.

Where will the Oilers choose?

If the season ended today, based on current winning percentage, the Oilers would select in the middle of the first round (between 13 and 15) based on Saturday’s results.

In a traditional season, it’s a choice that will take a few years to become a productive player. Prospects picked by Edmonton in this lineup since 2000 include Ales Hemsky, Jesse Niinimaki, Devan Dubnyk and Dylan Holloway.

The only player in that group who was in the NHL as a starter three years after being drafted was Hemsky.

If Edmonton needed the lottery to protect the selection, that would be a different conversation. Assuming a strong second half of 2022-23, history suggests the organization would be wise to make the pick for immediate help.

Quality of this year’s draft?

Corey Pronman at Athleticism called the 2023 draft an “above average draft class” while Scott Wheeler wrote in Athleticism the “class of 2023 is shaping up to be special” in recent months.

One name listed by both men in the overall 12-16 lineup is Oliver Moore, possibly the best skater in the draft (via Pronman). He has a bit more attacking sense (via Wheeler) than other players in the lineup. Moore plays for the United States National Development Team and is one of the club’s leading scorers despite not playing on the front line.

Moore would be a strong candidate for No. 1 on Edmonton’s prospect list if picked by the team. Elite Prospects directs him to the University of Minnesota in 2024-25, and the traditional graduation and signing of players is after two years in college.

Prospects in the lineup who could turn pro sooner are Oshawa Generals (OHL) center Calum Ritchie, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) Zach Benson and Prince George Cougars (WHL) center Riley Heidt.

All would be considered candidates for Edmonton’s system’s top prospect.

Can Edmonton afford to trade their pick?

The easy answer is yes. The current prospect pipeline is led by the four first-round picks (Holloway, Broberg, Bourgault, Schaefer in that order) and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that an NHL team might prefer the 2023 draft pick. for construction/reconstruction.

The choice trade, added to the graduations of Broberg, Holloway, Stuart Skinner and Markus Niemelainen, will mean the closet will be effectively bare for the next two seasons.

It’s a secondary issue for a team betting on winning over the next three seasons.

The other reason Edmonton can afford to make the pick is the scouting staff. Since 2015, staff have discovered several useful NHL players outside of the first round of the draft. Current Oilers like Skinner, Niemelainen and Ryan McLeod, as well as former Oilers picks Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and John Marino should give the organization faith that gems can be uncovered with current scouting personnel.

Ultimately, Edmonton will need draft impact players, but those days will come after the McDavid-Draisaitl era. It’s time to leave for Edmonton.


The names mentioned by Nugent-Bowman are all legitimate and worth considering.

A stoppage defender like Radko Gudas is also worth acquiring. In fact, a first-round selection sent for Gudas could have added appeal if the organization thinks Broberg can fill the LH side’s need for the third pairing. Edmonton will need valuable contracts, Broberg will be one for the next two seasons.

Here’s a quick list of defenders who are playing well for teams that could miss the playoffs.

There are some quality options here and some may be more reasonably priced than others.

If Holland can acquire Ekholm, Gudas or Chychrun for one more first-round pick, that should be seen as an ideal option. The other names on this list may come at a cost that includes the 2023 first-round pick, but would be a risk.

Holland should go into the market with the idea that the 2023 first-round pick is his main trade chip and aim high for help. The pick is extremely unlikely to help as Holland is Edmonton’s GM.

(Photo of Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon and Oilers general manager Ken Holland: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)




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