Edmonton - June 12, 2013 - With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft just around the corner, the Edmonton Oilers organization are about to embark on an important time in this club's immediate future.
Come June 30th, general manager Craig MacTavish will have some very tough decisions to make. In the minds of most, the Oilers GM will have four options at his disposal.
1) Move up try and get his hands on Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov.
2) Stay put and select the likes of Ottawa 67's centre Sean Monahan or Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds blueliner Darnell Nurse with their seventh pick.
3) Drop back in the first round and hope one of Bo Horvat or Curtis Lazar are around to take with a mid-round pick.
4) Trade the pick for a proven NHL player in the prime years of his career.
Upon further examination, there is one another option, that could involve Vice President Scott Howson's old club. The Columbus Blue Jackets currently own three first round picks and have made it known they would be interested in possibly moving up in this year's draft or entertain offers for some immediate help.
Should the Oilers not like the sounds of some of the offers coming their way, don't be surprised if MacTavish places a call to fellow rookie GM Jarmo Kekalainen, about the availability of centre Ryan Johansen. The same Johansen who was benched during an elimination game in this year's AHL playoffs, by Springfield Falcons head coach Brad Larsen.
After watching the Falcons get knocked out of the post-season by the Syracuse Crunch, the Blue Jackets general manager had the following to say about his young centre (courtesy Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch).
“As with any young player, there’s a learning curve,” Kekalainen said. “It’s all about learning, learning to be a pro. The one thing I think is important with our organization is that everybody has to earn their ice time, earn their role. If you don’t earn it, you’re going to sit.
“I think this is probably going to be a disappointment (to him), to say the least, maybe even a bit embarrassing. Hopefully, he takes it the right way, gets to work this summer and shows us in the fall that he has taken it to heart and he’s ready to earn a spot on the (Blue Jackets).”
While Johansen may not be quite ready to step in and be the guy they are looking for in 2013-14, he would offer some immediate help and possibly be a better fit than a guy like Monahan. At twenty years of age, the 2010 fourth overall pick is still finding his way as a regular in the National Hockey League but has all the tools necessary to be a perfect long term fit in Edmonton.
At 6' 3" and 205 pounds, Johansen has the size the Oilers are looking to add down the middle and also has the ability to play on the wing. While he has yet to find his scoring touch at the NHL level, the kid was viewed as a can't miss prospect during his draft year, with a decent two-way game and first line potential written all over him. Unfortunately for him, Columbus has been a bit of a gong show, prior to this year's late season playoff push.
In a limited role during his rookie season, the youngster struggled across the board but still managed to be decent in the faceoff dot (45.1%) as a teenager. He improved on that in year two, jumping up to 51.4%, while leading the Blue Jackets in overall faceoff attempts. Something which can't be said about either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Sam Gagner.
The problem with Johansen, has been his lack of production, just 33 points in 107 career games. Some may look at him as a bust, whereas I tend to look at him as a guy that badly needs a change of scenery. The Oilers have always had interest in him, dating back to the 2010 draft, and obviously Howson is a fan, as he was the man at the helm when the Jackets took him with their first round pick.
From a Columbus standpoint, they are not going to just give up on the kid but possibly a straight up swap of Johansen for the #7 overall pick in the 2013 draft would work for both sides. Edmonton would not only be getting the big second line centre they desire but also a guy who would be closer to contributing to the big club, as a major player, than a guy like Monahan.
The swap would give the Blue Jackets four first round picks and hand Kekalainen and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, more than enough ammunition to try and improve their club today, while still grabbing a very nice prospect for the future. Regardless of whether or not Columbus is able to acquire the piece they are looking for via trade, the extra pick would have to be a welcome addition for a guy like Kekalainen, who has built a rather impressive draft record during his time with the Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues.
In a perfect world, Craig MacTavish would likely want to pull off one of two moves at the 2013 NHL Draft. Either he trades up and selects Barkov or orchestrates a trade for a proven top pairing NHL defenceman or top six forward. Should he not be able to make one of those moves come to fruition, don't be surprised to see him turn his focus towards acquiring the former Portland Winterhawks standout.