Edmonton - June 24, 2013 - Much has been made of the Edmonton Oilers and their seventh overall pick at the upcoming 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
While general manager Craig MacTavish has made no secret of the Oilers desire to possibly move up and take a run at centre Aleksander, call me Sahsa, Barkov, being able to pull off such a move seems unlikely.
Leaving the organization three other options: 1) Make the selection, 2)Move back in the first round and pick up an additional asset, 3) Trade the pick outright for immediate help on the NHL roster
At this point, it's tough to say which route MacT and company decides to go but should the plan be to drop back and taking say Edmonton Oil Kings centere Curtis Lazar, they could very well be forced into looking elsewhere. While most have the youngster pegged as a mid-to-late round selection, the chances of him still being available past the first half of the draft, in my opinion, appear to be slim at best.
Obviously, no one can predict how things will ultimately unfold during next Sunday's draft but having watched Lazar play as much as I have during his time in Oil Kings silks, it would insanity for so many clubs to pass up on a guy who looks to be a lock as an NHL regular for years to come.
Lazar is a talented two-way centre that truly plays a 200 foot game and possesses the ability to put the puck in the net, though he will likely never be a big-time scorer at the NHL level. Having said that, expecting him to develop into a solid second line centre or that all important seventh forward, depending on which club ends up grabbing him, is by no means a stretch.
During his two plus years in Edmonton, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has seen the kid without a smile on his face, no matter the situation. Be it in the midst of his fourteen game goalless run back in November or after netting one of his team leading thirty-eight goals, the reaction is always the same. To be completely honest, it's rather shocking how calm and cool he is for an eighteen year old but the scary thing about it, he was exactly the same at sixteen.
Curtis has never been one to shy away from confrontation and has always been willing to drop the mitts when called upon, be it for himself or to protect a fellow teammate. McKeen’s Hockey director of scouting, David Burstyn, summed up the native of Vernon, BC nicely, with the following assessment:
"Curtis Lazar is one of those consummate, two-way players that every single team needs to be a winner. He started off slow, but he had a very good second half and playoffs. He’s a very hard-nosed competitor. He’s not going to go out looking for the hits, but he competes like a Patrice Bergeron, who will always give you an honest, solid effort. He can score some clutch goals, his skating has improved throughout the course of the season and he just leads by example. He’s got great leadership abilities and it wouldn’t surprise me if he would wear a letter at the NHL level.”
Now barring some sort of wheeling and dealing on draft day, the Top 20 look like this:
Colorado, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina, Calgary, Edmonton, Buffalo, New Jersey, Dallas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Winnipeg, Columbus, NY Islanders, Buffalo(from Minnesota), Ottawa, Detroit Columbus(from NY Rangers), San Jose
In my mind, the only true centres ahead of Lazar, are Nate MacKinnon, Barkov, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. Some will argue that London's Bo Horvat may have also slid past the Oil Kings sniper, which may be true, but the two are very similar players. Unless we see a run on defencemen inside the Top 15 selections, there is no way someone doesn't take this kid by the midway point of the opening round.
Frankly, he has New Jersey Devil written all over him but should the hosts feel the need to go in another direction and try to make a "bigger splash"with the ninth overall pick, one would think the Coyotes would be very interested at twelve. Having already drafted current teammate Henrik Samuelsson during last year's first round, the Desert Dogs are likely quite familiar with the Oil Kings #27.
For a team starving for legitimate prospects upfront, Lazar would not only be a safe pick for GM Don Maloney but also a very smart one. Most seem to feel the top eight selections will come from the group of Seth Jones, MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Barkov, Monahan, Lindholm, Valeri Nichushkin and Darnell Nurse but after that, it could become a free for all.
Meaning should Lazar be the Oilers target, as that long term compliment to the duo of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, dropping too far down the ladder could prove to be problematic. Would they take him at seven? Not with the likes of a Lindholm or Monahan staring them in the face. Should they decide to move the pick for some immediate help, would MacT have the willingness to move some other assets, to get themselves back inside the Top 20? Tough to say.
One thing we can be sure of, if the Edmonton Oilers somehow manage to not only get their hands on Curtis Lazar but also improve the club in the here and now, Craig MacTavish will have had himself one helluva week. Both leading up to and including draft day.