a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

10/04/11 Looking Ahead: 2012 Draft Eligibles

With Oilers fans, management, and media all focused on the need for an impact defenseman, it may be a good time to face the hard truth: the Oilers' best bet for getting that defenseman will probably be through the top of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Here is an early look at who is available:

Ryan Murray (pictured above) has already had his name thrown around with all-time great Scott Niedermayer. As a WHL rookie with Everett, Murray scored 5-22-27 in 52 games during the 2009-10 season, and finished as a plus-33. The Silvertips plummeted from 46 wins that year to just 28 last year, but despite that, Murray had 6-40-46 and was plus-18 in 70 games. He made his WHL debut in the 2008-09 playoffs, where he collected one assist in 5 games, but has since scored 10 playoff points in 11 games over two seasons.

Oilers fans will get a close look at the 6 foot, 185 pound Murray during the World Juniors this year, where he is sure to be a major contributor to Team Canada. He's a left-handed shot, so if the Oilers took him another lefty would probably have to go, but the Oilers' defense is far from set for the future. Barring an injury or total collapse, expect this player to go in the top five.

Matt Dumba
Don't let the name fool you - this Nugent-Hopkins teammate is one smart hockey player. Matt Dumba was named WHL Rookie of the Year last season, and if he continues to progress he'll easily be a top ten pick at the draft. Red Deer lists him at an even 6 feet and 173 pounds, which makes him another slight defender, but he is apparently a solid physical player. How that translates to the NHL against bigger competition remains to be seen. As a rookie he managed 15-11-26, plus-23 in 62 games with the Rebels and 2 more goals in 9 playoff games, finishing with an even rating. Dumba should definitely be in the Oilers range at the draft.

Griffin Reinhart
An Oil Kings connection, Griffin Reinhart will turn 18 in January of next year, but he's already a 6'4" and 208 pound monster. As a rookie with the Oil Kings last year, Reinhart collected 6-19-25 in 45 games and was a plus-7. Offense may not be his calling card at the next level, but Reinhart is apparently very mobile despite his massive frame. Those combined attributes are rare, and could make for an excellent defender one day. Dear old dad, Paul Reinhart, played 648 NHL games for the Atlanta and Calgary Flames, as well as Vancouver. Paul had 560 points in his career, and is only 5'11", so Griffin may not exactly be a chip off the old block, but having an NHL dad can't hurt. Like his dad, Griffin will be a first round pick.

Nick Ebert
The 6-foot-1, 195 pound Ebert played in the USHL at just 15 years old, but has since moved to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. As a rookie last season Ebert collected 11-30-41 in 70 games and was a minus-1. So far this year he's got 4 assists in 6 games and is a plus-1, and a strong season could see him jump way up the draft board.


There are numerous other defensemen that could easily go in the top ten at this year's draft. Among those are Morgan Rielly and Derrick Pouliot, as the WHL churns out a strong D crop in 2012. As the season goes on we'll see who the true top players are, but all of this is good news for the Oilers. This draft is extremely deep in defensive prospects, which means that even if the Oilers finish outside of the lottery they will have a shot to draft a very good defenseman.  If, by some miracle or horror, the Oilers pick first for a third year in a row, they'll be able to select Nail Yakupov and add his tremendous scoring ability. If they don't want to do that, Edmonton could always trade down and select a defensman a little later in the draft, while getting enormous value in a trade.

This is the bright side to another season of injured and lackluster defense, sub-par goaltending and rookie growing pains. At this point Oilers fans will take what they can get, but what they get may just be a whole lot.

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