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Oilers 2020 NHL Draft preview: decisions loom over lack of mid-round picks

EDMONTON — Hopefully someone brings snacks.

On Day 2 of the 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft, you’ll be able to spot the Edmonton Oilers draft table fairly easily. They’ll be the guys playing cards. Or sharing pictures of their grandchildren.

OK, OK. So maybe we’re being a little flippant here.

The reality is, general manager Ken Holland dealt away his second round picks in 2020 and ’21 for Andreas Athanasiou, and he gave up his fourth round pick in ’20 at the deadline for Mike Green. Then COVID-19 changed everything, and Holland’s Oilers flamed out of the playoffs with Athanasiou going pointless and Green choosing not to play, and subsequently retiring.

Then there is Edmonton’s third round pick — stunningly awarded by the NHL to the Calgary Flames in the Milan Lucic-James Neal trade, despite the fact that Neal fell one goal short of the 20-goal plateau needed to enact the trade clause.

Holland can choose whether to surrender his 2020 third-rounder or do it next year, a decision that must be made prior to the opening of Round 3. That decision will hinge on who remains on the draft board, and whether Holland has recouped a pick or two in trades.

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So Holland has a few decisions to make when it comes to a draft where the Oilers will pick 14th overall, and possibly not again until No. 138 in Round 5. A prime option would be to trade down in the first round, and recoup a second- or third-round pick in the deal.

Other options include accruing picks in any trades he might make. Or, simply make your four picks and go home.

Draft Picks:

EDM 1, EDM 3*, EDM 5, EDM 6, EDM 7

Edmonton to send either 2020 or 2021 third-round pick to Calgary in James Neal trade.

Potential targets in Round 1:

Seth Jarvis, RH centre, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Remember when Brayden Point piled up 91 points in Moose Jaw, but got drafted in Rd. 3? Well, Jarvis had 42-56-98 in 58 games with Portland. He’ll go higher than Point did.

Yaroslav Askarov, G, St. Petersburg SKA (KHL): Do you pick a goalie in Round 1? Edmonton is light in possible franchise goalies, and at age 18, the six-foot-two Askarov has opened the KHL season with a .974 saves percentage. Get the right guy in net, and Stanley Cups can follow.

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Anton Lundell, LH centre, HIFK Helsinki (SM-liiga): Did you see how responsibly the Dallas Stars’ bottom-six played with guys like Roope Hintz and Joel Kiviranta? Lundell has two seasons of Liiga hockey under his belt at 18. Edmonton has high-end skill. They need a responsible 3C who can play both ends of the rink. Finns have proven perfect for this role.

Last year’s first pick: Philip Broberg

Right on the money.

The Swedish defenceman arrived at the Oilers’ July camp and stood out almost every day. He was the best defenceman who had not played in Edmonton all season, which is a nice way to say he blew 2018 first-rounder Evan Bouchard out of the water.

Originally expected to be sent home after camp, Broberg joined the team in the bubble for Edmonton’s short stay. Now he’s back home in Sweden, and after just eight points in 45 games with Skelleftea last season, he has three points in two games this campaign. An A-plus skater, Broberg will play in the NHL sooner than you think.

Organizational needs:

Let’s go by position:

Goal: Edmonton drafted five-foot-11 Ilya Konovalov last year, and have Olivier Rodrigue and Stuart Skinner in the pipeline. None are high-, high-pedigree guys, but Konovalov does have an early .944 saves percentage in the KHL this fall. Drafting Askarov would be a case of picking a guy you think can carry the franchise for years, and less about stocking the cupboards.

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Defence: The Oilers’ strong suit. Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones are 23. Bouchard turns 21 in October. Broberg is 19. Dmitri Samorukov (21) has five points in nine Red Army games. And their core NHL guys — Darnell Nurse (25), Oscar Klefbom (27), Matt Benning (26) — are not old.

Forwards: Here is where the Oilers are light. Past Ryan McLeod, Tyler Benson, Rafael Lavoie and the return of Jesse Puljujarvi, the Oilers don’t have a vast array of NHL forwards on their prospect horizon. They could dearly use one more top-six winger to complement likely the best one-two punch at centre in the game, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They also require inexpensive depth guys, as does every team.

This is where the lack of second-, third- and fourth-round picks hurts, as that is where guys like Hintz and Mattias Janmark are generally found.

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