One of the bright and underrated aspects of getting to the Western Conference final is that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with the NHL draft or who will be available by the time we’re on the clock in 29th overall. Fortunately, Chris Peters has put together a list of top odds on Daily Faceoff that can help us figure out what kind of player to add to our depth chart on July 7th in Montreal. For many of us, seeing the oil giants pick at 29th is foreign territory and that means we need to dig a little deeper to see who might be on the bottom end of the first round. With that in mind, I’ve got a sample of seven players from Peters’ roster who fall within the Oilers’ range and may or may not be there when you call our number. Let’s check it out.
25. Brad Lambert, C/W, Lahti (Finland)
Perhaps the most polarizing player in the class, Lambert has the tools that suggest he must be an elite player. He’s a great skater, probably the best in this draft class, and he has a great skill set too. The problem with Lambert is that we’ve seen him primarily in Finnish professional hockey for three years with little or no progress other than constant physical development. He played for three teams in the past three years and achieved the same results. In fact, he has scored fewer points this season than in the past. Not being able to get into the inside of the ice constantly is an especially big concern about his game because he can’t just be a perimeter player. This has raised concerns about his sense of hockey and his competitive edge. I’ve spoken to scouts who have said the tools are worth the risk and I’ve spoken to others who will advocate for his team by not recruiting him at all. I got off somewhere in the middle, but I realize the danger in hanging it in the first round is on him. If you watched him play one game and see skating and hands down, you’ll say this player is one of the best prospects, but the rest don’t stand up to scrutiny either.
Bottled Milk Notes: Given some of the poll reports about Lambert’s skill set, it’s hard to imagine he’ll still be in 29th but it will be interesting to see where he ends up. However, this kid seems to have some flaws that could cause it to slip and will need polishing, but when you’re as skilled as it is, you know someone is going to take a flyer on it.
26. Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, US National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Low power with an unrelenting work ethic, Snuggerud often had to do the dirty work on his streak. Despite this role, it poses a particularly serious threat. Snuggerud has a great shot and a powerful shot that can surprise the guards. Moreover, he has the size and strength to get into the middle and do play in difficult areas. His skating isn’t amazing, which is why he doesn’t rank higher on this list. I think Snuggerud is a very well committed player, who makes those around him better and can provide a lot of extra space for his co-workers.
Bottled Milk Notes: Last season saw Snuggerud’s production increase in the USHL (26GP: 6G, 20A) which is really nice to see, but what interests me most about the kid are the glowing reports on his work ethic. Maybe it’s just because Zach Hyman impressed me so much in his first year with the Oilers, but having more guys who won’t stop at the depth chart would be very good to see.
27. Lian Bichsel, D, Leksands (Sweden)
You can watch Bichsel in a matter of minutes and see the professional potential. He checked in on combination at 6ft – 5.5 and 225lbs and he knows how to use this tire. He defends well and has even done so against the pros this year, appearing in 29 SHL games this season. He’s been in control physically and has shown some of the best attacking gear at the U-20 level, scoring seven points in 11 games for Lexands FC this season. Bichsel dealt with some injuries late in the season that kept him from participating in a number of events including the World Under-18 Championship which could certainly have helped his stock. Injuries aside, the upside for a player like Bichsel is just huge, especially for his size and the physical strength he plays with. The concern is whether the game is believed to be at an offensive level high enough to be more than just a moving defender of size and physicality. By choosing him in the first round, you are betting on his ability to find him.
Bottled Milk Notes: This kid is an absolute monster. At 6’5 and 225 pounds, it’s not crazy to think he’ll gain more weight as he gets older and that makes him an interesting prospect for anyone using his pick on this potential Viking.
28. Owen Pickering, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
A tall defensive man with excellent mobility relative to a big guy, Pickering has many distinct tools. There is some raw potential out there as I think his expectations and his general sense of hockey still need to progress to make him a more effective two-way player. Offensively, it’s decent, but there are flashes of even greater potential. He’s racked up 33 points in 62 games for a poor Swift Current team this season. As he gets a little more aggressive and confident with the pinch on his stick, this could open up the possibility of one day becoming a top four defender.
Bottled Milk Notes: Like Bichsel before him, Owen Pickering is a formidable defensive man who appears to have added a bit of a scoring touch in his second season with the Swift Current Broncos. In 62 games, Pickering added nine goals and 24 assists for 33 points in a bigger role with the Broncos and it will be interesting to follow his career to see if he can expand on those numbers.
29. Sam Rinzel, D, Chaska HS/Waterloo Black Hawks (MN-HS; USHL)
He’s a big, powerful con player who splits time between his high school team and the Waterloo Black Hawks. I think Rinzel’s stock would have been higher had he played a small role all year. He did well in high school, but at the junior level with better competition I thought he raised him a few notches but you can see he was a little bit late. Rinzel is a very good skater for a player of his size and has an innate ability to get pucks with some amazing skill and vision. But his physical tools are lacking in the hockey sense department. I think he just needs time and experience to make better decisions and make faster decisions. He might have some of the highest upsides of any defensive man in this draft, although as a 6-foot-4, defensive man he can skate. It’s a bit of a project, but I think it’s a fun project for a team that has the time and resources to dedicate to it.
Bottled Milk Notes: The third consecutive defending man on Peters’ roster is more project than the last two, but that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t want to take the risk of having a baby that keeps getting better year after year. The other thing that was interesting to me was that Peters made it to 29th when many other outlets see it somewhere in the second round.
30. Filip Mesar, RW, Poprod (Slovakia)
Mesar is very fast and cunning, which makes it exceptionally fun to watch. He has the skill level to make defenders make 1-v-1 mistakes. He has a good enough shot to beat goalkeepers from distance. The big problem with the Mesar is that it is slightly below average in size and can be pushed away from the pucks a little easier at this point. Despite this, he does many things well with stick disc, and you want to bet on the offensive upside. Mesar has done well in Slovakia’s Pro League this year, but has shone internationally in several U18 events including his eight-point performance in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup early this season. His speed and skill suggest he could one day move into the top six scorer, which is probably what he should have to achieve in the league where there isn’t a lot of value from the disc.
Bottled Milk Notes: I’m always fascinated by the players who played in the men’s leagues leading up to their preliminary year, and that’s exactly what happens with Philippe Messar. In 37 games played for HK Poprad, Mesar has put in eight goals and eight assists for 16 points which is heartening for a kid likely to fight for icy time against players much older than him.
31. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
You can’t deny my hands on Del Bel Belluz because he has some slippery puck skills. He’s especially good at traversing the neutral zone and keeping games alive in the transition, making it difficult for defenders to track and where others are on the ice. I think his skating is probably the only major flaw in his game at this point. It’s average for me but they can’t be reconciled. He has had 76 points in 68 games this season after not playing anywhere in 2020-21 and only had six points as a rookie back in 2019-20. Given his progression as well as his legitimate skills and his superb shot, I think there is a chance of him being a good midfield scorer at the next level if he hits all of his marks along the way.
Bottled Milk Notes: Can we craft this kid just for his name? As far as an all-name team goes, Hall of Famer could be Del Bel Belluz and that’s before considering he’s passed a point per Mississauga player.
32. Noah Ostlund, C, Dugardens U20 (Sweden U20)
A committed position with some dynamic elements in his skill, Ostlund has set big numbers in the Swedish U20 ranks, but hasn’t found a way to make an impact at the pro level this season. Then he went for 10 points in the U18 World Championships and was basically playing every third shift in position over the course of that tournament. He is competitive in all areas, but shines most in his ability to find teammates and make those around him better. He might have to stray out of the middle down the road, but I think he plays the position well. He’s a proper skater, but plays a little lighter and has plenty of power he needs to be effective at the next level. His final impression was strong and I thought the best example of what Ostlund could be in the end was if he could get a little stronger.
Bottled Milk Notes: Ostlund had himself a fantastic season with Djurgardens IF J20 where he scored nine goals and made 33 assists for 42 points. At this point, Oilers need people who can make plays and the fact that he’s also seen as a two-way guy could make him an intriguing prospect provided he remains available.
Based on what I’ve read so far, the players ranked in the back half of the first round are very similar in terms of where they could end up and that means any of the players listed above could slip us down for 29th overall. Having a lot of seemingly equal odds also makes me wonder if Ken Holland might consider trading down to disable more bullets, as he won’t pick Oilers after 29 until the fifth round. If you could move the 29th overall pick for a few second rounds, for example, would that be a move the Oilers would look at? It happened last year with Xavier Borgolt. Either way, this season is very important for the Edmonton Oilers, and it all starts with the NHL Entry Draft July 7-8, which means we only have three weeks to start getting some clarity on what’s going to happen. Will the Oilers go up and take the best available player at 29th overall? Will they trade this selection for more options? Will they try to put it together for a player who can help now? we wait.