Potential first overall draft pick Nail Yakupov is off to Edmonton this weekend for a follow-up interview with the team that owns the first overall pick on June 22 in Pittsburgh.
According to the Canadian Press, the talented Russian forward won’t be the only highly rated prospect meeting with Oilers brass, so there’s no real conclusion to be drawn from his visit. The big question still remains, is Yakupov the right choice for the club?
Most 2012 draft rankings have Yakupov at the top of the list, and if Edmonton were in dire need of a young scoring forward, he’d be the favorite.
However, the Oilers already have a generous collection of young scoring forwards in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner. Plus they recently signed Ales Hemsky for two more years and have Shawn Horcoff under contract through 2014-15.
The back end is a different story. And with a strong crop of defensemen in the 2012 draft, the Oilers could choose to pick a blue-liner first overall, or flip their pick to a team that covets Yakupov.
Available defensemen at the draft include Ryan Murray, Morgan Rielly, Mathew Dumba, Cody Ceci, and Griffin Reinhart. (Oilers president Steve Tambellini was raving about Murray at the world championships.)
Not surprisingly, Edmonton’s head amateur scout, Stu MacGregor, didn’t provide many hints when NHL.com asked which way the club was leaning.
“I think we haven’t even gotten to that place with regard to positioning,” he said. “Our job as scouts is just to put the best available players in order that we feel have the potential, and we will at some point investigate where we’re going. But at this point we’re still working on 1-to-100 and we feel we have some defensive prospects coming up who are going to be really good players.”
Those defensive prospects include 24-year-old Jeff Petry, who just finished a successful first full season with the Oilers. Also in the system are Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and David Musil.
Another potential factor in Edmonton’s decision is Justin Schultz. The 21-year-old college star is expected to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Oilers are believed to be in the running for his services.