The Edmonton Oilers have enjoyed a mostly positive offseason, yet questions remain, particularly down the middle. GM Craig MacTavish didn’t outright deny such claims, but he told the Edmonton Sun that he doesn’t expect to make a trade, at least not until after he gets a better look at first-rounder Leon Draisaitl.
“There is no deal there right now, because like us, everybody else is very optimistic,” MacTavish said. “We’re all undefeated in July and August, but things change once the fur flies in October. We’re hopeful with the group that we have we’re going to be competitive.”
Hindsight-driven or not, the Oilers have received some criticism for their perceived tendency to rush high-end prospects to the NHL levels right out of the draft. While they allowed defenseman Darnell Nurse (seventh pick of the 2013 NHL Draft) mature, No. 1 picks Nail Yakupov (2012), Ryan-Nugent Hopkins (2011) and Taylor Hall (2010) all made instant jumps and have experienced growing pains. Some worry about the team continuing what seems like an unflattering pattern with Draisaitl, 2014’s third overall selection.
MacTavish doesn’t seem too pleased by such armchair GM talk, though.
“Anybody, whether fan, coach, manager, media, anybody that says that they can tell you definitively whether Leon Draisaitl is ready or is not ready before getting the information at training camp is naive,” MacTavish said. “That would reveal a very superficial understanding of the game of hockey. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that decision right now.
“In my mind, I feel he’s going to make a strong case. I’ve seen him play, he’s going to make a strong case, I’ll be shocked if he’s not going to make a strong case.”
The Oilers added stability to their forward group by acquiring the likes of Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot this summer, yet it seems like they’ll live or die by the play of their youngsters once again.
Maybe it will work out for them this time around, though?