Why Oilers should take Nail Yakupov
While the Edmonton Oilers' main need -- improving their blue line -- has been widely publicized in the lead up to the 2012 NHL draft, it should be noted that you don't finish 29th overall without needing a whole lot. However, this team has a bright future up front with its top four scorers all age 22 or under. As Edmonton's forward corps trends toward its peak, it's reasonable to think the Oilers' offense should be in the top half of the league for years to come.
The Oilers have a few fine pieces on defense that could contribute on a good team going forward between Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Nick Schultz (who played the toughest opponents this season), but they are missing a legit high-end talent on the back end.
In the Oilers' pipeline, they have several good defensive prospects between their first-round pick in 2011, Oscar Klefbom, their second-round pick in the same draft, David Musil, as well as Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat. Based on my own observations and talking to scouts, all four of these prospects project as potential top-four defensemen, although that varies depending who you talk to. Klefbom stands out among the bunch, while Marincin and Gernat have decent offensive upsides to go along with big frames, but a longer development curve than Klefbom. Despite the talent levels of these defensemen, it's still hard to envision any in the legitimate top pairing that Edmonton needs.
So how do the Oilers improve themselves the most with their No. 1 pick in the upcoming entry draft? Their options seemingly are between the consensus No. 1 prospect, Nail Yakupov, or picking a defenseman like Ryan Murray or Mathew Dumba, who longtime NHL scout and ESPN Insider Grant Sonier has ranked as the top defenseman in his final Top 50 prospect rankings.
To me, the pick is clear. And it should be Yakupov, a right winger for the OHL's Sarnia Sting
To read more about why the Oilers should take Nail Yakupov, you must be an ESPN Insider.
We see that you are not an ESPN Insider. Upgrade today and gain access to our exclusive coverage.