OTTAWA – Without picks in the second and third rounds at the NHL draft on Saturday, but with a promising young team, Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe didn’t want to upset Edmonton’s apple cart in the hopes of landing an earlier selection.
“We talked to a few teams about possible trades, but we weren’t overly anxious to disrupt the core of our team,” said Lowe, who, after taking centre Jordan Eberle 22nd overall on Friday night, was forced to wait until the 103rd spot to select again.
“There were still a couple of guys that we had listed in our first round that were still hovering around into the late third and fourth round, so our scouts weren’t quite so anxious to get a second-round (pick) earlier,” Lowe added from the floor of Scotiabank Place after the Oilers had concluded their draft.
After signing Dustin Penner to an offer sheet last summer, the Oilers lost their second-and third-round picks to the Anaheim Ducks as compensation.
That meant after Eberle, from the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats, they took defenceman Johan Motin from Swedish club Farjestads.
The six-foot-one, 202-pound native of Karlskoga, Sweden, had just two assists in 28 games last season while on loan at second-division Bofors, but he was rated 13th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Motin didn’t attend the draft.
Winger Philippe Cornet of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic, Edmonton’s fifth-round pick (133rd overall), did, however.
The native of Val-Senneville, Que., made about a four-hour trip with a large following of family and friends.
“They followed me since I started skating and it was a big moment for them to be here at my draft,” said Cornet, whose only previous experience with Edmonton was scoring a goal there this past winter in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects game. “Each round, I was hoping to be called, but I said to the guys I don’t mind what round, I just want to be drafted.
“I’m very proud. A Canadian city – I’m honoured to go.”
Cornet was a Senators fan who, like most of the other picks, has now changed his allegiances to the team that drafted him, said his knowledge of the Oilers was limited mostly to what he picked up from video gaming. He had 23 goals and 26 assists in a limited role for the Oceanic last season.
However, he expects to get more ice time this season, one that will end with a trip to the Memorial Cup since Rimouski is the host to next year’s tournament.
“Next year, I can be a second-line player,” he said. “We’re sure to go to the Memorial Cup. If I’m not traded, I’m there.”
In the sixth round, 163rd overall, the Oilers took Finnish centre Teemu Hartikainen, a native of Kuopio, who had 10 goals and seven assists in 37 games last season with Kalpa juniors.
In the seventh round, it was Leduc, Alta., native Jordan Bendfeld from the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers.
A rugged, six-foot-two, 216-pound defenceman, he had six goals and 19 assists to go with 160 penalty minutes in 72 games last season.
Overall, Lowe concluded it was a “good” draft for the Oilers.
“Good in that probably, like every other GM, we got the players we wanted,” he said. “We’re really excited about the kid from Regina (Eberle).
“We got stuff to add to our depth and a little bit of toughness.”
But Lowe left no doubt the selection of Eberle was the Oilers’ biggest prize.
“I like the personality. He’s a smart one and pretty excited to be in the NHL,” he said. “He was genuinely excited to be drafted by the Oilers.”