TORONTO – Steve Tambellini says he’s fielded some “soft calls” from teams interested in the No. 1 draft pick.
However, the Edmonton Oilers general manager sounds like a man who is intent on making the first selection at the draft in Pittsburgh later this month.
“You can always listen,” Tambellini said Friday at the NHL’s draft combine. “But for us to move the No. 1 pick it would have to be quite a significant proposal.”
It’s the third straight year the Oilers have owned the top pick.
Tambellini and the team’s scouting staff spent the week in Toronto interviewing prospects and watched them get put through fitness testing on Friday. However, the organization still hasn’t decided who will follow Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the next player taken No. 1 overall.
“We’re not sure who this pick is now and that’s the way it’s been the last couple years,” said Tambellini.
“The idea is to project on who will be the best player for your team,” he added. “Most teams have different opinions on what’s best for them. That’s what we’ll do—we’ll decide which player is the best player for the Edmonton Oilers.”
Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov enters the draft as the top-rated North American-based skater. He’s followed by Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray, Quebec Remparts centre Mikhail Grigorenko and Sarnia centre Alex Galchenyuk.
Tambellini says he doesn’t expect the Oilers to make a decision on who the team will pick first overall until the night before the June 22 draft.
Yakupov is scheduled to visit Edmonton on Sunday for a more in-depth meeting with Oilers officials. The team has also had other prospects come to the city earlier this spring, according to Tambellini.
“You want to get as much information as possible,” he said. “That’s the whole thing—you want to know who you’re drafting.”
It’s an extremely important off-season for the Oilers.
Tambellini is currently looking to replace coach Tom Renney, who didn’t have his contract renewed after a 29th-place finish last season. However, there is no deadline to make the hire.
“We’ll have the right coach,” Tambellini said. “If it’s done at the draft, great. If it’s done after that, so be it.”