Last year’s draft lottery effectively stole the top prospect away from the Buffalo Sabres, who were bottom of the NHL.
It instead drew the Edmonton Oilers as the top pick - the franchise's fourth in six seasons - and they didn’t really have any choice but to select Connor McDavid.
Don’t get me wrong, the second overall pick in the 2015 Draft – Jack Eichel – is a great player, and will be an era-defining forward for Buffalo in the years to come but, one can’t help but wonder if McDavid would potentially see more success with the New York based club?
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The New McDavid-centric Oilers
During his short time as an NHLer, Connor McDavid has become the core of the Edmonton Oilers, and his injury has caused their results, and goal scoring to sink them to the bottom of the overall standings.
With the Erie Otters graduate, Edmonton posted a 5-8-0 record, after a difficult period of adjustment at the start of the season. Post McDavid’s upper body injury they have a 3-6-2 record.
Although Edmonton now have the future hall of famer, they are still in a rebuild, which will greatly delay the potential success of said star – success here meaning Stanley Cup wins or at least decent play off runs.
Poor Drafting Prior to McDavid
As stated before, the Oilers have had the first overall pick four times in the last six years, which on paper should translate to at least a playoff contending team by now.
But previous general managers (Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish) failed to utilise their picks, with only one of the six first rounder’s being a defenseman.
They went too heavy on sub-standard forwards.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov have been very disappointing.
Taylor Hall has performed as well as someone within such a lacklustre club could. And this season they’ve just introduced the non-first overalls, defender Darnell Nurse and center Leon Draisaitl.
The 2012 selection of Yakupov was borderline insane considering that the blueliner Ryan Murray was topping the class. But for some reason the GM decided to continue their raid of offensive talent.
In the two years during this period in which the Oilers did not get first pick, because they can’t get them all Nathan MacKinnon and Aaron Ekblad were drafted.
Only Taylor Hall and McDavid can contend with the ability of these two first overalls. Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov just aren’t in the same league.
These fairly young skaters have been surrounded on the top lines by fellow first round flops like Benoit Pouliot.
All-in-all, McDavid has been drafted into a team of players who have failed to meet their draft expectations, which also boasts a very weak goaltending and defence roster.
He is good enough to carry the Oilers away from the bottom of the Pacific Division, but he’ll need at least a half decent team around him to get them into playoff contention.
Buffalo’s Heavy Investment in Success
Buffalo Sabres’ GM Tim Murray kicked his team into an accelerated rebuild last season, bringing in Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian.
Then, on draft day, he acquired Robin Lehner, Ryan O’Reilly, David Legwand, and Jamie McGinn for the first team.
These dealings have ensured that, along with the other more experienced Sabres already at the club, Jack Eichel has a strong set of players to build his career alongside.
The Sabres are seven places above the Oilers after 24 games without their top keeper Robin Lehner. With their sturdy - and ever improving - defence, and talented offence, the Sabres will continue to rise through the league.
Connor McDavid’s Oilers however, have a very limited defence, potentially a good keeper in time, and a lot of forwards who have never reached the heights of their projections.
What if the Sabres did get McDavid?
Not to say that Eichel isn’t a top player because he is an incredible forward with so much potential, but Connor McDavid is just the next grade up, a generational talent who could potentially lead a team to multiple Stanley Cups.
McDavid at Buffalo would excel the development of the side ten fold, even if he also sustained the broken clavicle for the Sabres.
Buffalo’s team is not only strong enough to boost the production of star prospects, but it could also recover from an injury to a key player.
Edmonton need to Imitate Buffalo
Despite the draft pick calibre of the Oilers, Buffalo have a superior team with a much greater chance of improvement. The type of team that will not only help top prospects accustom themselves to the NHL but will also grow in ability alongside their young stars.
I just can’t say the same for Edmonton, apart from Taylor Hall and potentially Darnell Nurse, there aren’t very many positive aspects to the Edmonton lines.
Given the number of young skaters in their ranks, it would be worth either trading away a draft pick or a flopped first rounder.
For Edmonton to capitalise on drafting in the incredible Connor McDavid they need to mimic what Buffalo have done and pull in some more experienced talent, and bring about a new era.
They have a fantastic head coach in Todd McLellan but need to shake off the players, and the bad aura, that has failed to bring them the slightest amount of success in their recent history.
Connor McDavid’s career would move forward a lot quicker with the Buffalo Sabres but Edmonton have the opportunity to build up around him and they should do so.