Three big questions on how Edmonton Oilers should best use 1st round pick this week

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There’s been no shortage of rumblings and rumours that the Edmonton Oilers are open to spending their first round pick this week, 19th overall, on Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa.

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Cossa is 6-feet, 6-inches tall and has a short but winning resume, going 17 wins, one loss and one tie in 2021-21 with a .941 save percentage.

Elite Prospects say of the player: “He mixes things up and recovers quickly on rebounds to get in front of multiple shot sequences in order to clear his crease. He’s not afraid to use his hands, and does a good job of covering up pucks before they spring loose for scoring chances. He’ll use a wide array of save options to match whatever the shooter presents.”

While Cossa is the evident favourite to be selected by the Oilers, three big questions remain.

1. Will Cossa still be there when the Oilers pick at 19th overall?

I’ve now put together a list of the 15 top public draft experts, everyone from TSN’s Bob McKenzie to Allan Mitchell of Lowetide, from Scott Wheeler of the Athletic to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. When you take the average of all their rankings, Cossa ranks 17th overall. Draft expert Mark Edwards has him as high as seventh, with Steve Kournianos having his as low as 45th. But it could well be that some team will take him before the Oilers get a chance, if Cossa is indeed the player Edmonton wants.

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2. Should the Oilers go against the grain and use a first round pick on a goalie?

When you look at the Top 31 goalies in the NHL for save percentage this past season, only seven of them were first round picks, Semyon Varlimov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Andrei Vasilevsky, Jack Campbell, Jonathan Bernier, Tuuka Rask and Jake Oettinger. Four of 31 were undrafted altogother, Cam Talbot, Casey DeSmith, Kevin Lankanen and Sergei Bobrovsky. You will find a much higher percentage of top forwards and d-men who were first round picks. For example, 21 out of the top 31 point scorers in the NHL were former first round picks. It partly for this reason that NHL teams tend not to use their first round picks on goalies (goalies also tend to take a long time to develop into NHLers). In the last 14 NHL drafts, NHL teams have selected goalies in the first round only 10 times. But such is the buzz around Cossa and Swedish goalie Jesper Wallstedt that both are likely to go in the Top 25 picks in the draft, with Wallstedt ranked 11th overall in the consensus of public draft experts. Many goalies have slipped through the first round into the second round in recent years and become strong players, including Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Jake Allen, Thatcher Demko and Alex Nedeljkovic. It could be goalie are a bit undervalued in the draft. In any case, I would not rule out taking a goalie 19th overall. It’s not in the Top 5 picks, or even in the Top 10 picks. It’s not that high a pick where you would be taking a massive risk by drafting a goalie.

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3. If not Cossa, which other players might the Oilers take? 

There are numerous forwards in the 12 to 24 range, according to the consensus rankings, Cole Sillinger, 12th, Fabian Lysell, 13th, Fedor Svechkov, 14th, Matthew Coronato, 17th, Aatu Raty, 18th, Nikita Chibrikov, 19th, Brennan Othmann, 20th, Isak Rosen, 21st, Francesco Pinelli, 22nd, and Xavier Bourgault, 24th. Don’t ask me which of them will have the best NHL career. Who knows? No one. Well less than half of them will be Top 6 NHL forwards, but there’s plenty of talent and variety there. One can hope the Oilers scouts have zeroed in this time on the best of the bunch and that he’ll fall to the Oilers at 19 overall.

P.S. The consensus of the public scouts doesn’t mean that’s where the player should be ranked. The consensus might well have it wrong. When it comes to which of the public experts came closest to matching the consensus in the Top 10 picks (which are by a country mile the most valuable picks in the draft) for this 2021 draft, that title went to Sam Cosentino, followed by Bob McKenzie, then Ryan Kennedy. As for being out of step with the consensus in the Top 10 picks, by far the biggest outlier was Mark Seidel, then Mark Edwards and Mitchell of Lowetide. In five years, we’ll know who did the best job predicting future success.

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