As we’ve seen more and more over the last several years, to win the Stanley Cup, you need balance. Right now the Edmonton Oilers lack the balance of champions. Right now they lack the balance even to be a playoff team. Given that they play in the worst division in hockey, that’s saying quite a lot. To go where the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Boston Bruins have been recently, they must address this.
The Oilers leadership will probably not be able to resist the urge to draft Yakupov first overall. It’s hard to call this an out and out mistake as he’s talented at a level that doesn’t come along often. He’s been the consensus number one since the last draft. But he is not what they need. What they need is at least one top paring veteran defenseman (3 years or more) who can mold some of they young talent and give the teams defense an anchor. They also need or more talented variety of depth than what they currently possess.
Trading out of the number one spot would likely give them at least one other 1st round pick, or possibly multiple top sixty picks. If they did decide to draft Yakupov and trade one or more of the other young guns, both Nashville and St Louis present interesting options to swap forward for defense. Both the Predators and Blues could use a top six or even top 3 forward to help push them over the hump. Both teams have depth on their NHL bluelines and organizationally. Both teams are, or at least should be in “win now” mode. They have most of the assets, and the tangible will, further bringing in players like a Paajarvi before they stagnate in the AHL could be just the ticket to success.
Some combination of a #1 or #2 defensemen (note an elite/Norris worthy candidate is not needed, a Bieksa or similar player is enough) and a solid, motivated second pairing defensemen would give the talented group of forwards on the team presently the chance to use their energy in the offensive zone. One of the biggest issues I observed in the Edmonton Oilers defense this season was an inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone. That makes all other aspects of the game harder to execute. It’s not rocket science, but it still needs to be done.