Editorial - April 22, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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That draft board looks familiar doesn't it?

For the fourth time in five years, the Edmonton Oilers will have a top three selection in the NHL Entry Draft on June 27 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

With Oilers GM Craig MacTavish visiting the Art Hauser Centre on several occasions throughout the WHL season, rumours have been wide spread that his organization is high on Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl, one of the draft's hottest prospects.

Selecting third overall in 2014, the Oilers are in prime position to confirm those rumours and nab Draisaitl, making him the highest drafted German in league history.

In Draisaitl, the Oilers would be getting a once-in-a-lifetime centre, who standing at six-foot-one, 209 pounds, possesses a unique combination of size, speed and natural ability.  

Throughout his sophomore WHL campaign, Draisaitl proved to be one of the toughest forwards in the league to knock off the puck and while putting it in the net 38 times, completed a series of jaw-dropping passes to  accumulate 67 assists.  

The Oilers would be getting a fine prospect indeed, but haven't they had enough?

Prior to selecting Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman Darnell Nurse seventh overall last draft, the Oilers had the pick of the litter in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with three consecutive No. 1 grabs. 

Taylor Hall, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Nail Yakupov threw on Oilers sweaters those three years, as the trio combined for 160 points this season.

The NHL Entry Draft is designed to help weaker teams get back into the win column with, according to the league, a "weighted system" where "Teams finishing with the fewest points during the regular season possess the greatest chance of winning the right to the first pick in the NHL Draft."

The league's draft lottery procedure seems fair enough, but at some point, the innkeeper needs to send the inebriated home and make space for some sober patrons at the bar.

While the Oilers have been rewarded for a fifth-straight losing season with yet another top three pick, other clubs have been left behind.

Missing the playoffs for the second time in four years, the Ottawa Senators have not had a top five selection since drafting Jason Spezza in 2001 and their last first overall pick was former Raider Chris Phillips in 1996.

Meanwhile, 450 km west in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have struggled ten-fold, having not made the playoffs under a full 82-game schedule since returning to the ice after a NHL lockout cancelled the 2004-2005 campaign.

Although the Leafs dealt their 2010 second overall selection to the Boston Bruins in exchange for winger Phil Kessel, the pick that turned out to be Dallas Stars centre Tyler Seguin would have been the Buds first top three choice since 1989.

The Maple Leafs last No. 1 pick: Saskatoon Blades alumni Wendel Clark in 1985, just six years after NHL rookies were forced to wear helmets.

Although the Maple Leafs and Senators haven't struggled nearly as much as the Oilers in recent years, they've struggled nevertheless.

Because they've been bad, but not, NHL Draft Lottery bad, many poor hockey clubs have missed out on the decade's top prospects while teams like the Oilers and the Florida Panthers get first dibs year-after-year.

The once proud New Jersey Devils have now missed the playoffs two-straight years and with just one top five selection this decade have been left with few building blocks to get back there. The Calgary Flames, who have missed the post-season five consecutive years, well, they haven't picked in the top three since the team moved from Atlanta in 1981. The franchise as a whole has never picked first.

As the league debates changes to the game as wacky as making the nets bigger while implementing convoluted new playoff structures, the NHL ought to consider putting a cap on a club's number of top five selections in 10 years.

It's time to let clubs like the Oilers work with what they already have, while giving other struggling teams a chance to inject some fresh blood into their systems.

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