Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin – from 2010

Below is a second post that I wrote for Low on Oil back during the 2009-2010 hockey season that I will republish on this site. It was a debate on who the Oilers should draft with their first #1 overall pick. I said Tyler, the Oilers went with Taylor.

A couple of years on, the Oilers find themselves with their third straight #1 overall pick. The discussion this year is do the Oilers draft the best player available or a defenseman?

I have read a few compelling articles on draft value that suggest a limited amount of elite talent available each year. Top 5 picks are sacred and really should be spent on the best player available if possible. None of this year’s defensemen available are good enough to select with the #1 overall selection.

Getting back to Taylor vs. Tyler, the post below is a pretty good read and I think it has implications for this year’s draft. I don’t think the question should be Nail Yakupov vs. Ryan Murray. It should be Yakupov vs. Alex Galchenyuk, or Yakupov vs. Mikhail Grigorenko. Should the Oilers pick a winger or a centre?

For this year, the post from 2010 below has my answer for the 2012 #1 pick. If given the choice between a greatly skilled winger and a greatly skilled centre, the Oilers should pick the centre.  From there, I would defer to Corey Pronman over at Hockey Prospectus and take Grigorenko over Galchenyuk.

——the original post below—- 

As we race towards summer and the NHL Entry Draft, Edmonton Oilers fans have finally moved on and forgotten about the season that was.  The snow has melted, the leaves have come out and the golf courses have opened.  The chatter from pub patios and the wonderful smells of barbeque fill the air as my wife and I put some mileage on our shoes every evening.

For Oiler fans, summer will truly arrive on June 25th in Los Angeles when Steve Tambellini steps up to the podium and announces Edmonton’s selection of the number one overall pick.  The pick has come down to a two horse race between Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall.  While they have run neck and neck for much of the winter, Hall has built himself a lead the last month as his Windsor Spitfires beat Seguin’s Plymouth Whalers on route to the OHL Championship, and are now about to play for their second consecutive Memorial Cup title.  

With Don Cherry singing the praises of Hall every other night on Coach’s Corner, Oiler fans are quickly jumping on the Hall bandwagon and it is impossible to blame them.   He has the hands, the size, the tenacity and the skills to promise better days ahead in Edmonton.   The second goal he scored against Calgary the other night was an incredible display of patiently waiting for the goalie to open his legs before smoothly guiding the puck into the net.

It seems like a sure thing that Taylor Hall is going to be a great NHL player.  Central Scouting compared him to Zach Parise and I will suggest that he might be the next Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla or Ilya Kovalchuk.  He is going to be a rugged winger who will score 30-50 goals a season.

 I am also going to suggest that we take a pass on Taylor Hall and draft Tyler Seguin.   If the goal is a Stanley Cup victory, I believe that Tyler Seguin is our man.  Central scouting compares Seguin to Steve Yzerman and I will compare him to Joe Sakic, Eric Staal and Jonathan Toews.   Seguin has a chance to be the best centre the team has had since Mark Messier left town.

 It is my view that the Oilers cannot win a Stanley Cup without a superstar playing centre.   I base this argument on a historical look at past Stanley Cup champions.  I also base this argument on the Stanley Cup success of superstar centres and wingers over the past 30 years.  While I do not have a statistically air tight argument to put forward, I do have some pretty interesting insights to share.

When I looked at the Stanley Cup winners over the past 10 years, there was a clear trend of superstar level talent at centre ice.  While there were teams that also had superstars on the wing, there were no instances of a team winning the Cup without a superstar at centre (other than the 2003 New Jersey Devils who won with superb goaltending and an extreme amount of clutching and grabbing).  

The best example of centre ice supremacy are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who used three first round picks in a row to load up their middle with Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal.   Other Stanley Cup examples include the Detroit Redwings (Yzerman, Sergei Federov, and Pavel Datsyuk), the Colorado Avalanche (Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg), and the Tampa Bay Lightning (Vincent Lecavlier and Brad Richards).

The most surprising stat from the above list is that every player I named was drafted by the team they won the Cup with.*  The teams that had superstars playing the wing most often acquired the players through a trade or free agency.   The Redwings with Shanahan, Hull and Robitaille and Tampa with St. Louis, Stillman and Andrechuk are the two best examples of this phenomenon.    The Penguins, Ducks, Hurricanes and Avalanche all won Cups without marquee talent on the wings.

* Forsberg was drafted by Philadelphia, but was traded to Quebec later that summer as part of the Eric Lindros mega-deal.

Surveying the best centres in the game today, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Henrick Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom and Jonathan Toews have not yet won the Stanley Cup.  All seven did make the playoffs and five are in the conference finals.  Crosby, Malkin, Lecavlier, Brad Richards, Datsyuk, Getzlaf and Eric Staal have all won Cups this decade.  Every player on the list other than Joe Thornton plays for the team that drafted him.

When I evaluate the best wingers in the game today, only Martin St. Louis and Henrik Zetterberg have won Stanley Cups.  Ovechkin, Daniel Sedin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Semin, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa all qualified for the playoffs this year.  Of the playoff group, only Kane is having a productive playoff season.

Sticking with the wingers, Marion Gaborik, Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla did not even manage to drag their teams into the post-season despite their high level of play.  St. Louis, Kovalchuk, Heatley, Hossa, and Gaborik highlight the list of players who have played for multiple teams. 

I also compiled a list of the best centres and wingers from the past 30 years.  The common theme was that it took two superstars, including at least one centre to win the Stanley Cup:  Gretzky and Messier in Edmonton;  Lemieux and Jagr in Pittsburgh; Sakic and Forsberg in Colorado; Trottier and Bossy in New York; and Modano and Hull in Dallas.  Players who were sole superstars on their team often ended their career without sipping from the Stanley Cup: Hawerchuk, Dionne, Sundin and Mike Gartner are a few examples.

Taking all of this information back to the present day Edmonton Oilers, it is clear that a future Stanley Cup victory will come in part due to the team employing two superstars.*  At least one of those superstars will play centre and he will have been drafted and developed by the Oilers.   I am sorry to report that Gagner, Eberle, Penner and Hemsky are not superstar players.   I hope that Hemsky proves me wrong, but he will only shine in the presence of a superstar centre on his line.

* The Oilers will also need to find a goalie and some defense but we will leave those issues for another time.

This brings us back to June 25th in Los Angeles.  The Oilers have the first overall selection and a chance to get their first superstar player as part of their rebuilding program.  They have a choice of a superstar winger or a superstar centre.  With no guarantees of a future opportunity to select a superstar, they absolutely must draft the centre.  They Oilers need Tyler Seguin.

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