Last-place Oilers in good position for improvement

The Edmonton Oilers are hoping the odds work in their favour at the NHL draft lottery.

The Edmonton Oilers are hoping the odds work in their favour at the NHL draft lottery.

But whether deputy commissioner Bill Daly draws their name or another team when the lottery is held Tuesday night (TSN, 8 p.m. ET), most scouts feel they cannot lose with two prize choices — Plymouth Whalers centre Tyler Seguin and Windsor Spitfires winger Taylor Hall — there for the taking when the draft is held June 25 in Los Angeles.

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini will be on hand for the live broadcast from a TSN studio along with fellow general managers Peter Chiarelli of the Boston Bruins, Randy Sexton of the Florida Panthers and Scott Howson of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Balls representing the 14 teams that failed to make the playoffs are in play, and only one is selected.

The winner can move up a maximum of four positions, so only the bottom five teams in the league standings (except 29th-place Toronto, who traded their pick to Boston) have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick. A team can only drop back one position.

So the Oilers will end up picking first or second, while the Bruins are assured of picking in the top three.

The weighted draw gives the last-place Oilers a 25 per cent chance of winning while Boston has an 18.8 per cent shot. Florida is next at 14.2 per cent, Columbus 10.7 per cent and the New York Islanders 8.1 per cent.

In 2007, Chicago jumped from fifth to first and got star winger Patrick Kane.

NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking had Seguin ahead of Hall as the top draft prospect, but among many hockey observers, opinion is split.

The pair finished tied atop the Ontario Hockey League scoring race with 106 points, although Hall played six fewer games. Hall’s defending Memorial Cup champion Spitfires also swept Seguin’s Whalers in the OHL playoffs last week.

But Seguin is considered a gifted playmaker whose value is increased by being a centre with a right-hand shot. Hall is a big, fast winger. It may come down to what the team with the top pick needs.

Forward Brent Connolly of the Prince George Cougars is ranked third with big defenceman Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs in fourth. Smooth rearguard Cam Fowler, Hall’s Windsor teammate, is fifth.

The Oilers had a terrible season, but have high hopes for the future with prospects like Jordan Eberle, Canada’s top scorer at the world junior championship this year, and dynamic Swedish forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson already in the system.

It may be a painful night for Maple Leafs fans, who saw general manager Brian Burke trade first-round picks in 2010 and 2011 along with a 2010 second-round selection to Boston for sniper Phil Kessel.

Kessel scored 30 goals this season and Burke has said he’d make the same trade over again if he had to, arguing there is no guarantee that Hall, Seguin or any other prospect will turn out as good as the player he got.

However, it was clear when the trade was made that Burke did not anticipate finishing next-to-last in the 30-team league and handing the Bruins such a prize pick.

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