by Marc Ciampa
After a deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs, ending with a seven-game heartbreak in the fourth round, the importance of the draft has never been more apparent to the Edmonton Oilers.
Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll, Fernando Pisani and Jussi Markkanen. All of these players were major contributors on the team's Stanley Cup run and all of these players were drafted by the Oilers at one time or another.
It is clear that teams who have success in the National Hockey League do so by building through the draft. From Carolina to Tampa Bay to New Jersey to Detroit, each of these recent Stanley Cup Champions have a core comprised of drafted players and the Oilers are no different.
So that brings us to the 2006 NHL Entry Draft on Saturday. At the outset, it looks like the Oilers figure to be minor players on the day with their first choice coming 45th overall but a number of scouts have noted that after the top 15 picks, everything from 16 to 50 is a toss-up.
The Oilers pick 45th but they could very well end up with a player ranked 20th or higher on their list.