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Oil pick first again in entry draft, Jets stay put at No. 9

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THE Edmonton Oilers came out winners on Tuesday night, something they didn't do a lot during another difficult NHL regular season.

The Oilers won the NHL draft lottery on Tuesday night, earning the right to select first overall at the entry draft for a record third straight season.

The Winnipeg Jets had a 2.7 per cent chance of improving their draft order by a maximum of four places but did not move up from their No. 9 spot.

"If you're going to be here, I guess you want the first overall pick," Oilers GM Steve Tambellini told TSN, which broadcast the lottery. "It's a continuation of adding another great, talented player to our organization."

The Oilers entered the lottery with the second-best odds of acquiring the pick at 18.8 per cent, but moved ahead of the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets, who stood a 48.2 per cent of obtaining the pick.

The Oilers' good fortune added to the dismal season endured by the Blue Jackets, who finished last overall with a 29-46-7 record, but will settle for the No. 2 overall pick.

The Montreal Canadiens will select third, followed by the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Oilers (32-40-10) selected winger Taylor Hall at No. 1 in 2010 and last year took centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the top pick. With forward Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting ranked as the top prospect available, there's speculation that the Oilers, thin in terms of young defencemen, could trade down in the draft to acquire a young blue-liner.

Tambellini wouldn't tip his hand regarding the Oilers' plans.

"You could take Yakupov. You could keep the No. 1 pick and take somebody else. You could trade the pick and move back in the draft, couldn't you?" TSN host James Duthie asked Tambellini.

"Yes, all of the above," said Tambellini.

The Canadiens and Leafs, two of the league's most-storied franchises, were among the five teams that had a chance to secure the first overall selection.

The draft lottery allows the 14 non-playoff teams to move up no more than four positions, with the odds of selecting first weighted in favour of the league's weakest teams. Teams can only drop one position.

The Canadiens have their highest selection since 1980, when they took centre Doug Wickenheiser of the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats No. 1.

After Yakupov, recently ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the top North American skater eligible for the draft, defenceman Ryan Murray of the WHL's Everett Silvertips, centre Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, Sarnia forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenceman Morgan Rielly of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors are among the most coveted players.

This year's draft takes place June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2012 D3

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