photo courtesy of Rob Wallator @hockeycanada
By Spencer Pomoty 11/26/20
Most leagues have started their season now, other than the two major ones in the WHL and OHL. As hockey get’s going again, I thought I would put together a personal top 10 list of the prospects the Oilers have in their pipeline (I’m going to expand this list to 20 once I get more views in of players from this season). I’m going to put out a detailed piece on what I look for in a player soon, so you guys can see why I put player X above player Y.
As a reminder, this is my opinion and there is no right or wrong way to rank players. In the end, I hope they all become legendary Oilers. But, I’ve had the luxury of using the InStat service for awhile now, so I am confident in my assessments now in large part thanks to them. Check them out @InStatHockey on Twitter.
Spencer’s Top 10 Oiler Prospects
- Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin Badgers (Round 1, Pick 14, 2020)
The Oilers most recent first round pick has had an exceptional start to his season. After struggling to produce points last year, Holloway recorded goals in back to back games in Wisconsin’s opening weekend. The main attributes Holloway brings to the table are his versatility, skating, and effort. Being able to switch back and forth from the wing to the middle of the ice, as well as play anywhere in the lineup, offers your forward group a lot of options. The rugged Canadian is a wonderful skater, his straight-ahead speed is elite, his first three steps can really get him ahead of the pack, and he uses his edges extremely well to avoid pressure.
On every shift you know what you’re going to get from Holloway – 110% effort. His puck pursuit on both the forecheck and backcheck is something I really enjoy. He understands that defence starts when you don’t have the puck and will keep hunting until his team has possession.
The one thing I would critique him on is sometimes he can get caught puck watching as a centre, a few video sessions with a coach could fix that though. I believe Holloway could be a very impactful forward at the next level. He already plays a pro game, and if he can continue to improve on his production, I don’t see why he can’t be a very good top 6 forward.
- Evan Bouchard, RHD, Sodertalje SK (Round 1, Pick 10, 2018)
This was a toss up between Bouchard and Broberg. I decided to go Bouchard for a few reasons. First, the offensive d-man has been incredible so far this season, which should be expected of him in the Allsvenskan. In 19 games played, the Canadian has put up 6 goals and 10 assists.
Now, for why I like Bouchard a bit more than Broberg. Bouchard’s poise and confidence when he has the puck won me over. He’s always calm, let’s the play come to him as he dictates the pace. He can slow it down or fire a breakout pass for a quick transition, and he also loves to get involved in those transitions. During his draft year, Bouchard got knocked for his skating ability, his speed is nothing to worry about now. His stride still looks a little awkward but, I’m starting to see him pull away more from forecheckers. When the puck is on his stick you get this confident feeling that he will make the right play, whether that’s to make a pass, throw it on net, or keep it on his own stick.
One main area that needs to continue to develop is his defensive zone coverage, but I believe that could be taught into him. If he keeps going on this trajectory, I can easily see a top-4 offensive dman with the potential to man your top powerplay unit and put up numbers on it.
- Philip Broberg, LHD, Skelleftea AIK (Round 1, Pick 8, 2019)
Broberg started off the season on the right foot, playing top pair minutes in the SHL is a hard thing to do and he was holding his own well. But as the season has gone on, he has found himself in the doghouse a few times, this is due to mostly his decision making.
Sometimes you watch Broberg and you think he has what it takes to be a top pair guy, then the next game you’re back to scratching your head at what he is. To start, his skating his elite. The four-way mobility really helps him close on offensive transitions and sometimes stop them before they even get started.
What I noticed this year is that his passing has also become more way more accurate, from short breakout passes, to long stretches it has become an asset of his. His wrist shot is also heavy from the point, but he can struggle to find the net every so often.
The main area he needs to work on is his decision making, which can be great one game and just awful the next. To start, very often when a puck comes to him, he wants to road runner it up the ice and just skate by everybody. This works sometimes on the big ice, but against stiffer competition and on smaller ice he’ll need to use his east to west skating more, as well as calm it down sometimes and play a possession game. There have been a handful of plays where Broberg just didn’t recognize a passing option, to make it short he can get tunnel vision often.
I still think Broberg could be an excellent two-way d-man at the next level, but his decision making is really holding him back, for now I’ll say he projects as a top 4 d-man who could possibly play on your 2nd powerplay unit and if he cranks up the intensity he could play on the penalty kill.
- Ryan McLeod, LHC, EV Zug (Round 2, Pick 40, 2018)
The Oilers 2nd round pick in 2018 is having a decent start to his season in Switzerland, as he has put up 3 goals and 3 assists in 10 games. McLeod’s best asset is his skating, his speed is tremendous, he can change direction easily due to his crisp edge work, and his acceleration allows for him to pull away on players.
McLeod has potential to be one of the Oilers more versatile players, if he can start to produce, he can play anywhere from the third line up. He also brings a great defensive game to the table, he pursues pucks on both the forecheck and backcheck, he recognizes that he must take away the middle of the ice on breakouts and provides great support for all his teammates.
What McLeod needs to work on to take him to the next level is his offensive mindset. He has the tools to be a force in the offensive zone, he stands at 6’3 200 pounds, can fly up and down the ice, but he gets stuck on the outside and has a tough time getting in between the dots. This has gotten better recently as I have seen him take the puck to the net more.
If he can figure out how to be effective in the offensive zone, then the sky is the limit for him. Till then, I’ll say he projects as a middle-six forward who can kill penalties and play against some stiff competition.
- Tyler Tullio, RW, Oshawa Generals (Round 5, Pick 126, 2020)
To start this off, I really like Tullio’s game and I’m very high on him and his potential. Unfortunately, the OHL hasn’t started up yet and we haven’t got to see the Oilers most recent 5th round pick play yet.
What I like about Tullio is his offensive zone work, he can be creative with the puck, whether that is with a pass or making a play on his own. Even though he has the skill to make plays with ease, his effort level is off the charts. He pursues the puck in all three zones, forechecking hard and picking his man up on the backcheck. He can create turnovers with the amount of pressure he puts on you and with those turnovers he can make a play up the ice or continue the ozone pressure his team had.
Tullio is a good skater, but his straight-line speed needs some work. Other than that, his edges are great, and this helps him keep the puck against bigger competition, whether it’s a quick cut move or using them to hold off the checker.
His passing and manipulation of a defense is his best asset in my opinion. He can move defenders how he wants; all eyes will be on him and then boom he finds an open man with space to make a play. When he doesn’t have the puck, he’s always trying to find the quiet ice or supporting his teammate in the battle. His versatility is also a massive positive, he can play all three forward positions, but I believe he’ll be a full-time winger when he takes the next step.
Finally, he’s not going to ever be the biggest guy on the ice, but he will go into any battle and expect to come out with the puck. There isn’t much I don’t like about Tullio, if he works on his speed and can up his pace of play a bit, he could be a very impactful NHLer. This was a massive steal in the fifth round by Oilers management and I project Tullio to be a top 6 winger, but if he doesn’t reach that potential having him in your bottom 6 is still a massive positive.
- Dmitri Samorukov, LHD, CSKA Moskva (Round 3, Pick 84, 2017)
Both CSKA and Samorukov are having splendid seasons. CSKA is in the top spot in the KHL and Samorukov is a top 4 d-man for them. In 27 games, he has 2 goals and 6 assists, but he gets no powerplay time. He is third on the backend for TOI at 17:36 a game.
Samorukov plays a modern shutdown game, with that though comes excellent breakout passing. He moves the puck up ice and shuts down transitions coming at him, which is all you can ask of him. I would like to see him get himself more involved in the ozone though. I’d like to see some more movement on the blue line. Whether its walking it laterally with the puck or pinching down to create an extra lane for a pass.
When he uses it, he’s got a solid shot from the point, nothing spectacular but he can find the net and create havoc in front. I don’t think we’ll ever see the offensive numbers that he put up in junior in his final season, but he does have a little offensive potential.
Samorukov isn’t easy to play against, he can wear you down in corners, and bother you in front with his nastiness. His stick work is a something I started to appreciate, more often than not he’s taking away lanes with his body and stick making it hard for opponents to complete a pass.
I see Samorukov as a top 6 shutdown dman, providing your team with valuable minutes on the PK and playing against some of the other team’s tougher competition. I could see him being in the 5 goals and 15 assists range.
- Raphael Lavoie, RW, Vasby IK (Round 2, Pick 38, 2019)
I fight with myself a lot about what I think about Lavoie. On one hand most games he has a pretty poor effort level off the puck and can just flat out seem disinterested in the game. On the other hand, the games he does have a top effort level in he seems unstoppable. In those games he could easily put up 7+ quality shots and have a few goals.
I watched all his games at the 2020 World Juniors, and he looked amazing. His puck pursuit was out of this world, causing turnovers, and just seemed to get involved in every play in a positive way. He is having a good season so far this year putting up 8 goals and 3 assists in 18 games, he currently sits tied for first on his team in goals.
That’s what he is, a goal scorer, one of his most valuable assets is his finishing ability. His shot is elite, the release takes no time to get off, he barely moves his bottom hand to gain power, and he has a heavy one-timer. He can be a great possession player, supporting puck battles, using his body and hands to hold the puck against checkers.
If he can improve his edgework and get quicker with his cutbacks this will improve his ability to fight off checks. His skating is fine, he has good top speed, but it does take him a bit to get there. It has come a decent way since the Oilers drafted him though. The main area of concern is this inconsistent effort level he has off the puck. As I mentioned earlier, he can pursue the puck like a hound some games and then the other games he will let them go by. Also, he can sometimes make the careless pass or hold on to the puck for a bit longer than you’d like. If he can fix the inconsistent play and clean up some of his decision-making problems, I don’t see why he can’t be a consistent 20-30 goal scorer in his prime.
With Lavoie, I really think he is boom or bust. I don’t see him being a bottom six player due to the defensive concerns as well as the consistency. I project Lavoie to be a top 6 goal-scoring winger, with a lot of powerplay potential.
- Kirill Maximov, RW, CSKA Moskva (Round 5, Pick 146, 2017)
The first thing to note about Maximov is that he hasn’t been getting much playing time at all in the KHL, but when he does, he looks fine out there. CSKA is a deep team this year and it’s also known that NHL prospects looking to go to North America won’t get as much playing time as a player committed to the team.
When I watch Kirill in the VHL, he stands out and by a lot. He doesn’t have the point totals to wow you but, when you watch you can tell he is just too good for the league. His skating was meh 3 years ago during his draft year, now it’s an asset of his. His top speed has gone up a ton of notches, he’s able to use his edge work better, and his acceleration is getting better (still needs some work).
His defensive game and effort are two of his best qualities. In the VHL, he plays top penalty killing minutes and has a great read on passing lanes, always taking away the middle option. On the forecheck, he wants the puck and won’t stop till he has it, but is also still a great back checker. He picks up his man and rarely gets caught over back checking. In the offensive zone he can be a real threat. His shot velocity is great, but what I would like for him to work on is that he tends to just turn and fire the puck instead of making a play.
Kirill is also a great possession player; he uses his size and skating ability to fend off checks and can make a pass with a defender on him. He’s a smart player overall and just plays a simple effective game, there isn’t many times you will see him make the extra move, but he can still generate a ton of controlled offensive entries.
I project Kirill to be a bottom 6 player, with the potential to play up the lineup due to his offensive game. He can play on your penalty kill and be trusted with a lead late in the game.
- Tyler Benson, LW, GC Kusnacht Lions (Round 2, Pick 32, 2016)
In 8 games this year, Benson has been able to go above a point per game scoring a goal along with 8 assists.
When you watch Benson and look at his point totals you already know what you’re going to get offensively. He’s a deadly playmaker that can find little lanes and create them. His vision is outstanding and can find any player anywhere. He keeps his game simple though, that may be due to his average at best skating ability.
Benson doesn’t possess that pull away gear but, when he is on his game, he can control the pace and bring it to his level. One of Tyler’s under-appreciated skills is his board work, he can make plays off the boards to centre a puck or walk out with it and find a tape to tape pass. He may not have that top gear ever, but he has a great effort level and will pursue pucks well.
Benson is also trustworthy with the puck and in his own zone. A lot of times he’ll make the right play and not try to do anything over dramatic with the puck. As for his defensive zone, he covers well and will get involved in board plays on his wing and has a good stick taking away passing lanes.
If he can improve on his top speed and get to the middle of the ice more, I could easily see him as an everyday bottom 6 player, with some potential to play on your powerplay due to his vision and passing combination.
- Olivier Rodrigue, LHG, Graz99ers (Round 2, Pick 62, 2018)
Olivier has had quite the start to his season in Austria. In 7 games played so far, he has a 7-0-0 record with a 2.40 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
I decided to go with Rodrigue here because when I watched him at development camp, I really liked what I saw. He has great technique. He can explode side to side with his quickness, and for being 6’1 he can track the puck really well. I believe with some time and development in the AHL he has the best potential out of our goalies to be an impactful starter. I almost put Konovalov here, but when I watch his games, he doesn’t seem to get many high danger chances against.
Something Rodrigue will need to do is gain some weight, right now eliteprospects has him listed at 159 pounds. If he can gain some lower body strength that will improve his already great explosiveness. I’m not a goalie guru and they will always confuse me, but I thought this would be a fun spot to put Rodrigue in just due to his potential.
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There we go after 3000 words of rambling on, these are my personal rankings and thoughts on the Oilers top 10 prospects. It’s not a bad pipeline at all, with the additions of Holloway and Tullio we have improved on our forward prospect depth that was much needed. If you made it through all of this, thank you for tuning in.
As always you can find my takes and clips of Oilers prospects as well as 2021 draft eligible over on my twitter: @SPProspects.