Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

Oilers Prospects Review

By Sean Patrick Ryan

#1 Prospect – Evan Bouchard

_____________2020-2021: 14 GP, 2G, 3A, 5PTS.

Season Review:

Evan Bouchard started this season in Sweden, playing for Sodertalje of the Allsvenskan League. It was a bit of an adjustment for him at first, but by the end he was clearly brimming with confidence playing high minutes and running the Top powerplay unit. He finished his SHL season with 6 goals, 17 pts in 23 GP and seemed ready to step right in for the Oilers, since he was already in terrific game shape and playing well. FULL SHL HIGHLIGHTS HERE.

But, that never happened for the talented rearguard. Despite several defencemen from his 2018 draft class getting plenty of opportunities from their NHL clubs (Dahlin, Hughes, Ty Smith, Boqvist, Dobson, K’Andre Miller, Romanov), Bouchard was not given that same chance. He was scratched for the first 11 games of the NHL season, all but wiping out any momentum or confidence he might have had from just playing in Sweden. He then did manage to get in 11 games in the month of February with Ethan Bear out with an injury. But, after being thrusted into the lineup on his wrong side (LD) for a game on March 1st against the high-flying Leafs, he was then subsequently benched for 2 straight months.

Bouch finally drew back in May 1st and played outstanding – he scored a goal and was named 3rd star. However, we then learned he would not play again for some inexplicable reason barring an injury, despite the fact the team had already locked up a playoff spot. He did manage to sneak one more game in (in which he played very well again) but that was it for his season. It was extremely puzzling deployment for such a promising young prospect and a lack of foresight by the organization to block their future stud defenceman with a pending unrestricted free agent in Tyson Barrie – especially in meaningless games down the stretch. Bouchard scores against the Canucks.

_

Outlook:

Edmonton had a real opportunity to set themselves up nicely next season and moving forward by getting Bouchard some prime offensive looks with McDavid & Draisaitl at even strength and on the Powerplay, but that never really materialized despite having a playoff spot virtually locked up for weeks. Instead, they chose to hold him back & go all-in with Tyson Barrie in those spots which in hindsight now seems very shortsighted. Thus, questions now remain whether the soon to be 22 year old “Bouch” is ready & capable of handling big minutes and running a Top NHL PP to replace Barrie next season with so little NHL experience. But, what he lacks in experience he makes up in poise, smarts & natural ability. Bouchard is already the team’s best puck mover and passer, he owns a cannon of a shot, and he is a natural on the Powerplay. So while 2020-21 was certainly not “ideal” in terms of developing their #1 prospect, all the tools are there for him to step in and succeed right away next season.

Prediction: Full-time NHLer, #1 PP QB and paired with Darnell Nurse for majority of next season.

_

~ ~ ~

_

#2 Prospect – Philip Broberg

_

2021-22: 44 GP, 3G, 10A 13Pts________________

Season Review:

No Oiler top Prospect had a more up and down year this past season than Philip Broberg.

Broberg started the year wowing heads in Edmonton’s training camp in July. His athleticism and confidence were on full display and the media there was just eating it up. Broberg has earned his invitation to stay with Oilers in summer.

He then headed back to Sweden and had a pretty good start to the season for Skellefteå of the SHL. His confidence was high and he was flashing some highlight reel ability almost regularly. His defensive game was still a bit spotty, but he was logging big minutes and making big plays so it was viewed as acceptable. Then he was named Captain of the Swedish team for the World Juniors and Ken Holland was being touted as a genius for drafting such a gifted defenceman. But unfortunately, everything seemed to take a downward turn from there. Highlight reel rush by Broberg.

Broberg got hurt at the World Juniors and tried to play through it, but ended up hurting his team more than anything. Clearly, he put a lot of weight on his shoulders as the captain and it showed. His body took a beating, and you could tell he was struggling mentally. Unfortunately, he was just physically unable to do much by the end of tournament. He showed a lot of heart trying to fight through the pain and disappointment but it stuck with him. After that, he returned back to his club in Skellefteå and continued to play through his nagging injuries. This led to a myriad of mental mistakes on the ice and ultimately destroyed his confidence. By the end of the season and playoffs he was barely playing 8-10 minutes on the bottom pair. A disappointing finish to such an dynamic start for the uber-talented Swede. Broberg Skellefteå highlights.

Broberg‘s strengths are his tremendous athleticism and his ability to rush the puck. He is willing and capable of going end to end on almost any given shift – which to this point has turned out to be a bit of a blessing and a curse. He also tends to maintain excellent gap control with his long reach but does get caught out of position a lot by relying too much on it. He’s a great skater, he moves the puck well, but his decision making and positioning still need to improve. Tremendous ability especially for a 19 year old but he does have a ways to go to be a regular Top 4 defenceman in the NHL. Which is completely fine and understandable at his age. Remember, Bouchard is 21 yrs old and still not a full-timer yet.

_

Outlook:

There’s no doubt the Edmonton brass love Broberg and his ceiling is very high. Physically, he could play in the NHL today. Mentally, the game still needs to slow down for him otherwise he’s going to be a turnover machine. He has to learn to pick his spots better and figure out what kind of defenceman he is and wants to become. Fortunately, there is no real rush to get him in right away, but odds are the Oilers won’t be able to help themselves.

ETA: Would love to see him in Bakersfield next season so he can adjust to the North American game. Then, he makes the team in 2022-23. But there is a chance he is gifted a spot as soon as next season if he blows the doors off at training camp again.

_

~ ~ ~

#3 Prospect – Dylan Holloway

_

2021-22 season: 23GP, 11A, 35 PTS

Season Review:

Dylan Holloway‘s season mirrored that somewhat of Philip Broberg‘s. Holloway started the season a house on fire, and ended the season in disappointment playing through an injury, though he didn’t face nearly the criticism Broberg did for whatever reason. He was a leader on his Badger team, and one of the best offensive players in NCAA hockey. Holloway shift by shift vs. Michigan.

Holloway finished his sophomore season with 35 points in 23 games. He was a dominant force at both ends of the ice, in the faceoff dot, and in all situations. He also finished the NCAA season as a TOP 10 Hobey Baker Finalist. In between that, he also helped Canada win the Silver Medal at the World Juniors. His performance in the NCAA playoffs were a disappointment, especially the semi-final game where he took a game misconduct for a late hit to the head. Offensively he didn’t do much in the Big Ten finals or in the Frozen Four tournament (1st round exit) either, though he basically couldn’t shoot the puck with his injury so he gets a pass for that.

Holloway’s performance for Canada was also a bit underwhelming as he finished 12th among Canadian forwards in points (2 pts in 6 games). Not that he didn’t play well or wasn’t engaged – he just didn’t have much puck luck. He was extremely aggressive on the forecheck, finished most of his checks and was all around the net most of the tourney he just couldn’t finish. Holloway shift by shift vs. U.S.A.

Despite all that, Holloway’s strengths are aplenty. He is the biggest, most physical player the Oilers have as a forward prospect. He is a tremendous skater, who aggressively pursues defenders on the forecheck and punishes them with the body if they don’t get rid of it in time. He wins faceoffs, he plays in all situations and is reliable all over the ice. He’s more of a playmaker than natural shooter and can be caught patrolling the perimeter a bit more than you’d like at times. But he’s not afraid to stand in front of the net & will crash it hard too. He’s also an zone entry machine. So basically, he is a more physical and determined version of Ryan McLeod.

_

Outlook:

Holloway was assigned to Bakersfield after his season finished in Wisconsin though he didn’t play due to injury. He also signed his ELC so will either start in the AHL or in the NHL with Edmonton next season depending on how his training camp goes. I would bank on the latter, at least to start and see how it goes. Tough to say whether he gets a shot on the Top 2 lines as a complimentary forward initially, or is plugged in as a versatile 2 way center to start. Either way, he should get some playing time with the big club at some point and be a full-time NHL’er by 2022-23 at the lastest.

ETA: Say hello to your next Edmonton Oiler next season.

_

~ ~ ~

#4 Prospect – Ryan McLeod

Season Review:

Ryan McLeod‘s season started in Switzerland, took a detour through California, then ultimately finished up in Edmonton.

McLeod played for EV Zug in the Top Swiss league and finished with 4 goals & 10 points in 15 games. He looked a bit overwhelmed a times but it was probably quite an adjustment for the 21 yr old. He did get an opportunity to show off his fabolous skating on the big ice, and was really starting to settle in when he got recalled to North America. Swiss League Highlights.

In Bakersfield, much like the entire team, McLeod started his season slow. He went pointless in the first 5 games but was eventually put on a line with Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody and that line dominated. McLeod finished his AHL season with 14 goals & 28 points in his final 23 games and was #1 in the league with a +23. His confidence was sky high and he was taking more chances offensively by going to the net more and was getting rewarded. That offensive explosion earned him a call-up to Edmonton which ultimately turned into a one-way trip. McLeod AHL scoring highlights.

As an Oiler, McLeod resorted back to what he knows best – play a safe, reliable game in all 3 zones and don’t get caught out of position. His fancystats were pretty good and he won over 50% of his faceoffs. But he only had 3 shots on goal in 10 regular season games, and registered one assist in 14 games (including playoffs) which was a bit disappointing coming off his breakout offensive season in the AHL. Everyone knew he could skate and drive possession, but fans were likely fooled into thinking he would create offense at the NHL level right away because he was playing with two terrific AHL’ers In Bakersfield.

Regardless, McLeod’s strengths are his wonderful skating, versatility and reliability. If you can skate like the wind, win faceoffs and penalty kill like McLeod does (especially under a Dave Tippett coached team), you’re going to get a long look in the NHL. That’s why he’s ahead of guys like Benson & Marody on the depth chart. The challenge for McLeod is the same as it’s always been. To be more than just a role player. He needs to make his mark on the offensive scoresheet, and that means getting to the dirty areas, working hard around the net, and shooting the puck. Now, he started to find his groove in the AHL with those other 2 guys I mentioned. And we know with his speed & skating he can drive possession but the question remains, can he drive any offense with it too?

_

Outlook:

This is a big offseason for McLeod. He’s been given his opportunity by the Oilers on this roster and he needs to turn all the wonderful skating & versatility he has into something other than Edmonton’s version of Ryan Spooner. Effortless skating is great but there has to be a point to it. There’s a big need for a 3rd line center but McLeod is likely not that guy right now. He’s more of your ideal 4th line, top penalty killing center on a good team. Which is fine since he’ll only be 22 yrs old in September. But more net presence and determination is needed for the 6’2″, 207 lb forward if he is going to take the next step in his NHL career.

ETA: He’s already arrived in Edmonton and is likely there to stay, though I wanted rule out a move to the wing at some point.

_

~ ~ ~

#5 Prospect – Tyler Benson

Season Review:

Tyler Benson’s season started in Switzerland where he played 15 games for GC Kusnacht of the Swiss-1 league, registering 2 goals & 19 points. It wasn’t a great performance especially in a lower tier league, but it did get him in game shape for the upcoming AHL season – and what a season it was. Swiss highlights.

Benson finished his season in Bakersfield with 36 points in 36 games, and capped it off with a Pacific Division title in which he had 3 goals, 5 points in 6 playoff games. It was yet another strong AHL season for the now 23 year old prospect. But, it was bittersweet as Benson never got an NHL call-up, yet Ryan McLeod did which was a clear indication that he had passed on the organizational pecking order.

Benson’s strengths are his passing and playmaking ability which are pretty close to elite. He has excellent vision and moves the puck quickly and precisely. With time and space on the powerplay he is even more dangerous as he has a knack for drawing defenders to him and threading the needle to a teammate. He also plays a real pesky, chippy game especially along the boards which creates many turnovers. His shot isn’t great but he has quick hands around the net and the instincts to find open ice. Benson highlight goal.

But as far as his skating goes, it’s always kind of been his Achille’s heel as a prospect. It’s gotten a bit better as he has made some obvious adjustments this season with more of a knee bend and quicker feet when he accelerates. He still has a short, choppy stride but works harder to get to that top speed which is still probably average at best. That being said, he’s shifty & has a good knack for finding soft spots on the ice so it could work in the NHL similar to a guy like Tyler Toffoli for example. But there’s no doubt that a lack of high end skating and explosiveness is the main reason why he’s not in Edmonton full-time and McLeod got the recall before him. That, and his overall 200 foot game which is solid but nowhere near McLeod’s level.

_

Outlook:

Benson is at a bit of a crossroads in the Oilers organization. He’s already been passed on the depth chart by McLeod. Holloway is likely now ahead of him too, and Lavoie is nipping at his heels. If you judge him strictly by his AHL numbers, then you would think he would be a shoe-in NHL’er. However, Edmonton has seen guys like him produce in the AHL level in the past but struggle to translate that to the NHL. Anton Lander (52 pts in 46 AHL games as a 22 yr old), was a former 2nd rounder like Benson, comes to mind. Josh Currie also put up 164 pts over his last 4 years in Bako (including 93 goals), but he couldn’t crack the big club and walked as a Free agent. So there’s no guarantee Benson will be a solid NHL’er but he at least deserves another shot before the team gives up on him. He works hard and he makes plays.

ETA: If he doesn’t get traded or picked in the expansion draft, I’d except him on the Oilers roster at least to start next season. He has nothing else to prove in the AHL. But it is a make or break year for him in Edmonton.

_

~ ~ ~

_

#6 Prospect – Dmitri Samorukov

2021-22 Season: 48GP, 2G, 6A, 8PTS

Season Review:

Dmitri “Dima” Samorukov was the first Oilers prospect to sign overseas during Covid – signing with CSKA of the KHL for the duration of the season. It turned out to be a good decision for the talented Russian, until his season ended abruptly due to injury.

Samorukov fit in well with CSKA almost off the hop. He was paired with former NHL’er Klaus Dahlbeck, who kind of took him under his wing and was a stabilizing influence for Dima’s game. His offence didn’t take off like some had anticipated. But the defensive strides he made were huge for his development, and a positive sign as he heads back to North America to resume his career. Dima finished with a team second best +24 (behind Dahlbeck). Samorukov shift by shift vs. SKA.

Samorukov’s strengths are his skating ability and offensive instincts. He loves to join the rush and has a big shot from the point. He also possesses a certain nastiness on defence that we don’t always see, but shows up in spurts when he’s really motivated. Dima can absolutely light up opponents with a body check if they’re not ready, and can be a tough player to play against. He can usually be described as “high eventful” and he can still be caught be overaggressive at times. When he keeps the game simple and doesn’t take too many risks, he can be a very imposing defenceman. But decision making is always going to be Samorukov’s Achille’s heel. Deciding when to pinch and when not to, and limiting turnovers are ultimately going to decide his fate as an NHL’er. Dima’s character and charisma are contagious and an added bonus to his talented skill-set. Quick strike by Samorukov.

_

Outlook:

Russians just don’t have success in Edmonton for whatever reason. That being said, Samorukov will be back in Bakersfield next season where he should be an integral part of their defensive core. He should probably be on the top pair for the Condors and one of the first injury call-ups. Longterm, he has the ability to be a real nice 2nd pair defenceman in the NHL who can give you some sneaky offence and some nastiness on defence (he can play either side).

ETA: Cup of coffee in 2021. He should be knocking on the door for a roster spot on the Oilers in 2022-23 but still might not get a real opportunity until the year after with Broberg ahead of him in the pecking order. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being a trade chip eventually.

_

~ ~ ~

#7 Prospect – Kirill Maksimov

2020-21 (VHL) – 25 GP: 15G, 12A, 27 PTS

Season Review:

Kirill Maksimov has become the forgotten prospect among Edmonton media & fans for the most part, but he is still one of the most talented players the Oilers have in the system. The problem is, he doesn’t really get the opportunity he should.

Maksimov joined CSKA of the KHL but was a late addition in August, so he faced an uphill battle of getting any significant playing time for a top team loaded with veteran forwards. He did manage to get in 16 games for the club (2G’s, 3PTS), but played sparingly mainly on the 4th line.

So in an effort to get more playing time, Maksimov was re-assigned to CSKA’s VHL affiliate (AHL equivalent) Zvezda Moscow. There, he was clearly their best player averaging over a point per game (27 points in 25 games) and was on pace to contend for the scoring title as a 21 year old rookie. He almost led his team in scoring despite playing only half the games, but more importantly showed people (hopefully Edmonton scouts) what he can do given prime offensive opportunities. No question though he was too good for that league. Top 5 Sniper Prospects.

Maksimov’s strengths are his versatility, work ethic, and his shot & release are NHL caliber. He also thinks the game at a very high level. He has a blistering one timer on the Powerplay, and has a ton of experience on the penalty kill. People forget, this kid had more goals and points than Raphael Lavoie in their 2 years after being drafted (74 goals, 159 pts in 125 GP for Niagara), and he had more points 5v5 per 60 than Ryan McLeod did as rookies last season in the AHL playing most on the 3rd line. He’s capable of being an key offensive catalyst, but is also versatile enough to give you quality minutes in a bottom 6 role – which should give him a real chance at being an solid NHL’er one day. End to end rush by Maksi.

_

Outlook:

No forward in this list had more goals & points their last 2 years of Major Junior than Maksimov. With McLeod likely sticking in Edmonton, and guys like Benson and Marody’s careers in the Oilers organization up in the air (both are RFA’s), Maksi should return to Bakersfield next season in a featured role and breakout offensively. He has all the tools time to put it altogether as a pro.

ETA: I would expect him to put up big numbers in Bakersfield next season and make a real push in 2022-23. Much like Samorukov, there’s a chance the team doesn’t value him as some other prospects and he is traded at some point in the near future. This could be his last year with the organization if he doesn’t take a huge leap forward.

_

~ ~ ~

_

#8 Prospect – Raphael Lavoie

Season Review:

Raphael Lavoie had a very interesting 2020-21 hockey season. First, he signed a tryout with Rögle BK of the SHL only to be released last minute for some unknown reason. Then, unable to find another SHL team to join he ended up playing for Väsby in the Allsvenskan league (Swe-1). There, he did rack up a 23 goals, 45 points in 51 games but was also a -14. He also ended up getting suspended the second last game of the year and missed 2 games in the relegation round – which Väsby ultimately lost and secured their relegation.

Following his season in Sweden, Lavoie came back to North America with fellow teammate Phil Kemp and joined the Condors mid-season. He started hot with 4 goals, 7 points in his first 8 games and 23 shots on goal. But then he hit a bit of a wall offensively and went pointless for 9 games before registering a goal & 2 assists in the final two contests. When the abbreviated playoffs started, he didn’t stop shooting. Lavoie had 24 shots in 6 playoff games though only managed to score once. It was encouraging to see him shoot and shoot often, as the Oilers could really use players like that in Edmonton. Though, his shot selection still has to be better. Lavoie’s AHL goals.

Lavoie’s main strengths are that elite shot and release which are both NHL caliber. He can score from anywhere inside the blueline and really leans into his shot. His skating is really good too for a big man; he has some nice agility & a strong top gear. On top of that, Lavoie plays a very aggressive style especially along the boards and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. There’s a lot to like about him but there is a reason why he dropped to the 2nd round in 2019. His work ethic is very inconsistent and his play away from the puck needs a lot of work. He can still be rather unenthused at times without the puck and the decision making need to improve. But, there were some encouraging signs of progression in Bakersfield, only time will tell if he can maintain the necessary consistency there.

_

Outlook:

Lavoie will be returning to Bakersfield in 2021-22 looking to build on a season where he made some good strides in his game. There’s no doubt having veteran leaders like Adam Cracknell around him helped the transition on and likely off the ice. But he still has a ways to go to round his game if he is going to be a successful pro. He will likely never be a bottom 6 forward in the NHL, so Lavoie truly is a boom or bust prospect.

ETA: Lavoie is probably not going to a shot in the NHL next season, with plenty to work on. By 2022-23 though, he should be ready to push for a spot.

_

~ ~ ~

_

#9 Prospect – Carter Savoie

RW Carter Savoie of the Denver Pioneers – 5’9, 190 lbs

Season Review:

No one had a better start to their season as an Oiler prospect this year than Carter Savoie.

Savoie exploded on the scene for Denver as a freshman, scoring in his first 5 NCAA games (6G’s, 8 PTS). His coach didn’t waste any time putting him in key offensive situations including the Top PP in Game 1 – and it paid off. Savoie was about as good as any NCAA player in the first month or so of the season. His confidence was sky high and he was a threat to score every time Denver went on the Powerplay. Top 5 Sniper Prospects.

As the season wore on, teams started to figure out that if you take away Savoie’s time and space to get his shot off, especially on the powerplay, he could be neutralized. That led to about a month stretch early in 2021 where he went 7 games with only 1 even strength goal (and 1 PPG). Savoie wasn’t nearly as dominant in the 2nd half of the season as the first, as teams clearly game planned for him. He’s going to have to work on being more unpredictable and versatile in order to be a more consistent offensive threat.

Savoie’s strengths are his big shot and soft hands. He is as natural a shooter and goal scorer as you will find. Which is great for the Oilers because they are badly lacking those type of players. The downside to Savoie, is his game away from the puck which is very underwhelming. He isn’t a great skater and his work ethic can be spotty at times which makes the skating seem worse. When he’s on though, he looks like a very dangerous player & promising prospect. The key to unlocking his potential is to get him to buy into putting in the work on and off the ice.

_

Outlook:

Savoie will return to Denver as the focal point of the offense next season. Hopefully, he’ll be better prepared both physically and mentally as a sophomore, and can make some necessary strides to counter how teams defend him. He has that NHL shot he can hang his hat on, and it will get him a ton of goals in College hockey because of it. How far he comes in developing the other aspects of his game is what will really ultimately decide his future as a pro. Still plenty of time for the former Sherwood Park Crusader to blossom.

ETA: Savoie is going to be in Denver for at least 1 more year. If he tears it up and improves on last year’s ototals, we could see him start in Bakersfield in 2022-23. After that, anything is possible but I would take the patient approach and play the long game here. He still has a long ways to go to be a pro but Top 6 potential.

_

~ ~ ~

#10 Prospect – Ty Tullio

RW Ty Tullio of the Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 5’11, 181 lbs

Season Review:

Ty Tullio made the most of a difficult situation with no OHL season. He went over to Slovakia as an 18 yr old and performed well in a Men’s league – Tipos Extraliga, registering 13 points in 19 games for the last place team Liptovsky Mikulas. Despite limited ice time for his entire line (all OHL’ers) in favour of Slovak veterans, Tullio put up respectable numbers and showed he wasn’t afraid to play his rugged style versus men (77 PIMS in 19 games). Top 5 Sniper Prospects.

When he came back to North America, Tullio signed an ATO with Bakersfield but could never get into a game with so many bodies already there. He trained for several weeks with coaching staff there then was released.

Tullio’s strengths are his work ethic and physicality, while his shot & release are NHL caliber. He also has underrated vision & some high end playmaking ability with those quick hands. He does need to be more disciplined and his skating could use that one extra gear. But he has plenty of time to improve in those areas, and he’s that hard-working Brendan Gallagher type that should endear him to Oilers fans once he finally arrives. Goal, hit, save by Tullio.

_

Outlook:

Despite not getting into a game in the AHL, Tullio was able to workout and practice with the Condors & coaching staff for several weeks and get accustomed to the pro game. That should help him as he heads back to the Oshawa Generals of the OHL for the 2021-22 season. There, he will be expected to be one of the leaders and top scorers on the team. He’s noticeably bigger & stronger now since he was drafted, and has already played in a Men’s league overseas which should also bode well for him moving forward into next season.

ETA: 1 more year in the OHL, one year in Bakersfield, then likely pushes for a roster spot in 2023-24. Probably a 2nd or 3rd line winger in NHL eventually who could surprise.

_

~ ~ ~

#11 Prospect – Michael Kesselring

Season Review:

Michael Kesselring‘s season started at Northeastern University where he logged big minutes for his club. He then signed his ELC and played 21 games for the Condors.

Kesselring is a big defenceman who really stood out in NCAA hockey for a few reasons. One, is his obvious size. He’s listed as 6’5″. 205 lbs. But he’s also a very good skater for his size and has surprising mobility. He wasn’t afraid to rush the puck and showed some good offensive instincts including on the powerplay. He finished his NCAA season with 5 goals, 8 points in 20 GP. Shift by Shift of Kesselring.

Once he got to Bakersfield, it didn’t take Kesselring long to adapt. He played in 21 games (though used sparingly at times) and showed he was comfortable playing his game at the AHL level. He competed hard and showed excellent puck moving ability. He finished with a goal & 2 assists in 21 games after scoring a goal in the last game of the season. He didn’t look out of place in the AHL playoffs either, registering 3 points in 6 games and showing great confidence and poise with and without the puck. He wasn’t afraid to jump up in the play or pinch in from the point and he battled defensively. First Pro goal for Kesselring.

Kesselring’s strengths are his size, mobility and range. He’s pretty polished as a skater showing crisp crossovers side to side and flashing a good top end speed. He has no problems carrying the puck through the neutral zone and walks the line very efficiently. He does need to work on pivoting and acceleration as teams continue to dump and chase on him but that is pretty common for big d-men like him. He doesn’t often get caught being overaggressive he lets the play come to him and shows good gap control especially with that long reach. Despite his size, he isn’t overly physical but uses his frame well to box out or pin his opponents against the boards effectively.

Kesselring also shows good decision making and makes a very crisp first pass. He has that long reach so he can avoid attackers yet still deliver an accurate pass on the tape going the other way. That makes him a dangerous player in transition. He has a strong wrist shot from the point and good offensive instincts making him a pretty balanced, 2 way defender.

_

Outlook:

Kesselring made a pretty smooth transition to pro hockey from Northeastern which is a positive sign that he has a high hockey IQ. He does have a very intriguing skill-set and it appears he has more upside than a guy like Lagesson ever did. He’s still going to have to be coached up defensively but the tools are there for him to be a solid mid-bottom pair defenceman eventually. Big upside here.

ETA: Give him 2 years in Bakersfield as he continues to refine his skating technique and gain experience as a pro and you could be looking at a real nice NHL player on day.

_

~ ~ ~

_

#12 Prospect – Stuart Skinner

Season Review:

Stuart Skinner made his unexpected NHL debut this past season for the Oilers getting into 1 game early in the season. While it was a shaky performance (8-5 victory), he still got his first NHL win after not playing a real game for 11 months which couldn’t have been easy. Skinner reflects on his 1st NHL win.

Shortly after that, Skinner was returned to Bakersfield where he has a terrific season that was capped with a Pacific Division title. He led the league in regular season Wins (24) and finished with a very respectable 2.38 GAA & .914 SV%. In the playoffs, he was almost as good going 4-2 with a 2.64 GAA & .907 SV% (he was pulled in one game after allowing 4 goals in the 1st period). He was also terrific in the final game as Bakersfield were crowned League champs.

Skinner had a 9 game stretch from Feb 19th – Mar 16th where he went undefeated (9-0) with a sparkling 1.33 GAA and .948 SV%. He also had a similar stretch last season too for the Condors where he was absolutely dialed in. Hopefully, this is an indication of what he is capable of moving forward as he strives for consistency. Another positive sign was in the two playoffs games where he did struggle and took the loss, he bounced back strong with 2 wins including the Title clinching game where he had a .943 SV% on 35 shots.

Skinner is a hybrid goalie who’s strengths are his athleticism, positioning and his recovery. He moves post to post extremely well and gets down and back up really quickly. He has good size (6’4″) and typically likes to use it to his advantage by making himself big and taking away the top of the net. That’s an adjustment from earlier in the year in Edmonton where he was too small and got beat 4 times over the shoulder. Skinner is real at good squaring up to the shooter and exhibits good rebound control. His glove is good but not great and he gets beat 5-hole more than you would like. But he’s constantly improving and making technical adjustments as he refines his game so there is still plenty room for optimism about him.

_

Outlook:

The jury is still out on Skinner in terms of whether he has the ability and mentality to be a legit NHL starting goaltender. But the fact he continues to progress and develop from year to year is a promising sign. He’s a big goalie with overall good fundamentals and he has shown an ability to bounce back after tough losses. Plus, his hot streaks are usually longer than any cold streaks now and his AHL stats are very respectable. All good signs but everyone knows goalies are voodoo so who truly knows for sure but trending up.

ETA: With either Koskinen and/or Mike Smith returning next season and a new goalie likely brought in, Skinner’s shot at a backup NHL job will likely come in 2022-23 with the Oilers. That gives him another full year in the AHL (barring injuries) to perfect his craft then attempt to make the leap.

~ ~ ~

_

#13 Prospect – Matej Blumel

2020-21 (CZE) – 49 GP: 17G, 15A, 32 PTS

Season Review:

Matej Blumel was drafted in the 4th round of the 2019 NHL draft. At the time, he was playing in the USHL. But since then, he has returned to his native Czech Republic and played for Dynamo Pardubice the last two seasons.

Blumel played a regular role in the Top 6 for Pardubice this past season and didn’t disappoint. He finished tied for 2nd on the team in both goals (17) and points (32). In the playoffs, he chipped in another 2 goals, 5 points in 8 games. He also represented the Czech Republic at the recent World Championships where he scored once in 5 games. Blumel goal at the WC.

Blumel’s strengths are his shot and his high motor. He’s not the best skater in the world (short stride, not a lot of power) but he’s shifty and works extremely hard especially along the boards where he really battles. He has an excellent release on his wrist shot and loves to shoot the puck. That’s really his calling card as a prospect. He tries to outwork defenders and is fearless going to the net. Great offensive instincts. His playmaking ability needs work and he can sometimes have a bit of tunnel vision with the puck. But Blumel is pretty solid in all areas so there is plenty to work with. He’s going to have to get quicker and stronger to make it at the next level though no doubt. Top 5 Sniper Prospects.

_

Outlook:

Blumel was drafted out of the USHL then headed overseas the following season, so the window for signing him is a bit murky but is at least 3 years from his draft year. So there is no rush to sign him just yet. But based on performance, it’s possible he plays one more year in the Czech Republic at least then heads to Bakersfield in 2022-23.

ETA: It’s hard to envision Blumel in an Oilers uniform until at least 2023, but he might be worth the wait. He loves to shoot and he can score goals and he is a very determined hockey player on the ice. Nice long-term prospect.

_

~ ~ ~

_

#14 Prospect – Ilya Konovalov

Season Review:

Ilya Konovalov started 7 of the first 8 games of the season for Lokomotiv of the KHL, but then he was relegated to backup duties for the rest of the year minus a few spot starts. Disappointing season for sure, but he recently signed his ELC with Edmonton so is headed to North America this offseason.

The Numbers

Konovalov was named rookie goaltender of the year in the KHL for 2018-19 after posting a 1.89 GAA and .930 SV%. While he was outstanding in the regular season that year, he did struggle in the playoffs that year losing the starting job in the 1st round after back to back losses in Games 3 & 4. He got another chance the following round but still struggled and finished with a 2.42 GAA & .905 SV%. He had a great year but could have either wore down or rookie jitters perhaps come playoff time which can happen.

The following season 2019-20, Konovalov’s regular season numbers took a dip (2.45 GAA, .912 SV%) and he struggled even worse in the playoffs that year. He finished with a 2-2 record and 3.64 GAA & .888 SV% after his team Loko didn’t make it out of the first round. His team were the underdogs in that series but the goaltending certainly didn’t do them any favours for sure.

Last season, Konovalov started 3-1 in his first 4 games, but proceeded to let in 9 goals in the next 3 games (which is a lot by KHL standards) and a few of those were the stinker variety. So, he was subsequently benched in favour of Eddie Pasquale who took the reigns and never looked back (Pasquale started the season 9-0-2, with a 0.98 GAA, .960 SV% & 4 shutouts). For the next 3 months, Konovalov was used sparingly mainly in a backup role and struggled. He went 2-5 in that stretch and 5 of his 8 starts he let in 3 or more goals, and one start he only lasted a period. His stat line at the time looked like this : 6-7-1, 2.62 GAA, .910 SV%. Luckily, he got 4 straight starts in February and went 3-0-1 in those games allowing only 5 total goals, boosting his final season stats to a respectable 9-7-2, 2.29 GAA, & .923 SV%. Pasquale started all 11 games in the playoffs. Konovalov shootout saves.

Konovalov is a butterfly goalie and his strengths are his outstanding athleticism, his poise and his quick glove. He flies all around his crease and loves to be aggressive and challenge the shooters. He’s also a master of taking away the bottom part of the net, and can rob his opponents with the flash of his glove. But, this style does catch him out of position at times and does tend to open up the top part of the net and he is a small goalie especially by NHL standards. Nevertheless, he is the most dynamic goaltender the Oilers have their system right now and his chance will come soon. Kono flashes the glove.

_

Outlook:

There is a fair bit of hype surrounding Konovalov among Oilers fans, who are hoping he can be a legitimate starting goalie in the NHL one day. While his regular season numbers in the KHL suggest he could be that guy, there is still skepticism it will translate to the NHL – especially given his size. The reality is, there aren’t many 5’11” goalies in the NHL and even less bonafide starters. But there are a few, so it’s not impossible Konovalov can’t have a successful pro career. He did sign his ELC in May so he will be coming over to North America next season and will get an opportunity to prove himself likely in the AHL first.

ETA: He should start the year in Bakersfield and will be competing with Stuart Skinner and Olivier Rodrigue for playing time. Be interesting to see how the coach divvies up the starts. Has the most talent of the three, but not a lock he’s a surefire NHL’er yet.

_

~ ~ ~

#15 Prospect – Cooper Marody

Season Review:

Cooper Marody, like many NHL prospects, headed overseas to log some playing time during Covid. Unfortunately for him, he only managed to play one game for Dornbirner of the ICEHL before suffering an injury and sitting out several months. But, he managed to get healthy and start the season on time for Bakersfield and what a season it was.

Marody finished the season the AHL season as the league leader in goals with 21 in 39 GP. What was more impressive was only 3 of those were on the powerplay. He also finished tied for 5th in the league with a +17 which tells you how much his line dominated at 5 on 5. He & Tyler Benson (who assisted on 12 of the 21 goals) had great chemistry and really fed off each other. When Ryan McLeod was with them too they were absolute fire. The shooting percentage was over 20% which is obviously not sustainable but speaks to how often he shot from high danger scoring areas. He was always seemingly around the net looking to get a deflection or clean up any loose rebounds. He only had 1 goal & 3 points in 6 playoff games but all in all it was a great season and nice bounce back year for the 24 year old. All 21 of Marody’s goals.

Cooper Marody is a lot like Tyler Benson but without that one elite quality he can hang his hat on to get him to the NHL (unless you count grit). He’s a workman type player who’s really good in a lot of areas. He has a good motor, he’s got good awareness and a nose for the net. He has real quick hands in tight and scores a lot of “greasy goals” – tips, deflections, rebounds etc… His game is reminiscent of Patrick Maroon‘s minus the size & physicality. The biggest drawback for him, like Benson, is his skating which is just average at best and likely not going to get any better at this stage of his career. Which means, he’s really going to struggle to keep up in the NHL. Quite often he can be caught standing still waiting for plays to develop. Yes, he scored 21 goals but a lot of it was due to his linemates, opportunity & some poor AHL defending/goaltending. Most of those would not have went in on a real NHL goaltender.

_

Outlook:

Marody absolutely deserves a shot to make it full-time with the Oilers, and perhaps he will get that chance in 2021-22. But, there is a “career minor leaguer” feel to his game similar to Patrick Russell & Joe Gambardella. Great AHL’er but fringe NHL’er at best due to a lack of any real elite qualities. That being said, there is still a need for a bottom 6 center in Edmonton right now depending on what happens in free agency. He should get his opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong.

ETA: Marody will play in the NHL at some point next season whether due to injuries or merit. Beyond that, he might be looking to join a different organization if he can’t stick with the Oilers full-time.

~ ~ ~

_

#16 Prospect – William Lagesson

2020-21 Season: 19GP, 0G, 2A, 2PTS

Season Review:

William Lagesson‘s season started in Sweden where he played for two different clubs and was a leader for both, but then ended in Edmonton where he played 19 games and was almost a forgotten man.

Lagesson started the year playing for Vita Hästen of the Allsvenskan league. He was playing big minutes on the Top pair and actually quarterbacking the powerplay. He was a leader on that team and was having nice offensive season with 3 goals, 9 assists in 11 games. He was then traded to Kristianstads where he had 3 points in 3 games before the Oilers recalled him back to the NHL . Vita Hasten Highlights

Back in Edmonton, Lagesson was part of the taxi squad for the Oilers and was never sent to Bakersfield. He was used sparingly the first month or so of the season and was playing pretty decent, keeping his game simple and showing good defensive structure. But it was a numbers game in Edmonton, as the Oilers were trying to get so many players an equal amount of playing time – especially on D. So Lagesson ultimately sat for a month.

However, Laggy then got another opportunity to get another 9 games in March to show his true value. Unfortunately, he struggled mightily at times with the speed of the game & decision making in general. He averaged about 15 minutes a game during that stretch, but once it was over his limitations as an NHL defenceman were more apparent. He did play 2 more games in May before the season ended and never saw a game in the playoffs. He finished with 2 assists in 19 games. Encouraging start but lackluster finish to his season.

Lagesson’s strengths are on the defensive side of the puck. He is most effective when he plays a physical but smart, simple game. He’s an efficient puck mover and can break up the cycle. He also does a pretty good job in front of the net trying to clear his man an tie up sticks. But, he can get caught running around in his zone and really struggles with speedy attackers. He also needs to do a better job of making decisions under pressure. Bad turnovers started to become a problem when he was often pressured. He’s never going to contribute much offensively but can be a solid defensive depth guy if he simplifies his game and doesn’t try to do too much.

_

Outlook:

William Lagesson looks like a serviceable bottom pair NHL defenceman, but it might not be in Edmonton very much longer. He does do a lot of the little things right and when he keeps his game simple he can be effective. But there is no real outstanding quality about him and he has a tendency to get beat by speedy attackers. With so many young defencemen coming in Edmonton he might be better suited somewhere else.

ETA: Laggy is likely either going to be claimed via expansion or waivers by the time next season rolls around. If he is still around by that time he would be in the mix for a 3rd pair spot.

_

~ ~ ~

#17 Prospect – Phil Kemp

Season Review:

Phil Kemp turned pro in the winter but had to hold off on his Bakersfield debut as he headed over to Sweden first to play for Väsby of the Allsvenskan league. Once the AHL was finally given the green light to resume play, Kemp joined his Väsby teammate Raphael Lavoie in Bakersfield.

While he was in Väsby, Kemp was used primarily in a defensive role but logged big minutes for a struggling defensive team and was given some offensive looks including on the powerplay for a bit. He finished the season there with 3 goals, 10 points in 32 GP and a -12 (the whole team was minus). In the relegation round, he was excellent defensively and finished with 2 points in 5 games while being +2 but unfortunately it wasn’t enough as Väsby was indeed relegated.

After that, he finally made his much anticipated debut in Bakersfield. There, Kemp showed what he was all about – tough, physical defence. He played once again primarily in a defensive role and on the penalty kill. He showed good poise for the most point and a good first pass. Clearly he was keeping his game very simple and not do too much. He finished with 1 assist in 12 games and was a +2. He managed to get into two playoffs games and scored his first AHL goal in the Division clinching game. Kemp’s 1st AHL goal.

Kemp’s strengths are clear and obvious: defence. He is your throwback, old-school stay at home type defenceman. He’s physical, he blocks shots and he leads by example. He’s a top penalty killer and shutdown defender who is very solid positionally and wins a lot of one on one battles. In addition to that, he doesn’t offer you a whole lot more, nor does he choose to. Kemp takes little chances offensively. He prefers to be a reliable, defensive first player. He’s capable of making a good first pass but don’t expect him to rush the puck or jump up into the attack too often. He’s banking on being the exact opposite, but perfect compliment to an offensively gifted partner.

_

Outlook:

Phil Kemp will be fighting for a bottom pair role in the NHL his whole career. It’s a new NHL and Kemp is the throwback type. So there will be constant challengers in the organization who will offer greater upside than he will, who he will have to beat and fight off year after year. That doesn’t mean he can’t, but he will definitely be fighting an uphill battle for a long NHL career. I would anticipate many trips from Bakersfield to Edmonton, back to Bakersfield in his future. But he’s a leader and a battler so coaches will at least trust him when he does play.

ETA: Kemp should be one of the leaders on defence next season and perhaps in 2022-23 he challenges for a bottom pair spot on the Edmonton roster.

~ ~ ~

_

#18 Prospect – Olivier Rodrigue

Season Review:

Olivier Rodrigue started the season in Austria and finished up in Bakersfield, but it was a struggle for consistency for the talented 20 year old.

When North American players starting flocking to Europe to find playing time during the Covid pendemic, Rodrigue ultimately landed in Austria signing with the Graz99ers in the ICEHL. There, he has his ups and downs as you would expect any 20 year old rookie playing in a foreign league would, but he did manage to get into 23 games which was definitely a positive.

Once in Bakersfield, Rodrigue got off to a shaky start losing his first 4 AHL starts (while allowing 14 goals), but did manage to pick up his first win in relief on March 20th. After that, he had a much better 2nd half of the abbreviated season winning 3 of his last 4 starts and recording his first AHL shutout. He even got in one playoff game in relief and played well only allowing 1 goal in 37 minutes. He finished the regular season with a respectable 2.99 GAA & .894 SV%.

Rodrigue’s strengths are his athleticism & strong glove hand. He’s also very good at playing the puck. He’s almost a cross between Skinner and Konovalov in terms of overall strengths and ability. He’s your prototypical french goalie so he likes to use the butterfly style and take away the bottom of the net. He’s not as quick as Konovalov but moves better than Skinner who’s much bigger and takes up more of the net with his hybrid style. Rodrigue was known for his elite puck tracking coming out of the QMJHL but appeared to really struggle with that in the AHL. He let in too many goals from far out by not being able to locate the puck in time. Rebound control also seems to be an area of opportunity. But again, he was a 20 year old playing in the AHL so it’s hard to pick apart his game too much at this stage.

_

Outlook:

Rodrigue has family ties in the organization (his father Sylvain is a goalie consultant) so they are likely going to take the patient approach with him. There’s no doubt he has talent, but he is the youngest of the 3 top goalie prospects so likely won’t be gifted anything. He’s athletic and has a nice skill-set but does seem to be the furthest away right now.

ETA: Rodrigue is at least a couple years away and with Konovalov now in the picture, his future becomes a bit cloudier. It’s quite possible he ends up starting in the ECHL as the #1 there to get playing time. Could be facing an uphill battle.

_

~ ~ ~

#19 Prospect – Maxim Denezhkin

Season Review:

Maxim Denezhkin is a 7th round pick from 2019 who played exclusively in Russia this past year, logging time in both the VHL & MHL (he also played 1 game in the KHL).

In the VHL (Russia’s equivalent to the AHL), Denezhkin played center for Buran Vorozneh and was the team’s best player. He finished 2nd in team scoring (4 pts behind the leader in 12 less GP) and was one of the few players on the team with a positive plus/minus with a +2. His team was not very good however (they finished 24th in a 26 team league), so he was moved from Buran to Loko of the MHL to help them for their playoff run down the stretch. Denezhkin scores a beauty on Askarov.

Soon after he arrived in Loko, Denezhkin was named team Captain. He finished the regular season with 2 goals, 9 points in 18 games played but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He played in all situations for the team and took all the big faceoffs. He also had some nice chemistry too with fellow Oilers prospect Maxim Berezkin. Once the playoffs started, the team relied on him heavily once again to play in all situations and he came through while chipping in 2 goals, 9 pts in 16 games played and a +1. Not eye popping offensive numbers but he showed once again he was consistent, reliable & well rounded. Loko lost in the finals to Dynamo. Denezhkin from Berezkin.

Denezhkin‘s strengths are his hockey IQ, his work ethic and his versatility. He skates well, he’s a very solid 2 way player and he has sneaky good skill. He’s actually a very intriguing prospect with a nice overall skill-set. He can play center or the wing, power play or penalty kill, and he gives you an honest effort on every shift. For these reasons, he has a really good chance of being an NHL’er one day. The only real negative about him as a prospect is he lacks size and strength, which means he could struggle to make it or stick in the NHL. He gets knocked down a lot but he is resilient and battles hard. One of the more fun prospects to track game in and game out, Denezhkin is a real nice prospect who could surprise one day.

Outlook:

Denezhkin is likely not going to put up the huge numbers to warrant a promotion from Russia to the NHL anytime soon. He’s likely going to have to start in Bakersfield and prove his worth there. But, if he does make the transition over to North America and the organization is patient with him, he could turn out to be a reliable bottom 6 player one day.

ETA: Probably another year away from Bakersfield at least and still a long ways from Edmonton but he’s good enough to invest in long-term. I wouldn’t bet against him.

~ ~ ~

_

#20 Prospect – Maxim Berezkin

Season Review:

Maxim Berezkin (also spelled Beryozkin) is a 5th round pick from 2020 who played this past year in Russia. He split his time between the KHL and the MHL (Russia’s equivalent to the Canadian Hockey League – Under 21 league).

Berezkin played 31 games for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL but was used sparingly. He was often either the 12th or 13th forward so didn’t log a lot of ice time. He managed 2 assists in 31 games but was mainly a non-factor at that level.

Berezkin played 25 games for Loko (along with fellow Oiler prospect Maxim Denezhkin) who was one of the top teams in the MHL, and there he was given much more ice time and offensive opportunity and he flourished. He registered 13 goals & 28 points in 25 GP for Loko. His offensive prowess was often on full display and he was especially dangerous on the Powerplay. His team though did play some awful teams so the numbers were inflated a bit no doubt. But overall, he was very solid in that league of under 21 players. Denezhkin to Berezkin goal.

Berezkin’s strengths are his skating and his shot. He moves well for a big man. He has surprising agility & good top speed. Very fluid skater. His shot is also very dangerous. He can really hammer the puck and has a nice, quick release. Offensively, he certainly passes the test visually at first glance as a potential NHL player. But the more you watch him, the more his flaws become obvious. Beryozkin shift by shift vs. Dynamo.

Berezkin can be a lazy player at times who doesn’t always skate hard or give 100%. He also loses a lot of battles along the boards and gets knocked down an awful lot for a bigger guy. Having watched him a lot this season he certainly has his moments but consistency is a real issue. His style and skill-set is that of a poor man’s Raphael Lavoie – though the high end skill isn’t as good and the flaws are even more obvious. That being said, he is a toolsy prospect with upside who could surprise if he could ever round out his game.

_

Outlook:

The odds of Berezkin becoming an NHL’er player are long. He seems to be more of that prototypical, one dimensional KHL player. Thus, he’ll probably end up staying there. As mentioned a few times previously, Russians typically don’t do well in the Edmonton organization for whatever reason. See Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Burdasov, Ziyat Paigin, Anton Slephyshev, Nail Yakupov. There’s skill there but the will is questionable. ETA: If he were to make it to Bakersfield at some point, he would have a shot, but even that seems unlikely at this moment. Berezkin needs to have a big season in the KHL then try and make Oilers directly or will ultimately stay in KHL.

_

~ ~ ~

_

Other notables: Markus Niemelainen, Ostap Safin, Vincent Desharnais, Filip Berglund, Jeremias Lindewall, Filip Engaras, Skyler Brind’Amour, Tomas Mazura, Aapeli Rasanen, Graham McPhee, Patrik Siikanen

_

To comment please do so via Twitter – @TheOilKnight