When it comes to Edmonton Oilers enforcers, Georges Laraque is the gold standard of the last two decades. It doesn’t sound like a high standard for a prospect to meet, but the bar for being an enforcer who can contribute 15 points per season is a surprisingly high one.
Laraque managed the feat, and has never been replaced. Instead, the Oilers have either eschewed fighters entirely or employed guys without an NHL skillset in that position. And the guys in the system, with one possible exception, don’t seem likely to replace him any time soon.
The chart that follows shows the points/82 games performance of Laraque, ex-Oiler Zack Stortini and the most physical of the Oilers prospects (Ewanyk and Kessy don’t really qualify as enforcers, but are listed also). White indicates a player still in junior, orange the AHL and blue the NHL. A ‘—‘ shows a player who didn’t play enough games for fair consideration or one who fell below the AHL line as a professional.
Now, the chart is skewed a little because Laraque played in a pretty high-scoring era of QMJHL hockey. Let’s take his last junior season and adjust it down to what we’d expect in a league where the average team scored three goals per game instead of four.
Even here, Laraque stands out as unique by a hefty margin. Zack Stortini is pretty clearly the second guy in order of actual scoring ability here, and we can make a little allowance for Mitch Moroz, too – I didn’t see a lot of Oil Kings hockey but many people who I trust have complained about his usage and we can see his numbers have improved significantly this year.
Still, the seemingly unavoidable conclusion is that none of the players on this list – including Luke Gazdic, who has strung together two pretty solid games in a row after a bad start to the year – can really compare to Laraque as a scorer. If the Oilers are really lucky, Moroz will make the same smooth transition to the professional ranks that Laraque did and be ready to play NHL minutes as a legitimate fourth-liner and an enforcer two or three years from now.
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