If there was one thing we knew Ken Holland would change around here, it was that the Edmonton Oilers would no longer be rushing prospects.
Today’s report from Jim Matheson follows Holland’s pattern of being conservative with the development of prospects that dates all the way back through his time leading the Detroit Red Wings organization. According to Matheson, the Oilers would like for Philip Broberg, the team’s first-round pick from the 2019 draft, to spend another season in the Swedish Hockey League.
Broberg has been playing roughly 14 minutes per night for Skellefteå AIK of the SHL. This season is Broberg’s first go-around of Sweden’s top league as he spent last season playing for AIK of Allsvenskan, which is Sweden’s second-highest league.
There was some thought that Broberg could come over to North America and play with the Bakersfield Condors next season, but given the fact he still has room to grow in Sweden, it makes sense to keep him over there. There’s plenty that Broberg can learn taking on an increased role for Skellefteå. He’ll likely be able to take on a larger role offensively and play against the top competition the other teams have to offer.
It’s important to remember that Broberg is only 18 years old. He turns 19 in July, so he wouldn’t yet be eligible to play in the American Hockey league if he were a North American drafted skater. We see some European players come over and play in the AHL in their 18- and 19-year-old seasons, but that’s a big ask for a young defender.
The comparable to use here would be Oscar Klefbom. The Oilers selected Klefbom in the first round of the 2011 draft and he played his rookie season in the SHL in 2011-12. Edmonton kept Klefbom in Sweden for one more season before finally bringing him over to North America in 2013-14, where he started with Oklahoma City and later cracked the Oilers roster.
Like Klefbom, Broberg is a late birthday for his draft class. It didn’t make sense for the Oilers to bring a 19-year-old Klefbom over to play in the AHL and it doesn’t make sense for them to do it with Broberg either.
After the disaster that was Jesse Puljujarvi’s development, I would prefer the Oilers err on the side of caution when it comes to European prospects. Taking it slow is the right way to go. If all goes according to plan, Broberg will play 2020-21 in Sweden, come over to North America in 2021-22, and then be competing for a call-up that season and a permanent roster spot in 2022-23. By then, there might be a clear opening for him on the roster as Darnell Nurse is eligible to become a free agent in 2022, but that’s obviously something we don’t even need to be thinking about just yet.
Broberg’s entry-level deal, which he signed shortly after being drafted, features a European Assignment Clause for two years, meaning he’s a slide candidate much like a Major Junior player in North America would be. With that in mind, it seems the plan from the beginning was for Broberg to spend two seasons in the SHL.