Ken Holland and Co. did a great job of addressing the Oilers’ farm system’s biggest weakness at this year’s draft.
The team used its first-round pick on a forward, Dylan Holloway, for the first time since 2017, and they also scooped up a couple of guys, Tyler Tullio and Carter Savoie, in the later rounds who look like they could be big-time steals.
Before adding those guys, Edmonton’s best bet for a game-changing forward in the system was 2019 second-round pick, Raphael Lavoie. Even now, after Holloway was taken with the No. 14 overall pick, you can make the argument that Lavoie is the best forward in Edmonton’s system. They’re two very different players, so I can see a case for either.
Regardless, Lavoie is a very interesting prospect. He’s one of those players where it’s incredibly difficult to find a worthwhile NHL comparable because the skill-set that he brings to the table is truly unique.
Position: Centre and Right Wing
Date of Birth: Sept. 20, 2000
Drafted: 2019, No. 38 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’4″ / 193 cm
Weight: 198 lbs / 90 kg
A late-September birthday, Lavoie just narrowly missed being eligible for the 2018 draft. After putting up a solid, 63-point season for the Halifax Mooseheads in 2017-18, Lavoie broke out as an 18-year-old in the QMJHL.
In 2018-19, Lavoie scored 32 goals and 73 points over 62 games for the Mooseheads in the regular season and then went on to add 32 more points over 23 playoff games. The Mooseheads lost to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in both the QMJHL finals and the Memorial Cup finals.
Lavoie appeared poised for another deep playoff run in his final QMJHL season, but, unfortunately, things got derailed due to COVID-19. After putting up 44 points in 30 games for Halifax, Lavoie was dealt to a deep Chicoutimi Sagueneens team, where he would pot 20 goals in 25 games.
With the AHL currently on hiatus until the NHL gets rolling, Lavoie is over in Europe playing for Vasby of Sweden’s second-highest league. Through 24 games, Lavoie leads the team with 11 goals and he’s tied for the team lead in points with 17. It obviously isn’t the same as scoring in the AHL, but it’s an encouraging transition to professional play for Lavoie.
When looking at Lavoie from a distance, you clearly see a guy with a big body who can put the puck in the back of the net. He scored 100 goals in his final 185 QMJHL games, which is impressive production even though the league is notoriously for high scoring numbers.
But the most interesting statistic when it comes to Lavoie isn’t his goals, it’s his shots. In 2019-20, Lavoie fired a whopping 310 shots on goal over the course of 55 games. That’s 5.64 shots-per-game.
Over at The Athletic, Scott Wheeler wrote a report on Lavoie, who he crowed as junior hockey’s “shot creation king.”
Wheeler mentioned a handful of other high-volume shot creators in Lavoie’s echelon from the past couple of years, Jeremy McKenna (QMJHL), Nick Robertson (OHL), and Cole Caufield (USHL), all of whom are small and crafty forwards. The difference for Lavoie is that he manages to generate shots at the same level as these incredibly skilled forwards while also having the body of an NHL power-forward.
Having that size to his advantage means that Lavoie should be able to translate the success he had at the junior level to the big-leagues, which isn’t something we can always say when it comes to prospects with impressive stats. Here’s an excerpt from Wheeler about how Lavoie fared against older competition…
This is where I’ve always been truly fascinated by Lavoie. I’ve seen him play on tape and in person dozens of times over the years, but there was one viewing earlier this season that cemented him as the best shot creator in junior hockey for me.
It was the second game of Team Canada’s world junior evaluation camp and with hockey’s best prospects on the same ice, a team of Canadian university All-Stars held them to just 12 shots on goal. But Lavoie looked unfazed. While most of the NHL’s next generation of stars looked timid and wilted under the pressure of playing against bigger, stronger opponents, Lavoie looked just as dominant on the puck as he did in junior. He created at will, must have finished the game with at least half of Canada’s shots and made small area plays in traffic that a kid his size just shouldn’t have been able to make. There were a couple of shifts in the offensive zone where he never gave up control of the puck.
The reason looking at shot data is worthwhile is that it helps paint more of a full picture than looking at raw goals and assists. While goals and assists can be inflated and deflated due to the quality of linemates, shooting is more of an isolated, individual skill. Lavoie’s whopping shot totals indicate a player who can retrieve the puck in the offensive zone, move with the puck to the right spots, create plays, and do a lot of little things well that you generally wouldn’t notice on the stat sheet.
As I said earlier, it’s really difficult to find a comparable for Lavoie. Which other 6’4″ guy generates shots at the rate that Lavoie did in the QMJHL? I mean, Alex Ovechkin is 6’3″ and he’s led the NHL in shots 11 times in his career. Another Moosehead alumni, Nathan MacKinnon, has led the NHL in shots in each of the past two seasons.
Obviously, Lavoie isn’t going to become Ovechkin or MacKinnon, but being a big guy who puts the puck on the net with frequency is always a good thing. You have to shoot to score.
For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are skaters who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and goaltenders who have played fewer than 25 NHL games. I’m basing the rankings on a combination of upside and the likelihood of reaching that potential.