Philip Broberg will make his NHL debut tomorrow night against the Chicago Blackhawks after being recalled from Bakersfield earlier this morning. The eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft is going to play close to 20 minutes most likely in his NHL debut, because of injuries to Darnell Nurse and Slater Koekkoek.
Broberg has been playing 20-23 minutes a night in Bakersfield of the American Hockey League, so he is conditioned to play 20 minutes a night, but we all know minutes in the NHL are much more challenging.
The 20-year-old is ready for the challenge. He will be thrilled to make his NHL debut. He will be nervous, like every other player before their NHL debut, but he will be much more excited about the opportunity. If Nurse was healthy, Broberg would likely play sheltered third-pair minutes, but with the Oilers top D-man out of the lineup for a few weeks, Broberg will likely play close to 20 minutes.
I spoke to Bakersfield Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft over the phone this morning about Broberg.
Gregor: Give me an overview of his first month?
Woodcroft: He came in and commanded a lot of big minutes. He is a big guy too. When you see him off the ice you can see him developing into a man. He is physically fit. He is big. He has got fantastic legs on the breakout (good at transporting the puck). We have asked him to help run our power play. He has been excellent. Our PP had scored in 12 straight games going into last game. He has been good at the offensive zone blue line. He is learning the North American game and the North American schedule. We have talked to him about managing three games in four nights and managing back-to-back situations.
I actually asked him if he plays back-to-backs in Sweden regularly. He said they usually played Friday and Sunday, so just learning how to handle that while you are playing big minutes is important. We talked a lot about consistency with him and he’s done it quite well. In terms of coachability, natural ability and being a factor on the backend, he is off to a very good start in the American league.
Gregor: What do you make of his point totals? He has 10 assists in 13 games.
Woodcroft: I think a lot of his points came from getting his shot through. It hasn’t necessarily been the end-to-end rush, although he did set up the OT game winner in San Diego that way. His points have come from making good reads at the offensive blue line and on the power play. It isn’t necessarily the flashy play, but the simple play and taking-what-is-given play and then us converting on those chances. For a young guy to come do that in this league, it builds confidence on the offensive-side of things. But it (offensive production) hasn’t been from taking chances to be the fourth man in the rush or doing unnecessarily risky things in search of offence. He is getting his points from playing the right way.
I also don’t think his points define him. One thing I didn’t know about Philip was his intensity of when the game is on the line and how he wants the puck. He is someone who wants to make good plays with the puck when you are in a tight situation. Some people shrivel in those circumstances, but he is someone who almost gets better when the game is on the line.
The biggest thing we have worked on has been small details in his game — getting back to pucks quickly, managing his shift lengths and adapting to the North American game and schedule.
With Nurse out Broberg will get more responsibility than normal in his first few NHL games. Nurse plays over 20 minutes at night at 5×5. Duncan Keith is next highest at 17, so Broberg will play a lot most likely. Ideally, you don’t want to play young players that much right away, but the Nurse injury, and to a smaller extent the Slater Koekkoek injury, will force Jim Playfair to play the young Swede quite a bit.
He has played pro hockey for four years. Granted, i’s been in Sweden and the AHL, but he’s played against men. Maybe he can fill the void for a few weeks. We’ve seen it before. To do it long-term would be much more difficult, but for a few weeks, it is plausible.
You never want to rush a player, but sometimes they surprise you and show they are ready to handle the responsibility. I’m looking forward to seeing Broberg live. I’ve watched a few Condors games online this season, and I liked what I saw, but this is the NHL.
The entire Oilers D corps will need to play well to fill the void of Nurse. He and Bouchard have been excellent together on the PK, and with Keith/ Cody Ceci on the other pairing, one of Broberg, Kris Russell or William Lagesson will need to step up on the PK. I’d guess it will be Lagesson or Russell, whichever one is dressed as the third LD.
Last night Stuart Skinner made the most of his opportunity, and for the new few weeks, we will watch to see if Broberg or any other D-men can take advantage of their increased roles.
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