For years, followers of the NHL draft obsessed over finding the next Milan Lucic, a diamond in the rough unearthed after the first round.
The Boston Bruins selected Lucic with the No. 50 overall pick in the 2006 draft after a nine-goal season for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. Lucic broke out with 30 goals for the Giants in 2006-07 and then quickly broke out in the NHL as a very effective power forward.
The NHL is a copycat league, so when Lucic became a force for the Bruins many teams looked to the WHL for vending machines they could develop into high-quality forwards of their own.
The Edmonton Oilers were among these teams, as they selected Cam Abney in the third round of the 2009 draft and Mitch Moroz in the second round of the 2012 draft hoping to unearth another Lucic. While these players were big, tough, and physical, they never had the history of producing offensively and didn’t develop into more than AHL enforcers.
The game has changed and Lucic is no longer the specific archetype of a player that teams are looking for, but there will always be a demand for big, physical forwards who can put the puck in the net. We had a front-row seat to just how effective this type of player can be when Evander Kane scored 13 goals in 15 playoff games while neutralizing Matthew Tkachuk in the second round against the Calgary Flames this spring.
If the Oilers are looking for a big, physical forward who can score goals and get into his opponents’ faces in this year’s draft, Edmonton native Reid Schaefer might be their guy.
Schaefer scored zero goals and three points across his first 25 games in the WHL before breaking out with 32 goals and 58 points for the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2021-22. He also added six goals and 21 points in 25 playoff games as the Thunderbirds lost to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL Final.
Schaefer is listed at 6’3″ and 214 pounds and is described by scouts as a player who skates well, hits hard and often, and isn’t afraid to go to the net.
Coming into the season, Schaefer was slotted as a prospect who would go late in the draft, but his breakout season has him as a second- or early third-round pick on most draft lists. With that in mind, he could be a perfect target for the Oilers if they want to trade down from No. 29 overall and make more selections outside the first round.
When the Oilers tried to emulate the Lucic selection in the past, they looked at big forwards from the WHL with a certain physical profile while ignoring their production. With Schaefer, there’s a player who has all of the tools along with the proven ability to produce offensively.
Position: Left Wing
Date of Birth: September 21, 2003
Height: 6’3″ / 191 cm
Weight: 214 lbs / 97 kg
“A late-bloomer that broke out this season, Schaefer was a major part of Seattle’s run to the WHL finals. He’s big, skates well for his size and put up 32 goals in 66 games this season. He plays the game with strength but also has soft touch on the puck which has led him to rising up draft boards throughout the season.” – Chris Peters, DailyFaceoff
“Reid Schaefer of the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) is a developing story in this year’s draft. A projected mid-round selection early in the year, he has size (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) and enough skill to score 32 goals in 66 WHL games. He gains net-front position easily and he hits hard and often. Like Gaucher, he’s more of a power forward but does present an intriguing option as a big disturber with goal-scoring ability.” – Lowetide, The Athletic
“Schaefer has certainly proven projections wrong during his NHL draft season. He opened the year with a ‘C’ rating from NHL Central Scouting, which is assigned to those considered candidates to be picked in the fourth round or later. He was No. 85 on the mid-season list of North American skaters, but after scoring 32 goals in 66 games he rocketed up to No. 31 in the final rankings.
TSN director of scouting Craig Button has Schaefer at No. 20 on his final list of all prospects.
‘I’m a late bloomer,’ Schaefer readily admits. ‘Not a lot of people have believed in me. I think people are starting to finally notice me.'” – Mark Masters, TSN