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Photo Credit: Kennedy Bugardt

Oilersnation’s 2022 Prospect Countdown – No. 4: Reid Schaefer

Even as the NHL moves its focus away from old-school physicality, there will always be a demand for power forwards with size and skill who can muck it up and score goals.

Finding such a player isn’t an easy task. The Oilers paid a high price to add a power forward in free agency in 2016, as they signed Milan Lucic to a seven-year contract worth $42 million. Lucic had one good season in Edmonton in which he scored 23 goals but he fell off a cliff after that.

Ken Holland moved Lucic to the Calgary Flames in the summer of 2019 for James Neal, another forward whose production quickly fell off after signing a big contract. A few months later, Holland inked Zack Kassian to a four-year, $12.8 million deal after he showed he could fare well in the Lucic role as Edmonton’s tough guy who could score.

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In the two seasons after signing that deal, Kassian struggled through injuries and inconsistent play and only scored eight goals over the course of 85 games. Kassian was dumped at the 2022 NHL Draft and, a few days later, Evander Kane was re-signed to a four-year deal worth $20.5 million.

Kane is the most talented of the three players and is a fair bet to remain productive over the course of his contract, but the reality is that power forwards play a very physically demanding style and their careers often wind up being shorter because of it. That’s why the ideal way for an NHL club to find a power forward is through the draft. The Bruins got eight seasons of Milan Lucic and then avoided the big free-agent age contract as his game was about to decline due to wear and tear.

The Oilers took a swing at trying to find their next power forward at the draft this summer. They selected Reid Schaefer at No. 32 overall, a big, nasty winger who scored 32 goals in 66 games in the WHL.

Reid Schaefer

Position: Left Wing
Shoots: Left
Nationality: Canada
Date of Birth: September 21, 2003
Drafted: 2022, No. 32 overall (EDM)
Height: 6’3″ / 191 cm
Weight: 214 lbs / 97 kg

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Schaefer, a native of Spruce Grove, Alberta, was selected by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the eighth round of the 2018 WHL Draft. He made his WHL debut in 2019-20, scoring one assist over the course of seven games. Schaefer spent the majority of that season playing for the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL, where he’d score 16 points over 33 games.

The 2020-21 season was almost entirely derailed due to the pandemic, so Schaefer only played 21 games combined between the Saints and Thunderbirds. He didn’t score a point in three games in the AJHL and he scored just two points over 18 WHL games.

Had he been born a week earlier, Schaefer would have been eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. Instead, he got one more go-around at the WHL level. Coming into the 2021-22 season, Schaefer wasn’t at all on the radar as a top NHL draft prospect, but that changed quickly.

Schaefer scored his first WHL goal in Seattle’s first game, a 3-1 win over the Portland Winterhawks, and he kept going from there. All told, Schaefer scored 32 goals and 58 points over 66 regular-season games and then added six goals and 21 points in the playoffs as the Thunderbirds lost to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL Final.

That breakout performance rocketed Schaefer up the prospect rankings. He came into the season pegged as a prospect who could go in the later rounds and then went into the draft ranked as high as the No. 20 prospect in the class.

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“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

Part of the deal to dump Zack Kassian’s contract this summer involved the Oilers trading down from No. 29 overall to No. 32 overall at the draft. At that spot, the Oilers were able to select Schaefer, making it three drafts in a row that the team has taken a forward with their top pick.

Schaefer will return to the WHL this fall where the expectation is that he’ll put together a dominant season as one of the older players in the league. Schaefer was also invited to Canada’s National Junior Summer Team Camp Roster this year and a strong showing early with the Thunderbirds could earn him a spot on Team Canada at the 2023 World Juniors come December.

Over the past few years, the Oilers have had to find their power forward either in free agency or via trade. With Schaefer, a prospect who boasts an exciting combination of size, skill, and nastiness, they might be able to develop such a player themselves.


For reference, players who I consider to be “prospects” for this countdown are those who have played fewer than 50 NHL games and are 23 years old or younger at the start of the 2022-23 season. 

Previously in this series…