The Edmonton Oilers kicked off their annual Rookie Camp at Rogers Place and the organization’s prospects are now heading to Penticton to take part in the Young Stars Classic over the weekend.
Over the off-season, I’ve been profiling the top prospects in Edmonton’s system, looking back at what they’ve done so far in their careers and what we can expect and hope for moving forward.
Before we get into this year’s countdown, here are the graduates and departures from last year’s list along with an explanation of who’s considered a prospect.
Olivier Rodrigue is a goaltender who the Oilers thought of highly enough that they traded up at the 2018 NHL Draft in order to select him at the end of the second round. Since being drafted, Rodrigue put up mixed results, and outside of a solid run playing in Austria during the pandemic, his transition to the professional game has been rocky.
It’s been an unfortunate run for Chiasson, as a combination of the pandemic and a freak injury ultimately resulted in him playing only 49 games during his pre- and post-draft seasons. Chiasson boasts an impressive profile as he’s big, skilled, and driven, but he needs to have an uninterrupted season in order to not fall further behind in his development.
The Oilers haven’t yet inked Chiasson to an entry-level deal. He’ll head back to Brandon this fall for his fourth and final season in the WHL with the goal of proving to the organization that he’s worth signing. The skills are there but it’ll ultimately come down to whether he’s able to stay on the ice.
Phil Kemp is headed into the final year of his entry-level contract and he’ll be among a group of defenders in Bakersfield competing for a call-up to the big league team. He might never play a game with the Oilers as the organization has done a good job at stockpiling depth on the blueline, but the fact he’s in the conversation is a win for a seventh-round draft pick.
With Mike Kesselring, we’ve seen a player who has improved each season since being drafted and has developed from a rangy prospect with good tools to a quality AHL defender. While other defenders in Bakersfield such as Phil Kemp or Markus Niemelainen might be more NHL-ready right now and are more likely to play for the Oilers in 2022-23, Kesselring boasts more upside given his offensive ability.
Flying completely under the radar among this influx of forwards to the system is James Hamblin, a local undrafted free agent who earned an entry-level contract with the Oilers following a strong showing with the Bakersfield Condors on an AHL deal.
Hamblin has produced at every level he’s played at but, listed at 5’9″ and 176 pounds, has been overlooked due to his size. Given the NHL is continuing to trend toward speed and skill as opposed to size and strength, the Oilers might have found themselves a diamond in the rough here.
Tyler Tullio will be an interesting player to watch this season. He was described as one of the more complete forwards available heading into his draft but wound up falling much lower than expected largely because of a concern that he wasn’t big enough to play his game at the NHL level.
We’ve seen many examples in the past of players getting overlooked due to their size and the hope for the Oilers is that Tullio can do that as well. The first step will be finding a role on the Condors as a rookie in the AHL.
Dmitri Samorukov is a big, physical defender who isn’t afraid to play with an edge. With Duncan Keith opting to retire and Zack Kassian getting shipped out as a salary cap dump, the Oilers lost some sandpaper over the summer and Samorukov could be looked upon to bring that element to the team’s lineup.
Another thing to consider is that Samorukov is waiver-eligible this season, so he’ll come into training camp towards the front of the line among Bakersfield’s defenders when it comes to a role with the big league club. But with the Oilers in win-now mode, nothing is guaranteed, and Samorukov will have to contribute in order to earn and keep a role on the team.
Matvei Petrov came overseas in 2021-22 to join the North Bay Batallion of the OHL and exploded with 40 goals and 90 points over the course of 63 games. Though his play away from the puck could use some work, that level of production from an 18-year-old in the OHL is eye-opening.
The Oilers have sought prospects who can score goals and Petrov has proved in the OHL that he can do exactly that. The question now is whether he can continue to score goals at the AHL level. If he can, Petrov will find himself in the conversation for the steal of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Among the rookie forwards who will be joining the Bakersfield Condors this fall is Carter Savoie, a local product who’s coming off of a very successful two-year run with the University of Denver. Due to a combination of his size, his play away from the puck, and his conditioning, Savoie fell into the Oilers’ lap in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
Given the way he produced over his two NCAA seasons, Savoie appears to be yet another gem that the Oilers have unearthed from their past few draft classes that were oriented towards finding skilled forwards who can score goals.
Perhaps the most difficult prospect in the Oilers’ system to get a read on is Raphael Lavoie.
Edmonton’s second-round pick from the 2019 NHL Draft has the entire package. He’s big, skates well, has an excellent shot, and, to boot, he plays right wing, an area in which the Oilers don’t boast a tremendous amount of depth.
Despite all of that, Lavoie’s results in the AHL have been uneven. Lavoie had a fine showing as a rookie in 2021 and then followed that up with a sophomore season that featured him weaving back and forth from being on fire to completely invisible.
Stuart Skinner looks like he’s going to be the one to buck the trend and become the first NHL goaltender internally produced by Edmonton’s system in years. The fact that he’s a local product who grew up cheering for the team makes Skinner’s story even better.
Following a strong season in the AHL in 2021, Skinner impressed during a 13-game cup of coffee with the Oilers last season while Mike Smith was injured. Many were calling for Skinner to take over the starter’s net last season but the Oilers ultimately opted to roll with the veteran duo of Smith and Koskinen down the stretch. This year, Skinner will have an opportunity to play a significant role with the Oilers as he forms a tandem with the newly-signed Jack Campbell.
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.
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.
Xavier Bourgault, the team’s first-round pick from the 2021 NHL Draft, is turning pro in the fall after an excellent season in the QMJHL. The plan was for him to spend at least a season with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL after turning pro, but Edmonton’s depth on the right wing is thin and Bourgault might force the organization’s hand at some point in 2022-23.
Dylan Holloway had an excellent post-draft season in the NCAA but a late-season injury and some bad medical advice ultimately limited his first professional season to just 38 games at the AHL level and one game at the NHL level.
While Holloway is a little bit behind where he was expected to be by now in terms of actual games played, he has such a tantalizing combination of speed and skill that it won’t be easy for the Oilers to keep him down for seasoning for very long, if at all.
The expectation for Philip Broberg in 2022-23 is that he establishes himself as an NHL defenceman and the hope is that he can grab hold of a top-four role. He might start off in the AHL as Klefbom did in his second season in North America but it’s hard to imagine Broberg being down for too long. There are other names in the mix, such as the waiver-eligible Dmitri Samorukov and the newly-signed veteran Ryan Murray, but none have the talent or upside that Broberg does.