Edmonton Oilers dodge unforced error as Raphael Lavoie clears waivers
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month ago
After nearly shooting themselves in the foot by placing top prospect Raphael Lavoie on waviers Sunday, the Edmonton Oilers have dodged the bullet as the big winger cleared through waivers Monday.
The club was undoubtedly in an awkward spot when they decided to waive Lavoie given an injury to Markus Niemelainen. As our own Jason Gregor noted Sunday, it forced their hand into having to put someone else on the wire.
Forced hand or not, risking losing a cost-controlled 6’4, 215-lb. right-shot, right-winger with scoring upside who you have drafted and developed is a mindless choice when others were available. The other, much less risky option would’ve been to place Mattias Janmark on waivers much like they did a calendar year ago to be cap-compliant. From the perspective of trying to protect assets, this is the choice that should’ve been made.
Those who disagree will clamour that Janmark is a great depth player for the Oilers who can kill penalties with the best of them. The truth is, however, that he’s by and large a replaceable player who didn’t do a whole lot to help the Oilers beyond his 10 goals and 25 points — some that is, admittedly, helpful.
Janmark’s contributions on the penalty kill were only one percent higher than league average, according to HockeyViz, a nominal amount. How much good did Janmark really do on a 20th-ranked penalty kill unit that operated at a 77 per cent clip and regressed from the prior year? I’d reckon not too much.
Lavoie himself wouldn’t have been likely to play on the Oilers penalty kill, but you know who can? Warren Foegele. When he played with the Carolina Hurricanes between 2018-19 and 2020-21, he spent a little over a minute per game on the penalty kill with individual impacts at four and five per cent above league average in his final two seasons, according to HockeyViz. Over those three years, Carolina had the second-best cumulative penalty kill in the entire NHL operating at a 83.4 per cent clip.
And what makes it even more interesting is the fact that Foegele killed penalties for the Oilers last year, too, playing 32 seconds per game there. He had a four per cent impact above league average and in this pre-season, the Oilers played him there for one minute and 16 seconds per night.
“But Raphael Lavoie didn’t look good this pre-season! He only scored two goals in six games!”
His most common linemates at 5×5 were Brad Malone and Adam Erne. His first goal was scored getting to a soft spot in the ice and burying a feed from Philip Broberg. His second goal was scored when he did the same when Dylan Holloway found him.
“But Raphael Lavoie has never really scored much in the AHL!”
Forty-three goals and 81 points in 136 AHL games is nothing to scoff at. The NHL equivalent of that over an 82-game stretch is 24 points, one less than Janmark had.
“But Raphael Lavoie has only produced points in the second half of seasons!”
In part, yes, but that hasn’t meant he has been an ineffective player in the first half of his seasons. As our own Bruce Curlock wrote about Lavoie when he named the winger the Oilers’ top prospect this past offseason, he has a willingness to play a 200-foot game with a high motor, a shot that beats goalies from distance, and has what it takes to play middle-six minutes in the NHL.
Lavoie marks something the Oilers don’t have much of: very good, NHL-ready (or near ready) prospects who have size, can score, and are a right-shot. In and of itself, that’s one of the biggest reasons the team never should’ve taken this risk in the first place.
And no, you can’t give Ken Holland and co. credit for Lavioe sneaking through waivers.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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