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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Early Days

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Photo credit:OHL Barrie Colts
Bruce Curlock
8 months ago
Much like the Edmonton Oilers, the prospects of the Oilers are off to a slow start this year as well. To be fair, a decent amount of this is because most of the prospects have just started their seasons. However, the results are underwhelming for those who have played significant minutes, with a few exceptions. Now, that’s not a reason for concern, but the trend bears watching over the next few weeks. It also doesn’t mean there have not been some good performances. We highlight those below in the Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye?

Beau Akey

Akey caught everyone’s attention at the Oilers prospect tourney and his one exhibition season game with the Oilers. No doubt he left Edmonton pleased with his initial foray into professional hockey. When he returned to the OHL, he had a bit of a rough welcome. His play was fairly good, although not as dominant as would be expected. What really caused issues was a couple of injuries that impeded his start to the season. He blocked a shot in a 8-0 drubbing with his hand, which caused him to miss the rest of that game as well as the next one. He also took an inadvertent stick to the face that required him to wear a bubble for the remainder of his last game, likely sporting a broken nose. What was impressive is that Akey managed to have a very good three-game segment this week despite the injury issues. He registered 1-1-2 in three games with five shots on net. More impressive was the fact Akey was on the ice for exactly two goals against at all strengths despite his team giving up 13 goals in the three-game span. This is no small feat, as Akey plays in all situations, including the second rotation on the penalty kill. As mentioned, his defensive play will be my focus this year, and he is off to a good start.
Now that doesn’t mean the offense hasn’t been there. It’s on a modestly better pace than last year, with injuries causing some slowdown, but you can still see his strong hockey sense for the offensive game.

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This is my favorite goal of the early season. There is so much to like about this goal by Akey. His quick decision to create a lane to the net when he sees the mess out front and the pressure coming his way. Then, his ability to get the shot all the way through to the net. This is such a great play by an 18-year-old player. To be able to scan quickly and make a play that gives him time and space to get a shot off is high-level thinking.
Akey also continues to excel in the passing department. The Colts are using that ability on their first powerplay. Akey’s ability to pre-scan the ice to find the next available play before the puck arrives to him is really quite strong. Here is a nice clip of a relatively simple-looking assist. However, the play to make a close-quarters pass to his teammate in the slot was not easy. Playing his strong side, he had little angle to get it by the defender but still slides it off his back skate for the one tee clapper.

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Hopefully, the Akey injury issues to start the season are a thing of the past, and he can continue to progress offensively but also at the defensive end of the ice.

Shane Lachance

The big fella has quietly had a very good start to his collegiate career. I say quietly because when you’re on a team with Mack Cellebrini, your play is going to get less attention. Still, Lachance has been quite impressive  early on. He started the season on the second line, which was quite a statement for a freshman player on a powerhouse program. He has slid down to what could be called a fourth line since that time, but it has not stopped his good play. This week, in two games against Notre Dame, Lachance scored a pair of goals and added nine shots on net. Overall, he stands at 2-1-3 in four games with 16 shots on net. His points totals are good for fifth, and his shot totals are third-best on the team. I wondered whether his skating would be an issue against bigger, quicker players, but the early returns are quite good.
The most exciting part of Lachance is how he scores goals. He is noted for a very strong wrist shot that can beat goalies clean from distance. However, that is the only way he scores goals. For a 6’5″ 220-pound power forward, he has really soft hands. When you combine his size and his hands and place him in front of the net, it leads to goals. Look at this really nice deflection goal on a shot that was off the net.

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I’m sorry, but that’s impressive regardless of the league it is scored in. Two feet off the ice and two feet off the net, and he is able to angle the puck onto the net for a goal. You can call it luck, but I have seen Lachance score this type of goal a fair bit in the USHL.
Lachance is also scoring goals off the rush. Now, his skating remains a concern. However, he is managing to keep up with the pace. He did so on Saturday to pick up his second goal of the game. I’ve watched 3 of his 4 games this year, and the skating stride looks a little smoother. I’m not sure there has been a change just yet, but it did allow him to catch this shot-pass rebound for the tuck-in goal.

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I’m really interested to see how this player develops as he enters the Big East part of the season against very tough competition. His early returns are very encouraging.

Xavier Bourgault

He’s not the right-wing prospect everyone was focused on in the pre-season, but Xavier Bourgault having a good second professional season is needed. He needs it, and so does the organization. Unfortunately, the Condors have played very little to start the season. While most teams have played four or five games, Bakersfield is one of three teams to have played two games year to date. So, the data is pretty slim for any of the Condors prospects. Bourgault had a quiet season opener last weekend. However, he had a very strong home opener for the Condors. The Condors lost 3-2 and, more notably, were outshot 32-17 in a fairly one-sided game. Bourgault, however, had a very good game. He ended the night with five shots on net, which was also 30% of the entire Condor shot total. What I liked about that was where he was shooting from and how he got to spot he shot from. Take a look at this clip and tell me it doesn’t give you Ales Hemsky flashbacks. Takes a wallop to make a play. Gets up and goes straight to the front of the net for a very good chance on goal.

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Bougault got knocked around a lot last year. He looks thicker and more sturdy this year. What cannot be denied is his willingness to play in the middle of the ice, regardless of the situation. Like it or not, playing on the interior of the ice is critical to the success of most offensive players. Bourgault has no qualms there.
His goal was not a Picasso, but again, I remain convinced he will score much like Jordan Eberle. Using his feet and hands from in tight to beat the goal. Here, the goal was a clean-up of a rebound on a 6v5 play late in the game to pull the Condors close. Watch how he goes to the middle of the ice and then rolls to the net when the shot is taken.

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For Bourgault, he can make an impact in OEG if he starts the season well. He’s got a whopping one point in two games. He will need to be a closer to a point per game to make people stand up and notice. This week, the Condors have three games. Let’s see if he can get on a roll and cause some noise about another Oiler right wing prospect.
That’s it for this week, folks. Feedback is available right here on this fine site or send it to @bcurlock on the X. Have a great week.

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