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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Fifth Round Picks Doing Business

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Photo credit:Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
Bruce Curlock
2 months ago
The Bakersfield Condors have not been blessed with a great deal of high-end draft picks playing for them. Most of that relates to the Oilers trading them in their quest for a Stanley Cup. Some of it also has to do with the development plan for most high end picks, which does not seem to involve playing in the minors much.
While this is an issue for the Oilers in some ways, in another way it has allowed for lesser picks to get more playing time to develop their games. This week, we saw two fifth round picks really show their respective games. To be fair, one was an actual fifth-round pick. The other was acquired by the Edmonton Oilers last spring for a fifth-round pick. Nevertheless, the Christmas break came at a bad time for each player because they were rolling. More on Tyler Tullio, Jayden Grubbe and all the news and notes from the Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

What Did I See This Week?

Tyler Tullio

He might be smaller in stature, but Tyler Tullio is a leader of men. No question that Tullio will wear a letter playing professional hockey. His shifts almost always have the puck going through his stick in some form and when not, he’s usually making life hard for the opposition. Tullio played his sixth, seventh and eighth games of the year this week and he continues to improve each game. This week he was 1-1-2 in three games to bring his season totals to 1-4-5 in his eight games. We saw what his teammates know doubt love about him a lot. The guy gives zero….well you know….about putting his body on the line for his team. In this clip, Tullio takes on noted “likes to fight guy” Jacob Melanson. I saw some commentary about Tullio defending his teammate, Xavier Bourgault, on a cheap hit. I think that was part of it. However, I think more of it had to do with dragging his team into the fight in a game where the Condors had really started slow.

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No question, the most courageous part of hockey is the willingness of players to bare-knuckle fights. It takes a particular sort of courage for a 5’10” young pro to take on a guy who is trying to fight his way through the AHL this season. There is no very certain way to quantify this in terms of impact on a team, but there is no question that Tyler Tullio got some love from his teammates for this scrap.
Now Tullio isn’t going to play NHL games as an enforcer. He needs to use his skill and hockey sense to get him there. This week, both were on display. Watch this secondary assist on the Xavier Bourgault powerplay goal. While it might have been the second assist, it was clearly the most impactful part of the play prior to the goal. Tullio is looking for his point to contain a loose puck. When he realizes that is not going to happen, he retrieves the puck and works back down the wall. Now watch the clip carefully. Realizing he is going to be pinched off by two Firebirds, he stops up and shields the puck with his backside. Then starts moving back up toward the blueline so as not to get pinned. He then makes a simple pass to his point, who now has space for a shot which leads to the Bourgault rebound goal. This is wonderful sense and skill by Tullio in tight quarters.

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Tullio’s motor was also on full display. Just watch this whole clip before reading the commentary below. Take note of how often Tullio is stopped up, making it easier to mark him.

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This is a defender’s nightmare. A player who plays on the inside of the ice but is never stopped long enough to be able to mark him. Also, notice how he is constantly supporting the puck carrier. Ready for a quick pass to advance the play further for his team. This is very, very smart hockey.
The next step for me is to see Tullio shoot the puck at a higher rate than currently. His shot is a weapon. Whether it was the hand/wrist injury or him just getting back up to pace, his shot totals are too low. This is an area of opportunity for development. When this happens, I suspect his point totals will accelerate, making him even more noticeable as an Oiler prospect.

Jayden Grubbe

No player has benefitted more from the retirement of Noah Philp than Jayden Grubbe. Now I remain convinced Philp would be playing NHL minutes right now, but on the off-chance he was in the AHL, he would be taking all of Grubbe’s minutes. Grubbe is playing center on a fourth line that usually has Carter Savoie and Ethan De Jong.
However, Grubbe also gets a lot of penalty kill minutes because of his defensive prowess and face-off ability. He also plays a lot of high-leverage minutes when the team is leading in the game. Often, he is paired with another center to ensure there are two centers on the ice with face-off ability. These are all minutes that Noah Philp would be eating up right now. It is fortunate for Grubbe because we are starting to see his confidence really start to flourish in these roles and it is bleeding into other parts of his game.
This week, Grubbe went 2-0 in three games and added six shots on net. He was also a tidy plus two as well. Grubbe’s season totals remain modest at 2-4-6, but as an AHL rookie with a defensive pedigree, I am not concerned right now. Especially given that you can see his play developing.
One of my favourite types of goals is the 200-foot “beat your man down the ice” goal. To me, it shows a desire to play defence and then the desire to work harder than your opponent to create offence. Players often do one or the other on a shift, but not always both. Here is a clip from a Grubbe goal this week demonstrating this to a fine point. He starts by helping get a “winger win” face-off. Then, watch from the freeze frame on what Grubbe does to create his goal. Without his effort, there is zero chance this play will happen. He puts in the work and gets rewarded.

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There are a lot of questions about whether Jayden Grubbe can skate well enough at this level. No question is boots are a little heavy off the start, and the legwork is a bit chaotic. However, I think that it can be improved, but also is not bad. Indeed, it is probably AHL average. This clip shows that he has some ability to get up the ice and win races. That’s encouraging.
Now, that won’t be Grubbe’s offensive game at the next level if he makes it. He will be the very definition of a half-court offensive player. He has a big body and is very hard to push around the crease area. In addition, he has a knack for moving constantly and finding himself slot area ice with a good position. Here is a clip of his second goal of the week. On this one, just watch his movement around the offensive zone, always with an eye on where the puck is and scanning to see where he should be to help.

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Grubbe also has a very underrated set of hands, as this goal indicates. I think there is an offensive player inside Grubbe. Not elite level, but enough to make him dangerous against any opposition he faces. That would be a significant development for this player and the organization.
Oh, and since the bottom six forwards need to be able to show up when required, watch this clip. Grubbe has a nice little offensive sequence here. Then he gets wiped out coming around the net. Watch the post-whistle melee. Grubbe made sure that he let his opponent know that he would not tolerate that type of play. It may seem like a little thing, but that is a play that could help Grubbe down the road. A little more space from opposition players for someone they know is willing to hold them accountable.

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News and Notes

I have two tweets about Olivier Rodrigue. One from myself:
Now one that is much better done by the foremost Oiler hockey commentator, Bob Stauffer. This is an exciting set of stats.
https://x.com/Bob_Stauffer/status/1738787276644348153?s=20
Those save totals amount to .936 save percentage, which happens to be .01 percent higher than his season average. Rodrigue ranks first in save percentage in the AHL and fourth in goals against average. This young man is a legitimate goaltending prospect for the Edmonton Oilers.
Xavier Bourgault is starting to play better as well. This past week, he went 1-1-2 in three games. His play has been steadily improving the last few weeks. The numbers are still too modest, but his play is much better. He is commanding the puck on shifts when he doesn’t have it much more than he was doing. The puck is increasingly working through him in all three zones. Personally, I am looking for a much stronger second half from Bougault in terms of point totals. This is not a prediction, but there is a bit of a gut sense here this player is turning a corner. The coaching staff is certainly working hard to put him in positions to succeed as well.
That’s all for this week folks. Wishing each and everyone of you a Merry Christmas and the very best this holiday season. See you next week.

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