Sometimes life isn’t fair. No question. No one is promised a fair shake, but still, it’s rough when someone gets a raw deal.
Some players on the Bakersfield Condors probably feel that way at the moment. This week saw a great push by a number of Oilers prospects playing in the AHL. Unfortunately for most, they will spend more time in the minors working on their craft because of salary cap issues and management decisions that block them from seeing the ice at Rogers Place. Is that the worst thing in the world? Not at all. More time in the AHL is a good thing to help a player’s development. Is it going to be a source of continuing frustration for Oiler fans? Why yes, it will. Especially when you have weeks like this where several players perform in ways that could help the Edmonton Oilers. The drumbeat will get louder as this continues. Especially for a certain French-Canadian sniper who seems to check a lot of boxes for the Edmonton Oilers. More on him and a couple of CHL free agent signings and more this week in the Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.
Who Caught My Eye?
If you wanted to script the perfect response to being cut from an NHL team, the last seven days for Raphael Lavoie would be just about right. In his three games this week, Lavoie went 4-2-6 with a whopping 18 shots on net. What will absolutely make Oiler fans salivate was the way he scored. Have a look.
There is no question there will be Oiler fans who see this and question what could be in Edmonton. Lavoie can beat NHL goalies from a distance, without a doubt. If there was one fly in the ointment for Lavoie this week, it is that three of the four goals came on the powerplay. He will need to score more at 5v5 to make it even harder for Oilers management to ignore him down the road.
What I liked more about Lavoie this week was just his level of engagement. There were a whole lot of these types of shifts all week. Here is an example. It’s Lavoie with a strong determination along the way to work the puck into good spots. Notice how he uses his body as a shield but keeps his feet moving to try and create space. He has such great hands in close quarters, which can be seen here.
This type of wall work is very important at the NHL level. Lavoie’s body and his hands make this compelling for a team that can struggle to cycle the puck.
He continued using his big body to drive the puck to the net. Again, I still don’t understand why he didn’t continue this type of play in the exhibition season. It was there for him to take for sure. Look at how hard it is for good-sized defensemen to stop him on a net drive.
To top it all off, Lavoie started to get run this week in Tuscon. Well, he decided to resolve the matter in his own very underrated way.
Quite a week. The Condors do not play again until next Saturday, for those wondering.
James Hamblin will probably get little notice this week because of the play of Lavoie. However, do not sleep on this player. He is a very smart defensive center. He plays the penalty kill well. He even chips in on the powerplay in the AHL. In his initial foray into the NHL, he was held pointless in ten games. There is no question that he needs to prove he can chip in offensively. The Oilers already struggle in this area. Hamblin started on the right foot in this regard this season. He is 3-2-5 in five games this year, with this past week 2-1-3 in three. He added nine shots.
What I really like about Hamblin is that he does a lot of his scoring at 5v5. Hamblin will likely see mostly 5v5 time on another call-up, with the only specialty teamwork being on the penalty kill. If he can continue this work, he becomes a very interesting player for the Oilers. Look at his two 5v5 goals this weekend.
Each of these goals comes off hard work and speed by Hamblin out of relatively low-chance situations. The second goal even starts with him in his own slot defending in the box plus one.
Hamblin is also a key cog in the Condors’ penalty kill. This will get some attention in Edmonton as well, given its challenges. The Condors’ penalty kill is 17 for 19 to start the season for a 90% success rate. Hamblin is one of the first four forwards in the rotation on every penalty kill. Again, the Oilers have specific needs for their bottom six players. Penalty kill is high on that list.
For Hamblin, he will be in Bakersfield for a while yet. However, if he can average a point per game over the next month, he will undoubtedly garner further attention.
Stonehouse is a player noteable to Oiler fans for one simple reason. He was a CHL free agent who signed with the Oilers as an over-ager. For a team that lacks draft picks, this should be a commonplace strategy. However, Stonehouse is one of the rare examples of the Oilers using this strategy. James Hamblin is another.
So far this year, it has worked well for the Oilers. Stonehouse came off a great prospect tournament in Penticton and was invited to the Oilers main camp. He showed himself well and signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers. When he was returned to the Ottawa ’67s of the OHL, he started quite slow. That may not be surprising. However, this week, he has begun to put his mark on the team. Stonehouse was 1-3-4 with a tidy ten shots on net in three games this week. His goal this week was typical for a player who had 39 in the prior season. It was a very patient play, waiting until the goalie moved and finding a hole for the finish.
He also had an assist off a play that is typical for him. He’s a relentless forechecker with a knack for having the puck follow him around.
My favourite assist of the week for Stonehouse was this one on the powerplay against London. Not so much for the play, but for the fact this guy is a greasy, greasy player — something he will need to have at the next level, given his size.
You want more greasy? Watch this clip. This kid is nails. He plays the game hard and never takes a shift off. Other teams are constantly chasing him after the whistle.
I’ll have a more detailed breakdown of Stonehouse’s abilities next week, but he is going to start coming onto the radar of Oiler fans with this type of play.
That’s it for this week, folks. @bcurlock is where you can question my IQ on the X or right here below for my bosses to see in real time. Have a great week.