The AHL is a veteran league for certain. Players who are older usually are bigger and stronger than their younger counterparts. They are also far more experienced.
As such, the AHL is the perfect training ground for young players to learn how to play the game at the professional level. Often the road travelled by these players is windy and fraught with dead ends and wrong turns. It can be frustrating for the player and for the management team looking for hints of growth in those players. When a player starts to sort it out, it is something to behold.
For me, it’s why I love this league more than the NHL. Watching young men figure out how to play hockey at the second-best level in the world and watching their confidence grow is flat-out fun. For a couple of weeks now, two young, offensively gifted forwards have started to find the secret sauce of how to succeed in the AHL.
Both player were drafted late by the Edmonton Oilers. Both could start to make life interesting for the Edmonton Oilers in the next 12 to 18 months. Matvey Petrov, Carter Savoie and all your prospect news and notes right here and right now.
Who Caught My Eye?
Petrov has taken the typical route for late-round offence first forwards starting out in the AHL. It’s been many nights of frustrating play. He’s been mostly cemented to a 4th line role and some modest second powerplay assignments. His yearly numbers of 4-3—7 in 26 games are modest. Even his shot totals, for a player with a very good release, are modest at 29.
However, the last two weeks have seen an awakening. In the four games the Condors played this week, Petrov went 2-2—4 with seven shots and was a even player at plus/minus. Now, I am not shocked by the scoring totals. Petrov was a beast in the OHL racking up 183 points in two seasons. Goals like this one are not a surprise at all.
What has been a very pleasant development is Petrov’s willingness to play inside and hard. This was not something Petrov had to do a lot of previously because his shot was so good, he could score from distance. However, he is now using his good size to work the inside of the ice and it is leading to battle wins and positive offensive results.
The other part to his game that has been a real surprise is his defensive acumen. It’s not always the prettiest, but Petrov makes a considerable effort to be defensively responsible. Petrov has been on a line with Jayden Grubbe and Carter Savoie. This trio has really started to have some positive results in games and a lot of it is due to their defensive play, Petrov’s included. Watch this clip here as an example.
Petrov comes back on to get into position for an outlet. For some unknown reason, Ben Gleason leaves Broberg on the wall by himself with an attacker. The Canucks see this and send a second player into the forecheck. Now watch Petrov. He immediately sees the issue and jumps down in support. He works the puck loose and to the other side. He gets tripped, but the puck manages to leave the zone.
Now, watch him support the middle of the ice. He reads quickly the Condors are going to lose possession and he tracks back to his own zone in the middle of the ice to offer support. Again, not pretty yet, but still very encouraging work.
Matvey Petrov has the offensive skills to make the NHL. His skating is certainly good enough and he has excellent size. What was always going to be the issue was his defensive play and his desire to play in the middle of the ice. The last two weeks have seen very encouraging trends on both fronts. This last half of the season will be a great indicator of where he is at and what the Oilers have in this player.
Since the day of his draft, I said this player was going to be a frustrating one for coaches. He is the very definition of a player who does not drive a line. He doesn’t have great size. His fitness hasn’t always been top-notch. Then came the injuries. Savoie has battled through three serious injuries in his short professional career.
So, why would a coach be patient? Well, because it is what Carter Savoie has – serious offensive skills and a brain to match those skills. Again, much like Petrov, Carter Savoie appears to be figuring out the professional game.
In his last ten games, Savoie went 3-3—6 with a plus/minus rating of +5. I am not sure if injuries were a bigger piece of his tough development curve, but Savoie looks a lot quicker and stronger on the puck. Watch this nice sequence by him.
Nice change of direction a few times. Great pucks skills. Shields the puck well on a physical attack. Finishes with a nice display of vision by setting up his defensman for a chance. What I like most is you can see his processing of the game is at a very high level. It matches his hands and feet, which makes him hard to defend.
Here is another example of his quickness on the forecheck. Watch how fast he gets down the puck carrier. I would also note, he finished that check with authority. He frees the puck for Petrov who has a chance on net.
Savoie covered a lot of ice there in a short period of time. Savoie, at this pace, is a very tough player to defend. Maybe his top end speed isn’t plus, but his first two steps are incredibly quick.
The part of Savoie’s game that was always going to come around was his goal scoring ability. This week was no different. Savoie has a nose for the net and he is an elite finisher.
Here is another one with a different style of finish. Watch Petrov and Savoie do a great job of pressuring off the faceoff causing a turnover. Petrov makes a great feed and Savoie makes a tough play look very easy.
Savoie can score. What will determine where he ends up is his ability to creates chances by playing good fundamental hockey off the puck. The last couple of weeks have been very encouraging. Like Petrov, this last half of the season will really tell where this player can end up.
There is not much left to say here about Broberg. He had another excellent week of development. In the four games, he was 0-4—4 and a plus-two. He also had nine shots on net. He’s playing in every conceivable situation and having success in them all. Here he is on the powerplay, which has been tremendous since his return, with a great little move at the blue line to start a nice scoring play.
Here is his on the retrieval. Watch how easy he makes it look shaking the forechecker and entering the zone.
His defending has been sublime. My good friend Dennis King mentioned this play to me and he couldn’t be more right. His backward skating to get into position to defend an attack is incredible. This player started ahead of Broberg and skating forward. Watch Broberg close the gap to take the shot away.
What I am hoping to see from Broberg is more of this type of play. Broberg is a little too nice out there on the ice. He defends so well with his size, length and skating ability that he doesn’t really have to do much else. However, what would round him out as a player would be to make people think twice about coming near his area. It is this type of play, I would love to see more of. Perhaps it is a little greasy, but I would rather see that more often than less.
If Broberg decides he is going to impose himself physically, there is really a great player here.
News and Notes
Raphael Lavoie had a little dry spell. Maybe he was distracted by the Corey Perry signing. Maybe it was just one of those things. He did manage to shake it off scoring two goals this week in his very patented way.
Unfortunately, Lavoie did not finish last night’s game due to injury. He was in a fight early in the first period, but did return to play. He later left after this innocuous play and did not return.
The disappointing years for Nikita Yevseyev and Maxim Berezkin continue. Yevseyev continues to play the minor league of the KHL. Berezkin has plateaued this season and is on pace for his same output as last year.
Matt Copponi continues a solid season in the NCAA. The seventh-round pick last year is 7-21-28 in 24 games. He also has 46 penalty minutes playing a greasy style of game.
That’s it for this week folks. As always your comments are welcome here or to @bcurlock on the X. See you next week.