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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: New Kid In Town

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Photo credit:Twitter/Portland Winterhawks
Bruce Curlock
17 days ago
As we have talked long about in this feature, the Edmonton Oilers would need to get creative and jump into the junior and collegiate ranks for free agent signings. With draft picks being sent out frequently in trades to bolster the Oilers’ roster for a playoff run, the team needed to source young talent in other ways. So it was not so surprising the Oilers announced the signing of James Stefan on March 21, 2024 to a three-year entry-level contract.
Stefan, the 20-year-old Portland Winterhawk, had been tearing up the WHL this season and was one of the more attractive prospects available. For the Oilers, they added a shoot first, scoring winger who plays the game offensively at a very high level. This past week, we all got our first in-depth look at the newest Oilers prospect, and he did not disappoint. More on him, as well as another impressive winger who had a great week and all your news and notes in this week’s Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye?

James Stefan

Well, James Stefan has set the bar quite high to start his career with the Edmonton Oilers. In the five games since his signing, Stefan has 4-3—7 and added 27 shots on net. Yes, I said 27 shots on net. Stefan came as advertised. He plays the offensive side of this game with a very brain, and it translates to a fair number of opportunities every game for him to shoot the puck. Watch this clip of his second playoff goal of the post-season. Stefan doesn’t do anything spectacular except get lost for just a couple of seconds in the quiet part of the ice. While the space isn’t there for long, it is for his release.

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This is a play you’ll see from Stefan a lot as he progresses with the Oilers organization. Here is another one on the powerplay where he works towards a seam in the penalty kill so he’s accessible to the puck carrier.

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James Stefan will shoot the puck a lot. It is the one skill that certainly translates to a professional career.
Now this doesn’t mean Stefan’s puck skills are limited to shooting. He certainly has very good puck-carrying skills. His 50th goal of the regular season was an example of this for certain. He can attack defenders laterally when he gets his feet going up ice. This will be an important skill for him at the next level, where defenders are far more savvy in managing straight-on rush attacks. The ability to move east-west with pace while carrying the puck will help him offensively as it did here.

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The Winterhawks are expected to make a long run in the WHL playoffs. Given the start by James Stefan, there is likely to be a lot of coverage of the young man right here every Sunday.

Raphael Lavoie

Lavoie just continues to build on his strong year every week. This week was no exception. Lavoie went 2-3-5 in four games and added 13 shots on net. His season total in goals is now up to 27, which is tied for 5th in the AHL and his 182 shots are good for 14th overall. His goals this week were more of what is becoming fairly routine for him—the shot.

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His shooting percentage from these locations is increasing with every game. It is almost a surprise when he doesn’t score from these locations. However, if he doesn’t it creates so much chaos for goalies and defenders that his teammates have chances as well.

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This week was a little more interesting for Lavoie because of his feet as opposed to his hands. It seems to be a common refrain that Lavoie’s skating is the issue that prevents him from spending time in the NHL. While his skating can be clunky, it certainly is good enough for the NHL. It also it isn’t the reason he is not there, but I will save that commentary for another post.
Here is a great in-zone example of Lavoie’s footwork. It isn’t the high twitch level of someone like McDavid, of course, but his footwork is good enough to create separation from players, allowing him to use his size, reach, and excellent tight puck skills to create chances.

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Here is another example on a long forecheck that leads to a Holloway goal. Lavoie has the ability to track down the ice on the forecheck with enough pace to cause grief for the defender. What allows him to make up for a lesser standard of skating is his size and reach. Watch how he intimidates the San Diego player to such an extent the puck is turned over. He then recovers it and makes a great pass out front.

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A very smart Condors follower, Dennis King, pointed out a great backtrack by Lavoie as well that led to a chance. Again, his skating, particularly his first couple of strides, are not great, but they are good enough. Watch this clip. He easily gets himself back into a good defensive position in the neutral zone with a smooth, strong stride. His stick again creates the transition opportunity for Dylan Holloway.

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I’m still not convinced this player is at Oilers training camp in September of 2024, but if he is, it will be interesting to see if the organization wants to commit to this player. The type of player the team has not been comfortable committing to in the last few years.

News And Notes

Philip Broberg has really returned to form. After the recent deep leg bruise held him out for ten games, he came back and looked somewhat tentative. This week it looked like he really was feeling comfortable again. His strong stride was present all week, and his 200-foot game was really impressive. He ended the four-game week with six assists. His command of the Condors’ powerplay is really quite something to watch. He’s such a smart player in terms of how he manipulates defenders. Watch this clip and notice how he changes the angles available to him on the blueline which creates a ton of space and a seam for Seth Griffith to exploit.

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With Kulak’s injury, it will be interesting to see what the Oilers do if there is some length to it. Broberg’s game rounding out could be very fortuitous.
Shane Lachance had a great week with the Boston University Terriers. The team won its two game regional group and now head to the Frozen Four in ten days. Lachance finished the weekend with 1-2-3 in the two games and was excellent all weekend on Macklin Celebrini’s left wing.
The Oilers signed Olivier Rodrigue to a one-year, two-way contract this week as well. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out as the team has Jack Campbell, Ryan Fanti, as well as newly signed Connor Ungar all signed. This doesn’t include Calvin Pickard who clearly has earned another contract. I presume this all but confirms that Jack Campbell will be bought out, but time will tell.
That’s it for this week folks. See you right back here next Sunday. Have a great week.

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