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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Opportunity Knocks

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Photo credit:Ottawa 67's
Bruce Curlock
7 months ago
When you’re a scout for a hockey team, whether in an NHL organization or a collegiate or junior program, you want the players you stump for to make the most of their opportunity. Scouts, by default, are looking for players who they see have a chance to fit a role in their organization. Unfortunately for the scout, he cannot make that player take advantage of the opportunity. He can only watch, assess and offer feedback.
Instead, it is the player who controls his fate in terms of doing everything he can to prove that scout right. More than not, players selected by teams don’t make the grade. Whether the scout missed on the assessment or the player missed on the chance is irrelevant. It is a failure that has ramifications for a team. So when the opposite happens, and a scout finds a player, and the player sees the opportunity, it needs to be noted. The Oilers have a few such good stories going on right now. This week, it was Brady Stonehouse who decided to let everyone know who he was and how he may fit the Edmonton Oilers down the road. More on Stonehouse and some news and notes this week.

Who Caught My Eye?

Brady Stonehouse

Stonehouse has been the definition of the college walk-in. He was a camp invite for the development group and made his way to Penticton for the prospects tourney with Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg. With the Oilers trading picks and prospects in an effort to win the Stanley Cup, the roster was light on qualified players. So Stonehouse and some others were invited when, in other years, they likely would not have made the grade. Stonehouse acquitted himself well in the three games, scoring once and generally being involved whenever he was on the ice. That translated into a main camp invite, and in early October, Stonehouse was signed to an entry-level deal by the Oilers.
Stonehouse returned to his OHL team, the Ottawa ’67s and started the season a little on the slow side. Perhaps no surprise, given his whirlwind summer. He did not register a point in his first five games of the season. However, his game has rounded into form, with Stonehouse tallying nine points in his last seven games. He also has a stunning 50 shots on net in 12 games, which puts him in the top twenty of the league. On a shots-per-game basis, he’s hovering around the top ten. While the plus/minus stat has its warts, he is tied for first on the team at plus-five. This week, in two games, he went 1-2-3 with ten shots on net and was a solid plus-two.
As I learn about this player, two things stand out about his game besides the obvious goal-scoring ability. The first is his hockey sense. Watch this clip here and note how Stonehouse plays the game. He enters the clip, finds the soft area of the ice, and waits for a chance, which he rings off the post. The puck then exits and looks at Stonehouse immediately, gets in the middle of the nice and makes himself available for a pass. He doesn’t get it, so he races to the wing to get open and gets the puck for an entry. The puck escapes him, and he races back to stick-check the opposition player. Immediately, Stonehouse makes himself available for a pass. Finally, when the puck is on the wall, notice how Stonehouse gets on the defensive side of the puck and pins his man’s hip, preventing him from moving. The result is a loose puck that turns into a shot on the net.

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The second aspect of his game that really is encouraging is his motor. He never stops moving for his entire shift. In this clip, Stonehouse reads the play in his zone and comes down to separate the opposition player from the puck. He then is immediately on offence back up the ice. He makes a nice entry and is high-sticked, drawing a four-minute penalty.

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The combination of his hockey sense and motor means the puck is on Stonehouse’s stick every shift. I believe it is part of the reason he has a high shot volume. Here is a great shift of this exact point. Watch how he scans the play and gets to the right spot before others because he’s always moving.

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He scored a goal this week using this exact combination of skillsets again. In this instance, Stonehouse is out for the 5v6 defensive zone faceoff. Again, watch how he reads the play and gets to good spots to make an impact on the puck.

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What makes this exciting is that it is a very mature game combined with what appears to be a goal scorer’s touch. A professional coach can count on Stonehouse to make correct reads and execute disciplined plays. When you combine that with his very good hands and willingness to play inside and down low in the opposition end, you have the makings of a professional player.

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I probably told a small white lie of omission by not mentioning earlier my other favourite trait of Brady Stonehouse: he plays with an edge. This clip may seem innocuous to some, but it speaks volumes about this player. Especially that last freeze frame.

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News and Notes

It was a relatively quiet week around the Oilers’ prospects with minimal games played by most teams. Shane Lachance continues to have a nice start to his college career with five points in eight games and a healthy 23 shots on net. Matt Copponi, taken late in last year’s NHL draft, is 3-4-7 in seven games with 19 shots on net.
On the less good side of the ledger, Nikita Yevseyev was sent to the VHL. For whatever reason, he was getting essentially no minutes with AK Bars of the KHL. It’s surprising given that at points last year, he was being counted on to play 14 minutes a night. Yevseyev has played eight games in the VHL, totalling four assists and playing second-pair defensive minutes. I’ll be curious as to what happens to this player, given AK Bars is second in a very tightly contested division. It is possible he stays in the VHL for the entire season, which would be a setback in his development curve.
That’s it for this week. A much busier schedule next week should give us better feedback on where Oiler prospects are trending. See you all at the rink.

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