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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Picking Up Your Socks

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Photo credit:Bakersfield Condors
Bruce Curlock
6 months ago
When Markus Niemlainen was injured in the pre-season, it created a dilemma for the Edmonton Oilers. With a tight cap situation and the NHL requirement that injured players remain on the roster, it meant that someone who had been on the team (Mattias Janmark as example) or had waiver eligibility (Dylan Holloway or Philip Broberg) or an interesting prospect would need to be sent down.
In the end, the Oilers decided to waive Raphael Lavoie and take a chance he would clear. The 23-year-old winger’s up-and-down pre-season concluding with a really uninspiring effort against the Seattle Kraken probably made the decision a little easier.
The question I had was what would Lavoie do after the demotion. Well, it’s one game with the proverbial small sample size, but the returns were favourable. Let’s see what Lavoie did and find out some other news and notes in this week’s Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

What Did I See This Week?

Raphael Lavoie

As mentioned, the Condors played only one game this weekend. One of the most notable things of Lavoie’s first game happened before the puck dropped. He played left wing instead of right wing on a line with James Hamblin and Seth Griffith. Now Lavoie has played left wing before and done well, but it was an interesting choice nonetheless. With Tyler Tullio out due to injury and Jake Chiasson re-assigned to the ECHL, there was room for Lavoie to play right wing. The Condors played Bourgault and Griffith there of course. Then added Jayden Grubbe which makes some sense given it was his first professional regular season game, The final winger was Dino Kambeitz. Now am I reading too much into this fact?
Maybe. However, if you’re a young prospect trying to push through to the NHL, being positionally versatile is a good trait. By the way, Drake Cagguila left this game early with what looked like a pretty bad injury, so Lavoie’s ice time really ratcheted up in this game.
In terms of the game, Lavoie was truly a man amongst boys. He ended up with one assist and added a game-high five shots on the net. He played first powerplay of course, but also played the tail end of the penalty kill as well a bit. Again, anything to show his versatility is going to aid his ultimate goal. Perhaps the most notable element of his game was something that led to a Condors goal: in-zone defending. Here is the clip of the play. Watch Lavoie, whose playing the weakside wing. He does a nice job of scanning to ensure his check stays up top. Then he reads the Firebird’s player’s attempt to make a cross-ice pass. He jumps into the lane and he’s off to the races. James Hamblin. Tap-in goal.

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Next to his overall consistent effort, Lavoie’s defensive game gets picked on more than anything else. The more he can be counted on to suppress offence and then turn that into transition chances, the more his coaches will trust him in high-leverage situations.
The part of his game that remains very impressive at the AHL level is his in-zone offensive game. Here is a clip of many from the game that illustrates his confidence offensively. The puck consistently goes through his stick on most shifts in the offensive zone. Even when zone possession is lost, Lavoie has the confidence to start the next attack from deep in his own zone.

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Lavoie also had a near miss on a goal in his first game, as well. It was a typical Lavoie release that caused the goalie all kinds of grief which ultimately led to the winning goal by the Condors a bit later in the shift. This shot came off a great little knock-on pass by Seth Griffith. Lavoie had a great shot, but the goalie just caught enough of it to knock down the momentum of the puck.

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Now that does not mean the game was perfection for Lavoie. One of the things that I think goes unnoticed by fans, but not by coaches is when he loses his defensive conscience. He has a tendency to lose his composure sometimes and it can lead to chaos. Watch this shift here. Remember the Condors play the same zone or box plus one defensive scheme as the Oilers. Watch how many times Lavoie loses his composure in executing it and how it results in his teammates having to cover or switch for him.

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Here Lavoie gets lucky, to be honest. Ironically, this is the first half of the shift that led to the Hoefenmeyer game-winning goal. The fact this game-winning goal happened at the end of this shift probably makes this a less painful memory, but the coaches and his teammates will not forget it. Lavoie needs to maintain his composure in his zone and do his part, but nothing more. Making it more simple will make his life more easy in his own zone.
Nevertheless, Lavoie had a good first game. It needs to keep happening. Injuries will occur over the season. Lavoie wants to make sure he is the first name on the list for a call-up to the Oilers.

News and Notes

There was not a lot of other gameplay this week for Oiler prospects. The most notable bit of news was the injury to Beau Akey. He blocked a shot in the 8-0 loss to the Kitchener Rangers on Friday night. Akey did not play in the 7-1 Colts win on Saturday. On the collegiate front, Maatta, Munzenberger, Lachance and Copponi begin their Hockey East season this coming week.
That’s all for this week. Next week, the full prospect group will be in regular season games. Watch here for all the key updates. Thanks for reading and see you next week.

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