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Oilers’ Philip Broberg rises above early season trade talks to become unlikely hero in Game 5 vs. the Stars

Philip Broberg slapshot Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
15 days ago
Edmonton Oilers’ Philip Broberg was Ken Holland’s first-ever draft pick after assuming the role of Oilers’ general manager, selecting the blueliner eighth overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Yet, since being drafted, the smooth-skating Swede hadn’t been able to grab a full-time spot on the Oilers blue line, leaving many questioning if GM Holland made the correct pick in 2019, with notable players like Trevor Zegras and Cole Caufield selected after Broberg. That said, heading into the 2023-24 season, expectations were high for the 22-year-old to claim one of Edmonton’s six spots on the back end.
But the towering and older D-man, Vincent Desharnais, made strides in his development to claim the sixth spot on the blue line earlier in the season. Consequently, Broberg saw limited playing time, shuffling between the AHL and NHL, which led to trade speculation about the former first-round draft pick.
Moreover, in November, Allan Mitchell of the Athletic hinted that Broberg could be a viable trade piece, saying:
“If the Oilers value him as a No. 7 defenceman and no more than that, and need help elsewhere (the club has some pressing issues) then an early-season trade would make sense. If Broberg is part of the package, that outcome is workable based on usage by the coaching staff.
In addition, in early December, Kevin Weekes initially reported that the Oilers were exploring possible trade options for the young Swede. It was later revealed that GM Holland granted Broberg and his agent permission to seek a trade.
However, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug later debunked that claim, stating that the Oilers’ GM had not permitted them to seek a trade. Broberg’s agent, Darrin Ferris, indicated they spoke with the organization to resolve the matter. Nonetheless, at the time, there was clearly confusion and miscommunications from both parties.

Broberg Improved his Game and Became a Workhorse in the AHL

The former first-round draft pick was likely frustrated from bouncing around between the AHL, the NHL and the press box. Ultimately, he was sent to the AHL on Dec. 7, and despite his challenges and trade speculation, he didn’t complain; instead, he put his head down and went to work to improve his game with the Bakersfield Condors.
As a result, he played heavy minutes, sometimes logging 30 minutes a night, and excelled in all areas, including the special teams. He became a force with the Condors, tallying 38 points in 49 games. To add to that, Ryan Holt, Condors’ broadcaster, who had a bird’s eye view of the 6-foot-4 and 212-pound D-man on a nightly basis, posted that Broberg was the top prospect D-man in the AHL’s Pacific Division this season, particularly in the second half.
Broberg was recalled to the Oilers to play in the last two games of the regular season to get some NHL games in, averaging close to 17 minutes of playing time. He was then sent down to the AHL for the Condors’ playoff run, and once they were eliminated, he was recalled to the Oilers while they were still playing the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.
Fast forward to the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars, and it didn’t appear like Broberg would suit up in a game for Edmonton. It seemed unlikely that head coach Kris Knoblauch, who only coached Broberg for four games in the regular season, would sit one of his veteran D-men just to play his young Swede. Also, it didn’t appear that he’d pull Desharnais out of the lineup, considering his instrumental role in the Oilers’ number-one-ranked penalty kill during the postseason.
Yet, after Edmonton gave up an early two-goal lead in Game 3 against the Stars and could not overcome Dallas’ second-period onslaught in a 5-3 loss, Knoblauch made a significant shake-up to his roster for Game 4. He inserted Ryan McLeod, Corey Perry and Broberg into the lineup, allowing the young blueliner to make his first appearance in these playoffs.

Broberg’s Confidence Shone and Stepped up for Oilers in Game 5

That said, the bold moves by Knoblauch paid off again. Edmonton won Game 4 by a score of 3-2, and Broberg, who was thrust into the lineup seemingly under a lot of pressure, played a modest 14:21 minutes of mainly low-event hockey, which is ideally what you’d like from your third-pairing defender.
He was paired with Cody Ceci, and Natural Stat Trick shows the duo posted a 66.49 xGF% at 5v5. Broberg made crisp passes and showcased his speed throughout the night. Also, his coach even trusted him on the ice in the final minutes of the game, which showed confidence in him. Perhaps that vote of trust boosted the blueliner’s confidence for the next game.
In Game 5, Broberg showcased his offensive ability early, playing fetch with Perry in the offensive zone, which resulted in the D-man ripping a slapshot just wide of the net. He also made a couple of nice rushes throughout the game, but his highlight of the night came nearly five minutes into the second period.
The Oilers won the faceoff, and Adam Henrique tipped the puck to Broberg, who unleashed a slap shot from the point (is it too early to call it a Bro-Bomb?), beating Jake Oettinger and giving his team extra insurance, as Edmonton beat Dallas 3-1.
The tally marked Broberg’s first-ever NHL playoff goal, which resembled another Swedish defenceman who once played for the Oilers, Oscar Klefbom, scoring a pivotal playoff goal from the point for Edmonton back in 2017. Ironically, as an aside, Klefbom made an encouraging video that was played at Rogers Place during Game 4, and it was noted that the Oilers scored two goals after that.
Overall, in Game 5, Broberg played 12:40 minutes of steady hockey, used his speed to skate the puck out of danger on several occasions, and his coach showed confidence in him once more by playing him on the PK later in the game and also in the final few minutes. Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid had some kind words about the young blueliner’s big goal in Game 5, saying:
“Amazing. A big goal, but not only that, skating everywhere. Skating pucks out of his zone, he can be a one-man breakout at times, and that’s what he needs to do to be successful. His legs are a gift, and he’s got to use them.”
Hockey is an unpredictable game full of surprises. Five months ago, Desharnais’ emergence kept Broberg out of the lineup, and now, after Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, Broberg’s big goal will likely keep his teammate out of the lineup for the time being.
That said, Broberg, who will be a restricted free agent after this season, has a golden opportunity in front of him not only to help his team win a Stanley Cup but also to prove the naysayers wrong. From here on out, he can show the hockey world that GM Holland’s decision to select him early in the first round in 2019 was indeed an intelligent choice.
With that in mind, what is your outlook for the rest of the postseason for Broberg? Does he continue to play over Vincent Desharnais?

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