OilersNation’s Mid-Season Prospect Update — Forwards
By Cam Lewis1 year ago
As per holiday tradition, it’s time to sit back, pour a beverage, and watch the World Juniors.
With everyone in WJC mode, now is a perfect time to take a look at how the Edmonton Oilers’ prospects are doing.
Back in August and September, I profiled the Top 20 prospects in Edmonton’s system, so let’s see how they’re doing now. Over the next couple of days, I’ll provide an update on each of those prospects, starting with forwards and then looking at defencemen and goaltenders.
Also, for clarity, these aren’t new rankings. I’ll update the Top 20 again in the summer after the draft.
It’s a shame that Matvei Petrov isn’t playing for Russia at the World Juniors but that seems to do more with where he’s playing this season than his ability. Team Russia opted to roll exclusively with players playing at home, leaving Petrov, who’s playing for the North Bay Batallion of the OHL, off the roster.
Petrov is one of a few late-round flyers selected by the Oilers in the past couple of years who’s trending nicely. Edmonton took him with the No. 180 overall pick in the 2021 draft, well below where he was projected to go.
He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 CHL Import Draft but didn’t join the Batallion until 2021-22 due to the pandemic. In his first OHL season, Petrov has been dominant as he ranks third in the league with 20 goals and 49 points.
Again, it’s unfortunate fans won’t be able to see him up close at the WJC, but Petrov looks like a great late-round find. He’ll be much higher on my next list.
Like Petrov, Jake Chiasson was another player who the Oilers snagged in 2021 a little bit lower than he was expected to go. A big, strong, two-way winger, Edmonton selected Chiasson at No. 116 overall after he scored 20 points in 23 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2020-21.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of an update here as Chiasson injured himself during Oilers rookie camp back in September. He underwent shoulder surgery and hasn’t yet suited up for the Wheat Kings in 2021-22. The Wheat Kings are solid so Chiasson will have an opportunity to help his team go on a playoff run when he returns.
There’s a common theme here, as the Oilers have wound up taking multiple forwards who fell further in the draft than anticipated over the past couple of years. The next one we’ll talk about is Tyler Tullio, who was projected to be as high as a second-round pick but ended up falling to Edmonton at No. 126 in 2020.
Tullio is an interesting prospect because he boasts a lot of tools in his toolbox. He was described as one of the more complete players in his draft class because he has a good defensive game, can get under his opponents’ skin, and produces offensively with a combination of good playmaking and creative instincts.
After having the 2020-21 OHL season wiped due to COVID-19, Tullio is back with the Oshawa Generals. He has 38 points through 26 games, good for first on the team and ninth in the league. Tullio signed his entry-level deal in September and will be playing for the Condors next fall. We might see him jump to the AHL this season if the Generals don’t go far.
It’s getting a bit difficult to call Marody a prospect at this point. He just turned 25 years old and is on a one-year, two-way contract as his entry-level deal expired at the end of last season.
Marody is having another good season in the AHL, as he has six goals and 15 points through 18 games. He was called up shortly before the Christmas break because of Edmonton’s issues with COVID protocol and played in his first big league game since his six-game cup of coffee in 2018-19.
The Oilers are having a hell of a time finding depth scoring, so if Marody can generate any kind of offence, he’ll stick. If he can’t manage to earn playing time this season, it’s reasonable to assume this will be his last with the organization, unless he sticks around on a minor-league deal like Brad Malone or Seth Griffith.
Like Marody, Benson is a player who has proved he can score at the AHL level but hasn’t been able to translate that success to the NHL level.
Benson, the team’s No. 32 overall pick from the 2016 draft, scored 36 points in 36 games for the Condors in his third full season in the AHL in 2021. This season, Benson was waiver eligible and the Oilers didn’t want to risk losing him so he’s stuck with the club all year thus far. In 16 games platooning on the fourth line with Brendan Perlini, Benson hasn’t recorded a point.
An Edmonton native, Benson is a player the Oilers have known forever. They’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to developing him but he just hasn’t been able to become a contributor offensively at the NHL level. It would be nice to see Benson get a chance on a skill line but he hasn’t really kicked the door down and demanded an opportunity this season.
I’ve already talked about Petrov and Tullio, two late-round picks who are tending well into the hidden gem category, but the best of them all might be Carter Savoie, a local product the Oilers grabbed at No. 100 overall in 2020.
Savoie put up some incredible numbers playing for the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL, including 53 goals in 54 games in 2019-20. In his freshman season with the University of Denver, Savoie led the Mountaineers with 13 goals. This season, he has 12 goals in 16 games. For context, that’s twice as many as teammate Bobby Brink, who was a second-round pick in 2019.
The Oilers will likely ink Savoie to an entry-level deal once his NCAA season comes to an end and we could potentially see him join the Condors this year. It’s difficult to say how he’ll adjust to the pro game but Savoie’s production in two seasons with Denver indicates a future NHLer who can score goals. He might not be far from the big leagues.
Ryan McLeod will have graduated as a prospect by the time I do rankings next summer.
He earned himself a call-up last season thanks to some strong play for the Condors coupled with a glaring organizational need for a bottom-six centre. McLeod was good enough in 10 regular-season games that he also played in all four of Edmonton’s playoff games against the Winnipeg Jets.
After getting sent down early on, it seems McLeod is here to stay, as he’s played in 18 games with the Oilers thus far. His three goals might not jump off the page, but that’s the total number of goals that Derek Ryan and Devin Shore, Edmonton’s other two bottom-six centres, have combined for thus far.
We all know McLeod is good enough to be an NHL player, the question is whether he can develop into the third-line centre who can score 30-40 points that the team so badly needs.
I’ve talked about Petrov, Tullio, and Savoie, three prospects who are going to rise on next summer’s rankings, but now I’ll talk about a player who will likely tumble if things don’t turn around. Raphael Lavoie, Edmonton’s No. 38 overall pick from the 2019 draft, has had a disappointing showing in his second AHL season.
Lavoie produced at a high level in the QMJHL and appeared to be trending in the right direction in his first season at the professional level in 2020-21. He started off by scoring 45 points in 51 games in Sweden’s second league and then he scored 10 points in 19 games for the Condors and added four points in six playoff games.
This year looked like it was going to be a breakout party for Lavoie in the AHL, but that hasn’t happened yet. Through 19 games, he has just eight points, and five of them came in one game last week against the San Diego Gulls.
There’s certainly still time for Lavoie to turn his season around, but this has been a disappointing showing for a player who could have found himself in the mix for a call-up if he produced in the minors. Hopefully, that five-point game is the start of a breakout.
There won’t be much Oilers flavour for the local crowd at the WJC this year but fans in Edmonton will be able to watch the team’s first-round pick from last summer’s draft, Xavier Bourgault, suit up for Team Canada.
Bourgault has been excellent in the QMJHL this season. Through 24 games, he has 22 goals and 42 points. We all know the Q is a high-scoring league, but Bourgault ranks in a tie for third in the league in goals and is eighth in the league in points.
A mid-October birthday, Bourgault was one of the oldest first-year eligible players in this summer’s draft. This is his fourth season in the QMJHL and he’ll be eligible to turn pro in 2022-23. Though Ken Holland is known to be conservative with prospects, seeing Bourgault make his NHL debut next season wouldn’t at all be a shock.
If not for an injury, there’s very little doubt that we would have seen Dylan Holloway playing with the Oilers by now.
Holloway was Edmonton’s No. 14 overall pick from the 2020 draft. He had a quiet freshman season for the University of Wisconsin in 2019-20, scoring 17 points in 35 games, but he broke out in 2020-21 with 11 goals and 35 points in 23 games.
It’s been a frustrating road for Holloway this year. He underwent surgery on his hand back in March, it didn’t heal properly, and then he had surgery again in September. Holloway isn’t expected to be ready to play until the new year and he’ll need quite a bit of time in the AHL to get back up to speed.
As unfortunate as that is, the Oilers obviously can’t afford to rush Holloway back in order to fill a need on their roster. He would be a great addition as a big, fast, two-way winger, but Holloway is too important to the organization’s future to risk further injury.
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