Steven Ellis: The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Pool Breakdown
By baggedmilk1 month ago
As we approach the start of a new season, one thing that always comes to mind is whether or not there are any prospects with a chance to steal a job on the NHL roster. And seeing as we Oilers fans haven’t been as dialled in on the draft as we were a handful of years ago, it’s easy to lose track of where we’re at as an organization.
Over at Daily Faceoff, our prospect analyst, Steven Ellis, has spent the past few weeks looking at every team in the NHL and breaking down their prospect pool with today’s focus being the Edmonton Oilers. For me personally, I am nowhere near as well versed in what we’ve got going on in the system as I once was, and this primer from Steven Ellis did a really nice job of setting the table for our Oilersnation prospect countdown that is kicking off next week.
Before we get started on the prospect countdown, I reached out to Steven Ellis to give his general thoughts on where the Oilers’ prospect pool is as a whole. When I asked him how we’re looking and what Oilers fans should expect from their prospect pool, Steven Ellis was quick to point out a few holes that need filling but also how Edmonton compares to some of their peers given where they’re at as a contending team:
I think their center depth is lacking at this point. Could they move Tyler Tullio to the wing? I feel like he’s a better fit there. Is Jayden Grubbe capable of being an NHLer? I’m not sure yet. And then there’s the goaltending. If I’m a team, I always want another young goalie in waiting given how up-and-down goaltenders can be these days. I don’t think they have the answer if Stuart Skinner isn’t the long-term solution. But this is all par for the course for contending teams. Most teams near the top of the standings have brutal prospect pools, and some are even worse off. I’d like to see them start accumulating draft capital, but I understand moving them to make more impactful moves.
Now that we all have a baseline for where the Oilers are at with their prospect pool, let’s dive into what’s working and what still needs to improve.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Kicking things off, I’ve got Ellis’ strengths and weaknesses for the Oilers’ system, and based on what he just said about competing teams, I don’t think any of his analysis is overly surprising.
If the Oilers are looking for an impact player, they’re not finding it here. But if they need some extra depth, or a trade chip to bring in someone notable, they have that. The rest is up to GM Ken Holland to figure out.Biggest StrengthIt’s hard to pinpoint a strength in a team with such a poor prospect pool. But they do have depth options that can be inexpensive support players down the line. Bourgault and Lavoie have the best odds at becoming NHLers, while players like Petrov, Maxim Berezkin, and Max Wanner have all outgrown their draft positions. If they even get three or four of these guys to become everyday NHLers, that’ll be a big bonus.Biggest WeaknessThe Oilers should have drafted goaltender Jesper Wallstedt in 2021; every fan knows that. Skinner has been a solid option, but if he doesn’t become the long-term solution, who will? Olivier Rodrigue had a good bounce-back season after dealing with injuries, but he’s a backup at best. And even that’s a long shot. Ryan Fanti had an eventful year in the ECHL, which included scoring a goal and getting in a fight. He’s also a long shot. Drafting goaltenders can often be a crapshoot, and you can often fix your crease situation in other ways. But having someone you can trust in your back pocket doesn’t hurt.
The Top 10:
1. Xavier Bourgault, LW/RW, 20 (Bakersfield, AHL)
Bourgault made an impression in his first pro season with Bakersfield, scoring 13 goals and 34 points. The strong shooter seemed to add some extra speed in his game this year, too. The goal in 2023-24 will be to take more control of the puck and generate scoring chances more consistently before making a run at full-time duty with the Oilers the following year.
2. Raphael Lavoie, C/RW, 22 (Bakersfield, AHL)
Lavoie finished with his best season to date, scoring 25 goals and 45 points in 61 games. Will that be enough for him to get a more extended look at camp? At 6-foot-4, Lavoie has the size needed to be a bottom-six power forward, but his scoring touch from junior is starting to show through finally. As a depth scorer, there’s a future for Lavoie, but it’s up for him to make it happen.
3. Matvey Petrov, RW, 20 (Bakersfield, AHL)
After two 90-point campaigns with North Bay, Petrov is ready to transition to the pro game. The 6-foot-2 forward saw his goal-scoring production dip from 40 to 27, but he had 66 assists as his playmaking tools took off. That was especially true during the postseason when he had 18 helpers in 20 games. Petrov’s skating is his downfall, but we’ll see if the Oilers’ coaching staff can adjust adequately.
4. Beau Akey, D, 18 (Barrie, OHL)
The team’s top pick this year, Akey instantly became the team’s top defensive prospect. While most eyes were on Brandt Clarke in Barrie this year, it’s hard to ignore Akey jumping up 30 points. He does an excellent job of rushing the puck down the ice from his zone and panic-passes the puck far less these days. With Clarke set to go full-time pro in 2023-24, Akey has a chance to play a significantly bigger role with the Colts – something he should have no difficulty with.
5. Maxim Berezkin, LW, 21 (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL)
Berezkin set a career-high in games played (52), goals (seven), assists (26) and points (26) while playing solid two-way hockey with Lokomotiv. At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, he has excellent size for a forward. His confidence and decision-making with the puck have only improved over time. He has a deal until 2025 to remain in the KHL, so he’s still a work in progress, but he’s well on his way to becoming a more valuable KHLer scoring threat.
6. Max Wanner, D, 20 (Bakersfield, AHL)
Many scouts think Wanner will be an NHLer. In what capacity? Who knows. He’s at least competent at most things in the game, but not spectacular in anything. Wanner’s two-way game has improved, and he can get a bit nasty, too. Notably, the Oilers signed the seventh-rounder a year after getting drafted, and now we’ll see how he adjusts to the pro game.
7. Nikita Yevseyev, D, 19 (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL)
Yevseyev spent most of the season with Kazan’s KHL squad, scoring five goals and seven points in 48 games. He’s not afraid to shoot or rush the puck but plays a shutdown style. He’s a good skater who works as hard as anyone. He’d likely be a third-pairing defender in the NHL and will need some AHL seasoning first. He has a KHL deal until 2025, though, so there is still lots of room to improve.
8. Tyler Tullio, C/RW, 21 (Bakersfield, AHL)
Tullio had his growing pains last year, putting up just 13 goals and 26 points in 63 games with the Condors. He was excellent during the middle but had a soft start and end to the season. Tullio is one of the smartest forwards in the organization, someone who can beat you with his decision-making when all else fails. If he can find that game-to-game consistency, he’ll be an interesting depth addition to the Oilers’ lineup.
9. Carter Savoie, LW, 21 (Bakersfield, AHL)
An early season injury kicked things off on a terrible note for Savoie. He rarely looked fully healthy, helping to contribute to his 11-point campaign in 44 games. Savoie is a good shooter who produced well everywhere he played before the AHL. That’s why it’s still good to stay optimistic, and a fresh start with the start of a new season could go a long way.
10. Jayden Grubbe, C, 20 (Bakersfield, AHL)
Grubbe made a huge splash with the Red Deer Rebels this year, going from 35 points a year ago to 67. He was robust during the playoffs scoring 14 assists and 16 points in 12 games. While it took a while for him to start showing promise, Grubbe’s mix of size (6-foot-3, 203 pounds), defensive prowess and playmaking skills makes him a nice piece to have in the system. He’ll need some time in the AHL, but the Oilers have something here.
Starting next week, our own Bruce Curlock will be doing a deep dive into the Oilers’ prospect pool to give us an even deeper look at what the depth chart looks like in its current state. Coupled with this first look at the depth chart from Steven Ellis over at Daily Faceoff, the goal over the next few weeks is to bring everyone back up to speed with our prospect pool and give us all a better idea of who could be pushing for prime time.
Needless to say, if the Oilers are going to take another step forward then they’ll need some of these players to keep progressing to the point where they could be legitimate NHL options. As we all know, the teams that end up winning Stanley Cups always have unsung heroes throughout the lineup, and when I think of where the Oilers are at today, the biggest question I have is who that next man up could be.
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