The Day After -5.0: Raphael Lavoie makes his case for a roster spot on the Oilers
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
The group that starts the season with the Oilers when the 2023-24 season begins will be nearly identical to the one that suited up in the playoffs in the spring, so this fall’s pre-season has been focused largely on one roster battle.
Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell will again be Edmonton’s goaltending duo and, barring injury, Darnell Nurse, Mattias Ekholm, Brett Kulak, Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard, Cody Ceci, and Vincent Desharnais will be the team’s seven defenders.
The forwards will mostly be the same save for three subtractions, Kailer Yamamoto, Klim Kostin, and Nick Bjugstad. Edmonton will carry 12 forwards because of their salary cap situation and Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele, Mattias Janmark, Derek Ryan, and Dylan Holloway will most likely be 11 of them.
Brown will fill Yamamoto’s spot in the top-nine and Holloway will take on a larger role than he had in his rookie season, so it’s really just Bjugstad’s spot that’s up for grabs. The Oilers added Bjugstad at the trade deadline last season and he was effective for them as a fourth-line centre who could kill penalties and jump up in the lineup and add offence on the wing.
Who do they have in training camp who best fills that role?
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
Brandon Sutter is at camp on a professional tryout contract and he’d be the choice for the Oilers if they want a veteran pivot who can play a simple game and win draws. Lane Pederson scored at an impressive clip in the AHL last season but only has 71 games and 11 points in the NHL to his name. Sam Gagner won’t be ready for the start of the season because he’s coming off of hip surgery.
And then there’s Raphael Lavoie, the team’s second-round pick from the 2019 draft, the first in the Ken Holland era. Lavoie suited up for his third pre-season game on Sunday and scored a nice goal in the third period as the Oilers lost to the Vancouver Canucks.
Lavoie put together a breakout season in the AHL for the Bakersfield Condors in 2022-23 with 25 goals and 45 points across 61 games. He has the most upside of the forwards battling for the 12th spot on Edmonton’s roster but head coach Jay Woodcroft has said that his ideal player for that role is a centre, and Lavoie plays the right wing.
The Oilers will have a difficult time getting Lavoie through waivers, as you’d have to think that a rebuilding team like the Montreal Canadiens, who saw him play in the QMJHL, or the Anaheim Ducks, who know him well from the AHL’s Pacific Division, would take a flyer on him. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been giving him many reps alongside the team’s top centres in the pre-season.
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