Welcome back everyone to the second edition of The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report. This week most of the Oiler prospects didn’t play a bunch, so it gives me a chance to dig into a few more prospects that merited inclusion in last week’s edition.
Who We Got This Week?
Frankly, I am surprised I was given a chance to write a second article given I failed to include the University of Alberta alum, and personal fav of Zach Laing, in the first edition. So far the key card still works for the office door, but I remain on edge.
Philp is a very notable name in the Edmonton area given his success at the UofA and his signing with the Oilers organization. When people first speak of Philp, the immediate comparison that gets mentioned is Derek Ryan. I will say if Philp can manage that prospect trajectory, the Edmonton Oilers will have done some very good work here.
When looking at prospects, one of the first things scouts look at is the player’s age relative to his on-ice success. A younger player performing well in a league gives scouts comfort that there may be growth in the player that may make him an even better prospect. This can work in reverse as well. Older prospects typically need to excel in their leagues because they may have less room for growth, skills-wise and physically. This preamble is very important for Noah Philp because he is 24 now and will be 25 when he goes to Oilers’ training camp in the fall of 2023. What we see now in Philp is mostly what he will be for his professional career.
Instead, of working from the plus side, I wanted to address the two parts of Philp’s game that could hold him back from an NHL career. When I first saw Philp in Penticton, I was curious to see his skating. One of the comments I had heard about Philp was that his boots needed improvement. So let’s take a look at two clips of his skating.
The first clip shows a pretty good stride overall. His upper body is fairly compact. A bit of sway, but nothing that would take away from his energy. The stride itself is a good length and the skates return to a very nice position before the next push. The boots get a little high on the extension which would slow him down some, but nothing fatal.
The second clip is really interesting to me because it is the “McDavid two-step cross-over” which is fast becoming the skating model for younger players. Certainly, Philp is no McDavid. The crossovers are a little slower than you want to see. However, the technique is quite strong and he does generate nice power. The next progression would be for Philp to finish this play by crossing over back to the middle to get the defender turning his hips and creating more dangerous space for himself, but that should come with experience.
Generally, there is nothing in Philp’s straight-line skating that would cause concern about his ability to skate in NHL games. He’s an average skater, but he will not struggle to get to the puck. The opportunity for improvement with Philp will be to work on some lateral mobility to make him harder to defend with the puck.
The other part of his game that will hold Philp back is scoring. He needs to score. Every AHL forward has to score in order to make the NHL. For instance, his often-mentioned comp, Derek Ryan had 55 points in 70 games in the AHL the year before he made Carolina. Noah Philp has 4 points in 23 games with Bakersfield. That must improve in order for him to gain traction for a call-up. So the question becomes, does he have skills that will help him there? I believe he does.
First, and foremost, Noah Philp is excellent at winning pucks. Whether it be defensive wins leading to transition or forecheck battles, Philp uses his big body (6’3″, 210 lbs) and a very good stick to win pucks. If you can consistently create puck possession wins, offence will follow. Look at a couple of examples here below.
This to me is the key for Philp’s chances for NHL time. Get in on pucks in all three zones and turn them over to his team’s possession. Valuable bottom-six forwards do this in spades.
The other part of Philp’s game that makes me think he can score is his shot. He only has three goals, but the man can flat-out shoot the puck. The release is strong and he fires a heavy puck.
If Philp can improve his lateral mobility to create some additional space for him with the puck, his shot will cause havoc for pro goalies.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Noah Philp is a right-shot center who has a very mature defensive game. He constantly plays low in his zone in support of his defencemen. He is usually the high forward in the offensive zone. Oh, and he wins face-offs. He needs to improve it further, but right-hand shot center is a hole in the Oilers organization that Philp can fill.
For Philp, the last half of the season will be very key. He is now solidly playing center with skilled players. He needs to accelerate his offensive game because there is an opportunity for someone like him on the bottom six of the Oilers next season.
One player that did play some games this week was Matvey Petrov. A late-round pick of the Oilers, Petrov is having himself a season. Currently, he’s 13th in OHL scoring with 38 points and is averaging 1.31 points per game. There is absolutely no question that Petrov has outplayed his 6th round draft selection in the NHL draft. Certainly, travel restrictions during the COVID pandemic impacted Petrov’s draft position, but kudos to the Oilers for having the foresight to take this player.
The first thing you notice with Petrov is that he is a very creative offensive player with great vision in the offensive zone.
He also has a really good shot. I am actually surprised that he only has eleven goals this year because he was noted in his draft year as being a shooter. With 89 shots in 29 games, he is clearly more of a playmaker. Given these examples below, there is certainly some upside to his goal-scoring potential.
Now Petrov did go #180th overall. So he certainly has some flaws. In my live viewings in Penticton, he looked like a player who wasn’t comfortable playing on the inside. That will need to change in the pro game for him. With his set of skills, he could be very dangerous inside. If he chooses to remain on the outside, he loses all of this advantage.
The other facet of his game that needs work is consistent compete from shift to shift. Again, this is not a surprising narrative for a younger player. However, it is one that will need work at the pro level. Plays like this will not be tolerated.
The last player I want to talk about this week is Phil Kemp. Everyone that does prospect work will invariably have a bias for a player. I’m no exception. Mine is Phil Kemp. The 7th-round pick from the 2017 draft has consistently improved each year in the Oilers organization. While 7th-round picks rarely even play NHL games, let alone have a career, I hold out hope for Phil Kemp. Why the optimism? Well, I think Kemp plays a style that would fit very well in the bottom pairing of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s a rugged defensive defenceman who worries about his zone first and foremost.
Now, the Oilers certainly have a group of these physical defensive prospects. However, I think Kemp has skill that separates him from Vincent Desharnais or Markus Niemelainen. Phil Kemp has some offensive chops to his game. I think many would be surprised to learn that Kemp is second on the team in scoring among defence with nine points in 24 games. What helps him with this part of the game? First, Phil Kemp makes a very good first pass on the outlet. It is a highly underrated aspect of his game as you can see below. Watch this clip and notice how Kemp surveys the situation to know what to do before he gets to a puck. That is great hockey sense.
Also, Phil Kemp has a very heavy shot. He only has seventeen shots on net, yet three goals. Look at this first clip (apologies for the poor feed from Henderson). He beats a goalie off a face-off from fifty feet away with no screen.
Need some more evidence. Here you go. Phil Kemp can shoot the puck
So why was Phil Kemp a 7th-round pick? Well, to put it politely his skating was not very strong. Kemp suffered from both being slow of foot and also with lateral mobility. Now I think his straight-line skating has improved and this clip is good evidence. The length of the stride is much better although still short. Heel kick is pretty good so energy isn’t being wasted. His upper body is nice and quiet making it a much smoother stride.
It’s the lateral mobility piece that remains a challenge. Here is a clip from last season. The skates crossover is very slow and the edge work isn’t explosive enough to fend off the wide attack.
Now here is a clip from this year. The footwork looks cleaner, but still slower than necessary to defend the attack.
This is the story of Phil Kemp. Right here. If he can advance his lateral mobility further this season, I believe he has enough skills to play in a 6/7 role in the NHL.
That’s it for this week’s edition of the Oilers Prospect Review. Thanks kindly and see you next week.