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The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: We’re Back!

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Curlock
6 months ago
Today’s article marks the start of the new season for Edmonton Oilers prospects across various leagues around the world. As we did last year, we will have a weekly summary of the prospects who made a notable impression during that week. The hope is this gives us real time data about the progression of a prospect, but more importantly whether a prospect is trending well over a longer period of time. Given the current state of the Edmonton Oilers, prospects are as important as ever. This may come as a surprise to some, but these players will quite likely have an outsized impact on the Oilers playoff success. Prospects can provide inexpensive players for depth roles. As well, a prospect can be an important piece in a trade to acquire players needed for a long playoff run. So with that preamble, let’s take a look at who stood out this week.

Who Caught My Eye?

The Oilers only had a handful of prospects playing regular season games this week. Most league seasons are only just beginning. In addition, many of the Oilers’ prospects are still with the big club at their training camp. Nevertheless, there were a few players who made some impact during the early part of the season.

Beau Akey

Akey had a brilliant start to his career with the Edmonton Oilers organization. He was the best Oiler player at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton by a margin. That’s saying something given the young man is only 18 years old. He got a chance to show his wares in one Oiler exhibition game and played very well also. The Oilers sent him back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL to get a start on his junior year. He played 3 games this week going 1-1-3 with five shots on net. He played in every situation. He’s playing first powerplay and penalty kill. He was on all of the high leverage situations at game ends as well. Given he only flew back from Edmonton a couple of days before his first OHL game, he looked pretty strong. The goal was an empty netter from distance, but his assist was a demonstration of his excellent offensive skills. First, his skating ability to climb himself into a weakside attack position. Also, notice how he drifts himself a little outside to catch the puck in a nice open area. He then draws three defenders to him with a little delay into a soft area. Finally, he finishes it off with the ho-hum backhand saucer. Absolutely tremendous play.

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More importantly, this year we will be watching Akey in the defensive zone as much as anywhere else. There is no question he will produce points this year. What will need to improve is his in-zone defensive play. Here is a little example on a goal against this week. Now perhaps the goalie could have battled harder, but Akey didn’t help his cause. Certainly, he took his mark’s stick, but he really needed to get into his body and move him to allow the goalie a lane to the puck. Either Akey needed to move his feet quicker and get better position to prevent the screen from developing or he needed to lean on him and get him past the goalie’s eyes.

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These types of details are what professional coaches will watch for more so than the brilliant offense he can bring. Bearing down on this area of his game will have a big impact on his overall game.

Maxim Beryozkin

Beryozkin had a bit of a slow start to his season with Locomotiv of the KHL. His ice time has been quite similar to last season at around 14 minutes per game, which is second line rates. He is also playing on the first powerplay. However, he looked out of sorts early on. A little less engaged than normal, which given his size and skating ability is not ideal. However, Beryozkin has started to come out of the early season funk. While his season totals are modest at 1-4-5 in twelve games with 21 shots, he really ramped up this week going 1-2-3 in three games with five shots on net. His goal is the one play you see from Beryozkin on occasion that gives you a glimpse of what his NHL career could look like.

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Here is another example of his transport ability. He’s a big player with a powerful stride and he’s not afraid to take the puck inside. This is a great 150 foot rush to set up a goal.

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Beroyzkin should have an excellent offensive year. He’s 21 now with 126 KHL games under his belt. His coach plays him in crucial minutes and high leverage situations. This should be a year of excellent progression for Beroyzkin.

Nikita Yevseyev

The more perplexing of the two KHL Russians in the Oiler organization is Nikita Yevseyev. The 19-year-old had a tremendous 18-year-old season. He provided AK Bars far more than I would guess they expected given the KHL is not a league where young players get to play much let alone shine during their playing time. Yevseyev had a lot of moments last year often averaging 14-15 minutes per game. This year has started much slower. In one game Yevseyev was on the fourth pairing. That’s right, the fourth pairing. Ak Bars dressed eight defencemen for a game. Not an uncommon tactic in the KHL, but not a good one for Yevseyev. He has averaged 9:23 in TOI this year which is a full 90 seconds per game less than last year. He sees very little specialty team time and is usually on the bench in high-leverage situations.
Now that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had some positive impact. He scored a nice little goal here showing his nice lateral skating and confidence going to the net. Yes, the goalie should have had it, I know.

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He’s also an excellent defender. His size and skating ability allow him to defend well both in-zone and off the rush. He makes a habit of defending his blueline, which is not a common play on the wider KHL ice surface. Watch this nice little transitional defensive play to close the gap and separate the attacker from the puck. This is elite defending here by Yevseyev. Good gap using his stick to force a stop-up. Then quickly he transitions to attack the now stalled-out attacker.

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Yevseyev’s playing time is something I will be watching closely this year. The hope is that we see his minutes rise as his coach gains more confidence in him. Yevseyev’s development will rise or fall on the number of shifts he takes in a game. Something to track all season.
That’s it for this week, everyone. As always send me posts at the X to @bcurlock or right here where you can join your friends and mock me mercilessly. Have a great week.

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