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Three Edmonton Oilers appear on Corey Pronman’s top u23 prospects list
By Zach Laing6 months ago
Widely regarded as one of the sharper minds when it comes to looking at NHL prospects, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman has released his latest list looking at hopefuls under the age of 23.
And when it comes to Edmonton Oilers prospects, just three appear on the list: Philip Broberg, Dylan Holloway and Xavier Bourgault.
Pronman, who completed his team prospect rankings list last week, had the Oilers ranked 28th among all NHL teams. No major surprise as the Oilers have continuously utilized draft picks in recent years — sometimes successful, sometimes not — in their push for a Stanley Cup.
Back to the u23 list, however, as Pronman put together some notes about how the 168 players were ranked among eight tiers:
A player must be 22 years old or younger as of Sept. 15, 2023, to qualify.Ranked players are placed into tiers and given tool grades. Tool grades are based on a scale with six separate levels, with an eye toward how this attribute would grade in the NHL (poor, below-average, average, above-average, high-end and elite). “Average” on this scale means the tool projects as NHL average, which is meant as a positive, not a criticism. Skating, puck skills, hockey sense and compete for every projected NHL player is graded. Shot grades are only included if a shot is notably good or poor.
What’s worth noting is how limited the early tiers are. The first tier has Connor Bedard and Connor Bedard alone as a “bubble generational player and elite NHL player.” Tier two features four players in Jack Hughes, Tim Stutzle, Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov as “elite NHL player(s).”
Tier three also has four players: Dylan Cozens, Matty Beniers, Trevor Zegras and Luke Hughes. They’re listed as “bubble elite NHL player and NHL All-Star.” Tier four expands with eight players listed as “NHL All-Star(s):” Leo Carlsson, Cole Caufield, Mortiz Seider, Owen Power, Matt Boldy, Mason McTavish, William Smith and Bowen Byram.
Tier five are players who are “bubble NHL All-Star(s) and top of the lineup player(s),” while tier six are “top of the lineup player(s).” In total, the top six tiers feature 44 players, while the seventh and eighth tiers — where the lone Oilers players fall — contain the remaining 125 players.
Broberg is the highest-rated Oilers prospect coming in the seventh tier 54th overall right near the top of this tier. Pronman notes that Broberg has above-average skating and average puck skills and compete level. His hockey sense, however, is below average.
Here’s Pronman’s assessment of the defenceman, who he feels is a “bubble top and middle of the lineup player:”
Broberg played a limited minute role on the Oilers for most of the season. He had some good flashes but didn’t elevate his way up the lineup. His high grade is still based on his great toolkit and projection. There are very few defensemen out there with his size who can skate the way Broberg can. He has a very powerful, fluid stride and can explode up the ice as well as close on his checks quite well. Outside of his pure athleticism, the rest of the game is less exciting. He has good skills, but he’s not a natural puck mover. He competes well enough but isn’t a killer physically. I think he can harness his mobility to become a solid top four defenseman with time even if there may never be this big high side offensively.
Holloway, as well as Bourgault, find themselves in the eighth tier projecting as middle-of-the-lineup players. Holloway, who comes in at the top of the eighth tier 85th overall, is noted by Pronman as being average in terms of his skating, puck skills and hockey sense. Where Holloway excelled and is above average, according to Pronman, is his compete and his shot:
Holloway played at the tail end of the Oilers roster for most of the season. He was sent to the AHL toward the end of the year where he had a lot of success scoring seven goals in 12 games. Holloway is still on track to be a good NHL player. When you can skate like he can, with good offensive skills and a willingness to play physically, there will be a place in a lineup for you. Holloway isn’t a big-time player with the puck, but he has good creativity and hands, can shoot the puck well and can make enough plays to score as a pro. I think he can be a top six forward, although as a pro he’s looked more like a wing than a center.
A lot of Bourgault’s tools — his skating, hockey sense and compete — fell in the average range. But where Pronman feels Bourgault, who comes in ranked 103rd, is a step above is in his puck skills:
Bourgault’s first pro season as one of the younger forwards in the AHL started slowly but he began scoring more as the season went on. Scoring is what he does and I expect he will become a highly productive pro. Bourgault has excellent puck skills, vision and offensive IQ. He makes a ton of creative plays with the puck and can do so on the move. He can run a power play unit and doesn’t shy from creating inside, either. Bourgault isn’t physically imposing or will engage that much with the body, but he works hard enough off the puck especially when combined with his strong skating that I think he can score as an NHLer. He looks like a potential second line wing.
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