Young Stars Classic Review: How did the Edmonton Oilers’ prospects perform?
Photo credit:Edmonton Oilers
2 months ago
This past weekend was the first chance this season to see a good amount of the Edmonton Oiler prospects playing competitive minutes together.
The Young Stars Classic is an annual event involving the prospects of Western Canadian NHL teams. This year, Edmonton was up against Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
The tournament has an age cut-off as well as a professional games played cut-off, so players like Markus Niemelainen weren’t available. In addition, college players like Luca Munzenberger, Joel Maatta, and Shane LaChance are also not eligible to participate in the tournament. Finally, European selections like Nikita Yevseyev and Maxim Beryozkin have already started their KHL seasons and weren’t able to attend. Nevertheless, the Oilers had a decent group of prospects at the tournament for viewing.
Here’s what it looked like for me…
I don’t evaluate goalies because they are voodoo to me mostly. Day has good size and is an excellent athlete. He certainly has reflex ability when requiring an emergency save. He had some nice moments including a very strong period against the Canucks on the final day. However, the tournament exposed some issues for him in terms of tracking pucks. He let in three clean looks from the outside. He also let a lot of pucks bounce off him, so rebound control will need to be an area of focus.
A strong defensive tournament for Wanner. His size, reach and skating allowed him to shut down both rush attacks and cycle plays with efficiency. He continues to show excellent exit skills both skating the puck out and making good outlet passes. Wanner played a lot of first-pairing penalty kill this weekend and handled those situations well. He also saw a lot of second powerplay time this year and was above average at moving the puck around. He even logged an assist on the powerplay. He also shows some flashes of offensive ability and it will be interesting to watch that develop in the AHL.
Akey stole the show for the Oilers prospects in the first two games. His skating allowed him to both defend and attack with great effect. His four skating skills make him an extremely effective transitional defender. In the tournament, he held his blueline with confidence often turning pucks the other way for quick strike attacks. He also makes excellent reads when outletting the puck up ice. His offensive game was also strong. He is very composed and has great vision in the opposition zone. He uses his feet to create time and space for himself and his teammates when he has the puck. He also uses a sneaky wrist shot to create chances for deflections and rebounds. His goal was a great wrist shot from distance. If the Oilers had scripted Akey’s prospect tournament performance, it would have been close to his performance. Now Akey did appear to wear down in game three. He is a little on the small size and three games in four days may have taken its toll. At just 18 years old, he has lots of time to work on that element of his game.
Bourgault had a really strong tournament but for one caveat. He was the best Oiler forward in the tournament due to a very consistent level of play across all three games. Most notable was that Bourgault is clearly stronger than last season. It showed up in his board work in all three zones and when he was attacked while he had the puck in close quarters. He also played a fearless game this weekend spending a lot of time with the puck in the interior part of the rink. He took a couple of good knocks but was none the worse for wear. His vision and offensive creativity were on display as usual setting up teammates for lots of opportunities. I think his offensive game is one that will shoot better with more highly-skilled players because he sees the ice quicker and better than most of the players he’s with on the ice. An exhibition season where Bourgault plays with high-end players would be an interesting watch.
Chiasson probably could benefit from playing an overage season in the CHL. His frame is pro-ready and he skates at a level that would allow him to compete at the AHL level. When he’s at his best he works the walls hard and makes a general nuisance of himself in the offensive zone. However, he certainly appears to be still sorting his way through how he wants/needs to play. Too often he defers when he is on the attack to other players when the best play would be with him. For many shifts this weekend, he got lost on a third line that had little impact in any one game. He did play a strong penalty kill role and showed some modest flashes with the second powerplay. Whether he plays in the AHL this season or goes back to the CHL may hinge on his training camp with the Oilers.
The recently acquired third-round pick of the New York Rangers was exactly as advertised. He is a tremendous defensive center who wins face-offs at a plus level. His defensive instincts are so good that it felt like he was never on the wrong side of the puck in any zone. He also played heavy-duty minutes on the penalty kill and had mostly good moments. Offensively, nothing came about despite playing mostly with Petrov and Tullio. Now, it was not from a lack of try. Grubbe goes to the net hard and makes it tough on defenders in the low slot. He doesn’t have a lot of creativity with the puck on his stick, but there is some skill there. He certainly has a shot that will catch goalies by surprise. Grubbe needs a full year in the AHL and his development will need to focus on his ability to be a threat offensively to round out his game.
Petrov had some really nice moments in the tournament including the second game where he was probably the Oilers’ best forward. There’s no question that he has all the offensive tools necessary to be an offensive force in the AHL this year. The one area I was interested to watch was his willingness to play inside. He seemed to be more comfortable this year and he definitely didn’t shy away from the physical contact that was pretty high in this tournament. He’s got the body to withstand that element of the game and I think his offensive game could feed off of it. Petrov needs a good year in the AHL to learn how to use his body in all three zones. He is still a challenge defensively, but there was more good this year on that front. More consistent effort on this part of his game in the AHL will also be needed.
Savoie quietly had a really good offensive tournament. He was on a line with Carl Berglund and Xavier Bourgault, which was the defacto first line. The line mostly titled the ice at evens through the whole tournament with Savoie being a bigger part of that. Savoie’s patented shot was on display on the first powerplay although his only goal in the tournament was at 5v5. Savoie was particularly feisty all tournament long and, while he got knocked around some, he certainly is not going to be a shrinking violet this year. I also noticed a more consistent effort off the puck in the neutral and defensive zones. Again, for Savoie, it is all about even effort each night in all three zones. His year in the AHL this year needs to be focused on consistent, hard effort in all facets of the game.
To be candid, I expected more out of Tullio. His try was there as it is each game. He was physical and a general nuisance to the opposition all weekend. He played a lot of specialty teams. His defensive game was really strong and he certainly paired well with Jayden Grubbe to eliminate a lot of offensive attacks. I thought that Tullio struggled offensively and he looked frustrated at times by his inability to create for himself and his teammates. Tullio has the necessary tools to have a strong year, but I will be focused on his offensive output. His ability to score could really accelerate him up the depth chart.
Berglund continues to be challenged by the pace of play in games. He had the good fortune of playing with Bourgault and Savoie who provided a lot of the necessary speed during their shifts. That said, Berglund was really strong defensively for the line and chipped in with two goals during the tournament. Berglund did play the first powerplay and showed some instincts for the offensive game. Berglund is 23 years old, so he needs to speed up his development with a focus on his pace of play and creating some offence.
Anyone Else Catch Your Eye?
The Oilers brought a lot of camp invites this year. At forward, all of them played third and fourth-line roles. Brady Stonehouse had some good moments even scoring a goal. He’s undersized and I am not sure he skates well enough, but he’s only 19 and had time to work. Jake Sloan had a great first game scoring twice and generally being a physical presence. Again, he’s 19, so he has some time to develop here and he will need to work on his first steps to get a professional contract.
That’s a wrap on this year’s edition of the Penticton Young Stars Tournament. Thanks for reading this week and look forward to updating these prospects all year long.
Recent articles from Bruce Curlock