The Edmonton Oilers pipeline has been steadily improving over the past couple of years but as we witnessed this week it is not yet to the point where GM Ken Holland will be open to moving significant pieces of the team’s future.
Here is a look at the top ten prospects in the Oilers system as of December 2019. Shout out to Ethan Bear for being a full-time NHLer and not finding himself on my Winter 2019 list.
1. Evan Bouchard D (Bakersfield, AHL) 25gp: 3g 11a 14pts -11
I know many of you see the -11 and start to panic but Bouchard is just 25 games into his first full season of pro hockey. After putting up monstrous offensive numbers in the Ontario Hockey League Bouchard’s numbers so far this season seem pedestrian but upon further review; you’ll notice that he’s actually 4th in scoring among rookie d-men in the AHL. It hasn’t been an explosive start to his pro career but his skating is starting to get up to speed against men.
ETA: LATE FALL 2020
2. Philip Broberg D (Skelleftea AIK) 24gp: 0g 4a 4pts -2
In a perfect world, I think the Oilers would have liked to have had Broberg in the Ontario Hockey League this year. Broberg isn’t playing a lot in Sweden which is understandable for an 18-year old defender in a very good Swedish league. I’m excited to see what he will do at the upcoming World Junior Championship. For comparison’s sake, Klefbom played in the same league as a 17, 18 and 19-year old and finished with three goals and four assists in 67 games over the three years.
ETA: SPRING 2022
3. Raphael Lavoie RW/C (Halifax, QMJHL) 30gp: 18gp 26a 44pts +4
Lavoie is one of three forwards I considered for the third spot on this list. The other two were Tyler Benson and Kailer Yamamoto but I decided to go with Lavoie because he doesn’t have skating concerns like Benson or injury concerns like Yamamoto. If Lavoie can continue to work on his consistency, he has the overall package to be a very exciting prospect. He has been averaging over six shots per game this season which is simply dominant. I see Lavoie having the best upside of all these forwards currently in the system. I’m very interested to see how involved he’ll be in the offense for Canada at the World Juniors.
ETA: FALL 2021
4. Tyler Benson LW (Bakersfield, AHL) 25gp 7g 12a 19pts -3
Benson is once again leading the Condors in scoring but it’s slightly off pace to hit the 66 points he finished with as a rookie. Benson is having an interesting year offensively as all seven of his goals have come in three games. He went 10 games without a goal to start the season then scored five in two games over a three-game stretch before going 10 more without a goal until he had a two-goal game last weekend. Benson is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer but it’s been a little bit of a weird campaign. I can see him being a part of the Oilers in March.
ETA: SPRING 2020
5. Kailer Yamamoto RW (Bakersfield, AHL) 20gp: 6g 7a 13pts -5
Yamamoto started the season red hot with four goals in his first four games, since then he has scored twice in the past 16. Yamamoto’s background suggests he has the potential to be a dynamic offensive player and the good news is that even if that doesn’t end up happening, he’s become a solid penalty killer in Bakersfield and has a knack for drawing penalties as well. I’d like to see him pump his offensive production before getting another crack at the NHL roster.
ETA: WINTER 2020
6. Dmitri Samorukov D (Bakersfield, AHL) 23gp: 1g 4a +/- 0
I was torn between Samorukov and Jones for 6th in this top ten but I decided to go with the young Russian because I believe he has greater long-term upside. It’s definitely taking some time for him to adjust in the AHL which has included some viewings from press box along the way. A long-term contract for Darnell Nurse would allow ample time for both Samorukov and Broberg to properly develop. I’d expect him to become a huge part of the Condors blueline next season.
ETA: FALL 2022
7. Caleb Jones D (Bakersfield, AHL/Edmonton NHL) 14gp 3g 8a 11 pts -5 / 13gp 0g 1a 1pts -5
I’ve mentioned it a number of times but I’ll do it again. Jones will either become a versatile third pairing d-man until Bouchard, Broberg and Samorukov are ready or he’ll be traded by this time next season. He has the size, smarts and mobility to have a long career in the NHL.
8. Ryan McLeod C (Bakersfield, AHL) 25gp: 3g 7a 10pts -1
Ryan McLeod continues to develop into a third line center candidate for the Oilers. He’s having a decent rookie campaign with the Condors putting up 10 points in 25 games. He has good size and moves extremely well. I don’t see him ever becoming a regular top six contributor but he should have a solid career in the bottom six.
ETA: WINTER 2021
9. Ilya Konovalov G (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL) 28gp: 2.38 GAA .913 save%
Every list needs a wild card and Konovalov fits the bill. The Oilers 3rd round pick in this past entry draft had an awful start to the season but has certainly gotten back on track since the firing of Craig MacTavish. Last season, as a 20-year old, he put up a .930 save percentage and 1.89 g.a.a. in 45 KHL starts. He’s under contract in the KHL until the spring of 2021 so the earliest you’d see him in Bakersfield is the fall of 2021 as a 23-year old. His numbers all the way up through the Russian system have been absolutely spectacular.
ETA: FALL 2022
10. William Lagesson D (Bakersfield, AHL) 18gp 3g 5a 8pts +1
He’s not as flashy as many of the others on this list but he could eventually find himself as a bottom pairing depth guy with the Oilers. He’s actually produced relatively well offensively this season but that isn’t what his game is about. I’d like to see him get some time with the big club but that likely won’t happen unless the injury bug hits hard.
ETA: WINTER 2021
THE NEXT FIVE:
Cooper Marody C (Bakersfield, AHL)
Olivier Rodrigue G (Moncton, QMJHL)
Kirill Maksimov RW (Bakersfield, AHL)
Shane Starrett G (Bakersfield, AHL)
Joel Persson D (Bakersfield, AHL/Edmonton NHL)
THE BLACK SHEEP
Jesse Puljujarvi is still just 21-years old which means he wouldn’t even be the oldest player on this list so what if he hadn’t already come over here but instead was expected to arrive in the fall?
So far this season he’s got 12 goals and 15 assists in 28 games in LIIGA, two goals and two assists in four Champions League games plus one goal and four assists six contests with the Finnish National team.
The excitement level for Puljujarvi would be through the roof right now as he’s having one of the best U22 seasons in the history of Liiga. As a 4th overall pick, who can skate extremely well, putting up the type of numbers he has so far this year I’d have him 3rd on the list behind Bouchard and Broberg.
The only reason I mention this is because I still think he carries a good amount of value for whatever team ends up trading for him, it’s just a matter of Holland actually getting them to pay that price.