The Edmonton Oilers are bleeding young prospects at an alarming rate. Since last September, the sheer number of young hopefuls who graduated, were traded or went unsigned gives every remaining prospect in the system an elevated value.
The scouts better be right, because there’s very little room for error.
NHL organizations need young and inexpensive talent.
Comings and goings
The Oilers graduated three rookies with strong futures in 2022-23, a reflection of a scouting department that has been humming along for a decade (the 2016 draft being the outlier).
- Graduations (3): Philip Broberg, Dylan Holloway, Stuart Skinner
- Added and retained (9): Cam Dineen, Ryan Fanti, Jayden Grubbe, Carl Berglund, Ben Gleason, Noel Hoefenmayer, Beau Akey, Nathan Day, Matt Copponi
- Exits (6): Reid Schaefer, Mike Kesselring, Dmitri Samorukov, Tyler Benson, Skyler Brind’Amour, Noah Philp
- Retirement (1): Philp
No one can reasonably suggest a misstep in acquiring veteran Mattias Ekholm, but the Oilers lost Schaefer and the draft pick that landed Tanner Molendyk. That’s more future out the door, and sooner or later this organization is going to encounter seasons with no graduations and little or nothing to trade at the deadline.
It means extreme pressure on scouting and the coaches regarding each of the names below. In spite of the limitations, there is quality here.
RD Beau Akey, Barrie Colts (OHL): Akey showed Oilers fans what they can expect in the future with a statement game to start the Young Stars tournament. He’s fast, skilled, has a great shot and is involved all over the ice. Akey posted 47 points in 66 games a year ago, and with Brandt Clarke staying in pro hockey this season, a point-per-game junior campaign seems possible. Stock is up.
LW Maxim Berezkin, Lokomotiv (KHL): Berezkin’s KHL season is already underway. The big man has two assists over the first six games, in the same range as his 26 points in 52 games one year ago. His playing time and shot rate are identical to one year ago, so pucks should be going in the net soon. Berezkin is a frustrating prospect only because it’s unclear when or if he will sign in North America. His current KHL contract expires on April 30, 2025. Stock remains up.
LC Carl Berglund, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): Berglund has size (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) and plays a complete game. He was signed as a college free agent after his senior year at UMass Lowell. He’ll go as far as his feet will take him, as speed and some questions about his offence are the issues. Berglund performed well early in the Young Stars series in Penticton against competition that should be considered below college and AHL level. A full season in Bakersfield will tell the tale. Stock is flat.
RW Xavier Bourgault, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): Edmonton’s top prospect is part of the Penticton rookie tournament and there are big expectations for him this season. His offence was shy last season in Bakersfield but he led all forwards in goal share at even strength. Expect a spike offensively into the 45-point range over a full season with the Condors. It’s also possible Bourgault makes his NHL debut with the Oilers later this season. In the first game of the rookie tournament, he was once again noticeable across 200 feet of ice and had several good opportunities to post offence. Stock is up.
RW Jake Chiasson, Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades (WHL): Chiasson is a solid two-way player whose offence ran in place in his last two WHL seasons. That’s a red flag on an otherwise impressive resume. He’s a fine passer, good at turning over pucks and giving all-out effort. He’ll play behind a RW depth chart that is flush with quality prospects, so he may get squeezed for playing time in Bakersfield this coming season. Stock is flat.
RC Matt Copponi, Merrimack College (NCAA): Copponi is the latest example of a recent trend by Edmonton to load up on two-way centres. Copponi was a late draft pick but based on his offence (14-15-29 in 37 games as a sophomore) and resume, he is an excellent bet for Edmonton. He’s 20 now and has room to grow over the next two college seasons. Stock is up.
G Nathaniel Day, Flint Firebirds (OHL): Day is a big goaltender (6-foot-2, 181 pounds, age 18) with good tools and a penchant for surrendering Kevlar rebounds. He’ll get plenty of work this winter in the OHL and prove himself. His stock is up based on increased workload and the Oilers organization showing faith in him.
LC Maxim Denezhkin, Yekaterinburg Automobilist (KHL): After several years of playing mostly in the VHL (Russian version of the AHL), Denezhkin appears to be establishing himself as a regular in the KHL this season. Through six games he has one goal and is averaging 12 minutes a night. Denezhkin doesn’t bring a lot of offence but is a good two-way centre. It’s anyone’s guess as to his NHL aspirations. Stock is up.
RD Vincent Desharnais, Edmonton Oilers (NHL): Desharnais is 36 games into his NHL career and likely done (for now) with the minors. His ridiculous wingspan (he is 6-foot-6) makes it difficult to get around him and his toughness and willingness to engage physically make him a nasty opponent. His penalty-killing success (he led Oilers defencemen in shots against per 60 and goals against per 60) and five-on-five outscoring (an exceptional 63 percent) likely regress this season, but he’ll get a full chance to show what he can do in the NHL. Stock is up.
LD Cam Dineen, Tucson Roadrunners and Bakersfield Condors (AHL): Dineen is a puck-moving defenceman acquired from the Arizona Coyotes organization at the trade deadline. He’s in the mix for NHL recall but is likely to play top-six minutes in Bakersfield. Dineen should get power-play time (28 of his 47 points in the AHL one year ago came with the man advantage) while also bringing some chaos defensively. He did well in this area (he was 14-13, 52 percent at even strength after coming over to the Condors) down the stretch. Stock is flat.
G Ryan Fanti, Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL) and Bakersfield Condors (AHL): Fanti is banged up to begin camp, per Jason Gregor, and is coming off an unimpressive pro debut. He played just eight AHL games and didn’t stand out in the crowd in the ECHL. Fanti turns 24 in October, will be an RFA next summer and is facing an established group of goaltenders ahead of him on the depth chart. He does have some impressive bullet points on his resume (top-flight season in 2021-22 for the University of Minnesota Duluth) but needs to show well this season. Stock is down.
LD Ben Gleason, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): GM Ken Holland signed a couple of AHL defencemen to improve the team’s overall depth. Bakersfield had been relying on AHL contracts last season due to injury and recalls, so Gleason can help. He can move the puck and might get a recall, but there’s a logjam at LH defence in Bakersfield so nothing is certain. Stock is flat.
RC Jayden Grubbe, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): The Oilers gave up a fifth-round selection in a deep draft for Grubbe, with the scouts I spoke to after the deal convinced it was a wise move. Grubbe has a nice range of skills and can make it in pro hockey even if his offence is a little shy. RH centres who can win faceoffs, penalty kill, help on the power play when required and are aware defensively are always in style. Speed isn’t a strength. Stock is up due to opportunity.
F James Hamblin, Bakersfield Condors (AHL) and Edmonton Oilers (NHL): Hamblin saw NHL action a year ago but the organization has been building more depth over the summer. He’s quick and can dart as a forechecker, and was splendid in the faceoff circle during his 10 NHL games. Hamblin’s offence screams “tweener” which means he can deliver enough in the AHL to play a feature role but is shy (zero points in the NHL) when recalled. Holland has added several roadblocks over the summer, so Hamblin may not see the NHL this coming season. Stock is flat.
LD Noel Hoefenmayer, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): One of the most intriguing names in the system now, Hoefenmayer’s pro resume is good. He can move the puck, plays with an edge and can play on his off side (although is more effective on his natural side). The deployment of Hoefenmayer is one of the main stories Oilers fans should follow during training camp. He has utility and could be used in numerous ways (including power play) in Bakersfield. Stock is up.
G Samuel Jonsson, BIK Karlskoga (Allsvenskan): Jonsson is a giant (6-foot-5) goaltender who posted an exceptional .927 save percentage during the playoffs for Rogle in Swedish juniors this spring. He is slated to play his first Allsvenskan games in 2023-24. The league is an anomaly in European hockey, as it is a hotbed for prospects to spike. It is a better development league than the SHL (Sweden’s top league) because the prospects play big minutes against mature competition. Stock is up — this is a big season for Jonsson.
RD Phil Kemp, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): Kemp owns a 54 percent goal share at even strength over the past two AHL seasons. He is the obvious RH recall from the minors in 2023-24 and could serve as a mentor to rookie Max Wanner (also righthanded) this coming season. The knock on Kemp (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) surrounds foot speed and offence, but his positioning is excellent and he has worked on improving his offence in Bakersfield. Expect a full season in the minors but don’t be surprised if he gets some NHL action. He’s a unicorn (RH defence), so stock is up.
LW Shane Lachance, Boston University (NCAA): Lachance is one of several power-forward prospects in the system. He scored 35 goals in 62 USHL games one year ago and Oilers management will keep their eyes on him this winter. Lachane’s issue is foot speed but if he can fill the net in college expect the club to contemplate signing him. The Reid Schaefer trade at the 2023 deadline means there’s room for a PF at the pro level. With Berezkin an uncertain signing, Lachance moves up the depth chart for Edmonton. Stock is up.
W Raphael Lavoie, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): With an NHL roster spot available, Lavoie will be a focal point of Oilers training camp. His strong showing during the 2022-23 season in Bakersfield, combined with his being waiver eligible, means the club needs to make room for the emerging first-shot scorer. His early performance last year (3-2-5 in 15 games) was unimpressive. He was recovering from injury, but once he found the range he went 22-18-40 in 46 games to announce his NHL readiness. Stock is up,
LW Jeremias Lindewall, Kalmar HC (Allsvenskan): Now 21, Lindewall has been running in place for the past three seasons. Since his draft day in 2020, he has played between 35-37 Allsvenskan games per season and scored just 4-6 points in each. He scores well in lower leagues, looks like a hockey player and brings a nice size (6-foot-1, 183 pounds) and foot speed. The offence is so poor Oilers fans may never see him in North America. He will play for a new team this year, and perhaps he’ll get a push. Stock is down.
LC Joel Määttä, Vermont (NCAA): The Oilers have been collecting centres later in the draft recently, with Määttä being one of the more interesting additions. His skills (faceoffs, penalty killing, shot suppression) lend themselves to the defensive side of the game and he does them well. The exit of fellow college centre Skyler Brind’Amour combined with the retirement of Noah Philp this summer gives Määttä more prominence on the organizational depth chart. He’ll play another season in Vermont and a spring signing is possible. Stock is up.
RC Tomas Mazura, St. Lawrence University (NCAA): Another college centre, Mazura is righthanded which gives him extra value to the organization. His career since being drafted in 2019 has at times been borderline dormant, but last year he transferred to St. Lawrence and posted (3-9-12) good numbers. Muzura turns 23 in a week and you may never hear from him at the pro level, but RH centres who stand 6-foot-4 and weigh 205 have nine lives. Stock is up.
LD Luca Munzenberger, Vermont (NCAA): No player type is more difficult to track than a college defenceman whose main skills are defensive. Munzenberger cut his even-strength goal share deficit in half (minus-17 to minus-9) year over year and is on track as an NHL prospect. He is a fine skater with size (6-foot-2, 201 pounds), two things Edmonton has been emphasizing since Holland arrived from the Detroit Red Wings organization. Munzenberger may be signed next spring if he continues to improve in goal suppression. Stock is flat.
LD Markus Niemelainen, Bakersfield Condors (AHL) and Edmonton Oilers (NHL): Niemelainen sometimes gets lost in the flood of young LH defencemen in the system, and has been passed by Philip Broberg at this time. His big hits are effective and he doesn’t go wandering as often as other, similar players. Niemelainen’s AHL numbers (54 percent goal share at even strength over the last two seasons) and NHL numbers (56 percent goal share in over 200 five-on-five minutes) last season are positive indicators. One of the true areas of strength for the organization at this time is at LH defence and that could signal a trade. Niemelainen has value. Stock is flat due to the depth chart at his position.
RW Matvey Petrov, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): There’s excitement among fans for this player’s pro debut. Petrov is a draft steal already (No. 180 in 2021) due to a pair of exceptional OHL seasons that saw him exceed 90 points. He is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and an excellent passer who also scored 67 goals in the last two seasons combined. Look for an impressive point total in Bakersfield this coming season, especially if Petrov sees feature time on the power play. He might be the most talented offensive player in the system. Stock is way up.
G Olivier Rodrigue, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): He spiked in a big way year over year, with his save percentage jumping from .886 to .912. Last season’s number vaulted Rodrigue into the AHL’s top 10 and reset expectations for him. The Oilers already have a young goaltender in the NHL (Stuart Skinner) but Rodrigue represents an intriguing value contract should he take another step forward with the Condors in 2023-24. Stock is up.
LW Carter Savoie, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): If you’re looking for a breakout player who could provide shocking results this season in Bakersfield, Savoie is a great candidate. Injured for most of last year, he has already shown well in the Young Stars game this year. Savoie’s major strength is a quick shot that beats goalies clean from distance, but he also creates havoc with his stickhandling ability and deft passes. He can also play an agitating game, something that could give him the edge against impressive competition on the wings in Bakersfield this season. He’s healthy, stock is up.
RW Tyler Tullio, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): Tullio is a solid NHL prospect who brings two-way acumen and enough even-strength offence to project him to the NHL. Consistency is an area for him to improve on. Last season he began the year scoring 1-2-3 in 12 games, followed it with 12-11-23 in 38 games and finished with zero points in his final 13 games of the season. His even-strength outscoring was over 50 percent and he was noticeable in a good way all season. If he can gain offensive consistency, an NHL recall is possible. Stock is flat.
RD Max Wanner, Bakersfield Condors (AHL): The arrival of Wanner as a pro player, with due respect to Petrov’s possible impact, may be the most important debut of the season to come. Wanner’s strength is on the defensive side and in his ornery disposition. He’s no fun to play against and makes opponents pay heavily. Wanner does have some ability with the puck, but the Condors coaching staff will likely ease him into the league with third-pairing deployment and some PK time. Stock is up.
LD Nikita Yevseyev, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL): Another selection from deep in the draft whose trajectory is much higher than his draft day expectations. Through eight games this season in the KHL, Yevseyev is 1-1-2 and holding his own at even strength. He skates well and has good size, a calling card for the Oilers. It’s uncertain he will come to North America when his contract in Russia expires (April 30, 2025). The Oilers could use him. Stock is up.
(Top photo of Vincent Desharnais: Claus Andersen / Getty Images)