Lowetide: Oilers’ hidden gems that could impact the 2023-24 team


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For a veteran team like the Edmonton Oilers, a surprise player emerging and having a true impact on a season or playoff is rare.

The most famous late-season impact recall in franchise history might be Andy Moog, who set the hockey world on its ear with a 1981 run through the echo-dynasty Montreal Canadiens.

Is there a candidate on this year’s extended roster?


Injury will be the main reason for a surprise player emerging. Injuries to goalies can send an entire season askew.

Since Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell are the NHL incumbents, and Calvin Pickard is the most obvious recall, we can conclude the biggest possible surprise to have an impact in net is Olivier Rodrigue.

Rodrigue’s career progression is interesting.

During the 2022-23 season, he delivered two impressive hot streaks. When Pickard was injured early, Rodrigue stepped in and delivered a 2.71 GAA and .920 SV% over nine games. At the end of the regular season, he posted a .955 SV% in the final five contests.

Rodrigue’s .912 SV% was ninth in the AHL among regular stoppers.

The Oilers’ farm system produced Skinner, who was a finalist for the Calder Trophy in 2022-23. Skinner’s AHL save percentages by season were .879 (in six games); .892; .914 and then .920.

Rodrigue’s AHL save percentages are .894; .886 and then .912. If he can hold that level, or improve it, the Oilers will have to give him some starts in the NHL this or next season.

A homegrown NHL goalie is too valuable to ignore.


Phil Kemp is not a fast train and has had to work hard on bringing at least some offence to his game. Credit to him, the hard work is paying off.

Kemp’s defensive acumen has never been in question, but his effective play while moving up the depth chart during his time with the Bakersfield Condors looks impressive on a graph.

Here are his even strength goal differentials during his time with Bakersfield compared to his teammates.

Kemp had the strongest performance, and he was consistent as an outscorer throughout the season.

That included taking on more difficult competition in the second half of the year when Vincent Desharnais was in the NHL and Mike Kesselring had been dealt to the Arizona Coyotes.

Offensively, Kemp delivered 6-14-20 in 71 games at even strength. That represents a major performance spike, and those 20 points led the team (tied with Kesselring) in the game state.

It comes down to foot speed. Kemp has more mobility than Desharnais, but it is unlikely Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft would deploy both men at the same time on the right side of Edmonton’s defence.

Oilers management sent away a six-pack of solid-to-excellent right-handed defencemen in recent seasons (Kesselring, Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Matt Benning, Ethan Bear, John Marino). Kemp could solve a self-inflicted problem by the Oilers if he makes the NHL as a quality regular.

Kemp has a chance. A recall and any impact on the coming season would be a pleasant surprise.


James Hamblin was passed as a prospect during the 2022-23 campaign by a younger, bigger and right-handed centre in Noah Philp.

The retirement by Philp gives Hamblin a sliver of daylight to establish himself as an NHL depth centre.

Hamblin’s 10 NHL games in 2022-23 showed a quick forward who could forecheck, win faceoffs (64 percent in 42 attempts) and keep up with the blazing speed of the NHL.

He also showed shy offence and that will be an issue. Here are the AHL numbers for all centres who could be in the mix for NHL work this coming season.

Hamblin and Brad Malone played 10 games each with the Oilers last season, no points for either centre and both lost the five-on-five goal share.

Philp began the season slowly but came on and would have been a strong option at training camp this season. His retirement forced Edmonton to trade for prospect Jayden Grubbe, and the struggles of Hamblin and Malone inspired the signings of Lane Pederson and Drake Caggiula.

Hamblin looks buried, but has some things to recommend him as a recall option. He’ll need to score at a higher level in Bakersfield, something close to his 21-goal campaign for the team in 2021-22.

He would be a major surprise in a significant role with the NHL team in 2023-24.


Despite a strong rookie season with the Condors, there is no buzz surrounding right winger Tyler Tullio. He is behind a full complement of NHL players, plus names like Seth Griffith and Xavier Bourgault in the minors.

He is a longshot to play even one minute in the NHL this season, but there are reasons to include him as a hidden gem as training camp nears.

The major selling point for Tullio is strong two-way play. The AHL doesn’t publish much in the way of evidence, but the even strength numbers show Tullio in a good light. Here are last season’s Bakersfield wingers sorted by points per game at even strength.

Player EV Pts-Game EV Goal Share


58 Pct


46 Pct


45 Pct


54 Pct


60 Pct


47 Pct


30 Pct

The only apparent lock for NHL work next season is Raphael Lavoie. His strong performance last season has him poised to play in his first NHL games.

Tullio making his NHL debut in front of Bourgault appears outrageous, but his scoring and outscoring rates at even strength are similar to Edmonton’s first-round selection in 2021.

Bottom line

The likely recalls are Pickard (goalie), Markus Niemelainen (defence), Pederson (centre) and Caggiula (centre or wing).

Each of Rodrigue, Kemp, Hamblin and Tullio brings some areas of strength while also being longshots to play even a game in the NHL during the 2022-23 season.

The same thing could have been said for Desharnais one year ago.

Oilers fans are experiencing a different kind of management. Overly patient, a willingness to overlook deficiencies if a player’s strengths can make a difference, and a stifling cap situation that badly needs inexpensive contracts across the roster.

Don’t count these men out as NHL options in the season to come.

(Photo of Drake Caggiula: Brad Rempel / USA Today)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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