Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland has managed to hold onto many of the prospects that were drafted by him or former GM Peter Chiarelli, which helped build the strong group we see today. There are many talented young players on their way, but there won’t be room for everyone.
That brings us to which prospects are tradable moving forward to help build a team with the best chance to win. Draft picks are often better trade bait for players, but prospects are closer to the NHL. There are a few young players in the Oilers’ system whose time with the organization may run out before they reach the NHL, while others have been passed on the depth chart and may be looking for an opportunity somewhere else. Holland would be wise to trade these players before their stock plummets or the organization loses them for nothing.
Dmitri Samorukov, 24, has spent two full seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL), one full season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), and has played one game for the Oilers since turning pro. Drafted in 2017 by Edmonton, two defencemen have now passed him on the depth chart, Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. This is understandable, considering both have been top-10 picks in more recent drafts.
Now that Bouchard has graduated to the NHL full-time, and Broberg is expected to make the jump this season, that leaves little room for Samorukov to progress. This is especially true now that the Oilers have at least seven defencemen ahead of him after signing Ryan Murray.
Samorukov was expected to have a fair shot at a roster spot in training camp and will now have to pass through waivers if he sent down during the season. Unless he surprises big-time and makes the team out of camp, he may be stuck in the AHL for the entire season so as not to lose him by sending him up and down. He had a tough go in his one NHL game as it wasn’t handled well by former head coach Dave Tippett and company during the game. After Samorukov got sent down, he played well and didn’t allow himself to lose confidence. He is a good player, but if there isn’t room for him, he should be traded to bolster the Oilers’ Stanley Cup hopes.
The Oilers are getting three to four talented prospects in Xavier Bourgault, Carter Savoie, Tyler Tullio, and possibly Matvei Petrov, who will be playing in the AHL this season after graduating from junior or college. That creates a ton of competition, and the older prospects will need to perform to be the next call-up to the NHL (from “All of a sudden Oilers have plenty of prospect depth on the flanks. Where does Raphael Lavoie fit in?” Edmonton Journal, 8/29/22).
This season, Raphael Lavoie, the Oilers’ second-round pick in 2019, will have to prove whether he is an NHL talent or not. Ryan McLeod was drafted around the same position the year before and stuck around in the NHL last season. Following that trend, Lavoie could either prove he’s made progress in his development and is ready for games with the Oilers or risk being passed by the young crop who are developing quickly.
Tyler Benson may have missed his shot and, at this point, I don’t think the Oilers could get more than a sixth-rounder for him. He’s played a total of 36 NHL games and recorded just three points. A role in the NHL isn’t out of the question for him, but it likely won’t be in a scoring role.
Benson transformed his game to fit the mould of a depth player when he couldn’t find his scoring touch. Despite a stellar AHL career, scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace through 174 games, it took him 30 games to score his first goal with the Oilers. He was recently re-signed to a two-way contract that will pay him significant money in the AHL. That is likely because management wants to have good players in a strong farm system. However, another NHL team could see potential in Benson, but the Oilers won’t get much if they trade him and might find more value in keeping him on the Bakersfield Condors.
In terms of goaltending prospects, Olivier Rodrigue has slipped down the depth chart. Stuart Skinner is finally getting his shot in the NHL, so the Condors will need a new starter in 2022-23. Ilya Konovalov also left for Russia, while the team signed a top goalie out of college, Ryan Fanti.
Fanti expects to get more starts than Rodrigue this season. Last season, Rodrigues found himself struggling and split time between the AHL and ECHL. As a former second-round pick, selected high for a goaltender, expectations were high. He went 6-5-2 with a .886 save percentage in the AHL while going 7-7-1 with a .907 save percentage in the ECHL.
Calvin Pickard is also in the mix this season and will serve as the Oilers’ third goaltender and as the first call-up. He will see games in the AHL and take time away from Rodrigue, which will make it tough for Rodrigue to get into games and prove he can get better. The Oilers don’t have much in the way of goaltending depth after him, but he’s also just 22 years old. Edmonton has their next goaltender in Fanti, so Rodrigue could be on the move if teams recognize his potential.
The Oilers don’t want to lose their prospects for nothing and could move some of these players to bolster their team for a Cup run this season. The team has many talented prospects for the future, but the group listed above may be on their way out sooner than later.