While there were plenty of reasons for the Edmonton Oilers’ decade of darkness, one of their major issues was rushing prospects. It seemed that their sole focus was to get their young talent into the NHL as quickly as possible rather than allowing them time to develop at the junior and or collegiate level, as well as in the American Hockey League.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case, as general manager (GM) Ken Holland came into Edmonton with a reputation of giving his prospects plenty of development time and has done the exact same thing during his time with the Oilers. It has paid off in spades, as they have young talent on their current roster who are evidently NHL-ready and have several developing ones in different levels that are getting close.
While prospect development is not the lead reason the Oilers have turned the corner in recent years, it certainly has helped. They are now getting recognition around the league as true Stanley Cup contenders, and that should only increase if a few of their prospects are able to begin making an impact at the NHL level in the next few seasons. With that said, here are the top 10 prospects in their pipeline at this time.
10. Tyler Tullio
One thing you will often notice about a very successful NHL club is that they have a few players on their roster who they took in the mid to late rounds of a draft. Taking a player in the first round and having him work out is always good but somewhat expected. The great teams seem to be able to find a gem or two later on, and as of late, the Oilers seem to be getting some of these, including Tyler Tullio.
The Oilers selected the 20-year-old in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2020 draft, and he has improved significantly since then. During his draft year as a member of the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he scored 27 goals and 66 points in 62 games. Those are solid numbers but pale in comparison to the 42 goals and 86 points he was able to record in 65 outings this past season. It remains to be seen how he will adjust to the style of professional hockey, but at this point, he looks quite promising.
9. Dmitri Samorukov
Since getting taken in the third round (84th overall) back in 2017, there has been plenty to like about Dmitri Samorukov’s game. He has some offensive ability but is best when it comes to playing a shutdown role. He has a booming shot from the point and is extremely mobile, especially considering his 6-foot-3 frame. That said, there have been negatives attached to him as well, as he can be quite chaotic at times and is a ‘high event’ type player.
Unfortunately for Samorukov, the negative in his game was on display in his first ever NHL game this past season, as he was directly responsible for two goals against early into a contest against the St. Louis Blues. As a result of the blatant mistakes, he had just 2:28 minutes in ice time before getting benched for the rest of the game and subsequently sent down to the AHL. That said, that rough moment came under former head coach Dave Tippett, who had no prior relationship with the Russian rearguard. Heading into training camp with a much more familiar face in Jay Woodcroft should do wonders for Samorukov’s confidence.
8. Markus Niemelainen
Heading into the 2021-22 season, not much was known about Markus Niemelainen by the Oilers fan base. He wasn’t considered to be anywhere near one of their top prospects, and almost no one would have expected him to get in any games in the NHL this past season, let alone 20. However, that is exactly what he was able to do, and he left a big impression on many.
The 24-year-old Niemelainen has little to no offensive ability, but what he lacks in point production, he more than makes up for with his physicality. During his short stint with the Oilers, he quickly drew many fans thanks to his ability to throw open ice hits, which are often punishing ones on his opponents, given his 6-foot-6 frame. He has a chance to earn a roster spot on opening night with a strong training camp this fall.
7. Matvey Petrov
Another very exciting prospect the Oilers have who they were able to pick up in the later rounds is Matvey Petrov, who was selected in the sixth round (180th overall) of the 2021 draft. Having spent his draft year playing in the MHL in Russia, not a ton was known about the 6-foot-2 winger, but he quickly proved in the OHL in 2021-22 just how good of a player he is.
In 63 games with the North Bay Battalion, Petrov scored 40 goals and 90 points. The 40 markers led his team, while he trailed only San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Coe in points. He will more than likely get one more season back in the OHL before making the jump to pro in 2023-24.
6. Reid Schaefer
While he could very well go on to prove me and countless others wrong, the general consensus is that selecting Reid Schaefer with the final pick in the first round was a stretch by the Oilers. In fact, heading into the 2022 draft, several different rankings had him projected to go in the third round. Nevertheless, Holland and his staff saw something they liked, and now we will wait to see whether or not they were correct in their judgment. (from ‘Bruce McCurdy: Edmonton Oilers draft power winger Reid Schaefer at #32 overall’, Edmonton Journal 07/08/22).
Reach or not, there is plenty to like about Schaefer’s game. In 66 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League this past season, he scored 32 goals and 58 points in 66 games while also providing a very solid physical presence backed up by his 88 penalty minutes. His offensive numbers continued into the playoffs as well, as he managed six goals and 21 points in 25 games. The Oilers and Schaefer himself are both hoping and expecting to see his offensive numbers see a significant uptick in 2022-23.
5. Carter Savoie
Some may question having Carter Savoie ahead of Schaefer on this list, but there is no denying that the 20-year-old St. Albert native has become one of this team’s top forward prospects. Having scored 53 goals in 54 games during his draft year, it was clear that he boasted plenty of offensive talent, though choosing to play tier 2 junior in the Alberta Junior Hockey League led to him falling to the fourth round (100th overall) in the 2020 draft.
Since being drafted, Savoie has joined the University of Denver and has not disappointed in the slightest. His freshman season went very well, as he put up 13 goals and 20 points in just 24 games. He was then able to improve those totals in a big way in 2021-22, with 23 goals and 45 points in just 39 games. The 2022-23 season will see him join the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL, and how he fares there will determine just how legitimate of a prospect he truly is, though at this time, there is a ton to be excited about.
4. Stuart Skinner
It seems that when talking about Oilers prospects as of late, Stuart Skinner is getting overlooked. Perhaps the signing of Jack Campbell has played a role in that, but the fact of the matter is he remains a very talented up-and-coming goaltender. Barring a complete shocker, he will play a backup role for the big club for the entirety of the 2022-23 season.
The 2021-22 campaign was Skinner’s coming out party, as he got in 13 games with the Oilers and played very well in that small stint, recording a 2.62 goals against average (GAA) paired with a .913 save percentage (SV%). Though he deserved to remain in the NHL for the season, he spent the majority of it in the AHL. In 35 games with the Condors, he had a 2.21 GAA along with a .920 SV%. At just 23 years old, it remains very possible he can develop into a number one netminder at the NHL level.
3. Xavier Bourgault
Though Xavier Bourgault isn’t as impressive a find as some of the others who were mid-to-late round picks on this list, he appears to be a very great pick late in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2021 draft. While his draft year saw him put up a solid 20 goals and 40 points in just 29 games, he really popped off this year with the Shawnigan Cataractes in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, notching 36 goals and 75 points in just 43 contests.
Bourgault’s strong offensive play continued into the playoffs for the Cataractes, as he scored 12 goals and 22 points in 16 outings. He, like Savoie, will turn pro for the 2022-23 season. However, he appears to have a legitimate chance at cracking the Oilers’ roster this fall. Of course, with Holland around, that may prove to be a nearly impossible feat, but perhaps a strong enough training camp is enough to convince the veteran GM along with his coaching staff to keep him around. Regardless of the outcome, he appears to be a big part of this team’s future.
2. Dylan Holloway
Dylan Holloway had a very interesting debut this past season, suiting up for the first time in what was an elimination playoff game in the Western Conference Final versus the Colorado Avalanche. Thankfully for the 20-year-old, his next game, while still nerve-wracking, will not have nearly as much pressure.
While a bad to mediocre training camp could change things, Holloway seems to be a good bet to crack the Oilers’ roster this fall. The 14th overall pick from the 2020 draft has a great combination of size, speed, and skill, making him a viable option to play up and down the lineup for Woodcroft. In an injury-riddled 2021-22 season, his first as a pro, he scored eight goals and 22 points in 33 games with the Condors.
1. Philip Broberg
Due to being drafted one pick ahead of Trevor Zegras in the 2019 draft at eighth overall, Philip Broberg has already caught some flack for being a bad pick by the Oilers. Soon enough, however, those naysayers will realize just how wrong they are in that assessment. The 21-year-old Swedish blueliner can flat-out play and will have a chance to prove that in the near future. (from ‘Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers picking Philip Broberg over Trevor Zegras is still debated. Here’s why Ken Holland stands by it’, The Athletic 02/17/22).
The expectation heading into 2022-23 is that Broberg would have to play his way off the Oilers’ roster in this year’s camp, meaning we should expect to see him in the lineup opening night. That doesn’t come as a big surprise, given that he was able to get in 23 NHL games this past season, though he suited up for 31 with the Condors as well. How big his role will be to begin the season remains to be seen, but he has top pairing potential and should be a very good NHLer for a long time.
Help Is on the Way
Throughout the Connor McDavid / Leon Draisaitl era in Edmonton, the biggest fault in this group has been the lack of depth surrounding them. Holland, to his credit, has been able to improve that somewhat over the past two seasons, particularly this past one. That has helped the team become more successful overall, proven by their most recent playoff run. As this list shows, they have even more talent soon on the way, talent that could very well prove to be enough to help McDavid and Draisaitl hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in their careers.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.