Oilers’ 2 Under-the-Radar Calder Trophy Candidates in 2022-23

Last season, the Edmonton Oilers had two rookies, Ryan McLeod and Tyler Benson. To qualify to be a rookie in the NHL, the player must not have played more than 25 games in one previous season or six or more in any two previous seasons. Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen came close, as they got their first taste of NHL action and just hit the 20-game mark. This coming season, the Oilers should once again have two rookies. This time the two rookies will do well enough to be in contention for the 2022-23 Calder Trophy. These players are Broberg and Dylan Holloway.

Broberg’s Development Gives Him a Boost

Broberg played close to the number of games last season that would have qualified him to be a rookie. This season, he is fully expected to be on the Oilers’ roster for the entire season. General manager Ken Holland said that Broberg would have to play his way off the roster rather than play his way on.

With Duncan Keith’s retirement, Kris Russell moving on, and the re-signing of Brett Kulak for a very fair price, it creates the space and opportunity Broberg needs to play full-time minutes in a sheltered role to begin. A flip could be switched very quickly, and we don’t know what this summer held in terms of jumps in development with the young defender. But as a talented two-way defenceman already with lots of room to grow in both ends, he could surprise, and the defence pairings could work out better if Broberg moved up.

Philip Broberg Edmonton Oilers
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In terms of development time, Broberg played two seasons in the Swedish Hockey League against men and then got a big taste of the NHL while performing very well in the American Hockey League (AHL). Looking at a very recent example in Evan Bouchard with the Oilers, he got some NHL experience, and the organization made sure he was fully ready with a spot available before moving forward with the defenceman.

The right partner will also help Broberg, as Bouchard had Keith for a good chunk of last season, helping him grow. Broberg will likely line up beside Tyson Barrie to start. Though the offensive defenceman may not be as gifted defensively, he is able to create offence. He has also gotten much better after being exposed to Kulak, so some of that could rub off on Broberg. The pairing will face an easier challenge as the third pairing and together have the opportunity to put up strong offensive numbers, something the voters tend to look at.

Related: Oilers’ Great Farm System Growing Even Stronger

Broberg may not get any power-play time, but the Oilers’ defence group as a whole put up an underrated number of points last season. Under the guidance of head coach Jay Woodcroft for an entire season, that shouldn’t change. If anything, it will get better along with better guidance for all players in the defensive end.

Holloway is a Darkhorse to Make Team & Succeed in Role

Holloway, the Oilers’ first-round pick in 2020, isn’t a lock to make the team just yet. His development was stunted last season with an injury to begin the season. Once returning, he went straight to the Bakersfield Condors, where he started slow but really ramped up the production by the end of the season. This season he will have a good chance at making the team out of training camp.

Dylan Holloway Bakersfield Condors
Dylan Holloway, Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Holland spoke to Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now a while back explaining, “he (Holloway) will be in Edmonton if he is in the lineup every night. I don’t want him to be the 13th or 14th forward. In my mind Dylan Holloway is fighting for one of 12 spots.” This makes total sense as a talent like Holloway shouldn’t be a scratch during his first taste of the NHL. He needs to be on the third line or in the AHL until a spot becomes available. Some of the better Oilers forwards have been known to miss some games here and there, so if the young forward doesn’t make the team or is sent down, he should be the first called up.

If Holloway does stick with Edmonton for the season, that is where he’ll have the chance at being a Calder Trophy nominee. Playing on the third line would likely give him linemates in McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi. McLeod had a strong rookie season that flew under the radar if you weren’t paying close attention to the Oilers. His speed and skill should only take him to new heights this season with one full season under his belt. He can create the space with his speed and set Holloway up. Puljujarvi is looking for a bounce-back season after the second half of 2021-22 didn’t go as planned. He has a new contract and is ready. All three will be hungry, and a young and quick line could be dangerous at both ends of the ice.

Rookies Around the NHL in Contention

Though the Oilers will have one rookie who’s a lock to make the team (Broberg) and another who has a good shot (Holloway), there are many young and talented players around the league that will either have as good or better opportunities to showcase their skill.

In no particular order, this group of probable 2022-23 rookies will make it a tough battle all season long: Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko, Mason McTavish, Matty Beniers, Shane Wright, Owen Power, Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka, Logan Thompson, Lukas Reichel, Juraj Slafkovsky, Justin Barron, Noah Cates, William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau, Jack McBain, Vitali Kravtsov, and Cole Perfetti. The 2022 World Juniors featured a few of these players with big performances in the tournament (from ‘Pronman: 2022 World Juniors standouts and disappointments,’ The Athletic, Aug. 20, 2022).

Mason McTavish Anaheim Ducks
Mason McTavish, Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Broberg will likely start out on the third pairing, but there isn’t much risk of him being sent down. The Oilers have accounted for him slotting in with the potential and opportunity to move up the lineup like Bouchard did last season. Holloway, if he makes the Oilers, would slot in on the third line at worst since it would hurt his development to play any lower in the lineup.

Other potential rookies listed above may not even be projected to make the team due to the players currently signed already. Others will be in similar situations as Broberg and Holloway, while the rest, who are very highly touted prospects will start out in the top-six or top-four of their teams.

The field of rookies generally looks much different than what is projected at the beginning of the season. So either Oilers’ rookie has a fair shot. Who knows, there may be another name from the organization that comes out of nowhere like Stuart Skinner or Xavier Bourgault as well.

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