Oilers Have Extra Space & Options With Broberg on the Right Side

Although training camp hasn’t officially started, many Edmonton Oilers are back at the rink for informal skates. Several young defencemen are competing for roster spots this season, including Philip Broberg, Markus Niemelainen, Dmitri Samorukov, and Vincent Desharnais.

As it stands, most have predicted the Oilers’ defence to look like this heading into the season:

Darnell Nurse – Cody Ceci

Brett Kulak – Evan Bouchard

Philip Broberg – Tyson Barrie

Ryan Murray

That leaves three young defencemen out of the fold unless there is an injury, and a decision must be made on Samorukov, who is no longer waiver exempt (from “Better injury luck, new waiver status key factors in Dmitri Samorukov’s bid for Oilers’ blueline job,” Edmonton Journal, 9/2/22). Ryan Murray is a left defenceman like Broberg, Niemelainen, and Samorukov, so that side is jam-packed. This brings us to the topic at hand, Broberg seeing time on the right side.

This could mean nothing or a whole lot. Many teams struggle to fill the right-side defense, but the Oilers have more than enough talent on that side with Cody Ceci, Evan Bouchard, and Tyson Barrie. With three top-four defencemen on the right, a possible trade continues to be a topic of conversation.

Related: Oilers Signing Murray Eliminates 3 Players’ Chances to Make Team

So, why is Broberg spending so much time on the right side if it’s already stacked?

Broberg Switching to Right a Long-Term Solution?

Broberg is just 21 years old and projects to be part of the Oilers for a long time. There are only two other defencemen on the team who are expected to stick around long-term, Darnell Nurse and Bouchard. By the look of things, Nurse is a more rounded and solid number one defenceman, and he has his spot on the top pairing locked down on the left side. Bouchard isn’t there yet, and maybe chemistry will develop between Nurse and Bouchard in the future, but as more of an offensively-gifted defenceman, he could stay on the second pairing. This way, he won’t have to focus a lot of energy on shutting down the opposition’s top players and can focus on offence.

Broberg is a better skater and projects to be a better two-way defender. This is an opportunity for him to be a future top-pairing defenceman alongside Nurse. It won’t happen soon, but as Broberg gets reps on both sides, a transition in the future won’t be as difficult.

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

No matter who the defence pans out, the Oilers should have the option of playing Broberg wherever is best suited for the team.

Oilers Could Be Creating Room for Competition

Seeing as Broberg is the higher pick, a better player now, and projects to be a great defenceman in the future, he is ahead of Niemelainen and Samorukov on the depth chart. Of the defensemen not expected to make the team out of training camp, those two top the list.

Both had stints with the club last season and got their first taste of the NHL. Niemelainen made a much greater impact and brought what the Oilers were lacking on defence, physicality. Samorukov lasted just one game and barely played, but he has improved because of the experience.

Broberg will be a rookie in 2022-23, playing on the third pairing. But what if the Oilers pull off some sort of deal involving Barrie before the season? It isn’t likely at this point, but more plausible for next offseason when Bouchard will be up for a contract extension, and the Oilers will need cap space.

Unless Broberg has an incredible first season as Bouchard had, it will likely take longer for him to become a top-four defenceman. Management must already be thinking about whether one of Niemelainen or Samorukov can be a third-pairing defenceman for them in the near future. Both are reaching the point in their careers where they need to prove they can, and if Broberg is able to shift over for next season, there could be a roster spot on the left side available in training camp.

There is also an unlikely precautionary reason for this move. Broberg could be getting reps on the right side so that he could shift over in the event of injury. All three of the Oilers’ right defencemen are durable, but you never know, and Kulak is fit to play both sides and can play anywhere in the lineup.

The Oilers have important decisions to make in the coming weeks before the season kicks off.

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