Oilers Need to Keep Holloway & Bourgault Off Their Trade Block

The Edmonton Oilers started the 2021-22 season off on a strong note, having gone 16-5 but then remarkably won only two in their next 13 games. They’ve battled injuries, and COVID-19 has plagued the team, but their falter from first place in the Western Conference highlighted significant holes in their lineup. Ironically, some of the areas that need improvement — goaltending, third-line centre, top-four defenseman — are holes general manager Ken Holland attempted to patch up this past summer.

In Holland’s latest press conference, he stated he isn’t willing to trade his first-round pick or top prospects for short-term rentals, but he has been working the phones with other general managers. He also stated he would consider a hockey trade for new personnel, for this year and beyond. By saying that, he knows there needs to be a deal for a long-term solution, whether that be in goal, up the middle, or on the back end.

The question is, which prospects, if any, is he willing to give up when that time comes? Credit is due to the Oilers scouting department because they’ve replenished the prospect cupboard with some nice pieces within the last few drafts. But If Edmonton eventually makes a trade, Dylan Holloway and Xavier Bourgault should not be in the conversation.

Holloway’s Versatility Will Be a Valuable Asset

In the salary cap era, teams look to fill their rosters with cheap entry-level contracts and some even get lucky when players overachieve on their deals. Take a look at the Montreal Canadiens for example. Last spring on their Stanley Cup run, they had a pair of youngsters on entry-level deals, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, that were able to provide secondary scoring. They combined for 28 points and were pivotal in Montreal’s deep playoff run.

Out of all the Oilers’ prospects, Holloway and Bourgault have the biggest potential to step in and provide offense on inexpensive contracts. Both have the pedigree of being former first-round draft picks and both have represented Team Canada in the last two World Junior Championships (WJC).

Dylan Holloway University of Wisconsin
Dylan Holloway of the University of Wisconsin (Greg Anderson/UW Athletics)

Holloway is an intriguing prospect because of his combination of speed, skill, and size. In his first year playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) with the Wisconsin Badgers, he tallied eight goals, nine assists in 35 games. Not jaw-dropping numbers to say the least. But it was the season after he was drafted by the Oilers in 2019 when he started to gain hype. He had a strong campaign, finishing the year with 11 goals and 24 assists in 23 games, ranking fifth in NCAA scoring.

He was voted to the All-Big Ten First Team, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (most outstanding player of the year in NCAA men’s hockey), losing out to teammate and now Canadiens forward Caufield.

Holloway has additional value because of his versatility. He can play both wing and centre, having boasted a 57% faceoff percentage with the Badgers. The Oilers are in dire need of a long-term third-line centre, and with his speed, he would create healthy competition between himself and Ryan McLeod to battle for that spot. At the same time, if the team sees him as more of a winger, with his entry-level contract, he would be a cheap option on a line with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

Bourgault Could Replace Kailer Yamamoto in the Future

Bourgault on the other hand, sits eighth overall in points in the Quebec Major Hockey League (QMHL), with 42 points in 24 games, despite missing games to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors. He was injured in the tournament, but he had stints on the first line for the red and white because of his excellent two-way game. Bourgault has great offensive instincts with a good release/shot—  having already scored in an Oilers uniform when he buried one home against the Calgary Flames in preseason action.

Aside from his physical attributes, the Hockey Writers’ Draft Prospect Profile states that he has a great hockey IQ with his ability to find open ice. To sum it up, he has the makings to become a legitimate top-six NHL player and he’s even drawn comparisons to Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux (from “Some Eye-Opening Comparisons For New Edmonton Oilers Xavier Bourgault,” Edmonton Journal, 7/25/21).

Moving forward, the Oilers might encounter a situation where they have to make a decision on whether to keep Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto, who both currently play in the top-six. Both players are due for pay raises and the team might be forced to trade one to free up cap space. If that situation arises, I feel the team would be more inclined to keep the big 6-foot-4 Finnish forward, over the 5-foot-8 Yamamoto. That’s why keeping Bourgault is essential. He’s still a couple of years away from being an Oiler, but as a right-shot, and offensively gifted forward, he would be a cheap replacement, to take Yamamoto’s spot on the second line.

Oilers Have Valuable Prospects That Can Be Trade Chips

Aside from Holloway and Bourgault, the Oilers still possess prospects with good value. There’s the former eighth-overall pick from the 2019 NHL Draft, Philip Broberg. He showed glimpses of his smooth skating ability in his recent call-up with the Oilers, and Edmonton should hold onto him if they can. But if the right trade is there, it’s something that Holland should at least consider. Defensemen usually take longer to develop, and at minimum, the Swedish defender is at least two years away from being an impact player at the NHL level. By the time he reaches his full stride, there may only be limited time remaining on McDavid’s current deal.

The Oilers also have the 6-foot-3 Raphael Lavoie down with the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League (AHL). He’s been red hot lately with six goals, three assists in his last seven games and he’s also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Dimitri Samurokov recently made his NHL debut but made early mistakes that saw him stapled to the bench the rest of the game. Still, he’s progressing nicely with the Condors after an admirable season with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) last season, recording eight points in 48 games playing against grown men.

Tyler Tullio is having a terrific season as captain of the Oshawa Generals, where he sits 12th in points in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), tallying 41 points in 28 games. Carter Savoie has the ninth highest points-per-game average in the NCAA with 1.38, registering 12 goals and 10 assists in 16 games. Both are mid-round draft picks from the 2020 NHL Draft, and both are having standout seasons that are surely raising their stock.

Matvei Petrov North Bay Battalion
Matvey Petrov, North Bay Battalion (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

Then there’s the dynamic Matvey Petrov who may be the biggest wildcard out of the Oilers’ prospects— who currently sits second in the entire OHL with 54 points in 33 games. He was selected 180th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, but as the Hockey Writers’, Brian Swane wrote, he could very well be the steal of his entire draft class. He’s a right-shot forward with a lightning-quick release. My gut instinct says the Oilers should keep this player the way he’s lighting up the OHL, but remember, you have to give in order to get. The Russian forward with a rocket of a shot could be a vital piece to fill a need for the Oilers.

Related: Oilers Future Bright With 3 Top-Scoring Prospects

In a perfect world, as Holland said in his press conference last Tuesday, depth has to be from within, from growing your own prospects. The Oilers are on an extended break, which will give players time to heal and return from COVID protocol. But if they start to slide further down the standings, and risk not making the playoffs, I can’t see Holland staying idle in year seven of McDavid’s career. A deal will be made, but Holloway and Bourgault’s names should be exempt from the trade list.

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