With less than half the Edmonton Oilers’ regular-season games remaining before playoffs, the team will have to start evaluating their prospects to see which ones could be moved to add pieces at the deadline. There has been a lot of buzz around some of the Oilers’ prospects and how they’re developing, and this article will focus on some of those players and their chances of making impacts on the NHL roster.
Evan Bouchard – Right Defense
Bouchard has already seen NHL action earlier this season, thanks to injuries to some of the team’s blue line. He has proved he can hold his own at the NHL level, and at this point, is simply waiting on the team’s taxi squad for his next opportunity. Much of his playing time this season will be determined by the health of the team’s six starting defensemen. But he could also fall deeper down the depth chart if the team makes a trade to acquire a depth defenseman.
In his 12 games with the Oilers this season, Bouchard has mustered up one goal and four points while seeing time on the team’s second power play unit. He is no doubt part of the team’s long-term future and should benefit from being with the big club on the taxi squad. Expect him to be a regular on the team’s blue line next season, but this season’s outlook is murky given the unknowns of the trade deadline and being dependent on injuries to get back into the lineup.
Tyler Benson – Left Wing
Over the last couple of seasons, the Oilers’ 2016 second-round draft selection has been doing everything to prove he belongs on the NHL stage. He has been able to carry over his offensive production from juniors into his AHL career and has been showing improvements in his game every season. He is off to a hot start in the 2020-21 campaign for the Bakersfield Condors and is currently second in league scoring through his first 18 games.
Benson has only been able to accumulate seven NHL games under his belt back in the 2019-20 season, picking up one point in that span. His progression in the minors should bode well for him and increase his odds to become a regular in the Oilers’ lineup out of camp next season.
The Oilers will have no choice but to give Benson another chance if he can continue on his torrid scoring pace in the AHL. He could be an eventual fit on one of the team’s top two lines alongside either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, although he will most likely see out the remainder of this season in the minors.
Michael Kesselring – Right Defense
The 21-year-old has finished his collegiate career with Northeastern University and was immediately signed to a three-year, entry-level deal. Kesselring is another right-hand shooting defenseman in the Oilers’ pipeline and was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate. He begins his pro career with the Bakersfield Condors going pointless in his first two games played.
Listed at 6-foot-4, Kesselring can skate well despite his large frame, and although he won’t “wow” you offensively, he is effective in his own zone. He is not as refined as prospects come, especially at his age, but with the development time in the minors, there is potential for him to make an impact at the NHL level a few years down the road.
Dylan Holloway – Center/Left Wing
Perhaps the biggest prospect news is that of the Oilers’ most recent first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Dylan Holloway. With the conclusion of the University of Wisconsin’s run in the NCAA tournament, Holloway is now eligible to sign with the Oilers. He finished his second season at Wisconsin with a dominant 35 points in 23 games while playing top-line minutes for the team.
While the 19-year-old Alberta-native would be a welcomed addition to the Oilers’ forward group considering his high-end offensive abilities, he still needs to agree on terms for a contract. Even if they agree to a deal, his NHL debut could be delayed while he nurses a thumb injury sustained during the college season. It may be wise to keep Holloway out of action to ensure his thumb heals fully and to give him a fresh start to make the team out of camp next season, which is a goal that should not be out of his reach.
Oil in the Pipeline
With the Oilers looking like buyers at the deadline, some prospects may be on the move, considering the organization has limited draft capital this season. They are without a 2021 second, third, and fifth-round pick, although they do have an extra sixth-round selection this season.
While some of these names should be viewed more as building blocks, given their draft pedigree, as long as hockey remains a business, anything is possible. We will continue to look at more prospects within the Oilers’ pipeline as the season continues to roll along.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I have been covering the Edmonton Oilers here on The Hockey Writers since 2019. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.