Oilers Prospect Schaefer Having Sensational Start to WHL Season

The Edmonton Oilers didn’t have a pick in the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft. Ditto for the third round as well as the fourth round.

From first overall through pick No. 157, the only selection Edmonton had was the last pick of Round 1 (No. 32). And considering they wouldn’t have another opportunity to make a selection until the fifth round, the pressure was on for the Oilers to hit a home run with No. 32.

It wasn’t an enviable position to be in, but one the Oilers put themselves in by previously trading away some of their 2022 draft picks. So, if they were going to come away from the 2022 Draft with a can’t-miss prospect, the Oilers couldn’t miss with pick No. 32. They opted for Seattle Thunderbirds forward Reid Schaefer, a local product from nearby Spruce Grove (home of Oilers Hall-of-Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr).

Related: 5 Things to Know About Oilers’ First-Round Pick Reid Schaefer 

Only a few months later, it’s looking like a hit for the Oilers, because Schaefer can’t miss. In his first seven appearances of the 2022-23 Western Hockey League (WHL) season, the 6-foot-4 left winger has scored an incredible 10 goals on 31 shots.

In Race With Bedard for WHL Goals Lead

As of Tuesday (Oct. 25), Schaefer held a share of first place in the league for goals scored, tied with projected 2023 NHL Draft first-overall pick Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats, who had played five more games. Schaefer and Bedard were also tied for the WHL lead with four game-winning goals (GWG) each.

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Even though it’s a small sample size, Schaefer’s stats are jaw-dropping: He has proven both explosive, (already with three multi-goal outings), and consistent (failing to score in only one game thus far). The 19-year-old, who just celebrated his birthday last month, has at least four shots in five of seven games. 

Schaefer’s Scoring Rate is First in Entire CHL 

It’s not just in the WHL where Schaefer is setting the pace – it’s the entire Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Among all skaters in the three CHL leagues (Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, WHL) that had appeared in at least five games through Monday (Oct. 24), Schaefer boasted the highest goals per game average, at 1.43, and there was but one CHL player with more game-winners than Schaefer: Sherbrooke Phoenix forward Justin Gill, the QMJHL’s leading scorer, who has five GWGs in 12 games.

Reid Schaefer, WHL, Seattle Thunderbirds
Reid Schaefer, Seattle Thunderbirds (Photo credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

With still 60 games remaining on the Thunderbirds’ schedule, Schaefer is 11 game-winning goals from equalling the WHL’s single-season mark of 15, which was just established in 2021-22 by Red Deer Rebels center Ben King, a 2022 fourth-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks. And it’s a very real possibility that Schaefer sets a new record because simply put, all Seattle does is win.

A month into the 2022-23 WHL season, Seattle has yet to taste defeat, with a perfect 8-0-0 record. The T-Birds are perched atop the Western Conference standings, from where they can visualize a flight path to Kamloops, the host city of next spring’s Memorial Cup.

Potential Team Canada Member 

There is, of course, so much hockey to be played between now and then. And in Schaefer’s case, that could include a trip to the Canadian Maritimes for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, being co-hosted by Halifax, N.S., and Moncton, N.B., during the holiday season (Dec. 26, 2022 – Jan. 5, 2023). Schaefer is in the mix for a spot on Team Canada, after taking part in Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team Summer Camp

Schaefer would be following in the skate strides of the Oilers’ first-round draft pick from 2021, forward Xavier Bourgault, who represented Canada at the 2022 World Juniors and advanced to the 2022 Memorial Cup as a member of the Shawinigan Cataractes. Bourgault is now with the Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, and off to a good start in the pros, with four points in his first five AHL games. 

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A stint with the Canadian junior team would mean Schaefer likely plays at most 55-60 WHL games this season. In that case, from this point on Schaefer would need to tally 40 times in around 50 games to become the first T-Bird with a 50-goal campaign this century.

That would certainly be at the high end of, if not outright exceeding, what was expected of Schaefer in 2022-23 at the time Edmonton drafted him 32nd overall in July (his WHL career high is 32 goals in 66 games set last season). His play since then is making the Oilers’ scouting department look brilliant, creating excitement in Oil Country in the process.

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