When people think of Dec. 26, they think of Boxing Day and all of the post-Christmas shopping that they can treat themselves to. For hockey fans, Dec. 26 has a different significance; the World Junior Championship (WJC). The WJC is arguably the most electric and exciting hockey of the year, and it gives fans the chance to watch the best U-20 players in the world compete on an international stage.
Edmonton Oilers fans will have the treat of watching four of their young prospects at this year’s WJC, including their 2019 first-round pick, Philip Broberg.
With their fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers selected Matej Blumel from the Waterloo Blackhawks 100th overall, after he scored 30 goals and added 30 assists to finish 12th in United States Hockey League (USHL) scoring. He turned down an offer to go play at the University of Connecticut this season, and instead opted to return home to play for Paradubice HC of the Czech Extraliga.
Blumel is a speedy forward that is known to get under the skin of his opponents, but can still be a major offensive threat. The Czech team will look to avenge last year’s seventh place and Blumel will play a large role in that.
Rodrigue was taken 62nd overall by the Oilers in 2018, and currently minds the net for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), where he has 15 wins, a 2.79 goals against average, and a .907 save percentage. It’s still unclear who Canada will choose as their starting goalie for the tournament — Rodrigue along will Nico Daws and Joel Hofer have all made a strong case for the starting job, but many believe that it will be Rodrigue due to his impressive international resume.
Rodrigue knows what it takes to win at the international level. In 2017, he backstopped Team Canada to a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
Lavoie was projected by many to be selected in the first round of the 2019 Draft, which is why it came as a bit of a shock that the Oilers were able to take him with the 38th-overall pick. He had an impressive draft year, scoring 73 points in 62 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He has continued his offensive success this season, putting up 18 goals and 44 points in 30 games before joining Team Canada for the WJC. Lavoie has the potential to become a top-six forward in the NHL and we could see him in an Oilers sweater as early as next season.
Due to Canada having such a talented crop of forwards this year, Lavoie has been pushed down the lineup a bit, but the 6-foot-4 center will be able to provide some secondary scoring from the fourth line this year as Canada hopes to avoid another disappointing finish.
The Oilers used their first pick of the draft to select Philip Broberg eighth overall. Broberg was fresh off of an impressive season with AIK of the Swedish Allsvenskan League where he registered two goals and nine points in 41 games. The biggest parts of his game that jumped out at the Oilers are his excellent skating and playmaking abilities. The 18-year-old has drawn comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning defender, and fellow Swede, Victor Hedman. Broberg has the potential to become a top-pairing defenceman for the Oilers in the future.
This will be Broberg’s second time representing Sweden at the WJC. At last year’s tournament he recorded one assist in four games on a weak Swedish team that finished fifth overall. Unlike last year where he played a relatively small role, Broberg will be a driving force on Sweden’s blue line this year as they hope to win their first gold medal since 2012.
With these four talented junior prospects, along with a handful of studs in their farm system, the future is beginning to look very bright for the Edmonton Oilers.