While the strength of the Edmonton Oilers’ prospect pool is undoubtedly on defense, general manager Ken Holland showed no hesitation in selecting big, smooth-skating Swedish defender Philip Broberg with his first pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Broberg was the best defenceman at both the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the 2019 IIHF World U18 Championship, and could become a future top pairing player for the Oilers.
Anyone who was disappointed the Oilers didn’t use their top-10 pick on a high-end forward were surely pleased when consensus first-round pick and pure sniper Raphael Lavoie fell to Edmonton in the second round. Then, the Oilers chose triple overage Russian goalie Ilya Konovalov in the third-round, making him the fourth puck stopper Edmonton has drafted in the last four years.
Prospect guru Corey Pronman wrote in a June post at TheAthleticNHL, “I thought the Oilers pick of Philip Broberg was par value at eighth-overall, and I really liked Raphael Lavoie at No. 38, despite the concerns in his profile. Ilya Konovalov is a fascinating prospect as a small, late-blooming goalie in Russia, but I do think he can be an NHL goalie. Some scouts like Matej Blumel and Tomas Mazura, but I wasn’t as much on the bandwagon and see them as depth for now. I think they could get two or three NHL players from this draft, which would be great.” (from ‘Grading the Edmonton Oilers’ 2019 draft class,’ TheAthleticNHL, 6/22/19)
D – Philip Broberg (8th Overall, 2019)
Philip Broberg, who is playing in his first SHL season, has no goals and two assists in 12 games with Skelleftea AIK. He also has no points in six games in Champions Hockey League play. The 18-year-old has been playing alongside fellow Oilers prospect Filip Berglund (91st overall, 2016) on both the second and third pairings. The Orebro, Sweden native hasn’t broke out offensively yet, but the raw talent is there.
In the summer, Broberg made the decision to stay at home in Sweden and develop against men instead of playing for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, who held his CHL rights. Although Broberg would likely have received top pairing minutes in Hamilton, he’s shown that he’s capable of playing in one of Europe’s top professional leagues as a teenager.
The 6-foot-3, 203-pound defender is a lock to make Team Sweden at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. He played in the 2019 tournament as a 17-year-old, but should play a much larger role this year. Broberg’s combination of size and elite skating ability will make him a real threat from the back end for Sweden.
LW – Raphael Lavoie (38th Overall, 2019)
After scoring 20 goals in 23 games during the 2019 QMJHL Playoffs, Raphael Lavoie has picked up right where he left off this season. He is tied for fourth in the league in goals (10) and tied for sixth in points (32) through 13 games. If he maintains this pace, Lavoie will become the first Oilers prospect to score 50 goals in the CHL since Rob Schremp in 2005-06.
The 19-year-old has displayed excellent offensive ability over the past two seasons, but his game-to-game consistency needed to improve. This season, however, he’s brought his best effort to the table every night. He is riding a 10-game point streak, with nine goals and 16 points over that span. The Mooseheads have also posted a strong 7-3-0 record during his scoring streak, which has pushed them into a playoff position.
The Chambly, Quebec native was named to Team QMJHL for the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series. The two-game matchup against the Russians will serve as a great audition to crack Team Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Juniors. At 6-foot-4 and 196-pounds, Lavoie has the size, skill and international experience to play on one of Canada’s top two lines this Christmas.
G – Ilya Konovalov (85th Overall, 2019)
Although he was a 2019 draft pick, Ilya Konovalov has more professional experience than any of the three other goalies the Oilers have selected since 2016. The 2018-19 KHL Rookie of the Year is off to a rough start this season with a 4-8-2 record in his first 14 appearances. However, Konovalov has shown signs of turning his game around recently, stopping 147 of his last 158 shots (.930 save percentage).
The 21-year-old is under contract for another two seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, so he won’t be joining the Oilers or the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL until at least 2021-22. If he can build off his outstanding rookie season in the KHL, he could jump ahead of Dylan Wells (123rd overall, 2016), Stuart Skinner (78th overall, 2017) and Olivier Rodrigue (62nd overall, 2018) on the Oilers’ depth chart in goal when he eventually comes to North America.
Eric Friesen is a freelance sports broadcaster and journalist in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Eric has diplomas in Broadcasting from Mount Royal University in Calgary and Sports Journalism from Centennial College in Toronto. A lifelong hockey fan, Eric has followed the Edmonton Oilers for more than 20 years. He cheers for the Oilers because of his hockey hero Wayne Gretzky, who played his more productive seasons in Oil Country.