In the last prospect update, we looked at big names like Evan Bouchard, and the newly signed Dylan Holloway as well as some AHL prospects. This time we will dive into another big-name Edmonton Oilers prospect in the pipeline and some AHL prospects that have been impressive and are on the rise. We will also take a look at Caleb Jones and his battle for ice time on a deep Oilers blueline.
Ryan McLeod – Center
Let’s start off with the Oilers’ most recent call-up in Ryan McLeod, who made his NHL debut on April 26. McLeod is a former second-round draft pick of the Oilers in the 2018 draft who, in his second season in the AHL, was able to put up career highs in goals (14), assists, (14), and points (28) before being recalled. McLeod has been able to add to his offensive side of his game which was something that didn’t come easy for him in his rookie year in the minors with only 23 points in 56 games played.
He saw just over 14 minutes of ice time in his debut, skating in the third-line center spot alongside Devin Shore and Josh Archibald. Thanks to Zack Kassian being placed on long-term injured reserve, McLeod will be given a chance to be an everyday player down the stretch for the Oilers and if he can make a strong impression could force the coaching staff to keep in there once playoffs begin. With Kyle Turris’ notable struggles, the Jujhar Khaira injury, and lack of forward depth on the roster, McLeod has an open window to make an impression as to why he belongs at the NHL level. He should be highly considered to make the team full-time for the 2021-22 season in a bottom-six role if he doesn’t stay in the lineup once the Oilers get bodies back into their lineup this season.
Philip Broberg – Left Defense
The Oilers’ eighth-overall pick in 2019 has spent this past season on loan in his native Sweden playing in the SHL. Broberg is highly touted and the other big-name blueliner the team has high hopes for after Bouchard. The Swede was able to put up 13 points in 44 games with Skelleftea AIK which is five points more than he had in his first season with the team. With his season now over in the SHL, there is a chance that Broberg can make his way to North America and play in Bakersfield for the remainder of their season and playoffs.
Holland is taking the same path of development with his prospects as he did in Detroit where he lets the players mature at their own pace and force the hand of management to put them in the lineup.
“Then he can come over to North America for the 2021-22 season and we’ll see if he can take somebody’s job. We’re not handing them out. Like all kids, they’re a work in progress.”Oilers GM Ken Holland
He will need to prove to Holland and the Oilers that he’s ready and will get a look out of training camp next season but it’s not likely he will be ready for the NHL just yet. A realistic goal for Broberg would be to be a top-pair defenseman who plays both penalty kill and powerplay for Bakersfield and if he proves capable would be in the conversation to join the big club.
Caleb Jones – Left Defense
The 23-year-old has struggled to find a full-time role on the Oilers blueline after three seasons. He has been up and down between the NHL and AHL and impressed enough at the minor league level every time he’s been down there to earn a recall but has not performed well enough at the NHL level to warrant an everyday roster spot. After appearing in 17 games in his rookie season he took a step forward and saw 43 games played in the 2019-20 season, but has taken a step back this season with only 25 games out of a possible 45.
The decrease in playing time is not encouraging which is unfortunate and the depth of the blueline also makes it difficult especially with the addition of Dmitry Kulikov into the mix. An even more alarming stat is that since turning pro in the 2015-16 season, Jones has only finished as a plus player one time with the Bakersfield Condors in the 2018-19 season and has been a minus in all other seasons at both the AHL and NHL levels. It may be even tougher for Jones to see ice time with the potential return of Oscar Klefbom next season – maybe Jones could be used as part of a package to unload one of James Neal’s or Kyle Turris’ contracts to Seattle in the expansion draft.
Stuart Skinner – Goaltender
After an atrocious start to his NHL career that caused him to be sent back down to the AHL, Skinner has found his game and played lights out in the minors. He has played in 25 of the team’s 31 games and owns a 16-7-1 record and two shutouts. He did get thrown into the fire at the NHL level as the team may have been forced to play Skinner even if he wasn’t ready for NHL action due to the injury early in the season to Mike Smith.
His bounceback in the minors is a positive sign and while goalies are always tough to gauge in terms of development and often appear from out of the woodwork, Skinner is showing he can be consistent in the minor league level. He is a big reason for the team’s success thanks to his 2.28 goal against average which is good enough for the seventh-best in the league.
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He’s only 22 years old and Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock are both under contract until the 2022-23 season and are ahead of him on the depth chart for now. His window should open once their contracts are up, which should give Skinner an opportunity to claim an NHL job especially with more pro experience under his belt.
Draft and Develop
The Oilers are seeing the fruits of their labor starting to pay off by getting some of their former draft picks into their lineups. They have done a better job in recent years bringing players up through their system in which Holland has played a big role in. He holds prospects to high standards and won’t hesitate to postpone their NHL arrival unless they really force his hand. By creating an environment that rewards players for their hard work during their development seasons the Oilers should continue to see their patience pay off in the future.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I cover the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings here on The Hockey Writers but have been a diehard Maple Leafs fan since birth. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and when I’m not watching the Toronto Raptors, Blue Jays, or Pittsburgh Steelers; you can find me playing for my ball hockey team, playing video games, or listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.