Oilers Have 4 Prospects Who Look Ready to Help This Season

The Edmonton Oilers have assembled themselves a very solid prospect pool, playing in various leagues and developing nicely. They aren’t limited to just one position, as they have reinforcements coming throughout the lineup. We will look at the options in the system that have the best chance to be suiting up for the Oilers in a more permanent role by next season rather than for short stints filling in for injuries.

Related: Oilers’ Midseason Prospect Report

I’ve left Stuart Skinner off of this list because he has the most experience at the NHL level among the group of players below and looks to be the go-to option once again after his most recent promotion to the Oilers. There are generally late-season additions to the lineup from each team’s system to possibly give the team an edge. Here are the possible candidates for the Oilers this season.

Dylan Holloway

Dylan Holloway is the closest to making an impact on the Oilers this season. Funny enough, he is the only prospect mentioned that has yet to play in the NHL. Since recovering and returning to the ice from his injury he suffered before the season, he has been with the Oilers practicing and getting back up to game speed.

This doesn’t guarantee that he will be suiting up for the Oilers right when he’s medically cleared for game action, but it does mean the Oilers expect to bring him in at some point before the end of the season to help with the late-season push or the playoffs. Holloway is a much-anticipated arrival and was supposed to challenge for a spot on the opening-day roster before his injury. The team may elect to send him back down to the American Hockey League (AHL) to get back up to game action before recalling him, but with the extended time off to practice before their game against the Ottawa Senators, it made sense to practice with his future teammates at the highest level.

Dylan Holloway University of Wisconsin
Dylan Holloway of the University of Wisconsin (Greg Anderson/UW Athletics)

He is a former first-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft and looks to join the roster filled with former first-round picks in Edmonton. Once he is added to the lineup, the prediction is that Holloway will slot in on the wing in the middle-six of the lineup, or if the team thinks he is ready, centre the third line. They don’t want to bury him on the fourth line and would like to get him more playing time and experience again some tougher competition rather than playing 10 minutes a night on the fourth line.

Cooper Marody

Cooper Marody has developed as much as he can in the AHL, and after seeing both of his former linemates Ryan McLeod and Tyler Benson make the jump over the past year, his time is very close. From the very start, Marody has dominated the AHL, recording 58 goals and 145 points in 154 games played (GP) from 2018-22. His stats are very comparable to Benson’s, as he recorded 141 points in 156 GP. Maybe there is a little biased thinking, as McLeod and Benson were Oilers draft picks and are younger, but Marody’s stats speak for themselves. Sooner or later, if he doesn’t get a real shot in the NHL with the Oilers, he will want to take his talents somewhere else where he will be given a better shot (from “Desperately seeking some good news, Oilers fans? Look no further than Bakersfield Condors”, Edmonton Journal, Jan. 10, 2022).

Marody has now seen action in the NHL twice, the first in 2018-19 after his stellar AHL season that saw him post 64 points in 58 games as a reward and a late-season tryout. This lasted just six games and he didn’t do much, as it was probably a little early for him. His second and most recent stint came earlier this season before the Christmas break when the Oilers were really hurting with players on the COVID-protocol. He got into one game and recorded his first NHL point. That was all the action he got. He has continued his dominance in the AHL, and even if the Oilers aren’t hurting too badly later in the season, we could see Marody get another late-season shot. He could add some scoring and it would be likely we’ll see a reunion of the Benson, McLeod, Marody line that did so well in AHL.

Markus Niemelainen

Of all the call-ups this season, Markus Niemelainen was arguably the most impressive and definitely the most surprising. The health of the defence, in particular the left side for the Oilers, has been a big issue this season. This has caused many young defencemen who are developing in the AHL to make the jump probably sooner than the Oilers would have liked.

We’ve seen Philip Broberg, Niemelainen, Willian Lagesson, and Dmitri Samorukov all come in and play in much bigger situations than they should have in the NHL to begin their careers. Niemelainen was the standout and showed everybody that his skills could transfer over to the NHL seamlessly. He uses his big frame and is very physical, and we were immediately introduced to the same style of play from him during his time with the Oilers.

Markus Niemelainen Edmonton Oilers
Markus Niemelainen, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

It may have taken a couple of more years for the Oilers to really realize what they have if Niemelainen didn’t get the call this season and prove he can be a physical and defensively-responsible option on the blue line. Before landing on the injured reserve, it was already very likely that Niemelainen was going to be sent back down due to a logjam of defencemen coming back. His size and physicality will be welcomed down the stretch. I have a strong feeling that the Oilers are thinking the same thing and that he’ll see more action before playoff time, regardless of injuries.

Dmitri Samorukov

Another defence that is close to making the jump to the NHL is Samorukov. You may think that after his first game in the NHL he needs a lot more time to develop. I don’t believe that to be the case, as being benched for two and a half periods in his NHL debut and being sent back down to the AHL the next day lit a fire under him and he’s playing the best hockey of his career.

I’m not saying that kind of treatment should be assigned to all prospects who may need a kick, as it was embarrassing for Samorukov and the team. But this may have been the spark that he needed to be an impact player. There may not be many spots available for call-ups on the back-end in Edmonton, and now with teammate Niemelainen back in the AHL as well, they will be competing with one another and pushing each other to get their next shot. Samorukov has spent an entire season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) against grown men two years ago and proved he can play at a high level. He’s finding that again in the AHL and it’s showing.

All of these options may not get another shot this season, but the NHL is very unpredictable, especially in these times. Broberg and Xavier Bourgault will likely be the top two on this list next season who will be able to make a real impact with the Oilers. Given their shot and while they’re all still on cheap deals, the Oilers have the chance to get skilled players outperforming their contracts, giving the team a better chance at winning.

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