Carter Savoie and the Denver Pioneers will take on the Michigan Wolverines in a National Semifinal at the NCAA Frozen Four in Boston on Thursday (April 7). The victorious team will advance to play the winner of the other semifinal, Minnesota vs. Minnesota State, for the National Championship on Saturday.
The Frozen Four could culminate with Denver triumphing. It could also conclude in heartbreak for the Pioneers. But what Oil Country wants to know is, will it mark the end of Carter Savoie’s collegiate career?
Since being selected with the 100th pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Savoie has evolved into one of their top prospects, and there is plenty of speculation whether the sophomore left winger will turn pro following this season.
Savoie’s Future is a Hot Topic
Appearing between periods during the Sportsnet TV broadcast of Edmonton’s game against the San Jose Sharks Tuesday (April 5), Oilers radio commentator Bob Stauffer said he believes there could be several players from the Frozen Four signing NHL deals as early as the beginning of next week. Could one of them see Edmonton general manager Ken Holland put pen to paper with Savoie?
“I think Savoie has to consider looking at signing with the Oilers and get going,” Stauffer said. “The Oilers are light on the left side, in the future, and there could be an opportunity for him right away.”
For his part, the 20-year-old Savoie sounded genuinely uncertain about his future when he was a guest recently on TSN 1260 radio. Asked by host Jason Gregor if he would be returning to Denver for his junior year, Savoie said he was not sure. “I think I’ve learned a lot here, and I don’t want to give up on that.”
Similarities With Holloway
Precedent suggests the Oilers would ink Savoie to a contract now. Edmonton was in a similar situation last year with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 Draft, forward Dylan Holloway, who signed a three-year entry level contract (ELC) with the Oilers not long after his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin came to an end.
Holloway then joined the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Bakersfield Condors on an Amateur Tryout (ATO) last spring so that he could get immediate pro experience before his ELC began in 2021-22. Unfortunately, a wrist injury that he had sustained during the NCAA postseason ultimately prevented Holloway from seeing any action with the Condors during the latter stages of the AHL regular season or in the playoffs.
Holloway wound up needing multiple surgeries and wasn’t able to return to game action until January. He has since played the last two and half months in Bakersfield, recording eight goals and 13 assists in 32 games.
Should Savoie sign his ELC, the Oilers would presumably take the same approach that was intended for Holloway last year before injuries derailed those plans.
Bakersfield’s 2021-22 regular season schedule runs until April 30, and the Condors have potential to go on a lengthy playoff run.
Savoie Has Made Strides as a Sophomore
Savoie turned heads in his freshman campaign, 2020-21, notching 13 goals and 20 points in 24 games, earning unanimous selection to the NCHC (National Collegiate Hockey Conference) All-Rookie Team.
This season the second-year forward was named to the All-NCHC Second Team. He’s become one of the top offensive threats in all of NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey, and currently ranks fourth with 22 goals and is eighth with 44 points. Those totals have come over 37 games with the Pioneers.
Notably, Savoie’s plus/minus rating has surged season-over-season from even (0) to plus-20. During his interview on TSN 1260, the sophomore forward said his biggest improvements have come in his two-way game.
“I feel a lot more confident in the D-zone,” said the 20-year-old native of St. Albert, who played for the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League before going off to college. “I think I’ve figured out some stuff systematically that I can keep on growing and build into my offensive game, too.”
Such progression is crucial for Savoie’s NHL potential. The Oilers are much more likely to give him a shot if they don’t have to be as concerned that his offensive contributions won’t be offset by lapses defensively.
The most immediate of matters, however, is bringing a national championship back to the University of Denver for the first time in five years. Savoie could join a very short list of Oilers draft picks who have won the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey championship, including Brad Werenka (Northern Michigan, 1991), but Oil Country is most eagerly watching to see if he joins the Oilers.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.