Oilers’ Top 10 Prospects of the 2021-22 Season

The Edmonton Oilers are notorious for rushing their prospects into the NHL but have drastically improved the development regime of their potential young stars since Ken Holland took over as the team’s general manager. A player like Jesse Puljujarvi, who struggled early in his career, has evolved into a very promising and integral young player on the Oilers’ top line since returning to the team after playing the 2019-20 season for Karpat of the Finnish Elite League. The team’s prospect pool is well equipped with budding players that have lots of potential and high expectations of being contributors at the NHL level someday. By projecting a player’s upside, and the certainty of reaching the NHL, this article will rank the organization’s top 10 prospects.

Criteria for Ranking Prospects

This article will use a combination of a prospect’s upside in terms of their skills from a performance standpoint, with the certainty of the prospect reaching the NHL level. A skater prospect will be defined as a player 24 years of age or younger that has appeared in less than 65 NHL games in both regular season or playoffs. A goaltending prospect will be defined as a player 24 years of age or younger that has appeared in less than 45 NHL games in the regular season or playoffs.

#10. Ilya Konovalov, Goaltender

The Oilers selected Konovalov with a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft after watching him dominate in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in his native Russia. The netminder has seen starts at the KHL level since the 2017-18 season but has never posted a goals-against average (GAA) worse than 2.45, or save percentage (SV%) worse than .912 during the regular season.

Related: Oilers’ 3 Untouchable Prospects for 2021-22

He got his first taste of NHL action during the 2021-22 preseason before being reassigned to the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League (AHL). The 23-year-old will share the net with Stuart Skinner in the minor leagues, and look to continue to impress the Oilers brass in his first season playing in North America.

#9. Carter Savoie, Left Wing

The Alberta, Canada native is in his second season at the University of Denver in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Although he is undersized at only 5-foot-9, he possesses lots of offensive upside and his great understanding of the game helps make him effective in all facets of the game. He is up to 11 points through his first four games of the 2021-22 NCAA season and finished with 20 points in 24 games a season ago. He is still unsigned by the Oilers but a successful college season this year will likely change that. Expect him to make the transition to pro hockey as early as the 2022-23 season.

#8. Xavier Bourgault, Center

The Shawinigan Cataractes center is the most recent first-round selection to be added to the Oilers prospect pool after being selected 22nd overall in 2021. He has made strides in terms of his improvement in the QMJHL as he has matured each season.

Bourgault is listed as a center, but he appears to be much more comfortable when playing on the wing, although he is still very responsible defensively. His skating needs some refinement, but he still projects to be a future top-six forward at the NHL level because of his ability to make tape-to-tape seam passes, be effective on the power play, and be an offensive catalyst. He will turn 19 years old before the end of the 2021-22 season and will likely sign a contract with the Oilers next offseason as he rounds out his QMJHL career.

#7. Tyler Benson, Left Wing

The former Vancouver Giant has been in the Oilers system since he was drafted in the second round in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He signed his three-year entry-level deal in 2016 but it did not become active until the 2018-19 season as the Oilers opted to slide the contract for two seasons. His rookie contract expired in the summer of 2021 and he signed a one-year deal for the 2021-22 season to remain in Edmonton. Despite only seven NHL games of experience under his belt, which came in the 2019-20 season, he has continued to excel at the minor league level with 36 points in 36 games in his most recent season.

Tyler Benson Vancouver Giants
Former Vancouver Giants forward, Tyler Benson (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The team opted to leave him exposed in the Seattle Expansion Draft this season, but he was not selected, and is currently operating as one of the two extra Oilers forwards this season. He has all the tools to be a regular NHL forward, and is awaiting his next opportunity to make a name for himself at the NHL level, which should come this season.

#6. Raphael Lavoie, Center/ Right Wing

The 6-foot-4 forward can play both the center and right-wing position, but with the current state of the Oilers organization, he projects to be a winger with tonnes of scoring upside. He fits a lot of high-end skill in a big frame, which is hard to come by, but his lethal release and shot are what set him apart from other prospects in the system. Lavoie had 10 points in 19 games last season with Bakersfield and will be looking to cement himself as a legitimate offensive threat in the AHL this season. He currently has two years remaining on his entry-level deal.

#5. Stuart Skinner, Goaltender

Skinner started turning heads last season after a dominant showing in the minors finishing with a 2.38 GAA and a .914 SV% in 31 games. He continued to impress throughout training camp this season and is poised to play a role for the Oilers if either Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith go down with injuries.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Skinner already earned a recall to the NHL this season due to Smith’s injury absence. The question still remains on whether Skinner will be able to translate his success in the minor leagues to the NHL level. Despite only having one NHL game under his belt heading into the 2021-22 season, the 22-year-old Edmonton native has emerged as the favorite to be the team’s goaltender of the future.

#4. Ryan McLeod, Center

After playing 10 regular-season games, and all four of the Oilers playoff games to close out the 2020-21 season, McLeod appeared to be in Oilers head coach Dave Tippet’s good books and the teams’ plans for the immediate future. Unfortunately for the centerman, he appears to be further down in the team’s depth chart thanks to the improvements made to the team’s bottom-six forward group.

Ryan McLeod Edmonton Oilers
Ryan McLeod, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He did not fare well through the preseason and was ultimately assigned to the minors to start the 2021-22 season. The move to the minors is one that is more about the teams’ ability to manipulate their roster. McLeod’s two-way contract allows him to bypass waivers to be re-assigned, as opposed other players such as Tyler Benson, Brendan Perlini, Colton Sceviour, and Kyle Turris who are not waiver exempt.

In terms of his development, it would be beneficial for McLeod to pay top minutes in the AHL this season rather than being a healthy scratch at the NHL level. The former second-rounder is a year away from restricted free agency and will likely re-up with the team at season’s end, and take on a full-time NHL role next season.

#3. Philip Broberg, Left Defense

Perhaps the most polarizing prospect in the organization due to his on-ice performance not meeting the high price tag on draft day is that of Broberg. To be fair to the blooming blueliner, he was hampered by a torn muscle above his knee as well as a slightly separated shoulder which he played through at the 2021 World Junior Championships for Sweden.

Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Philip Broberg Ken Holland
Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky, Philip Broberg and Ken Holland (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

He has recovered well and shown flashes of being the solid defensive prospect the team thought they were getting when they selected him eighth overall in 2019. He is a leader both on and off the ice and his skating is his best asset, which allows him to move pucks with ease out of his own zone. He is a responsible blueliner that can produce offensively at a high level without sacrificing defense to create scoring opportunities.

Related: Oilers Prospects Off to Hot Starts in CHL and NCAA

Broberg has played most of his young career in the Swedish Hockey League with Skelleftea AIK which has helped him mature his game and skills both mentally and physically by playing with men overseas. The 2021-22 season will be his first pro season in North America with the Bakersfield Condors in an all situations role with all the minutes he can handle. He is up to three assists through the first four games of the season and could be in line for a breakout season in the minors.

#2. Dylan Holloway, Center/ Left Wing

The second-ranked prospect in the organization has yet to see any professional hockey experience. He completed his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin of the NCAA with 35 points in 23 games played but suffered a wrist injury that required surgery back in March of 2021. Holloway signed his entry-level deal in April of 2021 but did not make the 2021-22 Oilers roster, due to his wrist requiring another surgery that would sideline him for an additional three months of action.

The speedy center can be a physical presence when he needs to be and create scoring opportunities with his crafty hands. He is on track to begin his professional career after he is fully recovered from his wrist injury and will likely begin in the AHL in a top-six role. It’s unlikely we see him with the Oilers this season but a strong first impression in Bakersfield would put him on track to crack the Oilers roster full-time in 2022-23.

#1. Evan Bouchard, Right Defense

After wrestling about who would be the top-ranked prospect in the organization’s system for quite some time, Bouchard has emerged victorious. Bouchard has been waiting patiently for his shot at a full-time NHL role, and has earned that this season because of the continuous improvements in his development over the last two years.

Evan Bouchard Oilers
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He began this season on the Oilers’ third defense pair but has been paired alongside Darnell Nurse on the team’s top pair and hasn’t looked out of place. Despite how early it is in the 2021-22 season, Bouchard has gained the trust of his head coach to play in all situations including powerplay time and rewarded the team with three points through the teams first five games with a plus-5 rating.

He has the most NHL experience of all the Oilers’ prospects and has proven at all levels that his game is elite. Bouchard has always been a great skater and puck mover with a cannon of a shot but has been able to make improvements to his game defensively that have helped make him a more complete defender. He is clearly NHL ready and at only 22 years of age, the former 10th overall selection is proving that the patience of the organization and the fans has been worth the wait.

Oilers Stock Prospect Pipeline

Ken Holland deserves a lot of credit for changing the way the team drafts and develops its prospects. His philosophy of wanting prospects to force his hand in order to get in the lineup has been effective and allowed prospects to mature at their own rate. The organization’s prospect pipeline is very well stocked with players in all positions – and don’t be surprised if Edmonton strikes oil on more than a few.


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