The Edmonton Oilers, and rest of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff teams, are just eight days away from officially heading into the bubble for the remainder of their season. The team has been hard at work at Rogers Place, scrimmaging throughout the week in an effort to get ready for the upcoming tournament.
The club was on the ice again on Saturday, working through the weekend. One player, an unexpected one, stood above the rest according to reports.
Here are some of the notes and observations from Saturday.
Defenseman Philip Broberg has shined during the last few days of camp. Broberg was a surprise addition to the training camp roster, and initially was only in town to experience some NHL life and learn. The initial thought was eleven defensemen would come to camp, and Broberg would be the lone cut prior to the team entering the bubble.
Mike Green, who opted out a week ago, changed those plans a bit. Now, there are only ten defensemen in camp including Broberg. If the Oilers still cut him, they’ll be down to nine defensemen for the tournament. Odds are, that won’t be enough.
Broberg has gotten comfortable in the Alberta capital, thanks to some time with fellow countrymen like Adam Larsson and Joakim Nygard. He’s also played extremely well in camp, and has caught the eye of the assembled media at Rogers Place.
On Saturday, it was more of the same for the eighth-overall pick in 2019.
Broberg showing offensive flash, even in this setting, is a good sign. The biggest fear among Oilers fans last June was the offensive potential of the Swede. He followed that up with just eight points (1-7-8) in 45 SHL games with Skelleftea. Be warned, however. The SHL can hide the true offensive potential of a defensemen (see: Klefbom, Oscar).
If going end-to-end and scoring wasn’t enough, Broberg added a second goal on a pretty play with veteran forward James Neal.
Day by day it seems like the odds of Broberg making the Oilers roster is growing.
Dave Tippett seems to agree.
“He hasn’t looked out of place at all,” Tippett said on Saturday. “He’s young in age, but physically he’s mature. He’s a thick guy. You can’t walk away from a scrimmage saying he doesn’t fit. If anything, you walk away from a scrimmage saying he does fit.”
Fourth Line Coming Into View:
Dave Tippett may have discovered another line. The veteran coach has teamed up veteran wingers James Neal and Alex Chiasson with young center Jujhar Khaira. The unlikely trio has shined through a week of training camp.
Neal burst onto the scene in Edmonton last October, scoring seven quick goals and making Oilers fans forget about Milan Lucic. He scored a hat-trick on New Year’s Eve, but didn’t score a single goal in January, February or March. He also dealt with an injury during that span.
Chiasson, meanwhile, never regained the white-hot form he showed in the first half of the 2018-19 season. A high shooting percentage set a dangerous set of expectations for Chiasson that he simply did not meet offensively this season.
They are both solid NHL players, however. With Khaira, they have formed an experienced line that plays heavy hockey and can shoot the puck. They’ll likely get their chance to show off in a game on August 1st.
Khaira, meanwhile, is extremely comfortable at center. He played the position in junior hockey and in the AHL. He discussed that on Saturday, and we’ll look deeper into it on Sunday.
The First Cut:
We knew it was coming, but it was still newsworthy on Saturday. Goaltender Olivier Rodrigue was officially cut from Oilers training camp. The team has four goalies (Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner) remaining.
Rodrigue finished his junior career in the QMJHL this past season. He’ll turn pro for the 2020-21 season, and will likely see action for the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
His invitation to camp was simply to get him on the ice with Oilers coaches and to get him up to speed on life in the NHL.
The Oilers will be back on the ice on Sunday morning.