As a team with championship aspirations the Oilers were aggressive in moving draft capital, future value, for players who could help them in the present. Although some may have qualms about the value of those moves specifically, it would be hard to argue that the line of thinking was not valid.
That said, the Oilers managed to hold on to some of their draft selections, including their 1st round pick, 29th overall, which does bode well for their future as well as Oiler fans looking for some excitement on July 7th and 8th, when the 2022 Entry Draft will take place in Montreal. The Oilers have their 5th, 6th, and 7th round picks as well, at least for now, as there is no guarantee what trades or selections could happen between now and when the Oilers ultimately make their picks.
What we do know is that there is a close to zero chance that any of the players the Oilers select have an impact at the NHL level. Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, where the players selected are largely 20-23 years old and much closer to being fit for regular action, the NHL drafts players as they turn 18, essentially out of high school. Of course in every league there are exceptions, but this means it could take a long while to evaluate how good a specific draft was.
Of course, there will be a multitude of opinions on values, and winners, and losers, essentially projections to be doled out as we approach Free Agency. That said, this is also the perfect time to take a look at the pipeline, those draft choices of previous years. Let’s take a quick look at some of the faces that will be new in the near future.
Holloway is a but guaranteed to have a spot on the opening night roster, especially given his rookie cap hit. I certainly hope that the Oilers keep Jesse Puljujarvi, but should they trade the winger Holloway does project to have some effectiveness in similar areas, notably on the forecheck. It’s possible he’s given a chance to show some chemistry with McDavid or Draisaitl, or on the 3rd line in more of a checking role with Nugent-Hopkins or McLeod.
Our first of 3 important CHL prospects, Bourgault was a fixture on the top line of the QMJHL champion Chataraces. He has a responsible approach to the game, positional flexibility as a centre, and is adept at scoring from the high slot. As will be the case for the other CHL graduates it is quite likely Bourgault stars in the AHL for at least a season, but the Oilers could certainly use some of his goal scoring ability in their lineup.
The pandemic stunted the play and growth of many players and leagues around the world, perhaps none more so than the OHL. My theory is that players in that league had an effect on many, including likely top overall pick in this year’s draft Shane Wright. That said Tullio (and our next prospect, Petrov) had a monster season as a focal point on his OHL squad. Tullio might well be able to continue his strong offensive results, but has an interesting profile as a defensive centre as well. The optimistic long-term outlook might well be somewhere along the lines of other OHL graduates like Bo Horvat or Anthony Cirelli, but the focus this season will likely be on a strong rookie year in the AHL.
Petrov has been gaining praise and deservedly so, as the winger was a dynamo in the OHL this past season. Armed with a potent shot Petrov should look to have an offensive role in AHL Bakersfield with the Condors.
The older brother of the 2022 eligible Matthew, Carter Savoie has continued to grow since his draft year, coming off an impressive season in the NCAA. Like Petrov, Savoie has a good shot, and should be expected to have a bigger role than the CHL graduates with the Bakersfield Condors this season given his relative age and experience. It might still be optimistic to think he’ll crack the NHL roster outright, but a good season for Savoie might see him in talks to be called up later in the season.
Lavoie, like Holloway, has already put some AHL time in, and notably has played under Woodcroft before. The skilled winger has had trouble putting together a consistent level of play, and his talent certainly suggests there is more upside to his game than he has been able to deliver. A bigger body with good hands, Lavoie will likely do his best work close to the net front, a style of play that can grow thanks to the craftiness that experience provides. On one hand he might be closer to the NHL than most of the others on this list, but it os safe to say his stock has not risen since his draft year. There is still time, but Lavoie needs to continue progressing and rounding out his overall game to continue to be in these conversations.
Broberg showed flashes of talent and inexperience in his first NHL action, but was a dominant force at the AHL level. As we see other defencemen from his draft class assume top 4 NHL roles, there might be some expectation that Broberg should not be too far behind, and given Broberg was among the first at the Oilers facilities last season, he likely believes he is ready as well. Despite this I would suggest that even if he does not make the team out of camp it is not a knock on his long term upside. We’ve seen all the tools, but there is certainly a physicality or balance that the was still growing into last season.
Samorukov had an injury riddled season, playing in but 18 games at the AHL level. Although the point totals will likely not be the reason for his graduation, if Samorukov can stay healthy and assert himself as a top option on the Condors it might well earn him a call up at some point this season.
Despite measly point totals in his freshman NCAA season, Munzenberger showed significant upside in the half completed World Juniors (U20) this past winter. Working as the top offensive option on the German blueline, the tall and lanky defender might well have been the Germans’ top player overall, a role we might see him reprise this summer.
I thought perhaps Skinner might have already graduated from this list, but who knows what constitutes an NHL rookie these days. Regardless, Skinner seems to be on an extremely promising path towards a strong NHL starter, and his play in both the NHL and AHL have been of a high quality and consistency. Given the Oilers championship aspirations a large role for the young netminder might be a bit rich, but good results in about 40 games of NHL action this coming season would not be incongruous with his development so far.
Even younger than Skinner, the son of Oilers goalie coach Sylvain Rodrigue, Olivier divided an encouraging level of play for the Condors compared Skinner. It takes many goalies until their late 20s to build the consistency and resume to be trusted with an NHL role, so a lot of patience should be afforded to both Rodrigue and Skinner. Regardless it is nothing but a positive to have promising depth at the sport’s most important position, especially given Konovalov’s return to the KHL.