By drafting eighth overall the Oilers once again found themselves in a familiar spot on draft day which was drafting in the top 10. Selecting in the top 10 has almost become expected of Edmonton as they have done so 11 out of the last 13 years.
For a team that featured two 100+ point scorers, one of whom is arguably the best player in the league and the other a 50 goal scorer, consistently finishing in the bottom 10 is not acceptable but truly speaks to the team’s lack of depth and direction.
Last June, the Oilers were ecstatic to have Evan Bouchard fall to them at 10th overall as they had reportedly been trying to trade up to select the young rearguard earlier that day. Ryan McLeod at 40th overall also had strong value as he was considered by many to be a late first round pick. Olivier Rodrigue, who many considered to be the top North American goalie for the 2018 draft, was a respectable pick at 62nd. The Oilers’ remaining two pick from the 2018 draft, Mike Kesselring (164th) and Patrik Siikanen, were both considered lower profile, project picks.
2019 Draft Selections:
Round One – LHD, Philip Broberg – 8th Overall
Ken Holland’s first pick as the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers was met with mixed reviews from Oilers’ fans. Broberg had an up and down season and has all the physical tools you could ask for in a top pairing defenseman. His calling card has quickly become his elite straight line speed and end to end rushes both of which are especially impressive for a 6-3 player. His play was not necessarily bad in Allsvenskan last season, but his consistency and decision making did at times leave a lot to be desired.
However, when placed against his peers last season, the young Swedish defender was excellent. Some notable accomplishments from last season include being arguably the top defensman at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky, he was the youngest defenseman on Sweden’s World Junior team and he was named the top defenseman at the more recent U18 tournament. It is hard not to like the potential upside Broberg brings.
With the Oilers’ lack of top end forward prospect, the team’s lack of forward depth in general, it seemed like a slam dunk that the Oilers’ would draft a forward at eighth. In the NHL you never draft for need but what really speaks volumes about this pick is the fact that Ken Holland saw the highly ranked American forwards that were available at eight (Trevor Zegras, Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield) around 40 times last season but still opted to pass on them for the mobile Swedish rearguard. That should tell everyone how highly he thinks of Broberg.
Holland had this to say following the draft, “I’m certainly aware that we need forwards, but I also know that you’ve gotta have a good defence. It’s gotta be deep. It’s gotta be talented,” he said. “That’s really important in the league today.”
“That’s why we made the pick at pick eight,” Holland said. “We certainly believe he’s going to be a top-four defenseman…I like to have a big defense. You can have some small (blue liners), but you saw the two teams in the finals. There were some small defensemen, but there were lots of bigger, rangier defensemen. That was the thought process.”
The Oilers’ top two prospects as of now are Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg. These two prospects both bring offensive elements to the ice but have different skill sets that could make them an intriguing duo in the future. On one hand you have Bouchard who relies on his excellent hockey sense, elite breakout pass, his puck distribution in the offensive zone and his booming point shot. His weaknesses are his skating, defensive reliability and compete level. Broberg relies on his elite straight line skating to take the puck up ice, knows how to maneuver the offensive zone for scoring opportunities, is solid in the defensive zone and can chip in physically. His weaknesses are his consistency, decision making with the puck and at times his lack of teammate utilization. Both defenders are offensive minded but excel at completely different aspects of the game.
For the 2019-2020 season there was a debate on whether Broberg would play for Skellefteå AIK of the SHL or come over to North America and play for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL but it was announced, July 7 on Twitter, that the young defender will indeed be staying in his home country of Sweden for this upcoming season. When asked about where Broberg was going to play, Holland had this to say in June, “If he’s going to be important over there, I’ll certainly listen…If he’s going to be a (No.) five-six (defenseman), I think he’s best served to be over here.” Which will hopefully imply that Broberg will indeed have an opportunity to secure a top four spot for Skellefteå this season.
Videos of Broberg can be found here:
Round Two – RW, Rapaël Lavoie – 38th Overall
Going into the draft, the second half of round one and onwards was seen as a little all over the map as to where players might go and the actual results definitely lived up to that speculation with some extra surprises. On many lists/rankings, players like Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink, Raphaël Lavoie and Nils Hoglander were seen as sure fire first round picks but all four had to wait until day two to hear their names called.
At 38th overall, the Oilers opted to select Halifax Mooseheads’ forward Raphaël Lavoie. The early consensus is that this is a very good pick for Edmonton at this spot and overall, the pick has been met with a higher percentage of positivity from fans than the team’s first round selection. Here are some rankings of Lavoie from multiple online resources:
- Ranked #21 by the Athletic
- Ranked #25 by com
- Ranked #25 by Future Considerations
- Ranked #15 by ISS Hockey
- Ranked #14 by Mckeen’s Hockey
- Ranked #20 by NHL Central Scouting (North American Skaters)
- Ranked #21 by com
- Ranked #19 by TSN/McKenzie
Lavoie missed the 2018 draft deadline by just 10 days but was seen as a potential top 10 selection for 2019 draft. Things obviously did not shake out that way on draft day but Lavoie showed steady improvement in his game and has the ability to really take over games late in the season. His 32 goals and 73 points in 62 regular season games are definitely solid but it was not until the playoffs, where he recorded 20 goals and 32 points in 23 games, that he showed just how dominant he can be.
Lavoie has an impressive skill set with his 6’4 frame and knack for being a dangerous goal scorer. He knows how to use his size to his advantage in battles and is an effective possession player when on the cycle. Opinions on his skating are all over the place ranging from needs work to above average to very good. His size, offensive skills and ability to take over games are things the Oilers lack from their top six wingers so this pick is a great combination of being best player available while also potentially filling a team need.
Lavoie’s impressive playoffs helped lead the Mooseheads to the President’s Cup final where they ultimately lost to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies but really showed what he can do at the top of his game. He followed up the playoffs with a solid Memorial Cup where he recorded two goals and three points in four games.
Lavoie was awarded the Michael Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL’s Top Professional Prospect. He was the sixth Moosehead to win the award in the last seven seasons as he follows Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers, Timo Meier, Nico Hischier and Filip Zadina to earn the award.
Round Three – G, Ilya Konovalov – 85th Overall
With the Oilers third pick they opted to select Ilya Konovalov, a Russian net minder who was ranked fourth by NHL Central Scouting for European goaltenders. What is interesting about this pick is that Konovalov will be 21 years old this month and has been passed over in three NHL drafts (first eligible in 2016).
Before people starting questioning Edmonton’s management team for selecting an almost 21 year old goalie, they need to first understand how strong his season was. First, for those calling him a late bloomer, that isn’t entirely accurate. Konovalov’s worst goals against average in the last five seasons is 2.11 and his worst save percentage is 0.919 so in other words he has consistently put up strong numbers in that time frame. He likely did not get drafted sooner due to being Russian and a lack of exposure. He bounced around from league to league seeing time in six different leagues in the three seasons before last year when he cemented himself as a KHL starter.
By NHL standards for goaltenders Konovalov is small as he is just six feet tall and by reports he is not the most athletic but he makes up for his lack of size with strong hockey sense, excellent puck tracking, very good composure and a solid work ethic.
Last season with Lokomotiv of the KHL, Konovalov posted an impressive 0.930 save percentage along with a 1.89 goals against average. His season earned him the Alexei Cherepanov award which is given to the KHL rookie of the year. The last goaltender to earn that honour was Tampa Bay starting netminder Andrei Vasilevsky in 2014.
Konovalov is likely closer to being ready than most third round picks but has just completed the first year of his three year contract with Lokomotiv so it could be a couple seasons before he comes over to North America.
Round Four – RW, Matej Blümel – 100th Overall
For the second pick in a row the Oilers took a previously passed over player. Blümel went undrafted in 2018 but saw his numbers spike in his second season with Waterloo of the USHL. Last year he recorded a solid 30 goals and 60 points in 58 games compared to the eight goals and 18 points in 50 games the season prior.
The young Czech winger plays with pace and brings energy to the ice. He has good speed and can be a bit of a pest at times. Defensively, he has been utilized on the penalty kill and knows how to create shorthanded chances. Blümel is off to the University of Connecticut next season and will likely need two or three years there before being close to pro ready.
The Oilers’ success rate at drafting and developing past the first round is not great and, as with any player drafted on day two of the draft expectations must be kept reasonably low.
Round Six – C, Tomas Mazura 162nd Overall
The Oilers’ second Czech pick in a row. Mazura is an interesting pick for the Oilers, as he is a big forward known for his strong puck skills and playmaking abilities but is very raw at this point.
Last season for Kimball Union Academy he recorded 14 goals and 54 points in 37 games but it is safe to say the US prep school is not the best competition. His season was impressive considering the fact that he only played eight games in 2017-2018 and missed the entire 2016-2017 season.
What do Ethan Bear (124th in 2015) and Brandon Davidson (162nd in 2010) have in common? Well they are the only two players that the Oilers have drafted in the fifth round or later that have come close to being NHL players in the last 10 years. 2017 fifth round pick Kirill Maksimov is still a promising prospect but the point still stands that the Oilers do not typically find late round diamonds in the rough.
Mazura is committed to play at Providence College for the 2020-2021 season and should be considered a project at this point.
Round Seven – C, Maxim Denezhkin – 193rd Overall
With their sixth and final pick in 2019 the Oilers opted to select Maxim Denezhkin. Denezhkin has been ranked anywhere from the mid 60’s to the 200’s from multiple online resources. The fluctuation between rankings is likely due to the lack of exposure to the MHL.
Denezhkin possesses good quickness and although he is not the flashiest player, he displayed solid puck skills. He has been praised for his strong compete level and is known for his work ethic. Last season, Denezhkin led the best junior team in Russia in scoring as he recorded 22 goals and 39 points in 51 games.
This season, Denezhkin will join newly drafted Oilers’ goalie prospect Ilya Konovalov on Lokomotiv of the KHL. Like most seventh round picks, the young Russian is a long shot to be an NHL player but time will tell.
- Jujhar Khaira (RFA) Two years – $1.2MM
- Alex Chiasson (UFA) Two years – $2.15Mm
- Joseph Gambardella (UFA) Two years – $700K
- Brad Malone (UFA) One year – NA
- Shane Starrett (UFA) One year – $700K
- Patrick Russell (UFA) One year – $700K
- Joakim Nygård one year ELC – $925K
- Gaëtan Haas one year ELC – $925K
- Markus Granlund one year – $1.3MM
- Tomas Jurco one year – $750K
- Mike Smith one year – $2MM
- Olivier Rodrigue three year ELC – $809K
- Philip Broberg three year ELC – $925K
- Andrei Sekera (buyout, signed with Dallas)
- Jesse Puljujarvi (potentially/Highly likely)
- Anthony Stolarz (signed with Anaheim)
- Kevin Gravel (signed with Toronto)
- Evan Polei (signed with St. Louis)
- Colin Larkin (not extended a qualifying offer)
- Tyler Vesel (not extended a qualifying offer)
- Tobias Rieder (UFA)
- Ty Rattie (KHL)
Impact of Signings and Moves
Ken Holland’s first off season as the Oilers’ GM has left a lot to be desired (it is still very early) as he has not overly improved the roster compared to last season. The signings of Markus Granlund and Tomas Jurco will essentially replace Tobias Rieder, who was goalless for the Oilers last season. Jesse Puljujarvi agent has stated that Edmonton is not a good fit for the young Finn. There is still a chance that Puljujarvi finds himself in Edmonton next season but at this point that seems very unlikely. Players like Joakim Nygård (signed from the SHL) and Gaëtan Haas (signed from the NLA) will likely both be expected to make the Oilers shallow forward group for this upcoming season. Haas’ agent has stated that his client will not play in the AHL other than a couple games so it is either NHL or NLA for the Swiss forward. An argument could be made that the Oilers’ forward group is ever so slightly improved compared to last season.
With the buyout of Andrei Sekera many people speculated that Holland would use that extra cap space to sign a top six winger. As of today that has not happened, but there is still lots of summer left. The way the defense sits right now, with Sekera gone, one of Kris Russell or Matt Benning are slated for a top four role something that is not ideal. Sekera did not play until February last season so Edmonton and its fans know exactly how much the team struggles when a piece of the already shallow defence group is missing and what it is like having Russell or Benning in the top four. A rookie will likely occupy the remaining defense spot on the bottom pairing. Caleb Jones and Joel Persson seem like the obvious choices but if either Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard or William Lagesson have outstanding camps and/or preseason they could find themselves in contention for a spot with the big club.
Edmonton’s greatest needs up front are a third line center and of course top six wingers. Brodziak is best served as the fourth line center if he is on the team. Haas could potentially be put into the third line center spot but we have not even seen him play in North America yet. Jujhar Khaira could also potentially be an option as could Cooper Marody who was over a point per game as an AHL rookie last season. Marody’s skating needs work but if he impresses in camp/preseason he could earn that spot. Overall there are still lots of question marks for the third line center spot.
The biggest problem with the forward group is the lack of top six forwards. Draisaitl will likely play as a winger on McDavid’s line due to their pure dominance together. Kassian found some success as McDavid’s other winger last season and will be given every opportunity to stay there but his lack of consistency throughout his career is a concern. After that the winger spots are pretty wide open. Recently resigned winger Alex Chiasson had a career year last season and scored 22 goals despite majorly falling off in the second half but he will likely be penciled in as one of Nugent-Hopkins’ wingers on the second line. Other candidates for a top six spot include Sam Gagner, Joakim Nygård and Tyler Benson. Nygård is a 26-year old known for his speed and was second in the SHL in goals last season with 21. Tyler Benson is a 21 year old that recorded an impressive 66 points in 68 games as an AHL rookie last season. With a solid camp/preseason, Benson could find himself in Edmonton next season. Sam Gagner is not ideal in a top six spot but he has some offensive skill to his game and recorded a respectable 10 points in 25 games after being traded to Edmonton last season.
Free agent signing Mike Smith’s play last season was less than impressive to say the least. His 0.898 save percentage was the worst of his career and only the second time he has had a save percentage under 0.900. Is he declining or was that season a one off? Time will tell but he was on one of the best teams in league last season and will now be suiting up for a struggling franchise. Koskinen had a hot start last season but completely fell off after signing a three year deal worth $4.5 million per season. Koskinen will likely get the first crack at being the starter but is he the standout goaltender from the first half of last season or the disappointment from the second half? If he should struggle again early this season, Smith will have the opportunity to take the starting reigns. Overall, there are as many concerns with the goaltending as there is with the forward and defense groups.
*Philip Broberg was recently signed
- By all reports he came as advertised. Showcased his excellent mobility and poise with the puck. He likes to push the pace offensively and when he wants to he is a strong puck distributor. Do it yourself type defender who was one of the best players at development camp. Fantasy teams take note.
- He continued to impress viewers with his ability to get the puck up ice and his intelligence. Skating is a work in progress but it looked better and he was more efficient in skating drills. Expect him to make an impact at the pro level this season.
- Hebig impressed viewers throughout development camp and then was a standout during the Billy Moore’s Cup on the final day. His shot is a weapon of his and he was able to make creative moves with his puck skills. He really fell off production wise in the second half of his AHL rookie season last year but should make a more consistent impact this season.
- Possibly the biggest surprise in camp. One writer went as far to call Kesselring a revelation in camp. At 6-6 the young defender is Edmonton’s biggest prospect. He moves well for his size and has a solid compete level. He’s raw at this point but displayed the ability to contribute offensively in the Billy Moore’s Cup
- Has good size and advertised his excellent skating ability. He competed well in battles and won most of them throughout camp. Has solid one on one puck skills. Most were hoping to see more statistical progression in the OHL last season but he should be a top nine player for the Condors of the AHL this season.
- Was not amazing but was definitely was one of the better forward prospects at camp. Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal had this to say about the young forward, “First impressions are of a high-event player with plenty of rough edges to file down but plenty of upside, especially on the offensive side of the puck. A project, though not necessarily a long-term one.”
* It is important to note that Kirill Maksimov and Dmitri Samorukov were limited participants at development camp due to injury.
Highlights of the Billy Moores Cup can be found here:
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @JamesonEwasiuk
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