Unlike the NFL or NBA, which represent the NHL’s aspirations as North American sports leagues go, the NHL entry draft takes place sooner in a player’s development. For the most part the NHL drafts high school aged players, where all but the very best will see subsequent years in junior or lower professional leagues. As such, NHL teams will have a large prospect pool spread across the globe as a new season begins, the Oilers no different.
Though they might not factor into the Oilers NHL lineup anytime soon, checking in on prospects can be a great source of intrigue, premonitions that might well foretell the shape of the roster’s future. With that said, let us take a gander at where Oilers prospects will be suiting up this coming season.
With the Russian leagues already underway it seems a pair of Oilers prospects find themselves in Russia’s top level. Maxim Denezhkin, a 2000-born left-shot centre, suits up for Avtomobilost Yekaterinburg for what would be his KHL rookie season. He has steadily increased his production from MHL to VHL over the past few seasons.
Likewise, it is promising news that 2022 sixth-round pick, defenceman Nikita Yevseyev appears to be making an early graduation to KHL Ak Bars Kazan. That said, players in his position might find themselves bouncing up and down between the KHL and the VHL as the season progresses.
The third and final Oilers prospect playing in Russia is winger Maxim Beryozkin. The 2020 fifth-round selection—a right-shot winger—has been a force in the junior league MHL, so much that he has earned limited minutes in call ups to the KHL over the past three seasons.
KHL teams are not developmental programs, and it is not uncommon for young players to spend most of each game stapled to the bench, making any stats one might produce moot. That said, Beryozkin will finally graduate to the VHL for his rookie season in that league, for Molot Perm.
Aapeli Rasanen is a 2016 sixth-round pick. He’s an older prospect, going into his third straight season in the top Finnish league for KalPa. He is to serve as an alternate captain, perhaps telling that his time considered as a prospect has come to an end.
Jeremias Lindewall is a left-shot winger, an Oilers seventh-round pick from 2020. This will be his third season in the relegated portion of the SHL known as the Allsvenskan, but his first on his new team Ostersunds IK.
The Oilers 2022 fifth-round pick, goalie Samuel Jonsson, will suit up for Rogle BK’s U20 team, famously with an Oilers-inspired logo of their own. Having played all of last season in this league, Jonsson will be looking to continue gaining starter’s experience and improving his performance.
The Oilers will have three prospects in the WHL this season. 2022 first-round pick Reid Schaefer returns to the Seattle Thunderbirds, looking to build on his role for the reigning WHL champions.
2021 fourth-round forward Jake Chiasson suits up for the Brandon Wheat Kings, where his production has stalled after playing in only 43 combined games over the past two seasons.
Finally, 2021 seventh-round defenceman Maximus Wanner suits up for the Moose Jaw Warriors, where the right-shot defender will look to continue his growth.
The Oilers have four prospects in the NCAA ranks this season, including two on the same University of Vermont team that Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft’s brother, Todd, coaches.
2021 third-rounder, defenceman Luca Munzenberger looked strong at the cancelled winter version of the U20 World Juniors, and will look to show some of that strong two-way play for Vermont this season. Teammate Joel Maatta, a 2022 seventh-round pick as an over-ager, is a long shot at forward known for his work ethic, perhaps not dissimilar to Zach Hyman’s college profile.
Elsewhere, Skyler Brind’Amour is a centre for Quinnipiac. A 2017 sixth-round pick, Brind’Amour enters his fourth, and likely final, college season.
Finally, left shot centre Tomas Mazura has transferred to St. Lawrence University after one eight-game stint at Providence College last season. The big Czech was a sixth-round pick in 2019.
The lion’s share of the Oilers prospects will of course suit up for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. Here the lines between prospect and depth player can become blurred, as some of these players will no doubt see NHL action at some point this season.
We might be able to discern how likely or unlikely it will be for certain players to find themselves in the AHL or NHL, but for other players that task is very much up in the air.
Most are expecting both Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway to be full time NHLers by season’s end, but it is possible for both or either of the 2019 and 2020 first-round picks to see some AHL action.
While forwards with 1998 or 1999 birth years, such as Tyler Benson, James Hamblin, and Noah Philip, might find themselves at the end of their prospect stages, there is a bit more hope for defenders Markus Niemelainen and Dmitri Samorukov. Both of these players are expected to legitimately fight for opening night roster spots.
Although the case for their NHL inclusion from the outset is unlikely, it is quite probable that we see one or both for the Oilers this season.
In that respect Philip Kemp and Michael Kesselring find themselves lower on the defensive depth chart, but might continue their efforts to continue rising. A deeper cut might be 6’6” defender Vincent Desharnais, who as a 1996-born is hardly considered a prospect at this point, if that. That said, every person has their own development path, and Desharnais has continued to rise up the ranks. Given his size there will always be those who seem to think more highly of the lanky right shot.
By far the most interesting spot to watch for the Condors will be a glut of well regarded forwards, many of whom will be making their AHL debuts. Matvei Petrov, Tyler Tullio, and Xavier Bourgault all graduate from the CHL after strong final campaigns to their respective junior careers.
Carter Savoie also graduates from the NCAA, who might well be the favourite to pace the group of rookies in scoring this season. This group joins the mercurial Raphael Lavoie as focal points of the Oilers prospect system.
Lastly, in net, Olivier Rodrigue will look to expand on his role from last season, potentially operating as the Condors’ co-starter alongside veteran Calvin Pickard. Not every goalie will have as expeditious a route through the AHL as Oilers backup Stuart Skinner has, but Rodrigue at last has earned his spot as presumptive backup. Ryan Fanti saw a game for the Condors last season after finishing his NCAA career, but is likely headed for the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder.
Clearly, the Oilers have no shortage of prospects all over the world. There will be plenty of action (some of which has already started) and following the play each prospect will be filled with new developments, excitement, and more.
Stay tuned throughout the season as The Oil Rig will provide in-depth updates and news on Oilers prospects and everything going on outside of the NHL.
1) Whoa, Ryan Fanti will 100% be in Bakersfield and he’s well ahead of Rodrigue on the depth chart at this point. He’s a mature prospect and, from accounts, not that far from being NHL ready – of course, far from a sure thing to “make it” but, if he does it won’t be that long from now. He’ll likely split with Pickard for the Condors.
2) Petrov will almost assuredly being heading back to North Bay (and even stated that himself at development camp) – this past season was his 18 year old season. Due to him being drafted our of Europe and not the CHL, he’s eligible for the AHL as a teenager this season but, with so many young forwards graduating from amateur to pro, and him being 19 this season, he’s almost a lock to be back in North Bay – its going to be very intriguing to see how he does with Brandon Coe graduating to pro hockey.
3) Yeseyev is likely either KHL or MHL (the Russian junior league) – he’s in the KHL on a weird rule that allows them to ice more than 18 skaters with some addition 18/19 year olds. The issue is usually these players get like 2-3-4 minutes of ice per game, and often in garbage time – this was Berezhkin last season. Its heartening that, in his 3 games, Yeseyev has increased his ice from under 4 minutes to just under 8 to over 10. Great arrow there.
Oh, and I should say – thank you for the piece – a good read!
Also, I would say that Max Wanner deserves a longer write-up given the massive development he showed last season, not only with an offensive spike in the 2nd half and playoffs but his overall 2-way play. He’s a prospect of interest now and we’ll be talking about him heading in to camp next season I predict.
Also, importantly, I don’t think Samorukov is a long-shot to make the roster. The Murray signing muddies the waters a bit but I think the org will try and keep 8D in and Samorukov on the roster. His skill-set is exactly what the D-group needs and he was the Condors’ best d-man down the stretch. He was in the conversation to make the team last camp until he smashed his face and he is very much in the conversation for this year’s roster.
These are all great points, I appreciate your in depth understanding on these things. Petrov is just good enough that I thought he was a year older than he is, that is on me completely. I think that will be good for challenge him to focus on continuing to improve his overall play more so than focusing on improving his already gaudy point totals too much.
I think I agree with the rest of your points, at least in spirit, if not share in some of them. I’m trying to be fair in assuming that some seniority and familiarity (perhaps more than fans usually want) might go into the coaches’ initial roster decisions, over potential shown in other leagues. I think it’s fair to give players, especially young adults who are turning pro for the first time, moving across the country, continent, or world, some leeway in adjusting to higher levels as well.
You’re right that Fanti, Yeseyev, and Wanner all trending in promising directions, arrows. They could be there, but are they yet? Definitely players worth looking out for.
Samorukov is probably ahead of Niemelainen, and as Markus is waiver exempt, Dmitri looks good to factor into an 8D lineup at some point, especially considering inevitable injuries. It helps to have the familiarity of your coach. He might also clear waivers and the Oilers are strapped for cap as it is.
Fanti had great NCAA numbers, and Rodrigue hasn’t exactly emerged as an AHL starter yet, even if it might be likely one passes another I still think it would be a surprise if Rodgrigue was sent down to start the year. I think both will play some AHL games this season, and it’s certainly possible Fanti shoots up the depth chart quickly.
Moreover, I think that I would be fleshing out opinions like these in more concise articles, instead of in more general pieces like this one. I added some notable details to taste, but I agree that more players are worthy of outlining more thoroughly. Perhaps even the strange loopholes of ice time distributions in the KHL are worthy of a deep dive of their own!
I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I hope that I can provide good reads for all while still providing value for deeply knowledgeable fans like yourself.
Thank you for the well thought out and lengthy response. I appreciate you taking the time and I very much enjoy the discourse.
Ya, Petrov’s season was even more impressive when you think about him not only being 18 but being a rookie in the CHL (and in North America). Even just matching his offensive output with Brandon Coe and Mitchell Russell will be impressive – he’ll be the driver now and we’ll see how that goes. Of course, in addition to working on his skating and edges and play away from the puck – standard CHL type stuff. Lets not forget, he LEAKED goals against in the playoffs – big time.
I agree that Rodrigue will definitely play some AHL games but I’m fairly confident that Fanti, at 23 will be ahead of him to start. Rodrigue kind of needs a re-start. Covid kind of effed him as he never got the standard ECHL season as a rookie pro and never got to settle in anywhere – he was moved all over the place from Austria to the NHL taxi squad and up and down, etc., etc.
Subject to one of Fanti or Pickard being injured (or called up), I think Rodrigue will be slatted to play alot of games in the ECHL and get his confidance and game back – he’s not finished yet.