The Edmonton Oilers’ prospects saw plenty of action this past week. With a lot of highlight performances, we had to give this week’s biggest honours to a familiar a name: Tyler Benson. His recent promotion to the Oilers’ main roster, he earns the spotlight. Let’s dive right into it!
Welcome to the TOR Edmonton Oilers prospect update. Each week, we’ll take a dive into how the Oilers’ prospects have done in their respective leagues. We have defined a prospect as a skater who has played fewer than 65 NHL games, and is younger than 25 years of age. All data is from EliteProspects. We also use an NHLe calculator built by Christian Roatis (@Croatis) which is used to estimate a player’s equivalent point total in the NHL based on how they are performing in their respective league. The calculator uses the difficulty of the given league combined with the ease at which a player puts up points to determine the NHLe.
Prospect of the Week: Tyler Benson
Injured to start the season, and a year or two removed from the “now or never” questions that can fester on prospects in their early 20s, the fervour surrounding Tyler Benson is much more muted than in years past. Loaned to the Bakersfield Condors for a conditioning stint, the forward spent the week getting up to speed after his return to health, netting a tidy two assists in three games. Now, all of a sudden, Benson sees what might be his best shot at a regular lineup spot yet, as the Oilers are in desperate need of injury replacements up front.
The issue with Benson has never been related to his production in the AHL. Ever since his three assists over five games at the tail end of the 2017–18 season, Benson has been delivering near a point per game in every AHL season since. This extends to his limited playoff experience as well. Interestingly, Benson’s AHL scoring rates were almost identical to those in his Junior career.
The issue has been twofold. Notably, Benson can’t seem to avoid the injury list, with his games and opportunities being limited on a yearly basis. It is nothing but unfortunate, and we should hope he can stay as healthy as possible, but the missed time and rehabilitation, followed by getting up to speed, seems to have left the winger spinning his wheels in the AHL. Other forwards have been given lots of opportunities to pass him on the depth chart.
Moreover, a lack of speed has been a consistent feature in the Benson scouting report. It is definitely worth monitoring how effectively he is moving around the ice, but Benson is a smart enough player to help him make up for some of his shortcomings here.
Benson has been a captain in the WHL, and an assistant captain in the AHL, and is more often lauded as a hard worker and good teammate than not.
Along with Klim Kostin, the Oilers injuries up front have given a vast array of opportunities for forwards like Benson. There is reason to be hopeful that either might flash signs of a legitimate top-nine NHL forward, if not a little bit more.
Regardless of how improved Benson’s game is, another reason this is his best opportunity to make an impact yet is because of his relationship with coach Woodcroft. Tippett never seemed to have been won over by Benson, scarcely earning but fourth line minutes when in the lineup. It is hard to believe that Benson has only suited up for 36 games total for the Oilers, but he might be able to double that number this season with a strong start to his NHL season.
This clip shows us some of Benson’s offensive ability, a smart playmaker with a quality backhand. His hockey sense makes him a viable option in the bumper on the power play here, important because he likely doesn’t have the shot to be a threat from the flank, or the size for a leading net front role. Although his first move doesn’t work, Benson shows a good stick in winning the battle, moving into space, and delivering a deft pass through traffic.
More of this playmaking is featured here with a sweet bounce pass off the end wall in transition. Also shoutout to Broberg with a bold spin move.
In both these clips we can see how Benson is able to make plays even without a lot of speed, but it does mean he’ll have to be deployed in the right circumstances. Benson should be an effective in zone attacker, and would certainly appreciate some speed on his line. In other words, this is the time to put Benson in a top-six spot, and what are prospects reports for if not seeing exactly if and when such ascensions occur.
The latest from all Oilers prospects
Rodrigue’s cross-crease save
Olivier Rodrigue played both games this week, stopping 31 of 33 and 41 of 43 in the 1–1–0 stretch. Though his AHL numbers have not been spectacular in years past, Rodrigue is stepping up to the challenge of being the Condors’ leading option.
Although goalies can often take a long time to earn a regular NHL job, often 28 is just in time, there should be little hurry to see Rodrigue in NHL action. However, providing this level of play as a true AHL starter would be a nice addition to his resume.
This is a highlight from last week’s game against the Wranglers (unfortunately not the best camera work), but regardless it is good to remember Fanti’s strong play of late as well. Starting in the ECHL, Fanti quickly became the starter. Not long after he was called up to Bakersfield, where he has had some success as well. Some think Fanti might pass Rodrigue at some point, but the important part is that both are proving themselves nicely. The Oilers’ depth in net looks strong despite the graduation of Stuart Skinner.
Bourgault on cleanup duty
Xavier Bourgault continues his strong AHL rookie season. Sure, not the flashiest of highlights, but Bourgault goes to the net and shows some nice hands to drag the puck for a cleaner angle. Despite some skill, of note a shot, it is this simple and functional type of play that makes Bourgault an effective player. He is a contributor on both special teams, a strong support passer, and a volume shooter who manages to find space in the slot.
On this play we can see Tyler Tullio getting involved as well. His transition to the AHL hasn’t been as smooth as Bourgault’s has to this point, but the forward should have a long time yet to begin establishing a more prominent role as the seasons go.
Kesselring’s seeing-eye goal
Perhaps the most strange or surprising story around the Oilers prospects pool is Michael Kesselring’s goal scoring—this latest one being his seventh of the season. Kesselring looks to be moving with speed and power throughout the year, but in this play we see the defenceman thread the needle through traffic. Finding these lanes is a skill of its own, one that many would not have expected from Kesselring. At this rate he might be able to generate some buzz in next year’s training camp.
Though his all situations goals per 60 is second in the WHL, Schaefer’s excellence in scoring shines even more at even strength. That’s 11 of his 15 goals, which is pretty impressive for a Seattle team that is strong again this season, this time with Schaefer in a much larger role.
Though some have started to wish the Oilers took any prospect selected afterwards who is excelling as well (ahem, Lane Hutson), it is not something that it makes much sense to criticise the Oilers for. Schaefer has been exceeding expectations and seems like a great selection. None of the players selected in the 2022 Entry Draft should be in the NHL at this point, meaning it’s a bit soon to try to hold up the Schaefer selection to the unreasonable expectation that he is better than every player selected after him.
Wanner’s power play feed
The Oilers system has its share of bright spots, and the play of Max Wanner is particularly encouraging. Here he is on the far flank, taking a pass in stride, shooting for the tip. Known foremost for his physical and effective defending, Wanner’s offensive chops continue to flourish, looking confident and comfortable. Yes, the WHL is a far cry from the NHL, but Wanner’s steep upward trend has continued since his draft day.
It was a quiet week for Matvey Petrov, with 1 assist in a 1–2–0 stretch for the Battalion.
Yevseyev was injured by a knee-on-knee hit that resulted in a suspension to the opposing player. Hopefully no worse for wear as the defenceman is authoring a strong KHL rookie season at just 18 years old.
Samuel Jonsson’s numbers continue to rise, a nice flourish on a good start to the season for the Oilers goaltending prospects as a whole.
NHLe is a metric used to estimate a player’s offensive output at the NHL level from their point totals in their respective league. Here are the Oilers’ current top five (bracketed numbers denote movement from the previous week).
- Matvey Petrov 31.3 (1)
- Reid Schaefer 30.0 (2)
- Tyler Benson 26.7 (N/A)
- James Hamblin 23.9 (5)
- Philip Broberg 22.7 (4)
Overall regular season totals for Oilers’ prospects
|Tyler Benson (LW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||3||0||2||2||0.67||2||0||AHL||26.7|
|Maxim Beryozkin (LW/RW)||totals||31||6||8||14||0.45||14||6||totals|
|Xavier Bourgault (C)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||16||4||4||8||0.5||4||2||ECAC||11.5|
|Skyler Brind’Amour (C)||Quinnipiac Univ.||NCAA||14||4||5||9||0.64||0||6|
|Jake Chiasson (C/RW)||Brandon Wheat Kings||WHL||24||7||11||18||0.75||8||-15||WHL||18.6|
|Maxim Denezhkin (C)||totals||15||3||2||5||0.33||39||-2||totals|
|Seth Griffith (C/RW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||16||2||13||15||0.94||14||-3||AHL||37.5|
|James Hamblin (LW/C)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||15||3||6||9||0.6||2||-1||AHL||23.9|
|Mattias Janmark (C/W)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||4||2||2||4||1||2||3||AHL||39.9|
|Klim Kostin (LW/RW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||9||2||2||4||0.44||15||-4||AHL||17.5|
|Shane Lachance (LW)||Youngstown Phantoms||USHL||17||11||4||15||0.88||10||-4||USHL||19.5|
|Raphaël Lavoie (C/RW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||10||2||1||3||0.3||4||-1||AHL||12.0|
|Jeremias Lindewall (RW/LW)||Östersunds IK||HockeyAllsvenskan||19||1||3||4||0.21||6||-10||HockeyAllsvenskan|
|Brad Malone (C/LW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||10||1||3||4||0.4||16||2||ECAC||9.2|
|Tomas Mazura (C)||St. Lawrence Univ.||NCAA||9||1||2||3||0.33||2||1|
|Greg McKegg (C/W)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||16||1||4||5||0.31||14||4||Hockey East||10.0|
|Joel Määttä (C)||Univ. of Vermont||NCAA||15||3||2||5||0.33||14||2|
|Matvei Petrov (RW/LW)||North Bay Battalion||OHL||22||9||17||26||1.18||14||9||OHL||31.3|
|Noah Philp (C)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||16||2||1||3||0.19||4||4||AHL||7.6|
|Carter Savoie (LW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||10||2||1||3||0.3||6||0||AHL||12.0|
|Reid Schaefer (LW)||Seattle Thunderbirds||WHL||19||15||8||23||1.21||32||8||WHL||30.0|
|Tyler Tullio (C/RW)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||14||1||3||4||0.29||2||2||AHL||11.6|
|Philip Broberg (D)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||7||2||2||4||0.57||0||-2||AHL||22.7|
|Vincent Desharnais (D)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||5||0||1||1||0.2||17||2||AHL||8.0|
|Philip Kemp (D)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||16||3||3||6||0.38||15||3||AHL||15.1|
|Michael Kesselring (D)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||16||7||1||8||0.5||22||3||AHL||19.9|
|Slater Koekkoek (D)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||AHL|
|Luca Münzenberger (D)||Univ. of Vermont||NCAA||11||0||4||4||0.36||12||-5||Hockey East||11.6|
|Markus Niemeläinen (D)||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||3||0||1||1||0.33||0||1||AHL||13.2|
|Maximus Wanner (D)||Moose Jaw Warriors||WHL||17||5||8||13||0.77||22||10||WHL||19.1|
|Nikita Yevseyev (D)||totals||28||4||1||5||0.18||9||7||totals|
|Ak Bars Kazan||KHL||27||4||1||5||0.19||7||5||KHL||12.5|
|Samuel Jonsson||Rögle BK J20||J20 Nationell||15||2.08||0.914|
|Olivier Rodrigue||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||8||2.52||0.924|
|Calvin Pickard||Bakersfield Condors||AHL||8||3.12||0.899|
|Fort Wayne Komets||ECHL||6||3.57||0.878|
Which prospects are you most excited about? Let us know below in the comments or on social media.