Earlier this week the Edmonton Oilers signed two of their prospects: Carl Berglund and Jake Chiasson. Though neither will be considered among the Oilers top prospects, both will find themselves with opportunities to impress going forward. Let’s take a look at who they are as players, what strengths they bring to the ice, what the next steps of their development will look like, and ultimately what effect they might have on the Oilers NHL lineup in the future.
An Oilers fourth-round pick in 2021, Chiasson is playing out his final year in the WHL, and likely to join the AHL Bakersfield Condors next season. During his junior career, Chiasson has seen a bit of everything. He was drafted as a depth player on a strong Brandon Wheat Kings team, buried a bit deeper in the lineup, giving him less opportunities for scoring production.
This season began with Chiasson starring in a Wheat Kings team that was not as strong as before and then being shipped off to the Saskatoon Blades at the deadline. Now, two years later, Chiasson is once again on a top team, as the Blades prepare themselves for a playoff series against Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats. Though heavily favoured in the battle of Saskatchewan, the Blades will have their hands full with the best player outside the NHL.
As far as Chiasson’s individual play there have been some twists and turns along his junior career as well. Earlier this season, Chiasson found himself in a different power play role than he is used to. With the Wheat Kings he was stationed on his weak side flank, higher near the top of the circle. While some nice moments came in this spot, particularly with some long range shooting, Chiasson’s more natural position is much closer to the net.
Upon his joining the Blades, Chiasson has been moved to a net front spot on the power play, showing why this has long been his best spot. Chiasson has a mixture of strength, balance, and skill that help him make plays in tight. Chiasson can score from in close, but has considerable ability as a passer in this position as well.
Chiasson’s style of play draws some contrast to Hyman
A stylistic comparison on the Oilers roster might be Zach Hyman, a bulldog in the middle of the ice, creating and capitalising on chaos at the net front. To contrast the two, Chiasson is more of a natural shooter, as Hyman is not known for his shooting range. Hyman has continually improved his puck control, using his strength and puck protection to buy time and space for teammates, chipping pucks to areas so that he can win possession back, and even more high end manoeuvres off the rush. Chiasson still has a lot of room to grow, but Hyman’s relentless efforts to improve each offseason are a golden standard for all players, though perhaps particularly relevant to Chiasson’s development.
Chiasson is not the biggest or fastest player, though he is able to navigate the slot, attacking laterally to open lanes for a shot or pass.
The next step for Chiasson
Next season Chiasson will make the jump to the AHL for his first season as a professional. This is a transition that can be difficult for even the most highly touted prospects, so more than production some signs of belonging, if not improvement, should be the primary measure of Chiasson’s success. He will need to continue to get stronger, particularly in his core, to be able to be as effective in the professional ranks as he has been in junior. Playing in the tough ice, Chiasson will be well acquainted with some of the strongest players in the league, and will need to be able to outduel them for positioning.
After some promising rookie seasons from the likes of Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, and Carter Savoie, the Condors will have another crop of young talent joining them next season, in which Chiasson should be a factor. His playing a slightly different role than most of the young Condors, particularly on the power play, Chiasson might be able to surprise in carving out a niche that enables production.
It is almost certain that Chiasson will spend his first professional season in the AHL. Ideally he can replicate some of the success that Bourgault and Tullio have had this season, setting him up for a bigger role in his sophomore AHL season. We will likely want Chiasson to be a reliable top six scorer in the AHL by his second or third season before any potential AHL call up, but the path does exist.
At 23 years of age Berglund is an older prospect, though the undrafted free agent is already playing in the AHL. Berglund played four seasons in the NCAA, a full college career, and was among his team’s top offensive contributors in each season. Berglund had a decorated time at UMass-Lowell. He earned the rookie of the year for his team in his freshman season, a two-time Hockey East All-Academic team selection, led his team in scoring during his junior and senior seasons, and serving as team captain in his final season.
Goals can be hard to come by, especially in NCAA men’s hockey, meaning that analysis of Berglund’s offensive abilities likely requires more nuance than looking at his points per game. Berglund does not project as a top six NHL scorer, but there might still be some hope that Berglund can grow his offensive game in the years to come.
The main things that characterise Berglund’s game are a straightforward approach, responsible decision making, and a general stoutness. Berglund is a powerful skater, though not the most agile. There is a bluntness to every aspect of Berglund’s game, one built more on substance than style, which should help him be an effective professional player.
Berlund’s future in the AHL
Despite playing in a few games for the Condors down the stretch this season, next season will be his rookie season in the AHL. As an older prospect, Berglund should have a different set of roles and expectations than his fellow AHL rookies, many of whom sport higher offensive upsides. Berglund should offer a stable level of play for his younger teammates to lean on, perhaps like current Condors forward Noah Philp, likely to form a symbiotic relationship with more dynamic linemates.
Berglund has enough speed to carry the puck through the neutral zone, and can help transition with simple support passes. It is difficult to imagine that Berglund will be adept at zone entries, especially in the NHL, but he does have some utility here. Berglund does have some puck skills, combined with a big wingspan he is able to settle down the play and make smart decisions, a calming, effective, and functional player with the puck.
Most of Berglund’s offence comes from smart positioning in the offensive zone. He does have a reasonable shot, which certainly helps, but a lot of his success comes off of finding quiet ice during in zone offence, in particular in the slot on his weak side where he is open for one timers. Naturally he doesn’t have the audacity or skill that Leon Draisaitl does, and he will not use as sharp of an angle, but this is the locale in which Berglund often finds his goals.
How can Berglund get himself an NHL call-up?
The chance to get his toes wet at the tail end of this season, including some upcoming AHL playoff action, should help Berglund hit the ground running next season. Berglund is likely pretty far down the Oilers prospect ranking, but building some strong chemistry with high skilled linemates offers Berglund a chance at an NHL call up down the road.
Berglund’s size, strength, age, and player profile don’t point to a player that needs huge scoring totals to earn an NHL call up. If Berglund can earn a top role on the penalty kill, top defensive responsibilities, and significant icetime in general over his rookie and sophomore AHL seasons, he might well earn himself a look in the NHL. Given his responsibility on the ice, his academic achievements off the ice, and his willingness to move from Sweden to play in the NCAA as a young adult show that Berglund might have the disposition to understand that his path towards the NHL might not be the most glamorous.
At the very least Berglund figures to be an important piece of a Condors team that is adding young scorers like Jake Chiasson and Matvei Petrov next season. Even among the Condors more experienced players there is a lot of scoring talent on the wings which gives Berglund a great opportunity to centre complementary linemates.