Despite the ongoing playoffs, the Edmonton Oilers have already begun the matriculations of the offseason overhaul ahead. With AHL defenceman Phillip Kemp signed on May 30, the Oilers made a trade on May 31, sending a 2023 fifth-round pick to the New York Rangers for prospect Jayden Grubbe.
Though not the biggest deal, this acquisition of Grubbe is an interesting one. Let’s take a look at who Grubbe is as a player, and how he might fit into the Oilers system.
Grubbe’s journey to the NHL
Jayden Grubbe is a 6’3” right shot centre who finished his Junior career this season. The captain of the Red Deer Rebels for three seasons, Grubbe reached the point per game mark for the first time in his career, with 67 points in 64 games, good for second in team scoring on a strong Rebels team.
In Grubbe’s draft year of 2020–21 he was named captain, notably quite young for the honour. Grubbe considers himself a lead by example type, taking Coach Brent Sutter’s advice in keeping his personality the same despite wearing a letter. Grubbe was injured in his draft year, playing only five games, but was still selected in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. His post draft season brought underwhelming offensive results, posting 35 points in 68 games in the 2021–22 season.
Though it was not a straight line, Grubbe did show development all the way through his Junior career with a huge playoff performance this season. Grubbe led the Rebels with 16 points in 12 games, including 14 assists.
What Grubbe can contribute
Grubbe is a player known for his work ethic, size, and defensive reputation. Granted, some of his production post draft is underwhelming, perhaps a reason that the Rangers might consider moving on from Grubbe. However, given some of the circumstances surrounding that production, as well as Grubbe’s strengths as a player lying elsewhere, we can see how the Oilers might be willing to contextualise the modest offensive results.
The 20-year-old forward found himself on the flank of the Rebels power play this season, a role we should not expect him to occupy at higher levels. Grubbe has some puck handling skills, as well as a strong enough shot to score from the mid slot, but with only 18 goals in the WHL this season, his draft +2 season, his goal scoring might never be a true strength. It is likely that Grubbe sees his best work at higher level come closer to the net, where his big frame would be an asset. Grubbe has enough skill to find loose pucks in tight and to make power moves off the post.
Grubbe showed a growing quality as a passer this season, making effective passes, even adding in some dekes and shot fakes to open up passing options for himself. From an offensive perspective this might be the most intriguing point of optimism in Grubbe’s game.
He was a big part of the Rebels penalty kill this season, a unit that finished fifth in the WHL at an 81% efficiency. Grubbe was also a key faceoff man for the Rebels and projects to continue this at higher levels. He has the size and disposition to be an effective player from a physical standpoint, able to check and forecheck, handle battles at the net front and along the boards, and make functional plays in any zone.
Grubbe to be an interesting addition for the Condors
Grubbe joins the Oilers organisation at an interesting point in time, likely to make his AHL debut next season for the Bakersfield Condors. The Condors will have a number of other AHL rookies or sophomores as well, forming a nice cocktail of prospects to keep an eye on. We are expecting Matvei Petrov, Maximus Wanner, Carl Berglund, Jake Chiasson, and perhaps other prospects still to play through their rookie professional seasons with the Condors next fall. The likes of Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio, and Carter Savoie will likely return for their sophomore AHL seasons, looking to build the surviving they achieved last season into thriving in 2023–24.
Having so many players around the same age will be exciting for Oilers fans tracking the Condors, as will it be for the possibility of this group of players building a strong team together. Ideally, we will see a number of this group bubbling up to the Oilers NHL roster in two to three seasons, when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s next contracts will be kicking in. Though it is a ways off, having some internal structure down the depth chart at this time would be valuable.
Grubbe fits into this group in a number of interesting ways. First, as a captain, Grubbe should be a positive piece of the locker room and ultimately the culture that defines this generation of Condors. The group could all help each other if they are able to come together on and off the ice and create an environment where all are focused and striving for success.
Grubbe also brings a slightly different element than many of the other Oilers prospects of the same age. While Bourgault and Tullio both project to be useful defensive players, neither has the size that Grubbe does. Meanwhile, more offensively minded players such as Petrov or Chiasson should give Grubbe the chance to continue growing as a playmaker.
Ultimately, Grubbe might serve as somewhat of a replacement for Skyler Brind’Amour, who is more and more likely to see himself become a free agent this summer. Brind’Amour brings a lot of similar elements to the ice as Grubbe, captaincy, size, faceoffs, defensive reputation, net front offence, but is roughly three years older than Grubbe. While Brind’Amour has played at a higher level, Grubbe has more runaway to reach a higher upside. Any Oilers fans that lament the potential loss of Brind’Amour should feel at least as good about Grubbe joining the program.
What the Oilers exchanged
The 2023 fifth-round pick that the Oilers sent to the Rangers for Grubbe is not at all expensive. In Oilers GM Ken Holland’s words he isn’t interested in “green bananas”, that there is a degree of living in the moment that defines the Oilers reality.
Grubbe is still a ways away from contributing to the Oilers roster, but he is going to be an immediate contributor to the program as a whole. Whoever the Oilers selected with the fifth-round pick in this year’s draft would still be at least two seasons behind where Grubbe is now.
Grubbe isn’t the most heralded prospect outside the NHL, but there are several reasons to have faith in his future. Though the Oilers don’t have a lot of draft capital this season, down to three picks (second, sixth, and seventh), they undoubtedly upgraded their prospect pool overall.
Photo from @Rebelshockey on Twitter