The NHL offseason can be underrated at times.
Most people, probably rightfully so, tend to focus on the the overwhelming amount of days without hockey games. The dog days of summer do tend to drag, but when there is action, oh man, can it be fun.
Of course there are the big days like the draft and free agency which can see teams make franchise altering decisions that will spark endless debate, but there is also the fun that can be had with some of the smaller transactions that go on.
I’m talking about the AHL stuff. The tiny moves that if they happened in the middle of a January nobody would bat an eye at, but in the offseason it’s the talk of the town for at least a day or two.
Edmonton’s recent AHL moves
Only in-between the months of June and August will we see so many opinions thrown around on the Edmonton Oilers trading a middling draft pick for Jayden Grubbe or see an intriguing, eye-opening discussion around the merits of Noel Hoefenmayer.
It’s these tiny moves that I think can be some of the more interesting ones and, even with increased attention during the offseason, can often still be overlooked by the Connor Browns of the world.
These moves also have the potential to make a bigger-than-expected impact for a team taking a shot at the playoffs. I mean, look at the impacts some of these seemingly AHL depth moves made during the Oilers 2023 playoff run.
Klim Kostin was acquired in the middle of October in a rather small deal that saw Dmitri Samorukov leave the club. Kostin started the season in the AHL but eventually became a fixture in the bottom six and had some HUGE moments during the playoffs.
Hell, it might not be quite the same, but Vincent Desharnais was signed in March 2022 to little fanfare and he became a key player during the second half of last season.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of Ken Holland’s work this summer to beef up the AHL/call-up depth.
- Drake Caggiula
- Raphael Lavoie
- Lane Pederson
- Jayden Grubbe
- Matvey Petrov
- Tyler Benson
- Justin Bailey
The bulk of Edmonton’s work involved bolstering the forward depth at the top-end of the AHL roster. Drake Caggiula and Lane Pederson will most definitely get some looks in training camp with one potentially filling Devin Shore’s absence as the team’s 13th forward. If not, both will play feature roles in Bakersfield.
The player that has the best chance of getting regular minutes is Raphael Lavoie, who recently accepted a risky qualifying offer that suggests he believes in his abilities to take that next step. Lavoie caught fire in the AHL last season, finishing the year with 25 goals and 45 points in 66 games, the bulk of which came in the second half of the season.
While Lavoie will be hard-pressed to beat out Dylan Holloway, he will have the inside track ahead of Caggiula and Pederson for a role on the fourth line.
Elsewhere up front, the Bakersfield Condors will be home to a few interesting players making their pro debuts. Both Jayden Grubbe and Matvey Petrov will both make the jump from the CHL and both hold some promise.
Petrov has been an absolute wagon for the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, rattling off a pair of 90 and 93 point seasons over the last two years. It will be intriguing to see if he can translate that scoring touch to the pro level.
Grubbe, on the other hand, is not as flashy or as productive as Petrov, but he brings a different element. He has been described as a defensive first centre that has a knack for the special teams, be that either the penalty-kill or the powerplay. He’s a longer shot to make the big leagues, but the Oilers obviously saw something in him to trade for Grubbe.
The two key departures aren’t overly significant. Justin Bailey was never gonna take a spot on the big club and AHL lifers like him are typically a dime a dozen. Seeing Tyler Benson sign with the Henderson Silver Knights was tough to see, but he failed to properly assert himself on the roster throughout his entire tenure with the Oilers and a change of scenery was probably the best route.
- Noel Hofenmayer
- Cam Dineen
- Max Wanner
- Jason Demers
- Yanni Kaldis
The defensive group in Bakersfield is going to be a curious one to keep an eye on next season. Though I don’t believe any of this summer’s acquisitions stand much of a chance at seeing much, if any, NHL time that could very well change in the years to come.
Noel Hofenmayer was a name I had previously never heard before, but after doing a tiny bit of research, his game is intriguing. He recently established himself as a top-pairing defender with the Toronto Marlies last season and put up a respectable 38 points. At 24, there is still a chance Hoefenmayer could take that next step and could potentially be a call-up if the injury bug strikes Edmonton’s blueline. A tidy pickup that will, at the very least, give the Condors a capable top four defender.
Following in the steps of offensive defencemen, Cam Dineen is another player Oilers fans should keep an eye on. Acquired at the 2023 trade deadline from the Arizona Coyotes in the Nick Bjugstad deal, Dineen played well enough in the second half of the AHL season to earn a one-year deal from the Oilers. His speciality is his ability to put up points and I think he would near the top of the list for a call-up on the backend.
The intriguing pro debut for the blueline will be Maximus Wanner, a player the organization reportedly likes a lot. He had a strong season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors where he demonstrated some very nice two-way ability. His defensive game stands out, but he also supplements that with good puck movement up the ice and is not afraid to put up points as well. He’s got the tools of a future NHL defender, but that could easily be stripped away if he’s not able to translate it to the next level.
Like the forward departures, there isn’t much to be said about Jason Demers and Yanni Kaldis leaving town. The Oilers have effectively replaced Demers with Ben Gleason and Kaldis didn’t stand much of a shot of being anything more than a bottom-four defender with the Condors.
- Olivier Rodrigue
- Tyler Parks
Not much occurred between the pipes for both the Oilers and Condors this summer so far. The big move was bringing back Olivier Rodrigue, who is coming off a decent year with the Condors. The 23-year-old goaltender had a 14–14–1 record but carried a .912 SV% in the process.
The thing I would keep an eye on next season is if he can wrestle the starters position away from veteran Calvin Pickard. If he does, he could find some time on the Oilers bench as a backup if either one of Jack Campbell or Stuart Skinner get injured.
Tyler Parks doesn’t illicit much of a reaction from me. He’s a journeyman goaltender who has struggled to find consistent work in the AHL. I’d put Ryan Fanti ahead of him on the depth chart.