In large part, the focus of Oil Country is firmly on the here and now, the championship window that the Edmonton Oilers currently find themselves in, as it should be. There are still a lot of developments worthy of monitoring throughout the rest of the organisation as a whole, prospects who the Oilers themselves will need to focus on developing to keep the NHL team strong in the years to come.
One of the more intriguing prospects to keep an eye on, for Oilers fans, will be the talented winger Matvei Petrov. As Petrov transitions from the OHL to the AHL, he is still a ways away from NHL consideration. Let’s take a look at what Petrov brings to the ice, as well as what the next steps of his development might hold.
Petrov’s style of play
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Although Petrov’s 6’2” 181 lb. size might jump off the page for some, his game is primarily predicated on his quality with the puck. In his draft year, Petrov was known for his shooting talent, often beating goalies with a dangerous shot off the rush, but in the seasons since his offensive toolbox has rounded out beyond that. Over the course of last season, most of Petrov’s best work came as a playmaker, threading the needle with cross ice seam passes on the power play. Still, to leave Petrov alone in a shooting position is a mistake, as the winger possesses too high a quality not to capitalise on his touches.
It is quite encouraging to have seen an evolution in style for Petrov. Having put up a high level of production in the OHL over the past two seasons, stagnating in total points, some growth as a player is evident as Petrov rounds out his skill set and finds new ways to be an effective player. As an attacker off the rush, or as an in-zone offensive option, Petrov should be dangerous if and when he’s able to find himself in control of the puck in the offensive zone.
Fit on the roster
Petrov will be making his professional debut in 2023–24, likely with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL. All eyes will be on how his game translates to higher levels, most of all how quickly his scoring touch can carry over. Quite frankly, Petrov will have to produce as a top-six AHL forward to earn any consideration of an NHL call up.
The biggest question is whether or not Petrov can assert himself in the same ways against tougher competition. Although his skill is evident, Petrov might not be able to dominate as he did in Junior against slower players and weaker team defences, where he was able to control play from the outside. Petrov should be fast enough to give himself time and space with the puck, and skilled enough to make plays, but we should hope to see a willingness to attack middle ice and make direct plays.
One of the biggest developments for Petrov’s pro game might be his effectiveness as a transition attacker. If Petrov is able to help his team come through the neutral zone as a passer, he should open himself up to more space as a carrier. He has the speed, passing, and puck skills to be a dangerous threat in this respect, and greater success on zone entries will give him more opportunities to show off his primary skills.
What to expect
Despite a successful OHL career, the jump to the AHL might still be a daunting one for Petrov. Naturally, Oilers fans will be hoping for Petrov to hit the ground running, but it might take some time and continued growth for Petrov to be a top line scorer. Petrov will need to be one of the Condors top point producers, as well as a focal point of the power play, to earn his way into the NHL, a process that will take some time.
Though anything can happen, we should hope to see Petrov reach this level at some point over the next two seasons. It would be fantastic news for Petrov to put together a strong enough AHL season to earn an outside shot at pushing for a roster spot out of training camp in 2024–25, where a strong follow up season as an AHL sophomore might see some talk of a promotion in earnest throughout 2024–25 or into 2025–26.
Though the Condors are poised to dress a lineup with a lot of youth, there should be enough veteran support to keep the team strong and the quality of teammates high. Petrov won’t be gifted a focal point offensive role, but does profile as one of the more puck dominant players on the team. Petrov will have the opportunity to build chemistry with a group of prospects in his age range looking to grow together, as well as a path towards a greater role, setting him up with a great developmental situation for this season.