Welcome to this week’s Oilers Sunday Census where we leave it up to the fans to vote on all things Edmonton Oilers!
There are some real competitions brewing for the final roster spots heading into 2023–24. With prospects looking for a shot in the NHL competing with some existing veterans and also competing with the players that were brought in this past offseason, training camp is shaping up to be a spectacle as these players battle it out.
This week, we asked the fans which borderline player is most likely to make the opening night roster on October 11th against the Vancouver Canucks.
Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @oilrigEDM. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!
Top prospect Lavoie projects to debut in October
The clear winner of this week’s poll is Oilers top prospect Raphael Lavoie, who received 66% of the votes. All summer long, we have been hearing about how he will be a top contender to make the NHL team this fall, and it looks like the fans have bought into the hype.
Lavoie is a big, physically engaged player who is willing to play in any situation. He can score, as shown by his 43 goals and 81 points in 136 AHL games over the past few seasons. His scoring, unfortunately, comes in bursts and he tends to be inconsistent. But that is not an uncommon trait amongst players of his archetype.
It is unlikely that Lavoie sees big ice time in his rookie season, he is more likely to spend it in the bottom six with very little special teams time. But in his past, he has shown the ability to be responsible on both sides of the puck, played penalty kill on a Canadian World Juniors team, and with his 6”4’ frame, is not afraid to engage physically and stir the pot. All of these are valuable traits out of a prospect looking to crack the NHL roster this season.
Will the Oilers find Nemo on the ice for opening night?
Markus Niemelainen has had a couple short stints with the Oilers over the past couple of seasons totalling 43 games in which he had one assist. But even if he was not on the scoresheet, he makes his presence known with his thunderous hits, recording 143 already in his short career.
He’s made himself familiar enough with Oilers fans, so much so that 12% of voters see him as the most likely candidate to make the NHL roster on opening night. Unfortunately, that places him second in this week’s poll.
Niemelainen’s skillset shows a ton of promise as a well-rounded defender who isn’t afraid to get involved offensively, though the numbers do not reflect it. However, his development sort of stalled last season as he did not find a way to remain a lineup regular, dealt with a couple of injuries that held him back, and was ultimately passed in the depth chart by Vincent Desharnais.
Moving into 2023–24, Niemelainen will be primarily competing with Desharnais and Philip Broberg for the sixth and seventh defensive spots. Will he be able to get back on the trajectory that had him be a surprisingly solid addition to the lineup back in 2021–22?
We get it, Caggiula is at training camp, relax
The winger has slowly been playing his way out of the NHL over the past few seasons and spent most of the 2022–23 campaign in the AHL. Finishing tied for third in this week’s poll, 11% of voters think Caggiula will bounce back and find a home in the NHL for opening night.
But coming off of that season with the Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, in which he had 53 points in 67 games (by far his best pro season), Caggiula may have new life coming back to the organization with which he started his professional career. He is familiar with the team, its core players, and the organization and how it’s run, maybe giving him an upper-hand in his competition for the opening night roster.
Is Pederson in the fast lane to a spot on the opening night roster?
Another one of the free agent signings from this past offseason is looking to make a good first impression, one that he hopes will lead to a roster spot for opening night. Lane Pederson will be in the mix for one a role on the team’s fourth line, a battle that will be highly contested.
Pederson is the choice in this poll of 11% of voters, finishing tied for third place in the results.
He may not be as flashy as someone like Lavoie or as familiar with name recognition as Caggiula, but Pederson brings a skillset the Oilers will need in their bottom six. Notably, someone who can play physical and hit. In his 71 career NHL games, he has 11 points. But he also has 161 hits. There aren’t many other players in the Oilers forward group that can play that game, other than Evander Kane, after the departure of Klim Kostin in the offseason.
Think someone else is going to overtake these four and make the 2023–24 opening night lineup for the Edmonton Oilers? Drop a comment down below and make sure to follow @oilrigedm on Twitter to take part in next week’s poll!