Raphael Lavoie’s name has gone through a lot of the Edmonton Oilers’ grapevine ever since he got drafted. This was mostly because no fan or media member had seen him play in preseason action or in any NHL games, even though he was such a high draft pick (38th overall). Unfortunately, injuries toiled the young winger in his time with the AHL squad and the COVID-19 pandemic also did not help his cause.
Who is Raphael Lavoie?
Rumours had swirled during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft about Lavoie getting picked in the top 20 and this was mostly because of his size, shot release, strong skating stride, quickness and the finish he provided as a goal scorer. But, he did have some deficiencies such as his defensive play being poor, not having a strong work ethic, and not having a high enough effort level on the back check and puck battles. He was far too easy to play against. He also did not use his size in situations that required him too such as play along the boards and in front of the net. He was seen as a right-handed shooting sniper who played on the perimeter but, in rare situations, used his size and grit to assist his game. There was talk that perhaps, after some good development and experience, Lavoie could harness his size into a new weapon that he could use along with his shooting.
The Oilers got very lucky when Lavoie fell to them at 38th overall and, in my opinion, they may have struck gold if not silver.
Lavoie’s 2022–2023 AHL season
Last year, the young winger blew the doors open with the Bakersfield Condors and become a top player on the team.
Lavoie finished the season scoring 45 points, 25 goals, and 20 assists in 61 games. He was third on the team in scoring and he developed some new found chemistry with rookie Xavier Bourgault. New leadership was developed by Lavoie as he showed off more of his grit in some of the fights he got into with opponents.
But, the most concerning attributes also got better. There was a positive spin in Lavoie’s work ethic, defensive play, and his effort level had increased in leaps. He was no longer gliding on the ice and he was much better on the back check. This great regular season was a surprise to see because of how Lavoie’s last season had ended. He had increased his point totals and goal totals, but he had also only played 56 games due to a season ending injury. The point totals for Lavoie increased each season along with his penalty minutes. With how his numbers increased per year, even though he did have injury riddled campaigns, it is reasonable to say that his development has come a long way ever since he got drafted.
Lavoie’s confidence in himself has grown ever since he first stepped onto the ice for the Condors. It increased so much that he was comfortable signing a two-year, two-way contract with the Edmonton Oilers. I found this very surprising and intriguing.
How has training camp gone?
Is this going to be Lavoie’s last chance with the Oilers? It is an intriguing question that got even more mysterious after seeing the contract Lavoie signed with the team. The first media day for Lavoie was also very mature. He spoke about how he has to adapt his game to become an NHL player with Edmonton. The player knew he couldn’t be a top six-forward with the team so he was open to the chance to become more of a bottom-six winger who can score on occasion.
Lavoie has not disappointed after his interview. In this training camp, as the exhibition season has progressed, Lavoie has progressed upward in a very good way. His game has changed quite a bit in a positive way. We are seeing a young player going around the ice in a very professional manner who is taking on tasks that are usually completed by bottom-six NHL forwards.
He has gone from being a perimeter shooting player to a someone who grinds in the corners for pucks, finishes his checks, blocks shots, and steals pucks in the defensive zone. He has not lost his ability to provide offence as he has created many plays in the offensive zone and has finished off a couple as well.
Slowly, but surely, Lavoie has developed chemistry with fellow winger Dylan Holloway and has become a good player that the Oilers can use in the top six and the top nine due to his defensive play and work ethic increasing. It is not like he blew through training camp with awe like Holloway did last preseason. But he has shown the coaching staff and management that he is ready to take on the responsibility of a bottom -six NHL forward. Lavoie is ready to take on a role with Edmonton and he will work his way up the lineup slowly.
Lavoie has made it quite the dilemma for Coach Jay Woodcroft in deciding who the team’s 12th forward will be. I believe that Lavoie has won the job and he will be on the opening night roster on October 11.
Lavoie’s season prediction
I believe that Lavoie will be on the Oilers on opening most likely flanked by Holloway and perhaps Ryan McLeod. He will not get any power play time or penalty killing time, but he will get his playing time around 10 to 12 minutes per game. Eventually, when injuries do hit the Oilers, I see Lavoie or Holloway taking over in the top six.
I don’t think Lavoie will be waived. There is too much of an intriguing package in his skill set and it warrants the opportunity to be examined in the NHL. He is ready to take on a role with the Oilers and he has shown the coaching staff and management that we should not forget about him. Oilers will be very happy that they didn’t waive him.
Season prediction: 70 NHL games : 12 goals, 12 assists, +2