Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the summer of 2023, each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a look at one NHL team’s top prospects or other topical article. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! You can find all the articles here as well as our extensive NHL Draft preview. Today, we look at the 2023 Edmonton Oilers Top Prospects.
For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2023 Edmonton Oilers Top Prospects
1.) Xavier Bourgault
Xavier Bourgault is the best prospect for the Edmonton Oilers without too much debate. After some strong seasons in the QMJHL, Bourgault played in the AHL last season. There he put up 34 points in 62 games. A fine season, but also one that doesn’t help him get rid of the pressure he gained when he was drafted. A pressure he gained from being the player that the Oilers traded down for instead of selecting goaltending prospect Jesper Wallstedt. It’s by no means fair to Bourgault, who in his own right is a strong prospect with a lot to like.
While he isn’t quite NHL-ready yet, he could be exactly what the Oilers need in the future. His offensive mind is brilliant, and he is an extremely quick stick handler. While his production did take a dip this season, his defensive game improved a lot. His awareness was a lot better, and he got in the way of a lot of plays. This also helped him offensively as he kept the puck in front of him, allowing him to position himself better without the puck to make the right play. The puck came more to him in the past. His growth in critical areas has been good and with his offence, Bourgault should become a solid NHL player in a year or two.
2.) Raphael Lavoie
One of the prospects that could make this season’s opening night roster is Raphael Lavoie. The big and powerful forward has had a fair amount of success in the AHL over the past few years. Especially last season where he finally found his groove in the professional game. With 45 points in 61 games and a far more complete 200-foot game, expectations seem to be that he is ready for the NHL.
The most impressive part of Lavoie’s game is his combination of size and offence. Being 6-foot-4 allows him to be a significant physical presence that can create space with his strength and power. Adding to that is his excellent shot, which is as accurate as it is powerful. He is a scoring threat no matter where he is on the ice. His vision and awareness have also developed well since getting drafted, making him far less one-dimensional. His defensive game also improved and there he could be a perfect physical scorer on the middle six for the Oilers, as they embark on another hopeful season.
3.) Tyler Tullio
Tyler Tullio is one of the more underrated prospects both in the Oilers system and the NHL in general. Taken 126th overall in 2020, not much was expected from the American forward, but he so far majorly exceeded his draft position. While his numbers in the AHL aren’t mind-blowing, there is a lot underlining them. During the start of the season, Tullio had injuries and was limited in his minutes. In the second half with a coaching change, things turned around for Tullio. Including a streak of 16 points in 17 games.
While Tullio doesn’t have the same high ceiling as Bourgault or other top prospects, he does add a lot of versatility to the roster. He can play in all zones at a high level and has the motor to back it up. He works incredibly hard and does a lot of smaller details at a high level. His shot is decent and he reads the game well. He moves well without the puck and gets a lot of chances from being in the right place at the right time. There are improvements to be made in every area and his smaller frame does leave a lot to be desired physically, there is a good chance Tullio could become one of the steals of the 2020 NHL draft.
4.) Beau Akey
The best of the defensive prospects in the Oilers organization is Beau Akey. The 2023 second-round pick comes with wonderful skating and mobility. This allows him to be a great puck-moving defenceman who plays a simple and well-rounded game offensively. In the defensive transition, he does well against the rush as he controls the gap well and uses his stick at a high level. Offensively he also has a decent shot although it’s rarely used.
There is a lot of potential with Akey, but it’s also quite untapped potential. He is quite inconsistent and with his offensive talent, his safer style limits his effectiveness in the offensive zone. For instance, despite having great skating, mobility and passing, he will often go for the safer pass rather than the one that splits open the defensive structure, which limits his production a lot. He simply needs to be more aggressive and take charge of the offensive zone. He also needs to work on his defensive zone awareness. Once again, it’s not bad but the lack of consistency and awareness hurts Akey’s overall game. If Akey can improve in these areas he has the making of a top-four defenceman in the NHL.
5.) Matvei Petrov
Another highly interesting offensive prospect in the Oilers prospect pool is Matvei Petrov. The 2021 sixth-rounder has rocketed up the rankings, becoming one of the Oilers’ top prospects. After the draft he moved to the OHL where he finished yet another strong season scoring 93 points in 65 games. Numbers that put him as one of the potential best picks of that entire draft.
What makes Petrov succeed is his wonderful offensive game. It’s extremely polished and when the puck is on his stick good things tend to follow. Both in terms of his strong playmaking and vision, but also due to his great wrist shot. He also skates fairly smoothly although he does lack top-end speed. Something that will need to be addressed as he relies a lot on his skating to get space to create chances. In the NHL that will be more limited. Adding a bit more strength and consistency will also be key for his development as he is a raw offensive dynamo, with flaws to be ironed out. However, if he continues his development he could be a lethal top-six winger in the future.
6.) Olivier Rodrigue
While some have been questioning the missed opportunity to acquire Jesper Wallstedt in 2021, the Oilers aren’t short on decent goaltending talent. Last year saw Stuart Skinner emerge, and soon it could be Olivier Rodrigue’s time to shine. It’s been a long journey to the NHL for Rodrigue, but one where he has steadily developed his craft. Last season Rodrigue got the chance as the AHL starter and fully seized it. In 29 games he posted a .912 save percentage and had a 2.77 GAA earning him an extension with the Oilers.
Rodrigue is an agile goalie who combines great quickness and determination to make the saves. His main strength is his reflexes which were among the best in the AHL last season. The rebound control has improved a lot since being drafted. Another area that has seen improvements is his calmness in the net. He is more poised and makes the puck come to him rather than rely on his reflexes getting him to the puck. However, his size, and especially how deep he plays in the net, can be a hindrance and does still need to be worked on. Especially if he wants to challenge Stuart Skinner for the starting job in a couple of years.
7.) Carter Savoie
Although it is far from self-inflicted, Carter Savoie has been a prospect that’s dropped a lot in the rankings since last season. Coming into the AHL after an NCAA championship campaign with the University of Denver in 2022, expectations were high going into his first AHL season. However, injuries in training camp and throughout the season stifled his momentum to a drastic halt, and he ended up with 11 points in 44 games as a result. Far from what everyone was expecting from the Savoie before the season.
Savoie has one of the best shots in the Oilers prospect pool. It comes off his stick in a deceptive and quick fashion, with a ton of power behind it. His offensive awareness is quite good and his determination to get the puck on his stick makes him a constant presence in the offensive zone.
The upside of Carter Savoie is obvious to see and his potential is good, but the health will be the primary concern before this season. He needs to stay healthy and showcase the goalscoring prowess he had in the NCAA. If he can do that the upside could turn Savoie into a 25+ goal scorer in the NHL.
8.) Nikita Yevseyev
Nikita Yevseyev is the second defenceman on this list. He is also one of the best defensive-minded players in the Oilers prospect pool. Yevseyev isn’t the flashiest player in the world and will prioritize defending before anything else. He uses his size well and is great at disrupting attacks before teams can set in their offensive systems. He also skates extremely well and his edges are extremely refined. Something that is typical with Russian skaters.
The downside that is incredibly hard to look past is his situation in the KHL. He has signed a contract with Ak Bars Kazan until the end of the 2024-25 season, meaning it will be a while until he arrives in North America. Adding to that the geopolitical situation surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and things get even murkier. However, developing in Russia can be a plus for some, and the Oilers hope that is the case with Yevseyev. He has the tools to be a great shutdown defender with nice skating to elevate his offence with a few tweaks to his overall game.
9.) Maxim Beryozkin
Another Russian late-round pick by the Oilers who has developed well in the past few seasons is Maxim Beryozkin. The Russian power forward seems to improve each year and with his big and aggressive style is a force to be reckoned with. He is the sort of player who people will get hurt trying to play against. His shot is quite good as well and his offensive vision and willingness to battle have earned him a steady spot in the KHL. The skating still needs to see improvements, although it did look much better and powerful last season. The edges are still a bit clunky and rugged but the signs of development are showing.
Once again the main issue is the KHL and Russian tension with the West. It could easily become a major obstacle for the Oilers, who would want him to come to North America as soon as possible. Primarily in order to truly model him into a better skating power forward that fits the North American style. Right now he is a good KHL power forward with huge potential. The Oilers need him to be more, or else he will be yet another failed Russian Oilers prospect before long.
10.) Jayden Grubbe
The last player in the top ten is Jayden Grubbe. The Canadian prospect was acquired in the offseason from the New York Rangers in a very low-key and under-the-radar trade. Grubbe’s stock had stalled within the Rangers organization and the question then became if the Oilers would be the perfect fit for the Red Deer Rebels captain, who had a good last season in the WHL with 67 points in 64 games.
Being a captain for three seasons running does show one of Grubbe’s main qualities. He is an excellent leader and is very reliable defensively. He plays the game with a lot of intelligence and sees the ice well to get into the right areas to get in the way of passes and shots. The limitation is his offensive upside. He won’t be the player to score a ton of goals or make the mind-blowing move and it does hurt his projectability. However, with his size and defensive game, he could turn into a strong pickup for the bottom six in the future for the Oilers.
Sleeper pick (Round 4 or Later): Philip Kemp
The Oilers prospect pool has been a rollercoaster ride since Ken Holland took over in 2019. Move after move questioned and scrutinized by the media and public. However, while the drafting overall has improved recently, the depth still isn’t ideal. However, one prospect to watch during training camp is Philip Kemp. A defenceman who has a real outside shot at making the team out of camp.
While his stats aren’t mind-blowing, he is a steady defender who plays the game the right way. He also has a great NHL size at 6-foot-3 and uses it well along the boards and to knock forwards off the puck. He also sees the game well and has a good and active stick to break up passes. The primary issue is his skating which isn’t mechanically NHL-ready. With the speed of NHL forwards, he could get in trouble against them. However, Kemp is one of the most NHL-ready players in the Oilers prospect pool.
Main Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports