Edmonton Oilers boast a strong prospect pool that plays in different leagues and is developing well. They aren’t limited to just one position, as they have reinforcements coming throughout the lineup. We will examine the options available to the Oilers that are more likely to see them in a permanent role next season than in short-term filling in for injuries.
Related: Oilers’ Midseason Prospect Report
I’ve left Stuart Skinner off of this list because he has the most experience at the NHL level among the group of players below and looks to be the go-to option once again after his most recent promotion to the Oilers. There are generally late-season additions to the lineup from each team’s system to possibly give the team an edge. Here are some possible Oilers candidates.
Dylan Holloway has the best chance of making an impact with the Oilers this season. Funny thing is, he’s the only prospect who hasn’t yet been to the NHL. After recovering from the injury he sustained in the pre-season, he has returned to the ice and played. been practicing with the OilersRecovering to normal game speed.
This doesn’t guarantee that he will be suiting up for the Oilers right when he’s medically cleared for game action, but it does mean the Oilers expect to bring him in at some point before the end of the season to help with the late-season push or the playoffs. Holloway is an eagerly awaited arrival. He was expected to compete for a spot on their opening-day roster. Although the team could send Holloway back to the American Hockey League to get him up to speed before recalling him for the game, the extended practice time before the game against the Ottawa Senators made it logical to practice with him and his future teammates at their highest level.
He was a first-round NHL draft pick and hopes to be part of the Edmonton roster. Holloway is expected to be added to the lineup as a winger in the middle-six, or, if the team feels he’s ready, he will move to the third line. They don’t want to bury him on the fourth line and would like to get him more playing time and experience again some tougher competition rather than playing 10 minutes a night on the fourth line.
Cooper Marody has made great strides in the AHL and, after watching his linemates Ryan McLeod (and Tyler Benson) make the jump over this past year, it is clear that his time is near. Marody has led the AHL from the start with 58 goals, 145 points and 154 games (GP) played between 2018-22. His stats are very comparable to Benson’s, as he recorded 141 points in 156 GP. Maybe there is a little biased thinking, as McLeod and Benson were Oilers draft picks and are younger, but Marody’s stats speak for themselves. Sooner or later, if he doesn’t get a real shot in the NHL with the Oilers, he will want to take his talents somewhere else where he will be given a better shot (from “Desperately seeking some good news, Oilers fans? Look no further than Bakersfield Condors”, Edmonton Journal, Jan. 10, 2022).
Marody has seen the NHL action twice now, the second in 2018-19 following his AHL season in which he scored 64 points in 58 games. This was a reward for him and a late-season tryout. This lasted just six games and he didn’t do much, as it was probably a little early for him. His second and final stint was earlier in the season, just before the Christmas break. This was when the Oilers really were struggling with players on the COVID protocol. He played in one game and scored his first NHL goal. That was it. He has continued his dominance in the AHL, and even if the Oilers aren’t hurting too badly later in the season, we could see Marody get another late-season shot. He could add some scoring and it would be likely we’ll see a reunion of the Benson, McLeod, Marody line that did so well in AHL.
Markus Niemelainen, out of all the players called up this season was undoubtedly the most impressive and surprising. This season, the health of the defense, particularly the left side, has been a major problem for the Oilers. Many of the young AHL defencemen are making the jump sooner than expected, which has led to many young players who are developing in AHL.
We’ve seen Philip Broberg, Niemelainen, Willian Lagesson, and Dmitri Samorukov all come in and play in much bigger situations than they should have in the NHL to begin their careers. Niemelainen was the solitary star, and showed everyone that his skills could be transferred seamlessly to the NHL. Niemelainen is a big, strong player who can be very physically demanding. This was evident when he played for the Oilers.
It may have taken a couple of more years for the Oilers to really realize what they have if Niemelainen didn’t get the call this season and prove he can be a physical and defensively-responsible option on the blue line. Niemelainen had been placed on the injured reserve because of a backlog of defensemen. Niemelainen’s size and physicality are sure to be embraced down the stretch. I have a strong feeling that the Oilers are thinking the same thing and that he’ll see more action before playoff time, regardless of injuries.
Samorukov is another defense that could make the jump to the NHL. It may seem that Samorukov needs more time to grow after his first NHL game. I don’t believe that to be the case, as being benched for two and a half periods in his NHL debut and being sent back down to the AHL the next day lit a fire under him and he’s playing the best hockey of his career.
I’m not saying that kind of treatment should be assigned to all prospects who may need a kick, as it was embarrassing for Samorukov and the team. However, this could have been the spark he needed to make an impact. While there may not be many available spots on the Edmonton back-end, Niemelainen, his teammate, is back in AHL. They will be competing against each other and pushing for their next shot. Samorukov played in two seasons of the Kontinental Hockey League against grown men and has proven that he can play at a high standard. He’s finding that again in the AHL and it’s showing.
Although all of these players may not be able to play this season, the NHL is unpredictable in these times. Broberg and Xavier Bourgault are likely to be the two top players on this list next year who can make a significant impact with the Oilers. Given their shot and while they’re all still on cheap deals, the Oilers have the chance to get skilled players outperforming their contracts, giving the team a better chance at winning.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance journalist who covers mainly the Philadelphia Flyers as well as the Edmonton Oilers. He provides all the information you need about fantasy hockey. He will keep you informed about the NHL Stat Corner, trade discussions and other news from the NHL.
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