The Edmonton Oilers are a “win-now” contending team in the West, blessed with two of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the entire NHL with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
At the trade deadline they dealt away some of their draft capital in transactions that brought in Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bjugstad. Both acquisitions addressed depth issues in certain roles.
As long as the Oilers’ goaltending holds up in the playoffs, they have a chance to go on another run this spring.
Here’s a look at Edmonton’s draft grid, and how some of their prospects are trending this season
The unfortunate reality of being all-in for this season and beyond is the Oilers’ draft grid is relatively bare in the top four rounds of 2023. This draft class is flush with high-end talent. The good news is the organization should still get a solid prospect with their pick in the second round. The scouting staff, however, will be tasked with unearthing prospects in the late stages of the next three drafts overall.
Patrik Puistola, FWD
Puistola was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Jesse Puljujarvi trade. He’s a third-round selection (73rd) from the 2019 draft.
Puistola leads his Liiga team (Jukurit) in scoring. Over his last 10-game segment he averaged 15:30 of ice time and all of that ice time came at even strength and the power play. There have been instances this season where he has been used on the penalty kill, but it’s not an area of strength.
I’ve been impressed with Puistola’s quick release in the offensive zone. On the power play he moves the puck around very quickly. When he catches a puck on the weak side flank he snaps shots on goal before defenders have time to rotate into the shooting lane. His transition game has also gone to another level. He transports the puck effectively through the neutral zone and has shown an extra gear on his zone entries. Overall, Puistola’s offence has stood out as his primary element.
Defensively, Puistola is best described as “average/average plus”. He doesn’t cheat in his zone, but he does have some “reach and hope” at times. He’s also not a heavy player, so board battles are not part of what he brings to the equation. In my opinion, however, his offence wins out. He’s not a liability off the puck or defending overall.
For me, Puistola projects as a middle-six/second unit power play/secondary scorer” as an NHL prospect. He will need time to adjust to the North American style of game, where he’ll have less time and space to work on the smaller ice surface.
Here’s a clip of Puistola attacking off the rush:
Xavier Bourgault, FWD
Bourgault was selected by the Oilers in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2021 draft. He tore up the QMJHL offensively before turning pro, and is having a solid rookie season at the AHL level playing in Bakersfield.
Bourgault continues to impact the game offensively. His numbers aren’t elite at the minor league level, but he is producing better than secondary offence. His primary minutes come at even strength and on the power play. Bourgault has a quick stick, makes plays in small areas, and has shown more willingness to engage along the boards and battle for pucks. But he isn’t a physical forward. He uses his instincts to anticipate and win pucks off opponents.
The most impressive development with Bourgault’s game has come on the defensive side. He has never been a liability defensively, but his attention on and off the puck this season has improved a great deal. He’s noticeably more aware. Rarely do I find him below the play in the offensive zone when his team doesn’t have possession. He keeps the game in front of him very well, intercepting pucks high in the offensive zone in the process. He also positions himself to assist with back pressure through the neutral zone when opponents are on the attack. I appreciate his growth as a player in all three zones.
Bourgault projects to be a top six NHL forward who will produce offence and be deployed on one of the Oilers’ power play units.
Skyler Brind’Amour, FWD
Brind’Amour is the son of Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour. It should come as no surprise, then, that Skyler plays a detailed three zone game and can be used in a variety of roles.
Brind’Amour is a senior at Quinnipiac University. Once the college season ends the Oilers have a chance to sign him to an entry-level contract.
Brind’Amour is used in all situations at the college level. He’s a rangy forward (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) who uses his length to his advantage. He’s solid in the face-off circle, gets in the shooting lanes to block shots, and extends plays down low in the offensive zone.
On the power play he stations himself around the crease, taking away the “eyes” of the goaltender and boxing out opponents when pucks are directed on net. Brind’Amour scores the majority of his goals at even strength, though. His straight-line skating is NHL quality. His small area turns and explosiveness have room to go to another level.
He might not be an NHL player immediately, but I project Brind’Amour as a bottom-six NHL skater after some time in the AHL. If the Oilers do not get him signed, there will be teams lining up for his services as a free agent this summer.
The Oilers’ scouting staff did very well selecting Brind’Amour in the sixth round (177th overall) in 2017. He has taken time to mature, but looks like a value add for the organization.
Here are some reports on other Oilers prospects from different leagues around the world, and what they project as right now:
Projection on Tullio: NHL bottom-six forward
Projection on Savoie: Third-line NHL forward
Projection on Petrov: Recall/13th NHL forward
Projection on Jonsson: Minor league/organizational depth goalie