In the case of most graduating juniors or minor leaguers pushing, the arrows start to gather on one side after the age 20 season. Leon Draisaitl scored 21 NHL goals in the year he was 20 (parts of two seasons), Marc Pouliot scored 15 in the AHL at the same age. Steve Kelly scored 9 in the AHL age 20, Ryan Smyth scored 39 in the NHL. Age 20 means something.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here’s the latest!
- New Lowetide: What now for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
- New DNB: Connor McDavid shows his frustration as another year of his prime is lost: ‘We’re a group that expects more’
- New Jonathan Willis: The NHL gifted the Oilers Connor McDavid; six years later, they have yet to adequately support him
- New DNB: The Oilers’ 10 biggest offseason priorities after a disastrous first-round playoff loss to the Jets
- Lowetide: The 5 biggest stories from the Bakersfield Condors’ 2020-21 season
- DNB: How Jesse Puljujarvi’s return to Finland primed him for Oilers success
- DNB: Darnell Nurse is on ‘another level’
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi has arrived for the Oilers — again
- Lowetide: Oilers final 2020-21 report cards: A regular season to remember
- DNB:What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
THE AGE 20 GROUP IN 2020-21
Raphael Lavoie (turned 20 in September 2020) began with Vasby IK in the Allsvenskan. He led the club in scoring (51 games, 23-22-45, NHLE of 26.1) before coming back to North America and scoring 5-5-10 in 19 AHL games with the Bakersfield Condors (21.0 NHLE). He has a great release and is dangerous on the AHL power-play when he gets a chance.
Matej Blumel (turned 20 end of May 2020) had a strong second season in the Czech league (49 games, 17-15-32, NHLE 29.3) is a speedster who is average in size (6.0, 198). He’s one of the more promising wingers in the system, anxious to see him in North America. He is currently playing for the Czechs at the World Hockey Championships.
Maxim Denezhkin (turned 20 December 2020) is a personal favourite based only on his scouting report. He is a lefty center, with great passing skills and an idea about the complete game. Good speed, Pronman likes his ability to play with the puck. There’s every chance we never see him in North America but he owns an interesting resume.
Olivier Rodrigue (turned 20 in July 2020) is one of several goaltender prospects matriculating in the Oilers system. He started the season in Austria (23, 3.11 .908) and has been the backup for the Condors (11, 2.99 .894) since the Bakersfield season got underway. Had a .930 SP in his final four appearances with the Condors.
Mike Kesselring (turned 20 in January 2020) and is a big defenseman with an unusual skating style (he’s effective) and raw offensive skills. At Northeastern in 2020-21 (20, 5-3-8, NHLE 12.9) he impacted the offensive game much more than his freshman year in Hockey-East. Once signed and graduated to Bakersfield, he’s being used in a depth role (21, 1-2-3 NHLE: 5.7). We’ll find out more about him next season, he has real potential.
Patrik Siikanen (turned 20 in April 2020) played in the Liiga at age 20 (36 games, 2-5-7, 7.2 NHLE) and finally gave us something to talk about (he didn’t play much before this year). He played 11:42 per game and had an even strength goal differential of 10-21 (-11).
Summary: There are some promising players here, led by Lavoie who I rated as a first-round pick in his draft season. He scored goals at about the same rate as Pouliot, but didn’t play the same feature role during all of his Bakersfield games. I think Lavoie is on track as an NHL player based on his 20-year-old season, if he’s scoring at a 20+ goal rate with the Condors next year it’s confirm it. The others are farther away and we know from history it’s possible none of them makes it, impossible to identify anyone from the rest of the pack at this point.
THE AGE 20 GROUP IN 2021-22
Dylan Holloway (turns 20 in September 2021) is a perfect fit for the current Oilers and may be close to playing in the NHL. He is 6.01, 203 and coming off a breakout season with Wisconsin (11-24-35 in 23 games, NHLE 41.6). The left-wing position will get an upgrade over the summer in Edmonton, Holloway could be a part of it.
Philip Broberg (turns 20 in June 2021) is one of several lefthanded blue who will be pushing for NHL work in the fall. His SHL season (44, 3-10-13 NHLE 14.4) included a power-play spike and an injury that contributed to his moving down the depth chart (third pair). Lots of Oilers fans are down on this player, I’d encourage you to monitor his progress this season. Oscar Klefbom, who is a comparable in some ways, had an NHLE of 13.3 at the same age, and was in the NHL late in his age 20 season.
Maxim Berezkin (turns 20 in October 2021) is 6.02, 201 and has a KHL season (31, 0-2-2 NHLE 4.2) behind, albeit in a depth role. He is big, strong, wins board battles and is a good skater. In the MHL, he went 13-15-28 in 25 games (NHLE 16.5), this is a big season to come and the KHL experience of a year ago should benefit him. Expect more than 5:51 per night in his 2021-22 KHL season.
Summary: A shorter list with stronger candidates, two of the three are extremely likely to play in the league and Holloway could emerge quickly. I’m not certain about Broberg, but there’s many positives in his resume, beginning with skating ability. Berezkin is a fascinating player who delivers in an area of need.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260, we have a loaded show. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will help us explain what happened in the playoffs and the season overall. Joe Osborne from OddsShark will talk NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and MLB matchups. Ken Holland will speak to the media at 11, we’ll cover that, too. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!