By this time next week, the Edmonton Oilers’ youngest prospects heading to main camp will be in British Columbia. It’s the return of the Young Stars Classic to the South Okanagan Events Center in Penticton.
The Oilers youth will face the Winnipeg Jets at 5:00 p.m. MT on Friday and face Calgary at 8:30 p.m. MT on Saturday. The final game will be played at 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon against the Vancouver Canucks, according to the South Okanagan Events Center website.
The level of interest in this tournament has always been strong, especially when Connor McDavid was in the party in 2015. The future captain loaned himself out for a game against the young stars of the Canucks on September 11, 2015. He scored a goal and added a helper. Leon Draisaitl equalized his attack and Darnell Nurse scored a goal and took a penalty while playing a physical game. The big story after the game was an early hit (and later real or imagined sins) over McDavid by Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen.
Seven years later, McDavid, Draisaitl and Nurse represent the heart of the command for a Stanley Cup contender in Edmonton.
This year’s Young Stars roster has yet to be announced, but the Oilers have some interesting candidates for it.
The system’s top prospects – Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway – will have the biggest impact if they play. Broberg’s presence is likely due to a lack of defensive prospects in the junior system this season.
QMJHL scoring star Xavier Bourgault is the headliner among the group of players moving from pro to junior level this fall, and he’ll likely get a starring role in Penticton. First shot scorer Carter Savoie and skilled winger Tyler Tullio should also see plenty of action in the tournament.
Goaltender Ryan Fanti, who played two quality seasons for Minnesota Duluth (NCAA) and then a game for the Bakersfield Condors, should get a game or more at the tournament.
Of the players still eligible for juniors but who could see some time, wingers Matvey Petrov, Reid Schaefer and Jake Chiasson will be worth watching.
Defense will be an interesting position to watch, as WHL player Max Wanner is the only drafted junior likely to enter the tournament. This means that many invitations and several young players who spent time in Bakersfield a year ago are in the game. Most Condors defensemen, including Broberg, Dmitri Samorukov, Markus Niemelainen, Mike Kesselring and Phil Kemp, could be included in Penticton games.
Games will be in full swing at this time next weekend, so expect plenty of coverage of the event and progress from Edmonton’s prospects. Most of the team’s top 20 prospects are eligible to participate in the tournament.
Already underway in Europe
Several Oilers prospects are already playing championship games in Europe, and there have been some impressive early results.
• Nikita Yevseyev is the first star of the 2022-23 season among Oilers prospects. At 18, he plays in the KHL (three games, no points) and plays real minutes (average of seven per game) at the start of the year. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds, the organization has hinted he’s taller than the vitals listed, and Evseyev’s ability to survive in such a strong league suggests that’s true. His highlight this season was a game against Admiral Vladivostok on Thursday; he played 10:26 and 15 teams. The fact that he gets minutes at his age in the second best league in the world is remarkable and a major thing to watch this season.
• Maxim Berezkin, who played sparingly in the KHL and dominated the MHL (Russia’s top junior league) a year ago, plays in the VHL (Supreme League, the Russian equivalent of the AHL) and is enjoying success rapidly. In three games, Berezkin has one goal, one assist and two points, and he has nine shots on goal and is averaging 15:18 per game in early action. He is 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds and is one of the Oilers’ most promising forwards.
• Maxim Denezhkin is a two-way center who turns 22 in December. He played one KHL game this season, only the fourth of his career. He’s undersized (5-10, 165) and a little timid offensively. It’s a big season for him.
• Samuel Jonsson was selected 158th overall (fifth round) in the 2022 NHL Draft, and the young goaltender has played two games (3.45 goals-against average, .887 save percentage) with Rogle in the Swedish J20 league. He changed teams over the summer and should see an upsurge in results and performance. In his most recent outing, Jonsson stopped 28 of 31 shots for a .903 save percentage. Oilers management will be looking for an improvement over last season (31 games, 3.25 goals-against average, .883 save percentage) and early indications are slightly positive.
• Finland great center Joel Maatta (6-1, 200) will play for Vermont (Hockey East) this season after being selected in the seventh round of the 2022 draft. two-way and can consistently win faceoffs. He also has more power in his stride than early scout reports indicated. His performance at the recent World Junior Championships (three goals, one assist and four points in seven games and a starring role) has boosted his stock impressively.
• German defender Luca Munzenberger will join Maatta for another season in Vermont. He also had a fine performance at the World Junior Championships (one goal, one assist and two points in four games), displaying impressive speed and an ability to score fast wingers.
Former Oilers prospects
The start of the season in various European leagues offers a chance to see where players who were previously part of the system have landed for the coming year. Going back a decade of drafts, here’s the first feedback from players who were once part of the organization:
• Nail Yakupov plays for Omsk (KHL) and has scored one goal in three games.
• Anton Slepyshev is also in the KHL (CSKA Moscow) and has one goal, two assists and three points in four games.
• Ziyat Paigin played three KHL games (one goal, no assists, one point) for Torpedo.
• Ilya Konovalov has played four games for Dynamo Moscow and has a goals-against-average of 1.75 and a save percentage of 0.939.
The coming season
A few years ago, at an event for Athleticisma question-and-answer session open to all ideas has become a request for more updates on Oilers prospects across the hockey world.
At the start of the 2022-23 season, you can expect to see prospect coverage from all leagues, but with a particular focus on the Bakersfield Condors. The Oilers have a good chance of winning the Stanley Cup as several young players on inexpensive contracts thrive in the AHL and become NHL ready.
Most of the system’s key names go to California this fall. Expect big performances from Broberg, Holloway, Bourgault, Savoie and others, with at least two of those names spending time in the NHL this season.
The wait is coming to an end.
(Top photo by Philip Broberg: Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today)