An analysis of the Edmonton Oilers top prospects participating in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship held in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Edmonton Oilers: The most exciting time of the year for hockey fans across the nation is upon us. While it’s a time for the country to come together and bond over the tension of sudden death matchups, or remember great moments such as Jordan Eberle’s spectacular game-tying goal in the dying seconds of the gold medal game against Russia.
However, it is also a great preview of some future NHL stars, and an opportunity for fans to get a close look at their respective team’s top prospects on the world stage.
Here are three defencemen for Oilers fans take note of for this year’s tournament:
1. Evan Bouchard, Team Canada
A lot is riding on the development of Edmonton’s 2018 first round pick. Many are already imagining Bouchard as the right shot powerplay specialist the Oilers have been desperately waiting over a decade for.
In his short stint in the NHL this season, he managed to put up one goal on the board in 7 games played and went -5. So it was safe to say he needed some more time before making the jump to the NHL.
I have read quite a few articles comparing the young Evan Bouchard to the likes of elite defencemen Alex Pietrangelo. The Oilers should be following the same blueprint that the St.Loius Blues used in developing their star defencemen. The Blues brought him up for the first eight games of the 2008-2009 season after drafting him 4th overall the summer prior.
Then sent him back down to captain the OHL’s Niagra Ice Dogs and he had the opportunity to play for a World Junior Team that would go on to win one of the most memorable gold medal games in the tournament’s history. The next season Pietrangelo played another nine games for the Blues before going back to the OHL and played a significant role as assistant captain for Team Canada. Racking up 12 points in the six games en route to a silver medal.
Then two years after being drafted, Pietrangelo broke into the NHL as if he was a seasoned veteran. Putting up 11 goals and 43 points in his inaugural season. And he hasn’t looked back since.
So there is an obvious opportunity for Bouchard to follow in Pietrangelo’s footsteps. The 19-year-old was recently named an assistant captain for Canada’s 2019 team. Slotted on the top pairing, Bouchard will be depended to log heavy minutes and should be utilized in all situations.
So this is an excellent chance for Oilers fans to get a good look at the skills Bouchard has to bring against elite competition in high pressured games. We’ll soon find out if he can step up to the plate on the world stage.
2. Dmitri Samorukov, Team Russia
Obviously won’t have as much to say about these next two mid-tier prospects. But Dmitri has put up some intriguing numbers in the OHL. And the 2017 third round pick of the Oilers is going to be a guy to watch if he is able to play a significant role for a Russian Team looking to make some noise in the 2019 tournament. This is Dmitri’s second time attending the World Junior’s, and as a returning player, he has been named an assistant captain of the Russian squad.
Samorukov has put up 17 points in 30 games so far this season for the Guelph Storm. If he can prove to be a significant contributor in a leadership role for Team Russia, we could be looking at a real solid prospect in our pipeline.
3. Phil Kemp, Team USA
Kemp has put up some pretty quiet numbers in the NCAA for Yale, with only 3 points so far this season. However, he was coming fresh off a gold medal from the U-18 tournament in 2017. In which he was an assistant captain for Team USA and went +7 in the seven games of the tournament. He’s a player I’m not expecting to have a prominent role on a USA team stacked with recent first-round NHL drafted talent. So the less we hear about him should be for the better.
The Edmonton Oilers should be hoping their 2017 seventh round pick can put together a quietly solid tournament. Really would have been nice if Kemp was able to come back next year in a more prominent role, where he can potentially show he’s able to shut down some of the best young talents in the world. Unfortunatley, we won’t ever be able to see that as the Yale defencemen turns 20 this February.
The Edmonton Oilers don’t have a lot of prospects participating in this year’s World Juniors. But anytime you have a guy like Evan Bouchard playing a pivotal role on Team Canada; it makes things exciting. As you can’t help but imagine him transfer that dominance to the blue-line of Rogers Place in just a few years.
However, it can also be interesting to watch some diamonds in the rough blossom throughout the tournament as they look to make a name for themselves and do everything they can to get you excited for them to one day play for your respective city’s team. I think there is an excellent chance that Samorukov receives the opportunity to be one of those guys.
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Either way, a lot of nail-biting action to come in this holiday classic tournament. Get ready.