Edmonton Oilers sign top free agent prospect, son of former NHL first overall draft pick

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Published Mar 21, 2024  •  Last updated 39 minutes ago  •  3 minute read

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James Stefan

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This just in, news that the Edmonton Oilers have signed winger James Stefan, 20, the son of former first overall NHL draft pick Patrick Stefan. Stefan has signed a three-year entry level deal.

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My take

1. Stefan’s career has developed slowly. In February 2022, he was quoted as saying: “It’s definitely been a journey. Coming into the WHL as a 16-year-old, I didn’t really perform like I wanted to. I felt like I had a bit of an off year and it was kind of a learning curve, and it was weird when COVID-19 hit, then I went over to Lincoln. It was definitely a little weird, but I enjoyed Lincoln, it was fun. I felt like I got a little bit of my touch back and it was a good experience, then I just brought that confidence back to Portland this season.”

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2. For the 2022 draft, he was named as one of the Top 10 undrafted prospects out of the Western Hockey League by Adam Kierszenblat of the Hockey Writers: “The 18-year-old led the Portland Winterhawks in scoring this season with 34 goals and finished second on the team with 79 points in 68 games. He also added six points in 11 games during Portland’s postseason run. Stefan is an offensive weapon that can burn teams with his shot and passing. He can find teammates behind the defence and string passes to them allowing for breakaways and odd-man rushes. Although not the strongest skater, he understands where he needs to be in the offensive zone to make plays and find ways to get open. He may be a late bloomer and should be snagged as a late pick in the draft.”

3. Stefan was not taken in the 2022 or 2023 drafts. FC Hockey said of the player: “An inventive and practical winger though he isn’t the flashiest skater. Posture also limits his ability to be cerebral or powerful, and he lacks agility and speed. Still has enough functionality to be effective. Less than dynamic at filling a lane or striding in a linear path, but he can accelerate when given space.”

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4. Stefan was recently listed by Steven Ellis of the Daily Faceoff as one of the Top 10 major junior forward free agents to watch: “It can’t be easy being the son of someone labeled as one of the biggest busts in NHL Draft history, but Stefan has a good head on his shoulders. Offense has never been a problem, with the winger set to crack the 50-goal, 100-point club this season. Stefan had a decent showing with Ottawa at the Buffalo Prospect Challenge last summer, showing a nice combination of puck skills, physicality and defensive awareness. I don’t see him being a full-time NHLer but he’s rounded enough to be a potential call-up option.”

5. He was passed over twice in the draft, so not the hottest of prospects. Yet he would not be the first undrafted player to make an impact on the Oilers. This year three players who have been with the Oilers, Derek Ryan, Troy Stecher and James Hamblin, were not drafted. Brett Kulak was taken in the fourth round, Zach Hyman in the fifth round, Connor Brown in the sixth, Vincent Desharnais and Phil Kemp in the seventh round. In the AHL, outside of Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway, the top prospect might well be Maximus Wanner, taken in the seventh round.

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It’s a long shot for unheralded players to make it. But it’s a long shot for any player to make it. Some defy those long odds. Stefan is at least a good bet on an entry level contract. The fact is that Edmonton has traded away numerous draft picks in pursuit of the Stanley Cup and will trade away more. It needs to dig deep to round out its prospect pool.

6. While Stefan is a long shot, his dad was the hottest of prospects on the day of the 1999 NHL draft. But for all that, Patrik Stefan failed to become a strong NHLer.

Patrik Stefan

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