Lowetide: How the Edmonton Oilers can boost their AHL prospect wingers

The Edmonton Oilers are facing something close to a perfect storm of prospect wingers in 2023-24.

Four of the team’s top hopefuls will arrive in California this fall to play for the Bakersfield Condors.

Xavier Bourgault is the No. 1 prospect in the system, with Tyler Tullio and Carter Savoie also offering promise. Each of these young players is entering their sophomore campaign in pro hockey, and a fourth offensive winger (Matvey Petrov) will debut in the AHL during 2023-24.

Entering the free-agent window this summer, management had a problem.

The four wingers need skill centres, and the Bakersfield roster was populated by checkers and two-way types at the position.

Finding capable offensive centres who move the needle in the AHL is like finding a needle in a haystack.

It involves finding a player aged 23 or over. This player would have played in the NHL for a time, but landed just shy of full-time employment during one or more auditions.

It’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish.

Last season, Edmonton’s AHL centres were an effective crew, but none possessed the offensive acumen of the recently departed Cooper Marody.

The Oilers targeted the position (AHL No. 1 centre) early in free agency, signing Lane Pederson.

He could be key to the development of the young wingers.

The signing was made even more important when one of last year’s pleasant surprises, Noah Philp, retired from the game. He was the club’s leading offensive centre a year ago.

Last season’s centres

The Condors deployed Philp and several AHL veterans with NHL experience in the middle one year ago. Here are their individual numbers, with offseason signing Lane Pederson included in the group.

Player Goal Share EV Pts-Game PP Pts-Game



















Bourgault played often with Brad Malone in the middle, and later in the season (plus the brief playoff run) could be found on a line with Philp and centre and Raphael Lavoie on the other wing.

The three men were a strong outscoring trio, with only Lavoie hitting a milestone (25 goals) that would get noticed in Edmonton.

If the club is going to develop the four wingers, then it’s important to place them with centres who can deliver offence.

Pederson is such a player, and despite the possibility of his making the big club in training camp, could help more as a mentor with the Condors.

AHL centres with offence

Most AHL centres who make it to the NHL begin pro hockey life with offensive strengths but a need to grind defensive mistakes out of their game. Once they can play a consistent suppression game, the NHL makes a call. These men sacrifice the offence that got them drafted and cash it in for (often) significant time in the NHL.

Edmonton’s Shaun Van Allen spent six seasons in the minors before finding an NHL gig, but was so effective in the two-way role he hung around for 794 NHL games.

The Condors have that need covered. Malone, Philp (now retired) and Greg McKegg deliver the 200-foot game without being offensive difference makers.

Pederson is an AHL centre who can help the offence at the minor-league level. So far in his time in the league, he is averaging 57 points per 82 games played. That compares favourably to Edmonton’s farmhands one year ago.

A playmaking pivot can help a still-developing winger spike offensively during his entry-level deal.

Credit to the Oilers, signing Pederson is an inspired attempt to jumpstart the offence with the young wingers on the roster.

Marody’s magic

Marody is a recent example of an AHL centre who helped an Oilers prospect (Tyler Benson) deliver a strong offensive season. When both men were rookies, Benson and Marody finished No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in AHL rookie scoring.

The Condors Kid Line featured Cameron Hebig as the other winger early in the year, then graduated to veteran forward Josh Currie as the third man.

Benson’s season was the best by an Oilers rookie farmhand this century and has yet to be approached in the four years since his freshman year.

Benson did not make the NHL on a skill line; he was blocked by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele, Evander Kane and others.

This could happen to some of the four wingers who will push from Bakersfield, but at least one of them needs to deliver at scoring rates that places them on a skill line in Edmonton soon.

Success stories

Since the turn of the century, Edmonton’s minor league wingers have enjoyed success with bona fide centres and parlayed that success into NHL careers.

Daniel Cleary found Brian Swanson while playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs in 1999-00 and was elevated the following season.

Jarret Stoll played the middle with Raffi Torres for the Edmonton Roadrunners and both men had productive careers.

Anton Lander teamed up with Tyler Pitlick in 2013-14, and that combination (with the mercurial Linus Omark) allowed Pitlick to make the NHL for good. Lander would hang around the organization long enough to help Jesse Puljujarvi find the range as a teenage rookie in 2016-17.

Josh Currie helped Kailer Yamamoto in his early days in the league.

Pederson’s best fit wingers

In his most recent 82 games, spanning four seasons, Pederson has scored 39-37-76 in four different AHL cities.

He’s 26 and could still have an NHL career.

He is not a volume shooter but scores at a 17 percent clip, which is exceptional, and is a good passer.

Pederson can skate well.

Bourgault has a similar skill set (accurate shooter, good skater, range of skills), while Tullio shoots even less but scores on a higher percentage of his shots.

Savoie and Petrov are volume shooters, and in theory, might be a better match for Pederson.

Odds are Bakersfield coach Colin Chaulk will run Pederson with Bourgault and a veteran like Drake Caggiula. This trio should be effective at even strength and all three could earn feature roles on the power play.

Bottom line

Pederson has a chance to stick with the big club, but fans may prefer him in the minors. He could help the organization for years to come by playing with Bourgault, Tullio, Savoie or Petrov as they try to establish themselves as offensive difference-makers in the AHL.

(Photo of Xavier Bourgault: Darcy Finley / NHLI via Getty Images)

Originally Appeared Here

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