What’s the plot for Edmonton’s new hot shot?
Top prospect winger Raphael Lavoie just got his much anticipated call-up from the Baskersfield Condors. What will he bring to the Edmonton Oilers?
Lavoie, 23, is a hulking winger, 6-4, 215 pounds, not particularly fast, but possessing a wicked shot, some aggression, and a nose for the net. He had 25 goals in 61 AHL games last year, with four goals in five games so far this year.
It would be swell if he pops in the odd goal for the Oilers. Edmonton is suddenly in desperate need not just of depth scoring, but of all scoring. Edmonton ranks 22nd in NHL scoring, after leading the league last year.
But Lavoie’s future with the Oilers will come down to more than the ability to put in the odd goal.
The right answer to a number of questions will decide how his story plays out in Edmonton.
Can he check well enough to play in the NHL? Will he lose his man in the Edmonton end? Will he pick up the right attacker on the backcheck? Will he come back fast and hard on the backcheck?
Will he hit hard at every opportunity? Will he stand up for teammates? Will he get in aggressively on the forecheck, yet avoid offensive zone penalties?
Can he win pucks on the defensive boards and work with his teammates to advance the puck?
Essentially, can he play in a structured system, yet bring some of the energy, ferocity and opportunistic scoring that Klim Kostin brought last season? It’s not easy to do. Not even Klim Kostin himself is doing it this year, with no points in eight games for the Detroit Red Wings. Kostin is playing just 8:21 per night, 14th in the pecking order for Detroit forwards. He’s yet to make a mark there.
Under ten minutes per night is a good bet for Lavoie’s ice time in Edmonton. How will he handle that? Can he find a way to get himself into the game and make a positive contribution? It’s no simple or easy matter. But if it were easy everyone in the AHL would graduate happily to the NHL, and that doesn’t happen, does it?
Lavoie is no sure thing, far from it. But he’s never had a greater chance than this moment to make it as an NHLer. If he can provide close to what Kostin brought last season, he’ll stick in Edmonton and help this team get out of the doldrums.
P.S. As readers of the Cult of Hockey blog know, I’m still bullish on Philip Broberg, as the kid has great tools. That said, it was the right move to send him to the AHL. For one thing, Edmonton will now have set defence partnerships and that should help bring more stability to the group. For another, Broberg was outplayed by the other d-men, so if someone needed sending down, he was the right pick.
Finally, it’s evident that for all his talent, Broberg needs more confidence and fire if he’s going to make it as an NHLer. He’s got to have more bite in his puck battles. He’s got to find greater certainty moving the puck. Another stint in Bakersfield should help with that, along with providing increased motivation/desperation for him to do everything he possibly can to stick in the NHL next time he gets a chance.
He’s only an injury away from being back with the Oilers. This time in Bako can get him ready for that moment.
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At the Cult of Hockey
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