This time last year, Evan Bouchard was the number one prospect in the Edmonton Oilers.
Having been slowly brought in over the previous two seasons, Bouchard took the Oilers roster out of training camp and quickly established himself as a top-four defensive man. This was a crucial development for Oilers as the team had just lost Adam Larsson, their best right-handed defender, to free agency.
Now that Bouchard has graduated, Philippe Broberg is the number one prospect in the organization. The hope is that Edmonton’s first pick from the 2019 NHL Draft can help solve the mystery over the team’s blue ball and fill in the gap that has been open since Oscar Cliffbaum’s career ended prematurely.
Birthdate: September 23, 2001
Drafted: 2019, No. 8 overall (EDM)
Weight: 198 lbs / 90 kg
Ken Holland was appointed in May of 2019, and two months later, Broberg made his first choice as Oilers’ General Manager. With names like Trevor Zegras and Cole Caufield on the table, this choice was met with some criticism, but there was a clear logic behind Holland going with a man of defense in his first draft given that it takes longer to develop.
After the selection, Cory Bronman of The Athletic spoke About Broberg getting a massive amount of upside due to how well he skates for his size…
“At Broberg, Oilers gets a very talented defensive man and a player unique to his elite score of 6-foot-3 skateboarding. It’s a trait of dimension and will make him stand out in the NHL. He’s not a sophisticated puck or passer-by skill, but he does get Notoriety in that area.Has skill, plays plays, can play on the power game.His game is expected to be a man of the best pairs who can lead play.
It’s interesting to see how he fits in with Edmonton, with Darnell Nurse’s left-backs and Oscar Cliffbaum, who have some rhymes from Bruberg’s game. But it is an asset that must be added to the team. The Ayers have a deep defense in their organization and can spend their time with him.”
This last paragraph from Pronman is an interesting reminder of how quickly things can change in the NHL and why going with Broberg in the Netherlands first draft with the Oilers made sense.
The thought was that the Oilers could slow down Broberg’s play because they already had a nurse and cliffboom at the NHL level. Here we are, just over three years later, and the Oilers are hoping Bruberg at 21 can step in and help fill in the hole in the team’s ball left by Cliffbaum’s career coming to a close due to injury.
The Oilers missed Klefbom in 2021 and it took a massive Darnell Nurse season to make up for his absence. In 2021-22 Holland acquired veteran defender Duncan Keith to fill Klefbom’s short-term void and then added Brett Kulak in the trade deadline for more depth. This year, Keith is gone and Kulak is likely to start as a left-handed defender for the team, but the hope is that sooner rather than later Broberg can step in and become a long-term replacement for Cliffbaum in Edmonton’s top four.
Could Bruberg be a top-four defender for the Oilers by the time the playoffs roll? This is a big request, but it has performed better than Klefbom at every stage of its development as a potential…
- Preliminary Season (SHL) – Broberg: 41 GP, 9 points, -1 vs. Cliffboom: 23 GP, 2 points, +1
- Season Post Draw (SHL) – Broberg: 45 GP, 8 points, 0 vs. Cliffboom: 33 GP, 2 points, -1
- Season 2 (SHL) – Broberg: 44 GP, 13 points, -4 vs. Klefbom: 11 GP, 3 points, +7
- North American debut (AHL) – Broberg: 31 GP, 23 points, +14 vs. Klefbom: 48 GP, 10 points, -8
- North American (NHL) debut – Broberg: 23 GP, 3 points, -8 vs. Klefbom: 17 GP, 3 points, -6
Klefbom started the 2014-15 season in the AHL and played only nine games before being called up to the Oilers for good. In 60 games with the Oilers that season, Klefbom played an average of 22:00 a night, a big jump from the 15:48 he played in every game during his NHL debut the previous season.
These stats only tell part of the story and the contexts are very different, with Klefbom joining the basement feed team at almost zero depth on Blueline as Broberg tries to break into the NHL on a competitor, but this comparison suggests a breakthrough performance may be around the corner for the youngster Swedish.
Swedish Hockey League results are hard to analyze, but what we saw from Broberg in his first season in North America was legally impressive. Broberg scored 23 points and rated 14+ in 31 AHL games in 2021-22 and was among the best goal difference on ice on the Bakersfield Condors.
His NHL performances also steadily improved when Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson took over from the bench for Dave Tippett and Jim Playfair. with TippettBroberg played 14:35 per game and the goal difference was 3 to 9 in equal power. with WoodcroftBroberg’s time on the ice dropped to 10:41 per game, but his goal difference improved to 8 to 8.
Broberg’s expectation in 2022-23 is to establish himself as an NHL defensive man and the hope is that he can grab the top four role. He might start in the AHL as Klefbom did in his second season in North America but it’s hard to imagine Broberg staying that long. There are other names in the mix, like relinquish-qualified Dmitri Samorukov and newly signed veteran veteran Ryan Murray, but none have the talent or edge that Broberg has.
For years, Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg were seen as the long-term replacements for Adam Larson and Oscar Cliffbaum at Blowin in Edmonton. The future may be now.
For reference, the players I consider “probabilities” for this countdown are those who played fewer than 50 NHL games and were aged 23 or younger at the start of the 2022-23 season.