Lowetide: Inside Oilers top prospects' first and second half splits in AHL

Lowetide: Inside Oilers top prospects’ first and second half splits in AHL

During the 2006-07 season, then-Edmonton Oilers prospect center Kyle Brodziak started to click in the offensive zone for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. In the first two seasons of his AHL career, Brodziak had shown all of the elements of a successful two-way forward, but his offensive output was still in question.

Tracking Brodziak’s progress by AHL season shows progress, but breaking it down even more, by splitting the season in half, allows us to identify the moment Brodziak emerged as an NHL-ready player.

Segment Games Goals-Game Points-Game

2004-05 1st half

28

0.14

0.54

2004-05 2nd half

28

0.07

0.61

2005-06 1st half

27

0.22

0.56

2005-06 2nd half

28

0.21

0.57

2006-07 1st half

31

0.32

0.81

2006-07 2nd half

31

0.45

1

Even after the spike, Brodziak had work to do, but in a preseason game on Sept. 18, 2007, he punched his ticket to the NHL (two goals, three points). The AHL splits predicted the career to come.

It doesn’t always work that way; players sometimes never spike or spike early and then fade. Here are several Bakersfield Condors who are “in the window” for an NHL career and pushing for an opportunity based on splits.

Philip Broberg

His first North American season has been a revelation, just as it was for his closest comparable (Oscar Klefbom) almost a decade ago. Entering camp this fall, there was uncertainty about Broberg’s coverage and his offensive ability. What we knew: Great skater with size. Here’s what the splits from this season tell us:

Segment Games Goals-Game Pts-Game Goal Diff. Pct

First Half

14

0

0.71

6-5 (55 pct)

Second Half

15

0.2

0.73

20-9 (69 pct)

Broberg has improved in the AHL (and the NHL) during his rookie season and offensively is tracking ahead of Klefbom at the same age. Broberg’s AHL totals (29 games, 3-18-21) are much stronger than Klefbom (48 games, 1-9-10) at the same age in the AHL.

There’s much still to discover about Broberg, who could be a complete defenceman but may also develop into more of a puck-mover or shutdown type as the years go by. For now, his splits show significant improvement in outscoring, with a slight uptick in offence. He may not see the AHL again after this season.

Dylan Holloway

Edmonton’s top forward prospect would probably have made his first NHL appearance by now if not for injury. Holloway has been in the AHL for fewer than 35 games but spends most of his time either in possession of the puck or pursuing it. His impressive foot speed and good size (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) make him easy to spot on the ice, and his passing is exceptional for the AHL. His two wrist surgeries placed some doubt on his ability to score goals at previous rates, and his splits are the beginning of the answer.

Segment Games Goals-Game Pts-Game Shots-Game

First half

16

0.25

0.625

2.5

Second half

16

0.25

0.688

2.38

These are low scoring totals for a player who touches the puck as much as Holloway, and part of that could be the young player not yet trusting his shot. Never a volume shooter, he averaged 2.4 shots per game at Wisconsin in his final year, with a 9.5 percent shooting percentage. This year, as a rookie in the AHL, Holloway is averaging 2.4 shots a game, with a 10.3 percent shooting percentage.

The results are flat, with no improvement over last season in college or in the splits this year. This evidence runs counter to the visual of Holloway on AHL ice, and there should be no surprise if he gets a game or two at the end of the NHL season. On the other hand, it would be unwise to expect Holloway to break camp with the big club in the fall. He would have to push hard in order to stay in Edmonton based on current evidence.

Raphael Lavoie

There are times when it takes players several months to adjust to pro, but we’re almost two seasons into Lavoie’s three-year entry-level deal and there’s little consistency. His first year was during the pandemic season and the totals aren’t completely trustworthy. This season, his goal scoring and overall offence is shy:

Segment Games Goals-Game Pts-Game Shots-Game

2020-21 1st half

9

0.44

0.778

2.8

2020-21 2nd half

10

0.1

0.3

1.9

2021-22 1st half

28

0.21

0.464

3

2021-22 2nd half

28

0.25

0.464

2.29

Lavoie’s scoring rates do not suggest he’s destined for an NHL skill line, and he lacks the two-way reputation of a Brodziak. He is absolutely a prospect of value, but another season of running in place will have him at something less than a lock for a second contract from Edmonton.

One factor working against Lavoie is the crop of skill forwards poised to turn pro in the fall. Spots on the top lines will be heavily contested next season in Bakersfield.

Stuart Skinner

One of the criticisms of Skinner early in his pro career was a lack of consistency. Has he ironed it out?

Segment Games Save Percentage

2019-20 1st half

20

0.895

2019-20 2nd half

21

0.889

2020-21 1st half

15

0.914

2020-21 2nd half

16

0.914

2021-22 1st half

16

0.923

2021-22 2nd half

16

0.913

Skinner turned a corner during the COVID-19 season, but it wasn’t established as fact until this season. He has performed well in both Edmonton and with the Condors, and has even overcome a series of below average starts during the second half of this season by delivering some brilliant performances.

He is NHL-ready, and one of the curious decisions made by the Oilers this season was sending Skinner down after an NHL shutout. It took a little time for him to straighten his AHL performances, but he’s an excellent bet for NHL work next season.

Dmitri Samorukov

There are times when injury and circumstance conspire to allow a legit NHL player to slip through the cracks. There’s a chance Samorukov is such a player. He has played two AHL seasons, separated by a season in the KHL that was key to his impressive spike in performance. Here are the numbers over two seasons in the AHL for Samorukov:

Segment Games Goals-Game Pts-Game Goal Diff. Pct

2019-20 1st half

23

0.043

0.217

13-14 (48 pct)

2019-20 2nd half

24

0.042

0.208

15-20 (43 pct)

2021-22 1st half

25

0.04

0.24

12-16 (43 pct)

2021-22 2nd half

26

0.07

0.462

35-18 (66 pct)

Samorukov has endured several injuries over the last couple of seasons, and his brief recall to the Oilers wasn’t a real audition. His second-half performance in Bakersfield this year borders on spectacular and should have placed him in a position for recall to the Oilers at any time after Jan. 29 (he’s plus-22 since then).

Edmonton has an injury (Darnell Nurse) and a need for some help from the minors, but Samorukov is out for the season and unavailable. His injury luck has been ghastly this season.

Projecting the future

Broberg and Skinner are NHL-ready. Broberg has played just one game since returning from injury (his second game is Saturday), and if he were at full speed the Oilers might consider him for recall if the Nurse injury warrants it.

Holloway looks NHL-ready but his numbers are trailing and the Oilers may want to see him flourish before giving him an NHL look. There’s little doubt he’ll play in the NHL soon. Where he plays and how much offence he’ll bring is not yet known.

Lavoie’s strengths aren’t showing up in the box score. The big winger has enough speed and can play with an edge, but the shy offence has to be a concern.

That brings us to Samorukov. It could have been the recalls for Broberg and Markus Niemelainen, or he may have found his bearings and then reached his actual level of play.

Either way, the splits by Samorukov this season are astonishing.

(Photo of Stuart Skinner and Philip Broberg: Andy Devlin / NHLI via Getty Images)

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