Lowetide: Can Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie make the team in 2023-24?

For the first time in many years, the number of new roster players for the Edmonton Oilers seems destined to be less than 25 percent of the overall roster.

That’s good news, as the team is now balanced, mature and pushing for the Stanley Cup.

When he arrived in Edmonton, general manager Ken Holland talked about over-ripening emerging talents in the AHL.

It creates greater depth and strong internal competition.

This fall, Raphael Lavoie will be the latest minor-league prospect who will attempt to run the gauntlet to full-time NHL employment.

The task is difficult, far more difficult than Oilers prospects in his position would have faced a decade ago. Can he do it? Here’s a look.

Skill set

Lavoie shoots right but plays left wing most often. That could be an issue, as the current Oilers depth chart has more opportunity on the right side.

Players often make that adjustment easily, and Lavoie has played the other side. It will be something to follow in training camp this fall, a period where Lavoie will want to impress in order to earn more playing time.

Lavoie is a big winger (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) with a terrific release and touch with the puck. Red Line Report called him a “tremendous natural sniper” on draft day, while also commenting on his inconsistent play. RLR ranked him No. 16, calling him boom or bust.

Corey Pronman placed him No. 21 in his ranking for The Athletic, saying “the pure tools scream first-round pick. He’s 6-foot-4, skates well for a big man and has a high skill level. Flashes high-end puck skills but it hasn’t been consistent.”

Scott Wheeler said “he gets to the net at will and he has the ability to finish plays in tight by pounding home rebounds or using some impressive stick handling to beat goalies with a deke” and had him No. 24. Wheeler also mentioned inconsistent production.

On draft day, he was considered a first-round talent with work to do.

Lavoie’s AHL career without the puck

Truly gifted offensive players, and those who are drafted by organizations badly in need of skill, go right to the NHL.

For the rest of the world, learning to play without the puck (checking) is a big part of the AHL experience.

In viewing Lavoie, he has good instincts away from the puck and has improved during his time with the Condors. One of his early issues, keeping his feet moving, is a common difficulty for young players coming out of junior.

Lavoie never had to work so hard to win the puck as he does in the AHL, but he is always in motion now and there are times when he bulls smaller men off the puck effectively. That’s an impressive skill and will get him a longer look in camp if he brings that kind of edge to every shift.

The only way we have to measure growth in checking/two-way play at the AHL level is in even-strength goal share. I’ve separated Lavoie’s performance from the rest of his team, and the tracking shows real improvement over three seasons.

Year On-Ice Goal Share Off-Ice Goal Share










All numbers five-on-five

This is a solid player card for an offensive player. Lavoie was never poor in goal share numbers, finishing just a little low level as a rookie. In Year 2, he was slightly ahead of his teammates in outscoring, and in year three he emerged as a quality outscorer for the Condors.

That’s something close to ideal.

Lavoie’s AHL career with the puck

To say that Lavoie has been a streaky scorer in the AHL is an understatement. However, his overall scoring totals during each of his three seasons in Bakersfield show surprising uniformity when placed in context.

Using estimated ice time and even-strength goal and point totals, we can a good idea about what kind of offensive progression Lavoie was making over the last three years in Bakersfield.

Year Est. Goals-60 Est. Pts-60










Estimated time-on-ice totals for even-strength scoring have been used for decades and have been refined over time.

Looking at his season-over-season progression, it’s a good guess Lavoie has scored within the realm of expectation in all three seasons. His deployment has increased and so has the offence.

Our perception of this player, based on visual evidence, may frame Lavoie as being inattentive, indifferent or sleepy for long periods.

The math runs counter.

At season’s end, there were three forwards who spent time in Bakersfield and delivered enough offence to be considered for NHL playing time in 2023-24.

Stat Raphael Lavoie Dylan Holloway Noah Philp

EV Goals-Game




EV Pts-Game












His numbers are clear of Noah Philp and close to Dylan Holloway, who spent most of the season in the NHL.

What does that mean? It means he’s NHL-ready as an offensive contributor.

Can Lavoie make the NHL team this fall?

Holland’s first media avail as Oilers general manager was in part a discussion about slow-playing talent in order to increase competition.

The three men listed here are all in search of an opening night roster spot in 2023-24.

Edmonton is now a veteran team and the idea of carrying two rookies along with an inexperienced Holloway is unlikely. Lavoie’s offensive performance this season bodes well for what will be a difficult competition at training camp this fall.

Lavoie is an RFA without arbitration rights and will be waiver eligible in the fall. The qualifying offer for Edmonton is $874,125. An early signing, possibly to a one-way deal as a sweetener, seems possible.

Philp is an RFA with arbitration rights and is not waiver eligible in the fall. His qualifying offer is less ($787,500) but the lack of waiver worry makes it easy for the organization to send him down. He can be recalled at any time, and Lavoie doesn’t risk waivers.

Most of the decisions in training camp favour the waiver-eligible player making the team.

Bottom line

Lavoie’s resume is rock solid. He arrived in the AHL and scored well based on ice time and has grown from there. His play away from the puck was solid in Year 1 and has grown since based on the information available publicly.

If Lavoie shows well in preseason he has a great chance to make the team.

It’s also possible the organization decides to go in another direction and trades the big winger. His 25 goals in 2022-23 surely drew the attention of rival teams and the organization is more likely to make a prospect for prospect trade under Holland than previous administrations. The trade of defenceman Dmitri Samorukov to St. Louis Blues (for Klim Kostin) last fall is an example.

Lavoie would be the third player (Philip Broberg, Matej Blumel) from Edmonton’s 2019 draft to play in the NHL should he manage it this fall.

The 2019 draft was Holland’s first with the Oilers and if three men emerge as actual NHL players the draft crop should be considered a success.

Lavoie will be in a battle, but the numbers suggest he’s anything but an underdog.

(Photo: Kevin Light / Getty Images)