Lowetide: Oilers scoring hope Raphael Lavoie hits crossroads

In the 10-year span that began in 2010 and ended in 2019, the Edmonton Oilers had 10 second-round selections in the NHL Draft.

Of those 10 selections, six have played an NHL game and three (Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Ryan McLeod) have spent at least one season in a regular role with the NHL team.

The last second-round pick of the decade was Raphaël Lavoie, a remarkable first scorer in the QMJHL. He was ranked a top-20 overall pick (No. 19 on Bob McKenzie’s list) and his shooting volume as well as single outing made him a substantial scoring prospect in the 2019 draft.

At his junior peak (2019-20), Lavoie averaged 5.64 shots per game and posted a 12.3 shooting percentage en route to 38 goals (he finished 5th in league scoring ).

The professional level has been a challenge for Lavoie, and this season is his last under the entry-level contract. This is the season where he must prove he is both worthy of a new contract and (if necessary) make the 2023-24 opening night roster in order to avoid waivers.

Peak Lavoie

In his first professional season, Lavoie split his time between Sweden (the quality Allsvenskan league) and a limited schedule in the AHL (19 games, five goals and 10 points).

His second pro season was his rookie campaign in the AHL and the best chance to assess this player based on his pro numbers. Lavoie had a great hot streak sandwiched between plenty of pedestrian performance games.

Games Production Pts-Game

first 18

3 assists

0.17

Middle 16

9 goals, 15 points

0.94

Final 22

4 goals, 8 points

0.36

56 games

13 goals, 26 points

0.46

In those mid-16 games of his first full AHL season, Lavoie looked like a player awaiting a recall to the NHL. These numbers are explosive.

He has improved over the season in even-strength goal sharing. In the first nine games of the 2021-22 season, he scored 4-8 goals. After that, Lavoie’s even-strength minutes produced a 63% (31-18) goal share.

In the “middle 16” games where Lavoie scored as a future skilled winger in the NHL, his goal differential (20-4, 83%) is as solid a run as any in memory for a Condors forward. .

On December 17, 2021, Lavoie posted a 2-3-5 record with six shots and 5-0 goals at even strength. The night represented a career high in production at the professional level.

The middle 16 games were Jay Woodcroft’s last games as manager of the Bakersfield club. One of the rising stars on the roster at the time of the coaching change was Lavoie.

Since then, including this season, he has played 35 games, scoring six goals and 11 points.

Training bias?

Under coach Colin Chaulk, Lavoie’s Bakersfield numbers have taken a deep dive compared to the player’s time with Woodcroft.

Coach Games Goals-Game Pts-Game Percentage of EV goals

Croft

53

0.26

0.53

58.7

Chaulk

35

0.17

0.31

47.1

There are a myriad of reasons why Lavoie’s performance and opportunities could have plummeted, and that includes coaching preference. It would be unfair to the coaching staff to ignore the increased competition for playing time between pure prospects.

Here are all the forwards from Bakersfield who entered professional hockey in the last two seasons and were considered rookies in the AHL. These are cumulative totals over all seasons with Bakersfield.

Player Games Goals-Game dot game

Dylan Holloway

33

0.24

0.67

Xavier Bourgault

21

0.33

0.52

James Hamblin

117

0.26

0.5

Raphael Lavoie

88

0.23

0.44

Tyler Tullius

19

0.21

0.37

Dino Kambeitz

69

0.13

0.29

Carter Savoy

17

0.12

0.24

Ostap Safin

58

0.12

0.21

Noah Philip

25

0.12

0.16

Lavoie’s figures are in range with the group that has evolved in the NHL (Dylan Holloway, James Hamblin) or who would seem destined to evolve there (Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio).

The player should dominate the AHL in his third year.

Is it the coaching staff, the stiff competition from emerging talent, or is Lavoie either hurt (maybe still hurt?) or filled with indifference?

None of these answers are ideal, but some are less problematic than others.

Comparable outlook

On the day he was drafted, Lavoie’s comparable prospects from previous seasons were plentiful and possessed a wide range of results once pro careers began. Now that Lavoie has completed most of his entry contract, how does he compare to the original group?

Player AHL GP Goals-GP Pts-GP NHL GP

132

0.33

0.67

382

188

0.38

0.56

117

757

0.23

0.51

148

88

0.23

0.44

0

127

0.18

0.44

346

228

0.12

0.39

178

There is good news and bad news in these figures. The good news is that the players around him have had NHL careers. The bad news is that almost without exception, these men spent long stretches of AHL auditions and, in some cases, returned after a while in the NHL.

Moreover, with the exception of Anthony Mantha, who established himself as a member of the Detroit Red Wings before being distributed to the Washington Capitals, the group has moved a lot. These great forwards did not become successful NHL players with their original draft teams.

The Oilers and the Prospects

Lavoie has exceptional skills (first scorer), but he is streaky and his playing time is wasted on young players and minor league veterans. It’s a baffling result for a player who was deemed a steal when he was chosen in the second round of the 2019 draft.

He started this season with a solid but brief scoring streak (two goals and one assist in the first four games of the season) and hasn’t done anything since. Lavoie dressed for a December game.

The Oilers need those higher picks to cash in on and have seen increased success in recent seasons.

Since 2015, John Marino, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Stuart Skinner and Ryan McLeod have emerged outside the first round as legitimate NHL players. Markus Niemelainen and others are pushing for the same success.

Just a year ago (December 17, 2021), Lavoie had a career game in the AHL that took him to another level. He came through the first month of 2022 as a goalscorer and a significant goalscorer.

Lavoie suffered a knee injury in the spring, which cut short his 2021-22 season. He wasn’t ready for training camp this fall, but he was activated just five weeks ago and has played 13 AHL games this season.

If there is no injury holding him back, a healthy scratch for this player seems unusual.

The Oilers have traded draft picks at a rapid pace in recent years, so every talented player needs the opportunity to succeed.

There are many things we don’t know about the daily life of the Edmonton Oilers. Maybe it’s an injury or sending a message.

From the outside, Lavoie’s behavior is a mystery. Ten years ago, fans would have jumped at the chance to rip the Oilers’ management group for mishandling youngsters. The past few years have overturned that view for most fans, but Lavoie’s situation is baffling.

What’s going on?

Why isn’t Lavoie playing? Now is the time to push for an NHL job.

Watching Lavoie this season, he is skating well and keeping his feet moving better now than two years ago. He doesn’t recognize danger quickly and that’s probably part of the problem.

He remains a dangerous shooter and can win puck battles. His height (6-foot-4, 215) is an advantage on offense and defense and he skates well enough to get into position on offensive outings.

The inconsistency could cost Lavoie his chance in Edmonton. Another NHL organization would be wise to sign him and invest some playing time in this player. He could land an NHL job in a few seasons and, by the looks of it, the Oilers look set to move on.

For Oilers fans who followed the outlook a dozen years ago, this is the worst kind of deja vu.

(Photo: Larry MacDougal/Associated Press)

Leave a Reply