Cameron Hebig makes his first appearance on the Oilers Top 25 Under 25 list at #24.
When Hebig signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers in December my initial thought was that it was a pure depth signing for the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield and that Hebig was not a “real prospect” that could reasonably be projected to ever play in the NHL. Truth be told, Hebig remains a long-shot to ever make the NHL - very few players that play in the WHL in their overage season ever make the NHL. With that said, given the major bumps in the road in Hebig’s hockey history, and the way he has battled back to earn an NHL contract, I’m not willing to shut the door on this prospect.
It was no surprise that Hebig went undrafted in 2015 during his first year of eligibility but his boxcars spiked during the 2015/16 season as he scored 26 goals and accumulated 69 points in 59 games for the Saskatoon Blades. He was ranked 177th among North American forwards by NHL Central Scouting and a pre-2016 draft scouting report on Hebig projected him to be drafted and provides some nice info on his improvement year over year:”
“The scoresheet wasn’t the only place his numbers grew, as he reportedly added about 20 pounds to his 5’10” frame, giving him more strength and size, plus an increased ability to both dish out and absorb hits. Saskatoon’s top center, Hebig possesses above average vision and an accurate (but not overly-powerful) shot. He slots in at 19th in age-adjusted even strength points per game among the 349 CHL draft eligibles, right between two potential top-40 picks in Vancouver’s Tyler Benson and Sault Ste Marie’s Boris Katchouk. Scoring like that, along with the improvement he’s shown in virtually every facet of the game from his draft year, should have him ranked higher than a 6th/7th round pick.”
Unfortunately for Hebig, he, once again, went undrafted and then his career took a massive turn for the worse as he missed the entire 2016/17 season with a mysterious “upper body” injury suffered in training camp – an injury that Hebig states remains somewhat undiagnosed by doctors.
“It was hard to get a clear diagnosis,” he said. “Just weird symptoms and a lot of weird stuff going on.”
From accounts, Hebig was 100% healthy for the 2017/18 season and he parlayed a solid start to the season with the Saskatoon Blades into an NHL contract with the Oilers. Shortly thereafter, Hebig was traded by the Blades to the Regina Pats and he continued a very solid season. For the year, Hebig finished 16th in the WHL in scoring among forwards accumulating 41 goals and 90 points in 66 games which was good for a points/game pace of 1.36 (17th among forwards in the league). Hebig also produced 6 goals and 8 points in 7 WHL playoff games along with 4 goals and 6 points in 5 Memorial Cup Tournament games.
These offensive numbers do need to be taken with a large grain of salt given Hebig’s age this past season, it was an over-age season where he was 21 years old, one of the oldest player in the Western Hockey League – Hebig was expected to produce high end offensive numbers, and he did. With that said, in his four full seasons in the league, Hebig improved his goals, assists, points, and plus/minus year over year - what more can you ask for?
As the Pats were the hosts of the Memorial Cup, Hebig was not able to get in to any AHL games with the Condors at the end of the season but is penciled in to play for the Condors for the 2017/18 seasons as a rookie pro.
While Hebig remains a long-shot to play in the NHL, he possesses an all-around game that should serve him very well as he continues his development in the AHL this coming season. First and foremost, he is a good skater, described as having “explosive speed”. Hebig has been express that he “like the defensive side of the game” and his play on the ice confirms that, he is a solid 2-way player. Hebig played a prominent roll on the penalty kill (and was actually a weapon thereon as he scored 5 shorthanded goals, one behind the league leader). Hebig is also a plus faceoff guy, he took almost 1500 faceoffs and won 54.8% of them.
I suspect Hebig’s professional career likely starts on the right wing and he will be slotted in to the middle six for the Condors. With the hard work and character that Hebig has shown coming back from missing an entire season with injury, I wouldn’t be surprised if he worked his way up the depth chart by the end of the season and saw significant time in the top 6 and earned himself time on both special teams.
At the end of the day, Hebig has solid offensive skills, a nose for the defensive side of the game, is a right shot center with good speed and is good on faceoffs – these are all skills coveted by NHL teams, including the Edmonton Oilers and, although he currently remains a distant bell for the NHL, perhaps next year at this time we are talking about Hebig competing for a job in the NHL.