Raphael Lavoie -- a 6’4”, 196-pound forward from Chambly, QC -- found himself passed over in the first round this summer despite being effectively a consensus first-round pick, with most scouting services having Lavoie somewhere between 15th and 25th among eligibles (Bobby Mac had him 19th) leading up to it.
As such, the case can be made that the Oilers astute second-round pick may actually be ‘better’ than their (slight-to-somewhat-significant) reach when they selected D Philip Broberg in the first round.
Lavoie spent last season playing wing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, putting up 32-41-73 in 62GP before going nuts in the playoffs for 20-12-32 in 23GP. Despite an inconsistent start, Lavoie found some real chemistry with QMJHL veterans Antoine Morand and Samuel Asselin, forming the offensive bedrock for the Mooseheads’ ascent to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Once they made the playoffs, as you all know, Lavoie went nuts. In the first three rounds, he scored 17 of his 20 (!!!) total playoff goals, helping an up-and-down Mooseheads club reach the QMJHL finals, where they eventually lost to the eventual Memorial Cup champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Despite not winning either the Q or the Memorial Cup, Lavoie had virtually cemented himself as the league’s top prospect by tournament’s end.
It does, then, make some wonder as to why Lavoie fell out of the first round entirely. He’s skinny, but he’s tall, and he can move for a big man. He’s a right shooter, too. He debuts on our list so highly because, immediately, he becomes one of the Oilers best forward prospects. That’s in part an indictment of the current crop of prospect forwards, and his tantalizing potential.
What They Say
”A large and skilled player. Offensively, his release stands out which is very accurate and allows him to be a capable scorer. Furthermore, Lavoie reads the game fairly well and is good at distributing the puck.” - Eliteprospects, 2019
”When he’s on, Lavoie is a threat. He has a big time shot and can score from almost anywhere in the offensive zone.” - FutureConsiderations, 2019
”Though the righty Lavoie struggled a bit through the first half of the season, he was part of a deadly trio in the second half of the year with veterans Antoine Morand and Samuel Asselin. That red-hot line produced a lot of offence in the months of January and February, helping propel the Mooseheads to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Once the playoffs began, the Raphaël Lavoie show opened its doors. The Chambly, QC, right winger stormed out of the gate and dominated the first three rounds. The Mooseheads struggled on occasion during that time, especially in the first round against the Quebec Remparts, but Lavoie was the one stabilizing offensive force, scoring 17 of his playoff leading 20 goals in the first three rounds, cooling off a bit in the final against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He added three points in four Memorial Cup games.
While he did see his production slow down a bit in the final stages of the post-season, Lavoie solidified himself as the top QMJHL prospect with his strong offensive game centered around his great skating, shooting and stickhandling abilities. A second-round pick in his Q draft year, Lavoie exploded in his 17-year-old season, scoring 30 goals and 63 points while leading the league in game-winners.
Where Lavoie struggles is reading the play off the rush and his passing. He is capable of passing the puck well, but he needs to adjust to changing speeds and plays die off his blade when the speed shifts. There are plays offensively that see him pass off to a teammate hoping a Moosehead will get to the puck first, or a no-look pass into a defended area of the ice. Lavoie needs more awareness with the puck in the offensive zone, but he can read plays well in terms of shooting. Some refinement should settle this aspect of his game.
Defensively, Lavoie is adequate, and is helped by his long frame. His skating stride is longer and allows him to conserve more energy up and down the ice, using less strides than most to cover more ice. As a result, he can close gaps quicker at the QMJHL level, and it will be interesting to see where his game evolves in that area moving forward. Lavoie has shown the desire to improve without the puck, and has grown in that area in his Q career.
Despite his size, Lavoie does not seek out physical play, and takes punishment. He does not bang bodies in the corners, but his size allows him to protect the puck and explore all spots on the ice in pursuit of the puck with immunity. However, Lavoie is not a typical power forward at this point. He does have the size and the skating to be an effective power forward at some point in the future, but that time is not now.
Though Lavoie has played center in midget, he has not played at that position for an extended period of time at the QMJHL level, and his talents are better served off the wing. His skating would allow him to develop further into a center, if he puts the work in, but he is no center out-of-the-box. It would not be surprising to see him get more reps at center next season, however.” - Mike Sanderson (McKeen’s Hockey), 2019
”You won’t find many people criticizing this pick for the Oilers. Lavoie was seen as a consensus first round pick and ended up 19th on Bob McKenzie’s final so at the moment selecting Lavoie at 38th seems to be a strong value pick. Lavoie possesses an impressive tool set that includes his size and strong finishing ability. He has the ability to take over games but one of the biggest concerns with his play is his lack of consistency from game to game which has some people calling him a boom/bust prospects. His 32 goals and 73 points in 62 regular season games is solid but he really turned it on in the playoffs where he finished with 20 goals and 32 points in just 23 games. He followed the playoffs up with a respectable two goals and three points in four games at the Memorial Cup. Lavoie checks off a lot of boxes for the Oilers in terms of needs in their top six so there will be high hopes with this player moving forward.” - Jameson Ewasiuk (Dobber Prospects), 2019
”Another multiple-goal scorer was Raphael Lavoie, who scored one nifty tally by cutting into a crease in coverage then finding the far corner with a quick wrist shot. Better was the shot-pass he fired from the high slot that found McLeod’s stick for an easy tip-in. On the downside, Lavoie’s defensive coverage was not great, and he made more than one mistake in “clearing the zone” with bad and/or careless passes on the apparent breakout which led to further time playing defence. First impressions are of a high-event player with plenty of rough edges to file down but plenty of upside, especially on the offensive side of the puck. A project, though not necessarily a long-term one.
Lavoie was frequently teamed up with Ryan McLeod in a pairing of recent second-round draft choices. McLeod scored a couple of goals and could have had a couple more with a little better finish around the net. His best moments came when he used the full width of the ice to open up some room for his superior skating legs.” - Bruce McCurdy (The Journal), 2019
What We Say
There’s a ton to like about this pick. First of all, Lavoie is a pure sniper. By all accounts, his shot is NHL ready, often described with punchy adjectives like ‘heavy’ and ‘big-time’. He’s a big boy who is still trying to introduce his extremities to his central nervous system and still, his skating is good enough to avoid being considered a drawback. His agility may be a different story, but he can boogie in a straight line.
Despite his size, he’s a skill player who looks to push the puck up ice and make things happen in the offensive zone. His coming good would be a nice boon for the first team in a position desperate for NHL calibre talent, and Lavoie currently projects as exactly that.
When the spotlight shone the brightest last season, Lavoie stepped up, and according to some, dragged his club through the first few rounds of the playoffs. Of course, the Oilers have a long way to go before they can book their ticket to such an environment, but Lavoie doesn’t appear to shrink when the stakes amplify. He was a significant contributor along the way, too.
Lavoie only helped his case at the Oilers rookie camp this summer, despite having a bit of trouble getting his own gear in town and having to borrow a pair of skates. Once his boots showed up, he was able to show off some glimpses of the skill that left the hockey world virtually unanimous in praising the Oilers for grabbing him early in round two.
Look for Lavoie to spend another season in the CHL (he won’t be 20 until Sept. 2020) with the Mooseheads (unless he gets moved to one of the five or so teams going for it in any given season) to further refine his craft and beat up on a league he’s hopefully too good for, a la Evan Bouchard last year.
From there, depending on the steps he takes, Lavoie may have an outside shot (for better or worse) at making the Oilers as soon as next year’s training camp. It would likely fly in the face of Ken Holland’s fetish for over-ripening human beings, but there is a dearth of talent on the wing and with Jesse Puljujarvi’s time in Edmonton all but over, they’re even more desperate for legitimate skill at forward.