Not too long ago the Edmonton Oilers had a healthy cabinet of young defensive talent at their disposal. By not too long ago I mean last season. The team boasted talented skaters such as Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones but, after a few trades by Ken Holland, they have been replaced by more veteran players in Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, and Duncan Keith.
Of course, that isn’t to say that there are absolutely no young defenders in the organization. Evan Bouchard is poised to play in his first full NHL season this year and Dmitri Samorukov was a darkhorse candidate to make the team out of camp before breaking his jaw in a rookie game against Calgary.
The other guy that has a chance to surprise is none other than Philip Broberg. The speedy Swedish rearguard has had his fair share of critiques since the Oilers selected him eighth overall in 2019. The pick came as a surprise to many as many talented forwards such as Trevor Zegras and Cole Caufield were still on the board.
That criticism has only grown since, as guys like Caufield have already proven to be impactful at the NHL level despite being drafted later in the round.
Does the criticism hold up or is there still reason to have hope? Let’s take a closer look at Phillip Broberg to find out...
When he was drafted Broberg was described as a blazing fast two-way defender that was among the very best skaters in his draft class. This made him an ideal threat to carry the puck out his zone and chip in with a few offensive rushes each game.
His D+1 season seemed to affirm these scouting reports. He made the jump to the SHL to play with Skellefteå AIK and showed pretty decently for a rookie defender, playing in 45 games with the big club. To top it all off, came to Edmonton in the summer to train with the team in the leadup to the 2020 NHL playoff bubble and showed exceptionally at their mini training camp. He even got into the team’s lineup in a tune-up against Calgary.
At this point, there were high expectations pinned on Broberg. He was starting to look like a top-10 talent from his draft class and the expectation was that he would attempt to make a case for himself as a roster player as soon as the 2020/2021 season. This, however, is where things started to fall off a bit.
The 2020/2021 season started off good enough for Broberg. He was named the captain of Sweden’s national team at the 2021 World Junior Championships and was able to notch three assists in the team’s opener against the Czech Republic. The hiccups started when it was revealed that Broberg had played through a partial tear in his knee and a separated shoulder for much of the tournament.
These injuries saw his play take a drastic step-down as he struggled to be an impact player for Sweden and struggled to defend in his own zone. It effectively eliminated any chance he had at making the NHL for that season, meaning he would return to the SHL for a second time.
In the SHL he saw marginal improvement on the power-play but his 5-on-5 work stayed static. On the penalty-kill, he had limited minutes but still struggled to prevent goals. There was also the fact that his team severely limited his ice-time in the post-season playing as little as six minutes in one game and averaging just 11 minutes for the whole.
It seems as though his struggles stem from his decision-making on the ice. When he is rushing the puck he can get away with a lot of things players usually can’t because of his exceptional skating but, when he is forced to make a split-second decision he can sometimes falter.
We have seen this continue in the two rookie camp games earlier this month. While he can dazzle with his skating ability there is a lot more to be desired when it comes to the decisions he makes with the puck in all zones of the ice.
Time will tell if he will be able to nip this weakness in the bud and maybe a year with Jay Woodcroft in the AHL will help him take that next step. The one thing that is certain about Philip Broberg’s immediate future is that he most likely won’t be an Edmonton Oiler quite yet.
We’ll see about that next year.