What's new Edmonton Oilers top prospect Matt Savoie's NHL ETA?

The recent trade by the Edmonton Oilers for top-end prospect Matt Savoie is a fascinating look into the organization’s priorities.

Since the moments after Connor McDavid was drafted in 2015, every available asset has been spent on immediate help for the NHL roster.

Trades, free-agent signings, recalls from the farm, all focused on getting the best available NHL roster for the push to the Stanley Cup.

The trade for Savoie runs counter to the almost decade-long trend by management. In sending out Ryan McLeod, an established NHL centre, the club reduced the available NHL talent for next season by one.

Or did they?

Savoie’s ETA

Matt Savoie is not just your ordinary NHL prospect.

In his draft year (age 17) he scored 35-55-90 in 65 games to lead the Winnipeg Ice in scoring.

Over the last several seasons, the WHL comparables for Savoie (age 17, WHL, impact offence at 1.38 points per game) include Mathew Barzal, Brayden Point, Sam Reinhart, Nolan Patrick, Cody Glass and Dylan Cozens.

Savoie outscored many of those names at the same age.

Barzal was drafted in 2015, turned pro at 20 and scored over a point per game while winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Point didn’t have the draft pedigree of Savoie or Barzal, but he too turned pro at 20 and delivered a solid season that pointed to an impact future.

Some of those names arrived earlier, some encountered injury issues but when they were able to play pro hockey, each landed in the NHL.

Based on the history of comparable talents at 17, Savoie’s current AHL games-played total (six games at the end of last season) exceeds the average of the group above.

When we’re talking about time in the minor leagues for a player like Savoie, 20, it’s a fine idea in theory. If his talent overwhelms the league, Oilers management will have a dilemma.

Blocked by veterans?

If we assume the Oilers organization will want Savoie to play centre, then extended time in the AHL is likely. Learning the finer points of the increased defensive responsibility a centre faces could take a long period of time — perhaps the entire 2024-25 campaign.

There’s still a good chance he lands as a winger in pro hockey. If he does, there may not be much holding him back.

The Oilers are an older group on right wing.

Zach Hyman, 32, is past prime for NHL players but his production over the last two seasons (90 goals in 159 games) is phenomenal.

Free-agent pickup Viktor Arvidsson, 31, missed time last season recovering from back surgery and played just 14 regular-season games. He scored at a 30-goal rate over an entire season, but the injury worry is real and Savoie would be a candidate to replace him.

Connor Brown, 30, wasn’t himself for most of 2023-24 due to injury. Bottom-six right-wingers Corey Perry, 39, and Derek Ryan, 37, are rare players over 35 who project to play 50-plus games next season.

The organization won’t recall Savoie for fourth-line deployment, but it’s possible he sees playing time in the top nine if an injury or two hits the depth chart on the wing.

Blocked by other prospects?

A recent look at the Oilers’ top-20 prospects identified several possible recalls among the available forwards.

Raphael Lavoie is a big winger who has scored 53 goals in the last two AHL seasons; Noah Philp is a big right-handed centre who missed last season but could find himself in the NHL mix; Lane Pederson is another righty centre who has plenty of AHL and some NHL experience.

The presence of any of those names on the Oilers roster will reduce the chances that Savoie gets a full shot at a regular job in the NHL.

These Oilers are going to be a veteran group with some youth mixed in. It’s unlikely we’ll see two inexperienced forwards during the early portion of the season, and it’s a poor bet later unless injuries hit.

What will Savoie bring? 

I like to go back to a player’s draft day resume to identify what he brings to a game when all pistons are firing.

Corey Pronman at The Athletic ranked him as above NHL average in skating, shot, hockey sense and compete. His player comparable was Jaden Schwartz. Pronman: “He is a very talented scorer. He stands out with the puck on his stick and can attack in a variety of ways. He is an excellent passer who can run a power play. I see him as a very good top-six forward.”

Scott Wheeler had similar positives in his look for The Athletic: “There isn’t a player in this draft class whose game thrills more than Savoie’s does when he’s firing. Inside the offensive zone, he’s lethal. He’s a burning skater with explosiveness that allows him to win races, separate in transition and put defenders on their heels.”

Red Line Report wrote, “one of the best pure offensive talents in this draft. Top playmaker, style compares to Seth Jarvis. All he does is score and play at a very high tempo. Plays the game three steps ahead.”

What is his ETA?

There are two answers to the question.

In a normal situation, where a player of Savoie’s pedigree enters the NHL with a building team, his estimated time of arrival as an NHL player would be as easy as looking at the opening night game on the 2024-25 regular-season schedule.

Edmonton is a different team for a gifted prospect like Savoie.

The Oilers were one of the oldest teams in the NHL a year ago and will be playing the oldies all winter long again this year.

It’s unlikely the club will break camp with more than one player from the AHL, and fourth-line centre has two viable candidates (Pederson, Philp) who have played for the Condors and could push for the NHL team. That could be the spot for a younger player.

Savoie is the most talented player in the conversation around the department of youth.

When he’s ready, and it could come quickly, the roster improvement will make the move necessary.

If the organization chooses to have him learn centre in the AHL, Savoie could deliver a truly memorable offensive performance in Bakersfield.

Since 2000, the single-season leader in points for Edmonton’s AHL affiliate by a true prospect is Jason Chimera’s 77 points in 2001-02 for the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Savoie could mash that by Valentine’s Day.

(Photo: Joshua Bessex / Getty Images)

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