Philip Broberg appears to be the most recent target of unwarranted fan hate due to a number of factors early on in his career. Drafted eighth overall in 2019, some believe he is already a bust and others believe that he is bound to be traded for an upgrade before he gets a real shot with the Edmonton Oilers.
It is still far too early to judge the young Oilers’ defenseman as he hasn’t even finished his entry-level contract for starters. Broberg is starting the third and final year of his ELC and is still exempt from waivers. Sometimes it’s a bit more difficult for drafted players to get into a lineup on teams that are trying to win, so their development is stunted without injuries.
The best shot we’ve seen Broberg get in his career thus far is a few games in 2021-22 when the Oilers’ defenders seemed to be dropping like flies at times in the season. Even then, he only logged more than 15 minutes five times that season. Three games came in a row at the end of November and two at the start of March. Compared to other top defensive prospects many like to compare him to, that’s a much worse opportunity to show what he can do.
Broberg has been injured at times so far in his young career. That alone limits development of almost any prospect. While fans can look at the 2019 Draft and see who was picked after Broberg and criticize, every fanbase can do that at one point or another. While players like Trevor Zegras, Matt Boldy, and Cole Caufield are great mid-first round picks that came shortly after the Oilers’ selection, there are also other players that haven’t developed as quickly as well. These players include Alex Turcotte, Victor Soderstrom, Vasily Podkolzin, Thomas Harley, Lassi Thompson, Ville Heinola, etc.
Now Beau Akey had a very impressive first showing with the Oilers, but he is only 18 years old. Because of one preseason game, many people also seem to think Broberg’s development hasn’t gone correctly. Akey has shown a lot of promise and anyone in the organization and fanbase should be very excited about what was put on display, but that doesn’t mean Broberg is any less of a player because of it. There’s a reason Broberg is going to get a look in the top four and Akey was sent back to junior already.
Broberg’s Potential Breakout Season
From what I have seen from Broberg in his young career, he doesn’t make many noticeable or big mistakes. He is also very poised and not in a hurry to throw the puck away. His skating is smooth and he is a big body with offensive and defensive capabilities. We have to remember, he’s only 22 years old and defensemen take longer than forwards to develop. Even for an eighth-overall pick, his time is coming and it would be a shame to give up on him early.
Despite the noise from fans, the Oilers’ coaching staff seems to share my viewpoint on the matter. It appears as though Jay Woodcroft and company are finally going to see what they really have with Broberg.
As Ryan Rishaug noted from Woodcroft’s comments, Broberg will at least get the opportunity to get top-four minutes, and not beside just anyone. For anyone who watched the second half of the 2022-23 season, Mattias Ekholm‘s arrival boosted the team and Evan Bouchard significantly. Ekholm is a great defender and very strong leader. He took on the role of mentor for Bouchard, drafted 10th overall the year before Broberg, and Bouchard’s game took off. Ekholm is the steady hand that guides the second pairing at 5-on-5 and did so for Bouchard. Since the Oilers want to see Bouchard play top minutes moving forward, Broberg is the next in line to get the boost from Ekholm.
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Great teams have to develop from within, and it is nowhere near too late for the Oilers to do so with Broberg. He has been held back by an 11 forward, seven defensemen system to this point with Vincent Desharnais getting a better opportunity, but Broberg is the future and Desharnais is a seventh defenseman at best.
I, for one, am anticipating a good long look at Broberg on the second pairing with Ekholm if it sticks. This is what I believe the next few years could hold for the Oilers’ defense for them to get the most out of their players. The Oilers are in win-now mode, but they also can’t expect Broberg to be a superstar top-four defenseman before his entry-level deal is even over.