The Edmonton Oilers had a fair number of good prospects to pick with the team’s eighth overall pick during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. That they choose a young Swedish defenseman named Philip Broberg made fans wonder if Ken Holland might have made a mistake. However, Broberg’s play since then has gone a long way in easing those concerns.
Holland knew that the Oilers needed help on the defensive end, and Broberg was the best young defenseman available. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and can he ever skate. In fact, that’s almost the first thing scouts rave about when they watch Broberg play. His skating is so strong that it’s hard not to simply watch him glide around the ice.
Craig Button on Broberg
TSN analyst Craig Button reported on Broberg’s play during last summer’s World Junior Summer Showcase in Michigan.
Specifically, Button noted, “Hedman (Victor, with the Tampa Bay Lightning) is one of the best defensemen in the NHL. If Phillip can scratch that area, you’re in special territory. He can skate like Hedman. A nice mix of Lindholm (Hampus, with the Anaheim Ducks) and Hedman is my projection.”
If you read more of Button’s tweets, you can also see that Button addressed a criticism Broberg often receives – his lack of hockey IQ. However, Button saw nothing of that weakness when he watched Broberg.
Broberg’s Professional Experience
Edmonton selected Broberg with the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to the NHL Entry Draft, Broberg had played for AIK in the Hockey Allsvenskan in Sweden last season, where he scored two goals and had nine points in 41 games for a team that finished first in the regular season. That team was in Sweden’s second-tier league, and this season Broberg was expected to play in the top-tier SHL this season.
In fact, after Broberg had signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers, that’s exactly what happened. Because he’s only 18 years old and because both he and the Oilers’ believed he would have as good a chance to improve in Sweden as here in North America, Broberg joined the top-tier Skelleftea rather than suiting up for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Ontario Hockey League.
What does Broberg think about that decision? He says, “I’m thrilled. I think it has been good to come here. It was the right decision to play in Skellefteå, to move away from home again and come up here. I am thrilled and have received a good welcome.”
By all accounts, he’s doing well. In 17 games, Broberg has two assists and has averaged 14.31 and it taking regular third-pairing ice time. His coach there is really working him in slowly and clearly loves his skills and potential.
What Tommy Samuelsson Says About Broberg
In fact, his coach this season is Tommy Samuelsson, who at 59-years-old has been a top-level player and coach for over 40 years in Sweden. Samuelsson names Broberg as the greatest defenseman talent he’s trained or played with.
As Samuelsson said in an interview done in Swedish (I’m trusting the Edmonton Journal’s translation here), “It is him and Fredrik Olausson.” He continued, “Should you look at the category of players I have coached or played with of that age and the qualities he has… In my career, I have only had one such example in my vicinity…. Olausson was also such a man when he was 17-18.” (from Philip Broberg acing it in Sweden, inspiring dreams of future Edmonton Oilers defense pairings, David Staples, Edmonton Journal, 11/17/19)
When Samuelsson was asked if Broberg were the best young defenseman he’d seen since Olausson, his answer was “Yes, … Both of these two… just the humility that exists and the understanding that there is a journey behind to reach the top. It’s cool to see.”
That’s very high praise for Broberg and, if it’s true, the Edmonton will have a really fine young defenseman in its ranks for the near future. For now, he’s getting good playing time on a top Swedish team with good coaching that will develop his talent. And, at the young age of 18 years old, that’s about as good as it can get. That’s he progressed this far at such a youthful age is an indication of his talent.
In fact, perhaps having him play 2020-21 there as well is not such a bad idea. In fact, given the excellent situation he’s in, it seems like a no-brainer. There’s a lot to learn and he’s in a space where he can do so. For now, Broberg will represent Sweden at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship along with other Oiler’s prospects Matej Blumel (Czech Republic), Raphael Lavoie (Canada), and Olivier Rodrigue (Canada).
Where Does that Put the Oilers in Terms of Defensemen in Their Organization?
The Oilers look to have great talent on defense in their organization. Broberg is 18. At 20 years of age, Evan Bouchard is doing well in the American Hockey League; 22-year-old Caleb Jones is close to sticking in the NHL; and, young Ethan Bear is playing well in his first full NHL season. In addition, 23-year-old William Lagesson is ready for an NHL shot, and 20-year-old Dmitry Samorukov is starting to play well in the AHL.
This is the best young group of defensemen the Oilers have ever had, and the Oilers look to be solid in that area for the next five seasons. It could augur a total change on the blueline in Edmonton shortly.
As well, Oilers’ fans shouldn’t forget how many good young players are on the team’s defense right now. It’s easy to forget that Adam Larsson is only 27 years old, Oscar Klefbom is only 26, and Darnell Nurse is only 24. That group, along with Bear, is already paying dividends for the team. Even if the Oilers lose one of their young defensemen in the Seattle expansion draft (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Matt Benning), it’s still a strong group.
Sometime soon in the future, you will see the likes of Klefbom, Nurse, Bear, Broberg, Bouchard, and Jones as the top three defensive pairings for the team. That would be a fun group to watch.
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