Why Edmonton Oilers defenceman Philip Broberg has arrived just in time

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Philip Broberg is an overnight sensation.

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, he played almost 18 minutes (a career high for a playoff game), playing the right side, and showed exceptional confidence with and without the puck.

Broberg stepped in when the need was greatest and performed like a seasoned veteran, especially on the penalty kill. His arrival as a reliable NHL defenceman in the most difficult time of the season has been a welcome and important development.

Broberg’s path to the NHL was blocked a very short time ago, but there’s overwhelming evidence he was ready long before opportunity came knocking.

It’s been a long and difficult journey, so frustrating for the player a trade request was made. For a time, as reported by Daniel Nugent-Bowman at The Athletic, it looked like it would be granted.

What’s that they say about the best trades are the ones you don’t make?

Broberg may be an example for the Oilers.

The fall

The big, speedy blueliner lost an NHL job to Vincent Desharnais during training camp in the fall of 2023.

For the organization, it meant the team would enjoy a luxury not previously seen in this century.

Having Broberg on the farm, waiting for injury recall, meant tremendous depth out of the gate to begin the season.

As it turned out, the health of the top-six defencemen proved exceptional, and Broberg couldn’t get into the NHL lineup from late November through mid-April.

Some wondered if Broberg was a wasted pick, which would represent a massive error for the organization. Broberg was chosen No. 8 in the 2019 draft, and was considered a reach pick at the time.

Failure for Broberg would be a bitter pill for Oilers fans, especially considering the team’s uneven past at the draft table.

Broberg had a fantastic season, both in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors, and now with the Oilers.

The on-ice numbers

Broberg played 87 AHL games with the Condors over three seasons. He was a feature player in all disciplines and posted a handsome outscoring number during his time in the minors. Here are the numbers by year, with Broberg’s scoring percentage on and Bakersfield’s numbers when he was off the ice:

Year (League) Broberg ON EV Broberg OFF EV

2021-22 (AHL)

67 pct

55 pct

2022-23 (AHL)

33 pct

33 pct

2023-24 (AHL)

57 pct

52 pct

All numbers even strength

Broberg was a big minutes defenceman for the AHL team from the start. He played just seven games in 2022-23, going 2-3 goals, so the heart of his playing time took place in the other two seasons.

For his entire AHL career, Broberg’s on-ice outscoring at even strength (67-44, 60 percent) is the most impressive total for an Edmonton two-way defender since Oscar Klefbom a decade ago.

In the NHL, Broberg established himself as a player who could have success when playing against the soft parade. Using Puck IQ, the numbers show that Edmonton’s coaching staff received solid production against lesser opponents.

The 2022-23 season saw him play over 500 NHL minutes five-on-five and gives us an excellent view of ideal deployment. He delivered 64 percent Dangerous Fenwick (a possession number, similar to expected goals) against the least difficult opposition, while also being effective against mid-level competition. Broberg against elites was an adventure, suggesting he could play some but not all minutes at this point in his career. All numbers below are five-on-five.

The Oilers didn’t build on the 2022-23 season, leaving Broberg on the farm for the heart of 2023-24.

It left player and team vulnerable in case of emergency recall.

The club acquired right-handed defenceman Troy Stecher at the trade deadline to increase depth, but Stecher was injured before he could play a postseason game.

When the Oilers needed someone to step in, after most of two seasons of excellent health for the top-six defencemen, it was Broberg who moved up the depth chart.

The playoffs

He has been impressive, and the results may allow him the opportunity to extend his time with the Oilers into next season and beyond.

Broberg’s size, speed and defensive acumen have been on display for his four postseason games.

He’s averaging 13:39 per game at five-on-five, and owns a 1-0 goal share in the discipline. Broberg has been blocking shots, getting into lanes and making great reads.

Transporting the puck and getting it to safety has also been a feature of his game.

He’s averaging about a minute per game on the penalty kill and sports a clean slate (no goals allowed) so far this playoff run.

The future

Early and late in the 2023-24 season, the handling of Broberg was baffling.

In November, the question surrounding Broberg’s future was best described as a crossroads, not of his making. A quick recall for a two- or three-game stint would have allowed the established players to get a rest and give the young defender some experience with new coach Kris Knoblauch.

In April, when Knoblauch did recall and play him, the mystery pertained to such a small window of opportunity for a player who might be needed in the most important part of the season.

We are here.

One theory suggests Broberg’s fine play saved management some embarrassment. If he had been deployed and failed, no one could reasonably have blamed the player for stepping into the lineup with so little time to familiarize himself.

On the other hand, one could argue the Broberg spike in the playoffs confirms general manager Ken Holland’s game plan. The GM’s slow-playing of talent (Broberg’s entry-level deal saw him play a large portion of three seasons in the AHL) worked in allowing the talented young blue to mature at a more leisurely pace.

The reasonable approach was to utilize this player in multiple roles at the NHL level during the season. Giving Broberg all kinds of work at even strength and on the penalty kill would have helped both coaches and player gain confidence in the situation we see today.

All of which is interesting to debate, but Broberg’s performance put it all to bed.

He’s here. He’s effective.

Management should sign this player to a contract over the summer (he’s an RFA), plug him into the lineup and enjoy a high draft pick that arrived just in time.

That he could have been in Edmonton sooner doing these things is worth discussing this summer.

As it is, there’s a Stanley Cup Final game to be played, with Broberg a significant part of the Oilers’ defence.


(Photo: Elsa / Getty Images)

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