Before getting into this summer’s top prospects countdown, here are four players who are worth keeping an eye on who didn’t quite crack the list…
At last year’s draft, the Oilers made a somewhat controversial decision to trade down from No. 20 overall when goaltender Jesper Wallstedt was available. Edmonton received the No. 22 overall pick and the No. 90 overall pick, a useful addition considering they came into the draft without a second- or a third-round pick.
The Oilers used the No. 22 overall pick was used on Xavier Bourgault, a highly-touted forward prospect, and then they went off the board with the No. 90 overall pick and took Luca Munzenberger, a hulking defenceman from Germany.
At the time, there wasn’t much information out there about Munzenberger, who was drafted from Germany’s U20 league. Munzenberger came overseas to join the University of Vermont last season so now we have a much better idea of who he is as a prospect.
At a glance, his first season in North America appeared underwhelming, as he scored just three points and was a minus-17 over 32 games, but the fact he was used as Vermont’s top shutdown defender as a freshman is impressive.
“That’s his job because he’s such a good skater,” Vermont head coach Todd Woodcroft told The Athletic. “He’s so rangy. Now that people are aware of him, they give him a little bit of space, too, because if he’s not up in your face with a stick on the puck and shutting you down, he’s going to absolutely blow you up.”
Size and skating are attractive qualities in a defender, but Tyler Wright, Edmonton’s director of scouting and player development, said that Munzenberger’s high compete level was a major reason for selecting him in the third round.
“He’s a win-at-all-costs type of player,” Wright said. “I don’t think you can really measure those things statistically. He impacts the game significantly without being on the scoresheet. That’s one of the big intangibles that we really liked and why we drafted him in the third round.”
Munzenberger missed a lot of key development time due to COVID-19 but he’s in an excellent position playing in college with Jay Woodcroft’s brother as his coach. There’s certainly a lot to like about Munzenberger as a prospect and he’s somebody who could quickly climb up this list as he gets more playing experience.
At the 2020 NHL Draft, the Oilers used all seven of their selections on forwards. One of them was Filip Engaras, a Swede playing NCAA hockey who was a couple of years older than most of the players being selected in the draft.
The Oilers had a glaring organizational need for forwards in their system, either to fill skill roles or as checkers, and an over-ager like Engaras fulfilled that latter category. Engaras hasn’t shown much offence, as he scored seven goals and 21 points in 33 games in his third season with the University of New Hampshire, but his skating and physical play ultimately earned him a two-year AHL deal with Bakersfield.
There isn’t a high-upside prospect here but Engaras is worth keeping an eye on because it appears there could be an NHL future here. If Engaras performs well in a checking role for the Condors, he could earn an NHL contract with the Oilers, as we’ve seen with names like Vincent Desharnais and James Hamblin recently.
Born in August of 1998, Philp is technically just a little too old to be considered a ‘prospect’ in my countdown this year but I wanted to talk about him because he’s an interesting name who’s new to the organization.
Philp was a bit of a late bloomer in the WHL, as he jumped from scoring 22 and 19 points for the Kootenay Ice in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to scoring 50 and 75 points with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2017-18 and 2018-19. After going undrafted in the NHL, Philp joined the University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey program.
Philp performed very well in a CIS career that was limited due to the pandemic. He had 27 points in 28 games in 2019-20 when his freshman season was cut short and then the entirety of the 2020-21 season got canceled. When play resumed in 2021-22, Philp scored 11 points in eight regular-season games and then popped off with 14 points in seven playoff games.
That run earned Philp quite a bit of attention from NHL clubs and he wound up inking a one-year, entry-level deal with the Oilers. A big, right-handed pivot with an effective two-way game, Philp fills an organizational need for the Oilers as they seek options for their bottom six who can play a sound checking game while also offering some skill.
While the Oilers lost goaltending prospect Ilya Konovalov this past year, they replaced him with Ryan Fanti, a prospect who performed very well in the NCAA.
Fanti posted a .929 save percentage over 37 games in 2021-22 for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. He posted back-to-back shutouts during the NCHC Tournament which ultimately led the Bulldogs to the NCAA National Tournament, where they’d lose in the quarterfinals to Carter Savoie and the University of Denver. He was ultimately named NCHC Goaltender of the Year and was also a runner-up for the Mike Richter Award which is awarded to the best goaltender in all of NCAA men’s hockey.
The AHL tandem next season looks to be third-stringer Calvin Pickard and prospect Olivier Rodrigue, so it’s safe to assume that Fanti will start in the ECHL. Rodrigue has struggled thus far as a pro so a strong start from Fanti could move him up the depth chart quickly.