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Edmonton Oilers draft center Matt Copponi 216th overall

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Photo credit:Jim Stankiewicz/Merrimack College
Zach Laing
8 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have drafted centre Matt Copponi with their 216th overall selection in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Copponi, 20, is a 6’0, 179 lb. right-handed centre who spent last season with Merrimack College in the NCAA. He appeared in 37 games for the Warriors last season scoring 14 goals and 29 points.
It was his second season in the college ranks. In his freshman season in 2021-22, he played 25 games scoring three goals and nine points.
Copponi is the final selection from the Oilers in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. They selected defenceman Beau Akey 56th overall, then used their 184th overall selection on goaltender Nathaniel Day.
He was named by both Daily Faceoff’ and The Athletic as one of the top overage prospects heading into this draft.

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Here’s where Copponi was ranked heading into the draft…

– Ranked #157 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
– Ranked #98 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)

And here’s what scouts had to say about him…

“Copponi, a third-year eligible prospect, has had a solid sophomore season with Merrimack, becoming one of the team’s most vital scoring forces. Copponi is consistently effective and highly competitive, giving it everything he has every shift. He’s projected to go in the later rounds of the NHL Draft, but given he’s still early in his college career, he could be a decent long-term project.” – Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
“Copponi, who just turned 20, is entering his junior year of college and finished second on Merrimack in points and tied for first in goals as a sophomore last season. He took an AAA-to-prep path which bypassed the USHL altogether and wasn’t on my draft radar until this year but has slowly come into his own. He’s a competitive, hard-working, lead-by-example player whose double-overtime winner sent Merrimack to the Hockey East championship game earlier this year. I like the way he gets after it, he has gotten stronger, he reads and reacts quickly out there and plays off of his linemates well. He’s got decent skill, and he’s just a gamer.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
There’s rising from relative obscurity, and then there’s what Matt Copponi did this season as a sophomore at Merrimack.
From nine points in a bit role at the bottom of the Warrior’s lineup to a top-six staple generating the second-most offence on the team – Copponi took the ball and ran with it, all the way to one of the most productive under-20 seasons in the nation.
How did Copponi make it happen? Well, it’s not immediately clear when you glean the tape. There aren’t any separating skills in his toolkit. Nothing that jumps off the screen at you, anyway.
‘I’m not sure the skill level or the physical tools really popped in this one,’ EP Rinkside Editor-in-Chief J.D. Burke remarked in a game report. ‘Copponi isn’t necessarily lumbering out there, but he’s a bit top-heavy as a skater, and his hands and feet seem to operate in lockstep — kind of a clumsy handler in space.’
For Copponi, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, supporting the puck low in the defensive zone and below the hashmarks in the offensive third. Always offering himself as an outlet to his defenceman in transition. Probing for and finding shooting opportunities off-puck, sneaking in and out of his opponents’ blindspots to pop open for scoring chances. 
Put another way? He’s just really damn smart. Copponi operates well within the structure they have in place at Merrimack and doesn’t make mistakes. You can set your watch to him. Is that enough to one day carve out a career as an NHL centre? Well, that’s hard to say. Copponi would hardly be the first to make the show with an all-sense build, but it doesn’t augur well that there aren’t any separating skills or physical tools that have revealed themselves at this level.
If Copponi can add a step as a skater or develop his shot though? You pair that with his feel for the game and willingness to play inside, and you just might be cooking with fire. – 2023 Elite Prospects Draft Guide

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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