Through no fault of my own (ok, maybe a little), this week’s prospect focus spotlighted Dylan Holloway and his conversion to center.
However, there were other prospect stories that were also impressive that got overshadowed. A player we have talked about on numerous occasions as having an ability to help the bottom six score continued his strong play. Even more notable, we saw a defensive pairing this weekend that might foreshadow something we might all see in Edmonton in the coming years. All of that plus all the news and notes in this week’s Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.
What Did I See This Week?
Philip Broberg and Maximus Wanner
While the most discussed lineup change was adding Dylan Holloway to the center position, there was a sneaky line-up change on the backend that had me as intrigued. For the first time this season, Philip Broberg was paired with Maximus Wanner. The two prospects have normally been split between the top two pairs in their time together in Bakersfield. Broberg played a lot with Phil Kemp before his call-up, and Wanner played most of the season with Cam Dineen before his injury.
Friday night, however, the two were put together against San Jose. The results were outstanding. The two held a shot share advantage of 67% at 5v5 in a game where the Condors were outshot 38-31. The chemistry between the two was immediate as they complemented each other’s skills well. Here is a clip that was a template of their play together all game. The two cause all kinds of issues because of their length each of them being 6’3″ tall. Wanner is the more physical of the two, as you can see in the highlight net front where he ensures that his mark understands that standing net front will be painful. Broberg then uses his puck skills and feet to grab a loose puck and start the attack.
Another example of their interplay was this great faceoff win and attack. Watch Broberg gather in the faceoff win and make a quick outlet pass to the wall. Wanner, seeing the successful breakout coming, immediately starts to race up the ice and makes a very entry. The shot is actually high quality from that spot despite it missing.
The pairing was split for the game on Saturday, but I suspect we will see them together again very soon because each is playing so well even on their own.
I have spent considerable time with this player partly as a response to the unfair criticism levelled at this player but primarily because this is a legitimate NHL defenceman in waiting. This week was no different. The part of Broberg’s game that easily translates to the NHL is his skating. This clip shows just how easy this player makes skating 400 feet look. It starts with a sublime little pass to start the breakout, where Broberg is a key part of the attack. Broberg then makes it look easy returning to defend all the way back to his net front.
Broberg’s offence has really started to come recently as well. He has 3 assists in his last three games and has 8 shots on net in that time. That brings his season totals to 1-8-9 in 17 games with 46 shots. Plays like this are becoming the norm for Broberg.
He makes this net attack look so easy with his size and skating ability. His assists this week came in a variety of ways. The first was a simple point shot, but I like the fact he used his feet from his own zone to get into position to be able to take the shot. He gets the puck through and it is an easy tap-in.
His other assist came on a great passing play on the powerplay. I understand people question Broberg’s puck skills. They are not elite for certain, but he is a very effective powerplay quarterback in the AHL. That will help him in 5v5 in the NHL. Watch Broberg’s contribution to Dylan Holloway’s first goal in the AHL this season.
Now the part of Broberg’s game that is maddening to some people is how he plays defensively. It is less physical and more understated for certain. However, it does not mean it is not effective. Watch Broberg’s work on the penalty kill this weekend. Here is a great clip showing how Broberg uses his great skating quickness and his length to neutralize a play along the wall. The first instance he sees the player has his back to him, he attacks. He closes the distance so fast that the attacker does not have a chance. He then uses his length to move the puck down the wall. Finally, he uses his body position and puck skills to get the puck up to a teammate and out of the zone.
While Broberg’s strong AHL play has been well publicized, Maximus Wanner’s season has largely gone unnoticed. He played almost exclusively in the top pairing of this system until Philip Broberg came down. His time both in the top and second pairing has been nothing short of impressive. Making it even more so is this young man is only twenty years old. He plays the position with composure, confidence and controlled anger.
That is not something to take lightly in a league where he is playing against men 10 years older than him most nights. Now his offence needs to improve no question. That will make the difference in how he projects as an NHL defenceman. What is not in question is his defensive acumen. Watch this simple clip. When Wanner sees the puck carrier struggle, he immediately attacks the play and uses his stick to turn the puck over and the Condors are in transition.
Here is another very simple example of something that players much older than Wanner struggle with. How to properly box attackers out and take their stick. Watch Wanner work both the body and then the stick to neutralize his opponent in front of the net.
Finally, watch Wanner adjust to a weakside attack and close on the player. He successfully turns the puck over and eliminates his check as a threat. This is high-quality defending. He could have given up the blueline and waited for reinforcements. Instead, he stayed on the attack and turned the puck back up the ice quickly.
The other part of Wanner’s game that is very appealing is how physical he plays. Again, this is a twenty-year-old rookie in a man’s league. Watch this penalty kill sequence from him here. He manhandles a couple of players making life very tough on them without exposing his team to any type of counterattack. It is physical, but done in a measured way to ensure he does not take himself out of the play unless he takes players with him.
Six points in his last four games and off to the All-Star game
. Lavoie just keeps grinding away as the Condors’ most consistent forward prospect. This week, he again displayed his patented shot off a great feed from Holloway, who might have been looking for Pederson. Nevertheless, he found a guy who was very adept at scoring and proved it there.
His assist on another powerplay is the play I really loved this week. Lavoie has the ability to make plays in a phone booth. Now he uses his body much more effectively as well. What this leads to is a very patient player, who uses both to create just enough time and space for his teammates to get open. The results are often very positive.
Lavoie has done everything he can at the AHL level. Whether he gets a chance to prove himself in Edmonton is uncertain, but he most definitely will have chances in the NHL somewhere soon.
News And Notes
I always see comments about Dylan Holloway’s ability to score. No question his first stint in the NHL was frustrating from that point. However, I believe he will score in the NHL. What is often missed is that scoring takes more than one player, and assists count as much as goals. Watch these two plays here and tell me what happens if they occur in the NHL with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl on the other end of them. Sometimes it is about the other players, not him.
In this shift pay attention to the last sequence with Holloway winning the puck race on the wall. Again, that should be an assist.
- Jake Chiasson, the Oilers’ fourth pick from 2021, continues to struggle as a professional. He is 1-3-4 in 33 games and has made little impact at the ECHL level. There is no question that this is a player who should have played his twenty-year-old season as an overager in the WHL. I had lobbied for him to turn pro and there is no question I was wrong on this one. Hopefully, an off-season reset can help re-direct this young man’s career.
- Jayden Grubbe is centring a kid line with Carter Savoie and Matvey Petrov. The line is mostly taking fourth-line shifts but is holding its own and even pushing. Savoie has six points in his last 10 games, finally showing a spark. Grubbe is a fixture on the penalty kill as well as any defensive zone face-off on his strong side. Grubbe had one assist this weekend as he was robbed of a second on a phantom goalie interference call. A big, defensively conscious right-shot center is an appealing commodity to NHL teams. Grubbe’s skating and offensive output need to improve for him to have a chance, but there is a player there.
- Luca Munzenberger needs to turn pro. His two years at the University of Vermont have been a waste. He is 1-2-3 in 17 games this season and has basically not grown at all as a player. There is room for a left-shot defenceman in Bakersfield next year, and he should be encouraged to sign and take that role. There is a professional player here, but his development has been stunted.
That’s it for this week folks. Stay warm and stay safe. See you next week.