Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Intimidation Is A Skill

Photo credit:twitter.com/Condors
Bruce Curlock
18 days ago
One of the challenges when you have a high skill team like the Edmonton Oilers is sometimes you don’t have enough rough edge on the team. Hockey is, at its base level, a sport based on intimidation. Sometimes, it is a skill that intimidates, but most often, it is the physicality that does that work. Over the past few years, the Oilers have worked to improve how they can intimidate teams physically.
Evander Kane, Mattias Ekholm and Corey Perry are all examples of players who fit that mould. The Oilers have also tried to do that through the draft. Vinny Desharnais is the most obvious player from the Peter Chiarelli draft years. However, the Oilers do have some younger prospects who are showing their enthusiasm for making other teams pay on the scoresheet some, but definitely off the scoresheet in ways that leave marks. This week a couple of those players had effective weeks in both areas. We talk about them and have all your news and notes in this week’s Edmonton Oiler Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye?

Max Wanner

The young man is really coming on now. He already had a good season going, but this week he took another step. One of the statistics I like to watch with young defensive defensemen is shots on the net. If you see an improvement in their shot rate, it can be a tell that a player is starting to get comfortable with a part of the game that has not been in their repertoire previously. Michael Kesselring would be an example. Kesselring went from averaging a little over one shot per game in his first couple of professional years to more than three per game in the year he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes.
Kesselring has gone on to be a stalwart in the Arizona Coyotes lineup this season. Well with Max Wanner, we are starting to get some hints that he is finding his range offensively. In his last four games, Wanner has gone 2-1-3 which is impressive. More impressive is that Wanner added ten shots on net for an average of 2.5 per game. Why is this significant? Because his season average until those last four games was just over one shot per game. Here is a video we showed last week in terms of Dylan Holloway scoring on a nice deflection. However, take a look at who took the shot and the close quarters in which he had to operate.

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It seems like a simple play, but for a defenceman who has not focused on his offensive game, it is a step in the right direction. This burgeoning confidence has led to Wanner being more forceful in his offensive game. Here is a clip of possibly my favourite Condors’ goal of the year. Wanner is working on the penalty kill here. A loose puck comes down the wall and he does a great job stepping up to retrieve the puck. Instead of just dumping it in, Wanner decides to chip and chase. Again, this is a confident play. He finishes it with the ‘ol Gaetan Haas clapper for his fifth goal of the year.

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That is a very telling play for a young man who has really focused on his play in his own zone. This is highly encouraging stuff, and should it continue to develop, Max Wanner is going to be a very well-rounded player.
Now that doesn’t mean he’s Evan Bouchard. Make no mistake, Max Wanner will make the NHL for his defensive game. That continues to develop well. This week he ended up plus one to sit third on the team at plus 13. This is really a shocking number for a 21-year-old rookie defenceman on a team that is only plus 11 at 5v5 all year. He sits one back of Phil Kemp and Philip Broberg, two players that he sees no time with at all.
What is more impressive is what we outline at the top of this article. He’s mean. He might be 21 years old, but he is not going to be intimidated by anyone, and he makes sure he lets everyone know. Watch this play in front of his net.

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I can’t decide whether my favourite part is him sending the player flying from near his goalie or him standing there after the fact and no one coming near him to retaliate. I love him just standing there looking for guys and no one really being in a hurry to go have a chat. Max Wanner continues to impress and with the playoffs around the corner for this team, it will be exciting to watch his continued development.

Shane Lachance

Honestly, I don’t know if we ever see Shane Lachance in Edmonton. The Oilers and American-born collegiate players have a checkered past. However, if it happened, the organization would be better for it. Shane Lachance, as I have said previously, looks like he could be a young Pat Maroon. Yes, the skating needs a bunch of work, but is this player ever a physical force with a great pair of hands.
This week, Lachance had one assist in two Hockey East playoff games but was assertive in both of them. His assist was an example of what his size and skill can do all in one play. Watch this clip and see how he uses his body with such easy to free up the puck and then uses his reach to corral it. Then you see that little peak he takes to find an open player and make a tremendous pass that leads to a goal.

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It really is a typical play for Lachance and illustrates, as a freshman, his ability to influence plays against more mature players using his body.
My favorite part of his week was two goals he was on the ice for, but didn’t register a point. Why? Because there is little chance these go in without him. Watch both clips. Notice that two different teams don’t even bother trying to move him from the net front. He’s impossible to move, then look at the shadow he casts over both goalie. Did either goalie even see the shot?

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Lachance is honest the prototype of what you would like to see on the Oilers IF his skating can get there. He has really great hands for a big man. Plays the net front on PP1. More importantly, he can create space for skill players like Macklin Celebrini who only need that extra sliver of ice to make something special happen. Whether he gets to do it with Connor McDavid down the road is the next question to be answered.

News and Notes

Lachance and his Boston University teammates lost the final of the Hockey East Championship to Boston College on Saturday. They are on to the NCAA National Championships starting later this week.
Newly acquired James Stefan has one last regular season game today to score his 50th goal. He tallied his 49th goal last night to get to 100 points for the season. His team plays Seattle today in the second of a back to back.
Brady Stonehouse has struggled a fair bit since the new year. He has registered only 19 points in 30 games and four of those points came this week in one game. He does not appear to be playing injured. He’s on pass to exceed his shot totals from last year, but his points per game average is down from .84 last year to .70 this year.
That’s it for this week. Send me feedback right here or on the X to @bcurlock. See you all next week.

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