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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Is this the 3C of the future?

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Photo credit:twitter.com/Condors
Bruce Curlock
26 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers have a top six issue. McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman are a glorious set of forwards that any team would envy. The problem is there are only four of them for six roles. Evander Kane has seen a lot of time there and had excelled.
However, the future might become the present very quickly with Kane. Warren Foegele has played stints there and performed well. He, however, is a UFA and will likely see a lot of interest from teams less constrained by the cap than the Oilers. Then there is Ryan McLeod. The defacto 3C who was so good in the playoffs last year that Jack Eichel must have thought he had Guy Carbonneau checking him. McLeod, whether by merit or just circumstance, has seen ice as a left winger in the Oiler’s top six. Primarily, it has been with Leon Draisaitl, where he has a healthy 73 percent goal share and an expected goal share of 55 percent. However, he also a small sample with Connor McDavid where the expected goal share is 56 percent and the actual goal share is 5-0. Given the team will have some challenges in the off-season to fill one or both of the two remaining top six spots, I wonder about McLeod in that role.
So the question becomes, who will play the 3C role? Well, this brings up the curious development plan for Dylan Holloway. A player who has top-six skills for certain. A player who has been slotted as a top-six left winger since the time he turned pro with the Oilers almost three years ago. He’s seen a taste in the top six with both McDavid and Draisaitl, with mixed results in a small sample. Inevitably, he circles back down to a third line left wing role with Ryan McLeod. However, he has also seen time as a center in the NHL. Almost exclusively on the fourth, but still center.
More notable is that when Holloway was sent to the AHL this season, he worked as a center in all situations. So the question becomes why center? The Oilers already have McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and McLeod. Certainly, with his skills, Dylan Holloway is not destined to be the fourth-line center. Is there more to this plan? Do the Oilers foresee a future where Dylan Holloway is the third-line center on this team? While the jury is out on this question, one thing is for certain, Dylan Holloway is excelling at center in the AHL. More on him as well as a potential left winger who fires the pill and all your news and notes in this week’s Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye?

Dylan Holloway

He is the most dominant player for most of his shifts in Bakersfield. It doesn’t matter who his linemates are and it doesn’t matter who he plays against. He tilts the ice almost constantly. This week was no exception. In his 40 shifts at 5v5 this week, I logged one shift where his line was hemmed in its zone for the entirety of it. One. Holloway’s speed and size almost always help the Condors get out of the zone quickly when there is a transition play. Consequently, most of his play is in the opposition team’s end and usually results in some form of shot and/or scoring chance. So you see a lot of this type of shift. Holloway plays confidently in the middle of the ice, creating opportunities for teammates.

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Here is another clip. Again, Holloway loves the middle of the ice, which can be a scary area to play in at the professional level. However, his speed and puck skills back players off so dramatically that it opens a great deal of space for his teammates.

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In terms of scoring, Holloway went 1-1—2 in two games this week. His shot totals were down a little with only four shots in the two games he played. His goal was again more of him playing in the middle of the ice and using his puck skills to deflect a puck home.

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Holloway continues to perform well in the faceoff dot. He finished this week at over 57 percent and continues to excel in this area.
One area I would like to see more work on is his finishing. Holloway racks up chances by the bundle in almost every game. However, he doesn’t finish enough of them. Sometimes I think he gets a little too creative when simplicity might work better. He has a tremendous wrist shot when he doesn’t dust the puck off. He needs to use it more. Here is an example of a lower-grade chance. One where Holloway makes a tremendous attack, but was probably better served by getting a shot off into the goalie’s feet and chasing a rebound.

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Here is another one where you would really like him to drop his inside leg over and take the puck across the net and finish instead of the cute play.

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While this may seem like overly harsh criticism. It is important. Whether the plan is for Dylan Holloway to play center in a prominent role in the NHL or remain a left winger on a scoring line. HE NEEDS TO SCORE. Getting confidence in the AHL will certainly help, but it only helps if he bears down and finishes these chances.

Matvey Petrov

I can get a little frustrated with the Edmonton Oilers development program for its draft picks. Sometimes that frustration is unfair. The reason is the Oilers do flub who they work with, their high picks, like Dylan Holloway or Philip Broberg as examples. However, they do seem to get it right with much lower picks. Players like Desharnais and Kesselring have turned out to be NHL players when by most metrics, their chances were virtually zero. That has to be acknowledged. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a sixth-round pick from the 2021 draft is really starting to blossom in Bakersfield. There is no question that the numbers for his rookie season are pedestrian. He is 7-4—11 in 41 games this year. It is a very modest level of output for a player who 67 goals in 128 games in the OHL. However, there are signs of development. This week was Petrov’s best as a pro. In four games, he went 2-1—3. He only had five shots on net which needs to increase, but the results were there. He scored a goal that I think we will see a lot from him as a pro. He has a wicked release that is very accurate.

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His second goal of the week was a nice example of him being involved in the play and then getting a cherry rebound handed to him.

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However, what really was impressive this week was Petrov’s defensive play. This is a player who did not have a strong defensive instinct in the OHL. However, for several weeks now, Petrov has been very committed to playing defence first and then going on offence. Watch this clip where Petrov, twice, works hard to get back as F3, which results in two transition plays for the Condors.

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But for the post, that play would have resulted in a goal.
Then there is my favourite play of his this week. I could write an entire post on this one shift. The play starts with Petrov recognizing that he is underneath his man in the offensive zone. So he gets moving back up the ice and gets back over the top of the Abbotsford group in four strides. He puts himself in a wonderful F3 position after Gagner rotates down to forecheck. His gap is nice and tight. He gets his body in front of the player which compresses his options to get the puck out.  He then uses his stick well here to create a turnover. Now the next part. He makes an absolute pistol of a pass in very tight quarters to Sam Gagner, who was in the perfect shooting position. Goal.

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This is an incredibly encouraging play. It is borne out of Petrov’s commitment to defense and ended up with him getting on the score sheet. As Petrov continues to become more and more reliable defensively, his offensive game will develop. In part because he will get more ice time, but also because good defence almost always leads to good offence.

Max Wanner

Max Wanner is the little guy in the middle. For most of this season, when I have talked about him it relates to his defensive presence. A presence that no doubt comes in part from his size and strength, but it also comes from a maturity that belies his age – 21. If the season ended today, it would have to be classified as a success for the 7th-round pick in the 2021 draft. He has shown a strong defensive acumen. His plus 12 rates him third on the team and he takes a very healthy shift on the penalty kill every game. He also helps close out high-leverage situations with his team-leading.
However, the season is not over. There is still plenty of time for Max Wanner to continue to hone his craft and he did that this week in a way that should be very exciting. He contributed on the scoresheet. Now his 4-10-14 in 57 games is nothing to sneeze at for certain. Especially for a player who really came into his draft year known as a defensive defenceman. However, Wanner shows flashes of offence. He has a very nice understanding of when to get into the play of the weak side, and his skating lets him get there. He also has an idea of how to finish. Watch his goal from last night.

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Wanner definitely has an idea of what to do with the puck in the offensive zone. Now he is not making the NHL as the next Cale Makar. However, he needs to be able to provide some offence to help his cause and the cause of his team. If he can continue to do that in the last part of the season, the Oilers will have yet another legitimate late-round, right-shot defensive prospect.

News and Notes

The University of Vermont has wrapped up its collegiate season. That means Luca Munzenberger and Joel Maata, both juniors, are available if they would like to sign with Bakersfield on ATOs. Whether they do so or not is anyone’s guess. For me, Munzenberger should think about it strongly. His development has stalled offensively, and getting him into a pro program with the likes of Ben Gleason, Philip Broberg, and others would not hurt.
Matt Copponi also had his season come to an end with Merrimack College. The junior had a strong year registering 7-25—32 in 30 games. Not sure what his future plans are, but again, he has the ATO option as well for Bakersfield.
Shane Lachance’s Boston University Terriers won their quarter-final game and advanced to the Hockey East semis next weekend. Lachance continues to play on the first line with Macklin Celebrini. Lachance didn’t register a point, but had four shots and played his usual physical game.
That’s it for this week folks.
Big week next week with the Condors in Calgary on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you have the time and the gas money, the AHL is a great brand of hockey. As always, leave your feedback here or on the X to @bcurlock. See you next week.

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