Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: The rise of the late round pick

Photo credit:Bakersfield Condors
Bruce Curlock
4 months ago
In this weekly review over the past year or so, I have mentioned on a number of occasions that the Edmonton Oilers will need to get most of their draft wins with later picks.
Given the focus on winning at the NHL level, the Oilers will have fewer picks, and many of those will be lower in the draft. Consequently, the Oilers need to have success with these later picks. Whether these players provide support roles years down the line or become intriguing prospects to other teams in trade talks, it is imperative the Oilers develop some of these picks.
The current example is Vincent Desharnais, a seventh-round pick in 2016. He isn’t perfect, but he is playing NHL minutes on a third pairing and chipping in the penalty kill on a very team-friendly salary cap number. Another is Michael Kesselring, who came out of the sixth round in 2018. He developed well enough that the Arizona Coyotes wanted him in a deal for Nick Bjugstad at the deadline last season. These are the draft and development stories that need to happen for the Oilers each year.
So each week, I watch for developments along this front in hopes of seeing stories like Desharnais and Kesselring repeated. This week, the 2020 and 2021 drafts took center stage. Four players who all heralded from deep in those two drafts had very good stretches this week. If it continues, it will be music to the ears of the Edmonton Oiler management.
More on these four players and all your news and notes in the Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye?

Tyler Tullio

Tullio has come on recently despite battling through injury and illness. He also was playing a little bit down the lineup as well.
This week, Tullio got some push. He took Xavier Bourgault’s spot on a line with Lane Pederson and Drake Caggiula, arguably the team’s top forward line. Tullio did not disappoint. He went 1-1-2 in three games this week and posted a healthy plus 2 despite the Condors losing two of the three games.
He still doesn’t find room to shoot the puck enough for my liking with only three shots this week. Why would I like to see him shoot more? I’m glad you asked. This is why.

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Tullio has a very heavy shot and it is accurate. For someone of his stature, he can really fire the puck. He needs to find ways to use the shot more. It can legitimately beat goalies from a decent distance.
When he isn’t scoring, Tullio does display some very good offensive instincts. He will need to work on his puck skills in tight, but he does have great hands and he really understands the game from an offensive perspective. Below is a clip from last night after San Jose had scored to make it 5-1.
Right off the faceoff, Tullio gets engaged in the play. This causes a transition dump in which the Condors bring up the ice. Watch how Tullio handles a really tough pass by flaring out and giving himself to handle the puck near to the ice instead of in the air. Then, without hesitation, he makes a very good entry pass to Lane Pederson, who finds Drake Caggiula for the tap-in.

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These plays don’t look spectacular, but they are plays that need to be made in the NHL, where time and space are at a premium. The decisions need to be quick and the play needs to be executed well. This is the type of play that will help Tullio on his path.

Carter Savoie

I remain thoroughly befuddled by the handling of Carter Savoie by this coaching staff. No question, he is a unique player to coach. You can see him out there and it looks like the effort isn’t there. However, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Savoie is a very savvy hockey player. He knows his strengths and he knows when he can use those to impact the game.
He also knows when the play is outside of his capability and often regroups to get organized again. I think this last part drives coaches crazy. Maybe it is fair, but Savoie makes it work. His totals for the season aren’t impressive for certain. He is 5-9-14 in 39 games.
Like Tullio, he doesn’t shoot enough. He only has 47 shots in 39 games — not nearly enough for his quality of shot. However, Savoie is also a very healthy plus eight this year. Big deal, you say? Well, that is fourth on the team and second amongst all forwards. He might look like what some coaches want him to look, but his game is effective.
This week was another good one for Savoie. He went 1-1-2 in three games with three shots on net. He was also a plus one on the week. His goal this week was everything that I think makes Savoie a prospect. Let’s start off the top in the neutral zone where Savoie’s stick skills impact the play. Colorado tries to regroup back to their defenceman, but the pass is soft and slow. Watch Savoie close the gap quickly and get his stick on the puck to create an opportunity. The next piece to watch is his quick twitch in his acceleration. Savoie is a very quick player in his first couple of steps. Finally, the part most people know is the hands. Watch the close-quarters puck skill play while under pressure from the backside, but also a goalie attacking him from the front.

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Savoie makes these forecheck plays routinely. Obviously, most of them do not translate onto the scoresheet. Why? Some of it is fortune, but some of it is coaching. Tonight, despite all the injuries with the forward group, Savoie started on the fourth line with an ECHL center. He also had an ECHL winger play on the third line in front of him, who had a right shot playing the left side. I simply don’t get that choice.
If I was in the scouting and development staff for the Edmonton Oilers, I know I would have questions. Savoie needs to get pushed and needs to get that at even strength to see what type of player he may be. This is not a great way to accomplish that goal.

Maximus Wanner

In the introduction, I mentioned Vincent Desharnais and Michael Kesselring as being models for what the Oilers hope for with late-round picks. Well, they might have another one in Max Wanner. He just keeps doing good things each week and the game continues to develop.
This week Wanner went 0-2-2 in three games. He also had six shots on net and was a very good plus-three. Here is a clip of Wanner’s two-hundred-foot capability at the AHL level.

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I love his confidence to step up into the attack on the weakside and try to make plays. It isn’t all pretty for certain, but I think with time and off-season work, it could be very good.
What doesn’t need a ton of work is his defensive zone play. Watch this clip that has so much in it. The first part is a cheeky little pass through his legs to his defence partner. It didn’t quite work, but a noble effort. Now watch the next part.
You can see Wanner reads the play before it happens. He knows the puck is going to the weak side and starts moving that way quickly. He then does what Max Wanner does well, which is to separate the puck from the man. Finally, watch the little six-foot pass to his forward support for the exit out of the zone.

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This is a high-quality play from a twenty-year rookie in the AHL. The next couple of years with him are going to be very interesting to watch.

Shane Lachance

This post is not hyperbole. Shane Lachance reminds me so much of Pat Maroon it is not funny. He’s very big. His skating is a challenge, but once he gets going, he’s ok. He is immovable in the net front. He’s tough. He also has great hands. The only thing Lachance and Maroon differ on is their shot. Shane Lachance can shoot the puck. Lachance’s year has been a bit of a rollercoaster. He started on the second line. He was moved to the fourth line, then went back to the second which was quickly followed by a return to the fourth line again.
On Saturday, after having played the prior night on the fourth line, he ended up on the first line with soon to be 2024 first overall pick, Macklin Cellebrini. It worked out pretty well for Lachance, with him scoring twice in the Terriers’ 5-2 win. He also added four shots on net and was a plus-two.
Let’s make no mistake: the 2021 sixth-round draft pick is a complimentary player. He will not likely drive play at the next level, nor will you see brilliant end-to-end rushes. What Lachance does is score. The hardest thing to do in hockey comes pretty easy for him. He does it down low in front of the net using his size and great hands. He also can score from a distance with his shot. Here is a goal from last night that typifies how Lachance racks up goals.

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It’ll be curious to see whether Lachance stays on this line for the coming weeks because if he does, I would expect his point totals to climb. He is exactly the prototype for Mackin Cellibrini of what Pat Maroon was to Connor McDavid. Go to the net with your stick on the ice.

News and Notes

The Condors have some serious injury woes. Amongst the prospect group, Jayden Grubbe and Matvey Petrov joined James Hamblin and Philip Broberg on injured reserve. Reports from Mike Griffith, who follows the Condors in Bakersfield, indicate none of these players will be back before next weekend. In addition, Lane Pederson left last night’s game with a lower-body injury that looked serious. Given the hectic Condors’ schedule with four games in the next six days, I expect Bourgault, Savoie and Tullio to see their minutes ramp up in all situations.
On the collegiate ranks, Luca Munzenberger continues to have a good defensive year and nothing to show offensively. He needs to turn pro and get into an organization where he can get some development assistance.
2023 seventh round pick Matt Copponi is 7-25-32 in 30 games in the NCAA. The overager, who plays a very feisty game, has exceeded his point totals from last season already with a few more games remaining in the regular season. Copponi has another year of collegiate eligibility, but I wonder about whether he will turn pro given he won’t have much left to prove and the Condors will have forward spots available.

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