logo

Edmonton Oilers Prospect Review: School is back in!

alt
Photo credit:Robert Lefebvre
Bruce Curlock
7 months ago
For the past several years, the Oilers have routinely drafted players from the NCAA ranks. Most of these picks have been late draft fliers on players who tend to have a staunch defensive focus but limited offensive upside. Players that will likely play professional hockey, but most likely not at the NHL level. However, the draft is not a predictable creature. Sometimes, we get surprised by players who we thought would do more as pros and sometimes, we get a positive surprise from someone who we thought we had pegged.
This year, the Oilers might have a player who falls into the latter category: his name is Joel Maatta. More about him, his collegiate teammate and a new prospect signing this week in the Oilers Prospect Review.

Who Caught My Eye?

Joel Maatta

I wrote about Maatta here as the 18th-best prospect in the Edmonton Oilers organization.  The 7th-round pick, #222 overall in the 2022 draft, has been a very solid collegiate performer. He’s an excellent defensive center who played most of the high-leverage defensive minutes last year for the Catamount. He also skates well for the collegiate game, but probably needs a modest improvement in his quickness and lateral mobility. However, as I wrote in his prospect review article, Joel Maatta was not scoring. Coming into the season, he had a total of 20 points in 68 collegiate games. For Maatta, for this year to be successful, which is his junior year, he needed to score the puck.
Well, Maatta started his seasons with a loud bang on that front this week. In their only game, Maatta went 2-0-2 with four shots on net. He also appears to be quicker than he was the prior season. Here is a shift from early in the game. His acceleration looks to be much better this season.

Failed to load video.

If this type of pace holds against stiffer competition, it would be a great sign for the young man.
The one thing that Joel Maatta can do at the collegiate level is shoot the puck. It’s not a terribly quick release, but it is very deceptive. He can change angles on the stick blade without much of a tell to the goalie. Here was his first goal of the game yesterday. The release is sneaky and the shot is quite hard.

Failed to load video.

His second goal is what I would expect from Joel Maatta as a pro if he develops an offensive game. His opportunities will come because he’s in the correct spots defensively and gets rewarded for his hockey sense. Watch this clip and how Maatta works above the opposition all the time. He is constantly on the right side of the puck waiting for opportunities to turn the puck over. Here is gains a loose puck and puts it home with a slower, but still good wrist shot.

Failed to load video.

Maatta’s defensive game is without question. He was solid again this weekend in the shutout win. His task against the stiffer competition will be to continue to bring the offence. Doing so will help him climb the ranks of the Oilers prospect depth chart quicker because centre is a position of weakness across the organization.

Luca Munzenberger

This is one of the players that fascinates me the most in the Oilers organization. A third-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft, Munzenberger gets little publicity because of where he plays. I have said for some time that the University of Vermont is not an ideal spot for him. It’s a weaker program in a very strong NCAA conference. Often when I watch Munzenberger, I see a player who thinks and plays the game at a pace that is challenging for his teammates. So often he is left to his own devices to create puck possession and scoring opportunities for his team. Munzenberger has a lot of tools that make him intriguing. He’s a 6’3″, 200-pound smooth skating, physical presence. However, I think he has more. He has some offence in his game, but we have not seen it take hold just yet in his collegiate career. Whether that is him finding his game or the limited ability around him, I am unsure. No question that when he played for the German U20 team his coaches thought highly enough of his offence that he played on the powerplay. How that plays out will be interesting to watch because it would enhance his standing in the Oilers organization. Take a look at this clip of what I think he can do with the puck.

Failed to load video.

His skating is strong for a big man and there are enough puck skills there to be effective. As with most of his offensive forays, he ends up on his own without many options to create a play.
Munzenberger is also a very cerebral player. He is an excellent scanner of the ice. His processing of those scans leads to some very creative work. Watch this clip where he scans the ice as he retreats to the puck. Then watch the creative play he makes to free his teammate up for an eventual goal and an assist for Munzenberger.

Failed to load video.

Again, as with Maatta, this type of performance against higher-quality opponents will lift his standing with the organization. He’s a player to watch all year.

Maxim Beryozkin

Beryozkin had a really strong week. He finished the 0-3-3 with a tidy seven shots on net. The shots are the key for me this week, but Beryozkin had been quiet on this front averaging less than two shots per game in his first 12 games. He is starting to look for confidence on the ice. He is using his size to both win puck battles and then protect the puck while his teammates get into good spots for him to deliver the puck. This was my favourite play this week despite it being a secondary assist.

Failed to load video.

Folks, not all secondary assists are created equal. This was a tremendous effort by Beryozkin leading to a goal for his team.
Beryozkin also continued to up his effort level on the back track and was rewarded this week. One thing you can see in him is a little bit of a lacklustre effort to get back as the puck is moving to his zone. When he does work at it, he can be very effective with his body to create transitions. He also has a very heavy stick and makes a lot of takeaways with it like this one here.

Failed to load video.

Beryozkin is 21 years old and will be in Russia for another season. However, his development path is encouraging. The Oilers do not have a lot of forward prospects like him and should they be able to bring him over in two seasons, he will be a player to watch.

Brady Stonehouse

I have pounded on the table for years that the Oilers needed to use their financial strength to invest heavily in scouting (personnel and analytics) at the amateur level. It is an area of an NHL team not subject to the salary cap. In addition, the Oilers are clearly in win-now mode which means they will likely have fewer picks and those picks will be lower in the draft. A way to counter that is to sign junior and collegiate UFAs. Well, the Oilers did just that this week signing Brady Stonehouse to a three-year entry-level deal. Stonehouse made his name at the Young Guns Classic in Penticton this past September. Proceeded to get an invite to the main camp and this week completed the journey by signing this week.
So what do we know about Brady Stonehouse? He’s a fairly high-skill forward whose a little on the smaller side. Last season for the Ottawa ’67s, he racked up 37-20-57 in 68 games. He’s also a disturber out there adding 66 penalty minutes to his stats line. To start, Stonehouse clearly can score. Thirty-seven goals ranked him 18th in the best junior league in the world.  He certainly showed that ability at the Young Guns tourney with this rocket from a distance.

Failed to load video.

This to me is his strongest asset. What he will need to do is build on that by creating more opportunities for himself by passing the puck and getting into new positions to await a return pass.
Stonehouse is also a competitive pain in the arse. He was constantly in post-whistle scrums in the tournament despite often being on the smaller end of the spectrum.

Failed to load video.

When I see this type of shift, I get reminded of James Hamblin. Banging into everything that moves without regard for the player or his own body. This will bode well for him at the professional level.
In terms of his skating, here is the opportunity for improvement. His speed is okay, but he will need to work on it. His first couple of steps need to get a little quicker too. Here is a slow-motion clip of his skating. The upper body is in a good position with little arm swing. The stance is good and solid. The boots come a little high, but more of the concern is the skates do return to center underneath him very quickly.

Failed to load video.

This is nothing that power skating cannot enhance and it will be a necessary one for Stonehouse. For now, I want him to go back and dominate his 19-year-old season. Rack up a ton of points and improve his individual skills. Then we can see what he looks like at the next Young Guns Classic.
That’s it for this week folks. Please send your feedback to @bcurlock on the X or right here below. Have a great week.

Check out these posts...