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The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: The Found Money Edition

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Bruce Curlock
10 months ago
One of the most impressive aspects of the Edmonton Oilers under the current management group as well as the prior one led by Peter Chiarelli has been the ability to find excellent prospects deep into the NHL draft.
John Marino, Ethan Bear, Michael Kesselring and, of course, Vincent Desharnais all were found in the 5th round and on. All of them are playing NHL minutes. How impressive is this feat? Brad McPherson, @bluebullet1981 on Twitter, has done tremendous work in this area with Blue Bullet Report. His statistical analysis tells us that defensemen drafted in these ranges have a five to ten percent chance of playing 100 NHL games. Two of these guys, Bear and Marino, have already beat those odds and the other two, Desharnais and Kesselring, look to be headed that direction as well. Now if that wasn’t enough, the Oilers might have another defensive prospect who might challenge these odds in the coming years. His name is Maximus Wanner. More on him and the final hooray for two future Edmonton Oilers in this week’s Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye?

Maximus Wanner

A few weeks ago, I noted that I would do a series review of each CHL prospect the Oilers had in the playoffs. Now Wanner’s club, the Moose Jaw Warriors, have not completed their round two series against the Winnipeg Ice. In fact, the series is 3-2 Winnipeg heading back to Moose Jaw for game six. So why I am writing about Wanner now? Well, quite frankly he was the best Oilers prospect this week and he did it all against a heavy Memorial Cup favourite.
For context, the Winnipeg Ice has been consistently ranked in the top three of CHL teams for most of the year. The Ice finished the year as the highest-ranked WHL team in the CHL at number three. They are the prohibitive favourite to come out of the WHL for the Memorial Cup. This team is loaded with NHL and NHL draft prospects. The team led the entire WHL averaging 4.8 goals per game in the regular season. The Ice steamrolled their first-round playoff opponent, the Medicine Hat Tigers, 4-0 and were looking for the same against the Warriors. Well that has not happened and one of the reasons is Maximus Wanner.
This is not to say that the play of Wanner should be a massive surprise. I had him as the second most impressive prospect at the Penticton Young Stars event behind only Dylan Holloway. He then rolled through his WHL season collecting 8-22-30 in 44 games played. His goal, assist and point totals were all career highs. However, the playoffs have been even more impressive. Wanner has been paired with Denton Mateychuk, the 2022 first round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This duo has played massive minutes against the other team’s first line at evens and each is playing heavy specialty team minutes. The results for Wanner to date are an impressive 2-5-7 in nine games with a plus six at even strength.
In terms of what has made Wanner a standout this year, we can start with what he was known for coming to the WHL: his defensive skill sets. Here is an example of what Wanner does very well. He has nice footwork for a big man and his skating is plus level at the WHL level. He then combines that with a big long reach and a high understanding of how to defend. It makes him hard to beat as Zach Benson found out here.

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In this series playing against Winnipeg’s top line that includes Zach Benson and Matthew Savoie, Wanner is even in five-on-five goal share. That is an impressive feat against two players that combined for over 180 points this season.
It does not stop there. Wanner has added drastically to his portfolio of skills. One aspect that has really developed in my eyes is his evasive maneuvering as well as his close-quarter pucks skills. This is an area, he did not really have in his draft year or at least was not easily seen. Look here at a couple of examples of these skills that have given the Ice fits trying to forecheck him.

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Wanner has also displayed some really great offensive skill development this season. He runs the second power play unit and has a very good sense of what to do on the power play. Look at this clip which is also an excellent example of his lateral footwork. The shot-pass at the end of the clip is a really creative look for a player that was not thought to have big offensive skills.

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He also instinctively steps into offensive plays which creates more space for his teammates, but also for him. He has definitely had some success in these areas.

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While there is a good chance the Warriors bow out to the Ice this round, the early success of the Warriors can be attributed in part to the strong play of Maximus Wanner.

Raphael Lavoie

The Condors’ season came to an end with a really lacklustre effort against the Abbotsford Canucks. The Condors were swept in two games and really did not show much fight in their game. One player who turned in a good performance was Raphael Lavoie. He continued his strong play from the second half scoring one of the two Condor goals in this series. Of course, it was on his patented wrist shot.

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However, I would not be doing justice if I didn’t note that Lavoie really had his motor going this series even when not scoring. Here is a great example of his work in the offensive zone that permeated through both games for Lavoie.

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In addition, he continued to display his much-improved effort level in his 200-foot game in this playoff series.

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At this point, I would be very surprised if Lavoie was not on the Oilers’ roster coming out of training camp in September 2023. He does the hardest thing very well, which is scoring goals. More importantly, his effort level and focus on his defensive game have improved drastically this year. He has all the tools you want from a bottom-six NHL forward.

Dylan Holloway

Holloway did not have any points in this series, but it is really just hard to argue that he wasn’t as good as Lavoie in this series or even better. His trademark speed was on display all series.

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He also was very strong in the offensive zone both in terms of the forecheck and puck possession. Here is a great example where he drew a penalty for the Condors.

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What continues to impress me is his desire to be a strong defensive presence who can than lead in the transition game. Here is a clip of this habit and I think it is one that will make it hard to keep him off a scoring line in the NHL early in his career.

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His speed, strength and puck skills are going to contribute greatly to a scoring line in all facets of the rink. He may end up being the defensive conscience of a high-skill line and contribute to his point totals just by ensuring he plays a 200-foot game. Who knows maybe he and Lavoie from the book ends of the new Kid Line coming out of camp this fall.
Well, that is all this week folks. Next week we will wrap up the playoff series for each of the three Oiler prospects in the CHL. As always, your feedback is welcome here or to me directly on Twitter @bcurlock. Have a great week.

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