Luca Munzenberger
Luca Munzenberger

2022 Edmonton Oilers prospects
#17 Luca Munzenberger

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Previously: #21 in 2021

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They’re the Big Boyz Brigade.

They’re a group of big-to-massive young prospects intent on making it big on the blueline of the Edmonton Oilers.

They’ve now been joined by one ornery addition.

Luca Munzenberger is his name and blasting opposing forwards is his game.

I got the chance to watch young Munzenberger at the World Junior tournament in Edmonton this week, where the 6-foot, 3-inch 200-pound d-men captained the German squad that just got bounced out by Finland.

Before his game against Switzerland earlier this week, TSN’s Craig Buttons said of Munzenberger: “Muzenberger is a really good, competitive defenceman. He’s territorial. He’s somebody who really understands how to take away space.”

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Against Switzerland, Munzenberger was solid, moving the puck well, skating well and jumping up into the neutral zone to stop Swiss attacks with either his body or a fast and darting stick. He threw a few heavy hits a as well. Against a fast and highly skilled Finnish team, Munzenberger tried to play that same aggressive game, but the Finns exploited his too eager play for the puck on their first goal, passing around a lunging Luca as he tried to stop their brilliant combination play.

But Munzenberger wasn’t the only German player out-classed this game. Finland’s team is stacked with talent, while Germany’s team is not.

The Oilers under GM Ken Holland have been drafting a lot of big, fast, mobile players with some skill, including top pick Reid Schaefer this year, Munzenberger, who went in the third round, Jake Chiasson and Maximus Wanner last year, Dylan Holloway in 2020 and Phillip Broberg in 2021. These players aren’t known for blinding offensive talent, but are more all-around players, who can skate, pass, hit, defend, and shoot. We’ll see how they pan out (and some high picks were invested in this plan) but it’s an intriguing group with all of them trending well as players so far.

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The Big Boyz Brigade

The building of the Big Boyz Brigade, this accumulation of massive defenders, is a trend that goes back even longer into the Peter Chiarelli and Craig MacTavish eras, with the Oilers investing in large d-men such as Darnell Nurse and Ben Betker, 2013, Willian Lagesson, 2014, Ziyat Paigin, 2015, Markus Niemelainen, Filip Berglund and Vincent Desharnais in 2016, Dmitri Samorukov and Phil Kemp, 2017, Evan Bouchard and Michael Kesselring, 2018, Broberg, 2019, and Wanner and Munzenberger in 2021.

Only Bouchard possesses truly elite offensive talent from that group, but a number of them have NHL-level size and ferocity, and that includes Munzenberger.

His NCAA coach at Vermont, Jay Woodcroft’s brother Todd, has said Munzenberger is “ultra-competitive.”

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In December 2021, Woodcroft said this to The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman of Munzenberger: “He’s like Big Bird, but a mean Big Bird — like a Big Bird that’s going to jam his stick down your throat… He’s blown up four or five guys this year where you’re just like, ‘How was that guy even walking?’”

Woodcroft also noted that Munzenberger is “an animal in the gym.”

Back when he was drafted, Oilers top scout Tyler Wright said of the young German: “He’s a big body guy. He plays a heavy game.”

Amateur scout Brock Otten once described the kid as a “suffocating physical defender” with a mean streak.

Draft analyst Steve Kournianos said of him: “A big bodied vacuum cleaner on defence… He has ideal size but the mobility and agility to cover faster players… He plays a mean, physical brand of hockey and can be considered a throwback… He has soft hands and delivers clean passes to any area in the offensive zone.”

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You get the idea.

Will Munzenberger or any members of the Oil’s Big Boyz Brigade actually make it as NHLers? It’s a good question as we saw the Oilers invest heavily in massive forwards during The Coke Machine era of Steve Tambellini and those many picks rarely paid off. And already Lagesson, Paigin and Berglund have failed to cut it with the Oilers. This will be the rule with this group, but the key is that there be a few notable exceptions.

Of course, Nurse already has paid off, as has Bouchard, but both of them were high draft picks. There were good odds they’d become good-to-great NHLers.

The other Brigade members, save for Broberg, were selected much lower down in the draft, the highest being Niemelainen at 63rd overall in 2016.

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But if one or two of Desharnais, Niemelainen, Samorukov, Kemp, Kesselring, Munzenberger or Wanner do become solid, hard-hitting  d-men, this will represent a major win for the franchise.

Niemelainen and Samorukov are close to the NHL, with one of them expected to make the Oilers this fall. Desharnais, Kemp and Kesselring are all advancing well in Bakersfield.

As for Munzenberger, he’s got a few more college seasons ahead of him. As a rookie in Vermont, he played 32 games, got 45 penalty minutes and three assists. He’s got some way to go in terms of his puck carrying, passing and reads, but there’s plenty of raw talent and desire propelling him forward.

Expectations for 2022-23: That Munzenberger play a major role in Vermont, greatly picking up his point scoring, perhaps tripling or quadrupling it. He played well on the second German power play, so perhaps can grab that same role in Vermont.

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P.S. Did you hear Bob Stauffer’s interview with Asst. Oilers GM Brad Holland on Wednesday? If not, it’s worth a listen. I’m not sure the Oilers have had a sharper sounding hockey executive since Glen Sather was in town. Of course, Sather was an old school ace. Holland is a new school data-driven exec, who has learned many sides of the NHL business.

The Oilers did well to promote and retain Holland this summer.

Disagree? Listen to the interview and get back to me.

Previously in the Cult of Hockey prospect series:

At the Cult

STAPLES: Glad tidings on Darnell Nurse’s recovery from injury

LEAVINS: Might Sam Gagner be in Oilers’ plans a third time? — 9 Things

CBD Oil, 9 Mesmerizing Examples Of Cannabinoid
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