The thinking is this is Ken Holland’s last season as Oilers General Manager, with his likely final ever draft pick projecting as an excellent parting gift.
As it turns out, Oilers general manager Ken Holland has potentially made one of his highest value draft picks in his tenure with the draft pick that may turn out to be his last. More specifically, round seven, 216th overall in 2023.
Read on to learn about Matt Copponi’s development and why the Oilers would also be smart to look at signing an undrafted teammate, for AHL Bakersfield.
Most Oilers fans probably have never heard of Copponi, but he is making a name for himself in the NCAA’s Hockey East league after being drafted as a double-overager in 2023. This, after missing his entire draft season as a result of COVID restrictions, and going undrafted in 2022.
There was little reason to draft Copponi as an 18-year-old who produced few points in freshman college hockey. However, he took a big step forward in production as a 19-year-old, and appears to have taken another step forward this year at age 20.
Copponi was drafted by the Oilers in 2023, and has an NHLe (a basic/classic NHL equivalency) of 38.6 points in this season so far. This ranks him as one of the best-improving young prospects in the organisation’s relatively stark pipeline.
This late-round “project prospect” has made highlight plays this year that provide hope his development will continue as he approaches the pro years of his career. Here is one play where he got away on a breakout with a silky deke and finish:
Compared to successful bottom six NHLers that played in Hockey East, Copponi’s age 19 and 20 seasons have put him on the map as a rising prospect. The following plot shows his NHLe versus that of notable players who came out of Hockey East, and squares mark data points where the player moved up a league – from junior, to college, to pro, and NHL:
Copponi at age 19 jumped up to the middle of this pack of players by measure of NHLe. Such players include Jack McBain, Warren Foegele, Conor Sheary, and Matt Nieto. This year so far, Copponi is producing better than those players did at the same age. If he manages not to fall far off as the season progresses, then he will gain serious traction as a prospect to watch and a potential bottom six player who could score 30-35 points per season.
Copponi could play his next season in H-East again, or he could move up to the AHL. By age 22 he should definitely be in the AHL, with the NHL not too far off. His comparables all made the NHL by age 22-23, which indicates where his development needs to be headed if he is going to have an NHL future.
The Edmonton Journal compiled a nice arrangement of Copponi’s draft profiles. The theme is captured by the following description from Dave Gregory of the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau:
"Responsible Player that is very unselfish. Versatile. Has good motor. Finishes hits. Strong skater. Dave Gregory, NHL Central Scouting Bureau"
It will be interesting to watch as Copponi continues to develop.