The modern NHL game is one based heavily on speed, finesse, and skill. At the top of the 2023 draft class is Oliver Moore, a prospect loaded with all three assets.
Coming out of a stacked U.S. National Team Development Program class that features Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, and others, Moore has managed to set himself apart from his counterparts.
With speed that compares to that of Connor McDavid according to his strength and conditioning coach, Moore is potentially the fastest man in the draft. It’s not just straight-line speed, he makes other agile players look like they’re standing in mud as he jets by.
Birthplace: Mounds View, Minnesota
Date of birth: January 22, 2005
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 176 lbs.
Team: USNTDP (committed to University of Minnesota)
The U.S. program this year had a spotlight focused on its top line of Will Smith, Gabriel Perreault, and Ryan Leonard. For good reason too: each member of that line topped 50 goals on the season, which makes it easy to overlook a player like Moore. While anchoring the second line, Moore tallied 75 points playing with under-17 players, and a rotating cast of 2023 draft-eligibles as well.
Moore quietly went about his job as a driving force in the offence, helping to elevate his linemates and making a constant impact in every game. His coach enjoyed having the combination of Moore and Smith for any game situation. He could toss Moore out for even-strength shifts, penalty kills, and the power play, while also having the versatility to shift him to a wing spot if needed.
At the World Under-18 Championship earlier this spring, Moore put together an impressive showing with Cole Eiserman as his main linemate. But his nine points in seven games were again overshadowed by the exploits of the first line.
With a spot in the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ lineup next year that will see the return of several of its stars, Moore is primed to thrive outside the shadow of his NTDP teammates.
While many members of the USNTDP identify as elite goal producers, Moore works best as a catalyst.
As we see in the tracking chart, he is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink when he’s on the ice. His expected goals total is lower, but it’s Moore who is collecting primary assists and entering the zone with the puck on his stick.
Given his reputation as a lightning-fast skater, it isn’t hard to understand why his transitional play ranks so highly. He collects or retrieves a puck inside the defensive zone, and then takes off in an instant both exiting the zone with control, and then entering the offensive zone still looking to set up a teammate.
Highlighted in the chart above is the expected primary points for USNTDP players, as we can see Will Smith and Gabriel Perreault lead in the expected-goals category. However, in terms of expected primary assists, Moore keeps pace with both, despite taking on a second-line role behind them.
It difficult to find a flaw in Moore’s game, mostly because it’s likely that his numbers would have been even better if he were on the first line with Smith, Leonard, or Perreault. We cannot hold his deployment against him, and it’s not hard to wonder if there’s another level for Moore to find in a higher spot.
Dobber Prospects: #6
Elite Prospects: #6
Hockey Prospect: #18
Hadi Kalakeche: #9
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #11
NHL Central Scouting: #8 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #19
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #9
For being arguably the fastest skater in the class, he seems cursed to be labelled a second fiddle of sorts. It’s unfair to do that as he has skills that his teammates didn’t possess, and that makes him a coveted asset. In overall draft rankings he sits just a tier below that of Will Smith who will likely go inside the top five.
Oliver Moore adds a fascinating wrinkle into any team’s prospect pool. For the Montreal Canadiens they could potentially add an incredibly fast, highly skilled playmaker. Beyond that, they could add a player who has a ceiling that has barely been touched at his current level, meaning the offensive production could continue to improve as he ages.
For the Montreal Canadiens, at fifth overall there are many permutations that could see any number of prospects land directly in their lap. With Moore there’s the risk that he doesn’t possess the same ceiling as a Ryan Leonard or Will Smith, but the development team would love to work with his full toolbox of talents.
Smith is very likely the consensus pick among many Habs fans, but he could also be gone by fifth overall. Do you opt for Moore and his blistering speed, or another top-end player in this range.
If Kent Hughes and the Montreal front office believe that there is a much higher ceiling for Moore, then he makes all the sense in the world for the team. Unlike a player like David Reinbacher or Dalibor Dvorsky, Moore brings a lot more in terms of potential growth, which should be exactly the kind of player the Canadiens, with a longer window to ocntention and a prospect pool already full of good players, are looking to add.
It is always hard to step out from the shadow of great teammates, especially when you’ve been a major contributor to their success in the last year. For Oliver Moore he has every chance to do that at the 2023 NHL Draft. The Canadiens have found some gems coming out of the U.S. program, and there’s no reason for them to shy away from Moore if he’s there.