On May 7th, 2016, the Edmonton Oilers announced that they had officially signed Drake Caggiula to a two-year, entry-level contract.
A native of Whitby, Ontario, Caggiula recently completed his fourth and final season with the University of North Dakota, where he helped lead the Fighting Hawks to an NCAA National Championship.
Caggiula’s path to the NHL is one far less travelled than most, as the highly skilled forward had high hopes for an Ontario Hockey League career during his playing days in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. However, Caggiula’s lack of an OHL career had nothing to do with his on-ice performance over two seasons with the Stoufville Spirit of the OJHL, but instead boiled down to his choice to play in the NCAA.
Drafted in the third round of the 2010 Priority Selction by the Erie Otters, Caggiula unknowingly passed up an opportunity to play with future Oilers teammate Connor McDavid when he committed to the University of North Dakota, receiving a full scholarship.
Studying Kinesiology, Caggiula matched a keen educational ability with incredible on-ice skills.
In his first season with UND as a Freshman, Caggiula notched eight goals and 16 points over 39 games played. His goal and point totals both ranked second best among UND Freshmen, while his shooting percentage of 16.3% led his team.
In his second season as a Sophomore, Caggiula’s offensive production increased notably. Over his team’s 42 games played, Caggiula set new career highs in both goals and points, recording 11 and 24 respectively. His new career high in goals ranked third best with the Fighting Hawks, while his point total ranked fourth.
As a Junior is when Caggiula’s offensive talents truly began to shine. Over 42 games played, Caggiula’s 18 goals and 36 points were not only new career high’s, but also led UND as a whole. Named to the Second All-NCHC Team, the progressing young talent also tied for first in the Nation in short-handed goals, illustrating his comprehensive game and all-around skill.
However, it was in the most recent season of 2015-16 when Caggiula truly began to garner National attention. In just 39 games played, Caggiula scored an impressive 25 goals, while also adding 26 assists for 51 points, second best on his team behind only Vancouver Canucks first round pick Brock Boeser.
Yet, it was the National Championship in which Caggiula truly shone. After playing a massive role in leading the Fighting Hawks to the title game, Caggiula added two critical goals, allowing UND to capture the National Championship in a 5-1 victory over Quinnipiac University. Additionally, Caggiula was named the MVP of the tournament, scoring a combined five points (four goals, one assist) over UND’s two Frozen Four games.
To get a better idea of Caggula’s elite skill-set, take a quick look at this highlight-reel goal:
Listed at just 5’10”, 185 pounds, Caggiula’s size has long been the major detractor in his game, especially in the eyes of scouts, however, as we have seen, he has not let his stature effect his on-ice ability.
Having netted 62 goals and 127 points in 162 career games played with UND, Caggiula has found tremendous success to date primarily through his high compete level and enduring drive to win, whether it be an individual puck battle or a given game.
On the offensive end of the game, Caggiula uses an elite skating ability to fly around the ice, using his incredible acceleration to reach full speed and allowing him to generate numerous scoring chances for both himself and his teammates. In the opposing zone, Caggiula has the ability dish the puck to his teammates or to take the puck to the net, where he has developed an amazing ability to beat defenders one on one with his slick puck-handling skills.
When it comes to offensively gifted players, there has long been a tendency of those with elite skill to overlook the defensive aspect of the game. Yet, this can’t be said when it comes to Caggiula, as his defensive game is equally as sound as his offensive.
Fortunately, Caggiula’s naturally gritty, competitive game goes hand in hand with his defensive game, as it allows him to truly lock down and battle with opposing players in his defensive end. Further, his solid skating skills and mobility allow him to easily track and cover opposing forwards, essentially eliminating them as potential scoring threats.
In all, Caggiula plays a strong all-around game. On offense, skating and mobility are Caggiula’s top skills, and they allow him to produce offense at an alarmingly consistent rate. On defense, skating also plays a major role, while his naturally competitive personality and on-ice persistence make him a quality, comprehensive player.
Looking ahead to Caggiula’s future as a potential Oiler, there is quite obviously great potential surrounding the young forward.
In the coming season of 2016-17, it appears fairly safe to say the Caggiula will begin the season with the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League. A the moment, the Oilers remain loaded with offensive talent, a luxury which will provide Caggiula adequate time to develop his game at the profession level.
In the long run, given Caggiula’s skill set, he could certainly develop into a dependable, complete player for the Oilers in what will likely be a bottom-six role. Approaching the first year of his two-year contract, Caggiula will need to impress in his rookie season in professional hockey, especially so considering the Oilers’ large, overwhelming quantity of forward prospects.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.