There was some grumbling in Oil Country when the Edmonton Oilers drafted Luca Munzenberger with the 90th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. And that was from those who were least upset by Edmonton selecting the German blueliner in the third round.
The angriest fans wanted to haul Oilers general manager Ken Holland before a tribunal to answer for using the 90th pick on a player ranked No. 214 by McKeen’s Hockey and didn’t even make the cut on any other major pre-draft list.
To make matters worse, many were already seething over how Edmonton had acquired the 90th pick by trade during the first round that included flipping the 20th pick to the Minnesota Wild for No. 22. That 20th pick was used on goalie Jesper Wallstedt, who not only plays a position of need for the Oilers but had been considered a lock to go top 10 and was somehow still available late in the first round.
So, yeah, fans were mad, and their frustration was projected on the 90th pick. Through no fault of his own, Munzenberger already was a source of controversy before he even had a chance to tug on an Oilers draft hat.
Lots of Excitement Around Oilers’ 2021 Draft Class
Sentiments towards Edmonton’s performance at the 2021 Draft have since improved dramatically. The player selected with the aforementioned No. 22 pick, Shawinigan Cataractes (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) forward Xavier Bourgault, has 22 goals this season and was named to Canada’s roster for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Meanwhile, sixth-round selection Matvey Petrov is shaping up to be the steal of the draft, as the North Bay Battalion forward is the only player to rank in the top five in the Ontario Hockey League in goals (20), assists (29), and points (49) this season.
Muzneberger hasn’t generated similar excitement among Oilers fans. The University of Vermont freshman has two points in 14 games for a Catamounts team that is 3-11-2.
With his defense-first style of play, Munzenberger isn’t going to put up numbers that get noticed by observers who simply glance at stats. To appreciate the 6-foot-2, 200-pound blueliner, one needs to see Munzenberger play in person. And fans in Edmonton are about to get that chance, starting Boxing Day.
Munzenberger Named to Team Germany
It was made official last week, with the announcement of Germany’s World Juniors roster, that Munzenberger will represent his country at the 2022 championship in Alberta. Germany is in Pool A and the team will play all its preliminary-round games at Rogers Place, starting on Dec. 26 against Finland. Team Germany will also face off against the Czechs (Dec. 27), Bourgault and Team Canada (Dec. 29), and Austria (Dec. 31).
Related Link: 2022 World Junior Championship Team Germany Final Roster
The only skater on Germany’s roster that is NHL drafted, Munzenberger will play a huge role for his national team. The recently turned 19-year-old brings experience from his World Juniors debut in Edmonton last year, when he logged nearly 22 minutes a game and helped the German U20 team to its best-ever finish, sixth place.
Munzenberger Caught Oilers’ Attention at 2021 WJC
Spectators weren’t permitted at the 2021 championship, but the Oilers were obviously watching closely, and liked what they saw in the big blueliner from Dusseldorf. Brock Otten, Director of Scouting for McKeen’s Hockey – the only service to rank Munzenberger ahead of the draft – also took notice of Munzenberger and called him a “suffocating physical defender.”
This time, with fans allowed, Munzenberger will have an opportunity to show the Rogers Place faithful live and in living color what made the Oilers go so far off the board to draft him in July.
“The arena is very, very nice,” Munzenberger said during his draft media availability, as he reflected on World Juniors 2021. “I loved to play there, it (was) such a great experience, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to have fans in there … with the fans, it’s going to be a huge experience.”
It might take just one of his signature monster hits for Edmonton fans to warm up to Munzenberger – just so long as it’s not Bourgault on the receiving end.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.