The Oilers signed University of North Dakota standout Drake Caggiula to a two-year entry level contract this weekend, after he spoke and visited with numerous teams.
“Drake is a good prospect,” Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli said on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer Monday. “He’s one of those guys who will play. He’s very smart. He’s got good speed. But the reason why he’ll play, because he’s 5-10, 185 and that is a bit of an obstacle for him, is his hockey sense and grit. When you combine those two ingredients with skill, these guys find a way to play. No accident that I would suspect there were 29 teams after this player.”
The forward put up 51 points in 39 games as a senior and was named the most outstanding player at the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament as UND won a national title.
“We’re happy he chose us,” said Chiarelli.
Although there is excitement with the prospect, Chiarelli says there’s still a learning curve as he enters the professional ranks.
“He’s got to learn the pro game, he’s got to learn to temper his aggression,” said Chiarelli. “You may ask, why we’d get someone to temper their aggression? Well, if he gets aggressive for an undersized guy he’s going to get hurt. He’s been real big in big games. Happy to get him. He’s still got some work to do, but he enjoyed his visit with us, enjoyed our plan we were pitching so we look at him like a free draft choice.”
Caggiula has compared his style of play to the likes of Minnesota’s Zach Parise, Boston’s Brad Marchand and Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher. Chiarelli can see that.
“Smaller guys have a lower centre of gravity than other guys, so if they have the strength to protect the puck then they actually can be quite good at it,” Chiarelli explained. “I would put Drake in that category. That was one of the things we noticed in Drake. There’s a number of players who put up numbers in college, but how he controlled the play by protecting the puck and with speed was something that’s hard to find. I don’t know if he’s as much of a pest as those other two, but he is aggressive, he likes to go after bigger guys, he’s hard on the forecheck, he likes to hit. I haven’t seen that pest in him but you never know what might come out.”