Led by top center Dylan Larkin, the Detroit Red Wings are team that has always possessed players with good skating abilities. In today’s NHL, speed can be just as lethal as pure physicality, and Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman seems to be building a team that combines top-tier mobility with excellent size and strength, especially on the blue line. Beyond Larkin, however, the Red Wings don’t have a ton of players that have high-end mobility in terms of speed and acceleration. That could change depending on which players they select in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Related: Red Wings 2023 Draft Coverage
The 2023 draft is considered forward heavy with most, if not all, of the top-10 picks currently projected to be centers and wingers. The Red Wings hold two picks in the first round of this year’s draft: picks 9 and 17. The current consensus seems to be that the Red Wings should target at least one forward in the first round, preferably one that has legitimate potential as a point producer in the NHL.
The Red Wings haven’t picked an American in the first round since they took Larkin with the 15th pick in 2014, but if they want to add another forward with speed and skill to burn in this year’s draft, they could buck that trend by drafting Oliver Moore out of the U.S. National U18 Team.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Moore is the best skater in this year’s draft. He can flat out beat defenders in a foot race to the puck, and if they don’t respect his skating abilities on the rush, he can get in behind them and alone on the goaltender. He isn’t shy about using his legs to his advantage. He is always looking for an opportunity to lead the charge through the neutral zone and create offensive chances through his speed. On that note, he is also able to catch up with the opposition as a backchecker, and that allows him to take some chances offensively without getting burned on the defensive side of the puck. But what really makes him stand out as a centerman in this draft is his ability to react and create at top speed.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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Moore is able to quickly identify holes in defensive coverage and open areas of the net, allowing him to create deadly passing and shooting opportunities while at top speed. This part of his overall toolkit is Larkin-esque, and it’s fun to imagine what mayhem Moore could create if he was put on a line with players that can keep up with his pace. But make no mistake: he doesn’t have to be in motion to be effective. When he settles down and makes stationary plays, he is just as capable of reading the defense and sniping one past the goaltender. His shot is good, not great, but he will still be a shooting option whenever he’s on the ice because of how effective he can be as a shooter.
As the main facilitator on the U.S. U18 Team’s second power play unit, Moore displayed the ability to quarterback a power play from the perimeter. He draws defenders towards him and then finds the open man with a good, clean pass. He’s a threat to create a scoring chance whenever he’s on the ice. But, perhaps more impressively, he also spent time as a penalty killer this season, displaying a solid two-way game that should lead him to success once he reaches the pro level. This also speaks to his overall compete level and his willingness to do the things that don’t end up on the scoresheet but lead to winning games. He is always in pursuit of the puck, and he generally doesn’t leave his team out to dry due to a lack of effort.
He does tend to operate from the wing in the offensive zone, so it’s fair to wonder if he’ll move to the left wing at the NHL level, but he should still receive every opportunity to develop as a center. He is committed to the University of Minnesota for next season. There, he should be counted on as one of the Golden Gophers’ top forwards, and could even see time alongside Logan Cooley, the third pick of the 2022 draft. It is possible that this season was only a tease of what’s to come as Moore improves along with the quality of his teammates.
What Moore Still Has to Work On
Despite his impressive speed, Moore doesn’t always make quick plays. He sometimes hesitates a little too long, and that allows the opposition to attack him and strip him of the puck. When watching him in those moments, it’s almost as if his brain is processing every possible maneuver he could make instead of looking for what options are actually available to him. His speed gets him out of trouble, but his eagerness to make an impact play (not inherently a bad thing) sometimes gets him into trouble. He’s a prospect that will have to learn when to defer to the safe play instead of the more risky one.
As is the case with many high-flying forwards, Moore also sometimes struggles with maintaining possession at top speed. He will either fumble the puck and have to disrupt his stride to recover it, or he’ll handle the puck a little too loosely which allows opposing defenders to poke it away from him. This is also true when he tries to get fancy and out-maneuver defenders. He has the skill and puck-handling abilities to make the flashy move from time to time, but Pavel Datsyuk he is not, and he’ll have to learn when is the right time to dig deep into his bag of tricks. If he can learn to keep the puck tighter to his stick while at top speed, he’s going to be nearly impossible to stop when he’s barreling in on the goaltender.
Lastly, Moore is also the quintessential speedy-skilled forward that can be outmuscled along the boards. This is a minor thing (in my opinion) because strength can be built up over time and professional hockey players rarely “max out” at 18 years old. As he physically matures and spends time working out with legitimate NHL prospects, he’s going to fill out his 5-foot-11 frame. If he is as tenacious off the ice as he is on it, building up his core strength will be no problem.
Moore is an interesting prospect in this class because some folks have him ranked ahead of the Red Wings’ first pick while others have him ranked around their second pick in the first round. Some of that pertains to how confident those scouts are that he’ll make a difference at the NHL level, and how soon we can expect him to do it. For my money, I think he’s at least a season out from becoming a pro, and another year or so after that from making an impact as an NHL forward.
Moore’s time with the University of Minnesota should be good for him. He’ll play with a Hobey Baker favorite (Cooley) and he’ll play for a school and community that loves hockey. It’s good to play for a program that has high expectations, and the Golden Gophers should be aiming to make some noise next season. After his Freshman season comes to an end, he may then be ready to sign an entry-level contract and play some games in the American Hockey League or even the NHL.
Moore’s Fit with the Red Wings
With Larkin entrenched as the Red Wings’ top center and Marco Kasper coming up the pipeline, the Red Wings have a path forward when it comes to the center position. However, Kasper isn’t a slam dunk as a future top line center, and it may behoove the Red Wings to add another center prospect with legitimate top six potential. Moore fits the bill there, and Larkin would be a really good player for him to model his game after. The Red Wings could certainly use another Larkin in their system, right?
Just like Larkin, the Red Wings could opt to ease him in by starting him off as a left winger before moving him back to the center position. Detroit could use another player with dynamic skating ability, and his commitment to both sides of the puck would and should be attractive to both Yzerman and head coach Derek Lalonde. Moore is a player that checks a lot of boxes for the Red Wings, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he puts on a hat with the winged wheel on it come draft night.
Best Player Available
As previously mentioned, Moore is ranked everywhere from the top-10 to the middle of the first round. Assuming he is available at ninth overall, he should garner some consideration from the decision-makers in Detroit. If he is available at 17th overall, he should almost certainly be the pick. Unless Detroit trades up from 17, they may miss out on him if they elect to take somebody else with their first pick. This area of the draft class has a number of players that could be considered the “best player available”, and I think he is one of them.
What Others Are Saying
“Moore lacks size, and isn’t overly physical, but he’s a worker. He gets to the net, comes back hard on defense and coaches trust him in tough situations. He has a ton of NHL projectability and looks like a potential top-three line center or second-line wing.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from “2023 NHL Draft top prospects: Bedard No. 1, Smith rises in Pronman’s May ranking”, The Athletic, May 3, 2023)
“…Moore is much more than just a fast skater. He has a blistering shot with a quick release that’s led to him scoring 26 times this season with the United States U18 Development Program, which puts him fourth on a very skilled team, as well as another eight goals with the USNDP Juniors in the United States Hockey League (USHL). That puts him on pace to hit similar totals to Trevor Zegras or Clayton Keller during their time in the program.” – Dayton Reimer, The Hockey Writers
“[Moore] wants to hang onto the puck and make plays but he’ll also hurry it up and dominate in and out of give-and-gos. He’s got an impressive one-timer from the right flank and can really lean into and rip his catch-and-release or in-stride wrister to score from the high slot. He has added a ton of strength since arriving at the program so that he can overwhelm junior-level players with his power and speed.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (from “2023 NHL Draft top 32 prospects: Scott Wheeler’s post-U18 worlds ranking,” The Athletic, May 1, 2023)