Aidan Muir was an interesting selection by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2013 NHL Draft. Muir was one of the Oilers' bonus babies in that draft; a group of later round picks the Oilers acquired after trading down in the second round to make a somewhat off-the-board pick. Those extra picks allowed the Oilers to gamble a little bit, and that's what they did by taking the big forward still playing Midget AAA hockey with the 113th overall pick in the fourth round of the draft.
After a solid season the United States Hockey League, where he put up average numbers, did help lead his team to a league championship, Muir is now a freshman at Western Michigan University, playing his first season with the Bronco hockey program. I took a closer look at Muir on January 17th, when the Broncos played Minnesota Duluth, ranked fifth in the country at the time, in a game that Western Michigan won 4-2.
Despite being a freshman, Muir is seeing decent ice-time playing under former NHL head coach Andy Murray. Muir has settled into a spot on what is, in essence, Western Michigan's second line in the second half of the season, playing with two seniors in center Will Kessel and winger Justin Kovacs. Muir is also seeing time on Western Michigan's second power play unit and playing regularly on the penalty kill.
The first thing stands out about Muir is that he's got some size. He's officially listed at 6-4 212 lbs. On the eyeball test, that looks a tad generous, though perception could be skewed because Western Michigan is a team of veritable team of giants, with 12 players listed at 6-2 or bigger, including 6-5 220 lbs. Red Wings draft pick Mike McKee. Muir is definitely at least 6-3 though. He may or may not be 212 lbs. he's listed at, but it definitely looks like there is room on his frame to add some more muscle and be a more physically commanding presence.
But what separates Muir from other big guys, and what makes him a top prospect is just how light and nimble he is on his feet. He has a strong first step, and changes direction very well. His top-end speed isn't elite, but he's fast enough that the opposing defense has to respect him when he has the puck on the rush. Twice in the game, he was able to use his speed to gain clean entry into the offensive zone and establish the cycle by pulling up at the half boards, rather than needing to dump the puck into the zone and trying to win it back.
It's probably no shock from looking at this point totals--4-6-10 in 23 games--that the offensive side of the game is the area that he need to develop most. He showed pretty good vision to make a couple of nice passes, but isn't overly comfortable handling the puck on his stick yet.
He did finish the game with one assist, but it came after he was set up with a beautiful scoring chance, taking a pass come down the slot wide open. Ideally, it's was the type of Grade-A scoring you'd hope to see him finish, but at least his shot created a rebound that a teammate was able to jam into the net. If he's going to score at the next level, he'll likely need to get better at working in traffic in front of the net. He's got the size and skills to do it, it's just a matter of learning how to pick his spots and get into the right position.
The one area you can't question is the way that he competes. He showed a tremendous willingness to finish every check and battle along the boards. He back-checks hard. He made a couple of nice diving defense plays. He's really a player that brings everything he's got on every shift.
Long-term, Muir is still a few years away from seriously being in the plans for the Oilers. That's pretty much what Edmonton expected when they drafted him though. He's still got up to three more seasons at Western Michigan to get stronger and develop the offensive side of his game a little bit more. He might not need all three years though.
His ceiling is relatively low, because he's likely not going to develop into a huge scoring threat at the next level. But he has such a unique and valuable skill set with his combination of size and athleticism that odds are pretty good that he finds a niche in the NHL somewhere as a high-energy, heavy-hitting power forward.