In round 5 you’ll take some gambles, but not like you do in the 6th and 7th. Here you’re looking for guys who slipped through the cracks of rounds 2-4. There’s going to be guys that you thought should go higher, but they didn’t. This is also a place to grab kids from outside the big 6 (USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic) hockey countries.
Kyen Sopa – Right Wing (Right-Handed)
9/30/2000 – Flawil, Switzerland
Current Team: Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
I have talked up Kyen Sopa alot because when I watch the Ice Dogs, he entertains me. He’s a little on the diminutive side at 5’9, but he’s got speed and flare and just plain looks good playing hockey. I was excited when he got an invite to the Swiss camp for the World Junior Championship this year, but was very disappointed when he didn’t make the final team. He was a point machine with Bern’s Under20 squad last season and has produced well enough for the Ice Dogs in more of a depth role for them. He keeps flying under the radar, but every time I’ve watched him I’ve been impressed. I feel like he’s one of those kids who in the years following his draft year he will absolutely go off and people will be asking, “How did we miss this kid?”
Oliver Okuliar – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
5/24/00 – Trencin, Slovakia
Current Team: Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Oliver was ranked #66 among European Skaters by central scouting for the 2018 draft. I couldn’t believe he didn’t go. He absolutely dominated the Slovak under 20 league. He was a dominant scoring force that the Under 18 World Junior championship last year also. Sherbrooke took him 25th overall in the import draft. He’s made the transition well. He still scores goals and creates opportunities for teammates even with the adjustment to North America. He’s got 12 goals and 20 assists making him the 4th leading point scorer for a very middle of the road Sherbrooke team. Those are not the kind of numbers that tend to catch the attention of scouts, but one has to take into account the adjustment to playing the North American game, and the quality of teammate he is playing with. He’s certainly worth taking a close look at.
Valeri Orekhov – Defender (Left-Handed)
7/17/99 – Kazakhstan
Current Team: Barys Astana (KHL)
If you watched the world juniors, you saw Defenseman Valeri Orekhov play. You saw him play really well, all things considered. The plucky Kazakhs became fan favorites as they valiantly battled insurmountable odds. Orekhov was one of their best players throughout the tournament. But, when the tournament was over, Orekhov went back to his role as a third pairing defender for Bars Astana of the KHL. Right now, this kid is playing professional hockey in arguably the second best league in the world. There’s no reason to believe he couldn’t do it in the NHL. There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t grow and get better and build on an already stalwart base. He skates well, he shoots well, he sets up his teammates and he keeps working hard no matter what the score is. He might be a longer term project and he might stay in the KHL for a few years, but it would be nice to have his rights.
Matej Blumel – Left Wing (Left-Handed)
5/31/00 – Tabor, Czech Republic
Current Team: Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Matej is a young Czech player who’s in his second USHL season. He didn’t really wow anyone with his 18 points in 50 games his first year. His second year has been quite a bit better with 23 goals, and 24 assists in 34 games for the Hawks. He’s committed to UConn for the 2019-2020 season. UConn has been a decent school for NHL prospects to grow in. Tage Thompson recently finished his stint there and there’s no doubt it helped his growth as a player. Blumel will certainly benefit from a couple years of tuning in the NCAA for the NHL/AHL game, but I would expect him to come out of college as a strong candidate to make an NHL roster. He has the right tools at his disposal to succeed. Blumel had a brilliant 4 goal performance against the US in the 5 Nations tournament back in February of 2018. In his highlight films he exhibits excellent burst speed and slick hands. He also has a strong, accurate snapshot that catches goalies off guard. The young Czech is definitely a good future project.
Shane Pinto – Forward (Right-Handed)
11/12/00 – Franklin Square, NY, USA
Current Team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)
The more I analyze Shane Pinto, the more I’m convinced that I’ve got him way too low being in the 5th round. This draft could be a big one for the USHL and Pinto is definitely one of the shining stars. It starts with his frame. He’s 6’2, and 185 pounds. When he’s suited up on the ice, he has that “look” of a hockey player. I haven’t even gotten to what he does on the ice yet. He’s probably the most complete draft eligible player in the USHL right now aside from Afanasyev. He puts the puck in the net. He sets his teammates up to put the puck in the net. He’s responsible enough in his own end. He’s got the speed and the hockey IQ to make things happen and turn nothing into something. He’s North Dakota bound, and I give their scouting department the strongest vote of confidence. If the collegiate scouting team at North Dakota is sure this kid is going to be good, that combined with what I’ve seen from him is enough for me. There’s no way he’s in the 5th round still when my end of the regular season draft board comes out.