September 3, 2020

Overagers: Oksentyuk elite among Ontario entries

Not every NHL prospect gets drafted in their first year of eligibility.

For some, it can take until their second or third year of being eligible before being selected by an NHL team at the draft. This group of players, sometimes referred to as overagers, represent prospects who needed more development to catch the eye of NHL scouts.

Right wing Yevgeni Oksentyuk is one of those players.

After playing his initial draft year in Belarus, Oksentyuk was selected fifth overall in the CHL Import Draft and took the league by storm. His play this past season earned him the No. 81 spot in the FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2020 draft.

The small forward plays a tenacious style, one where he attacks the front of the net and shows excellent timing for finding open areas in the front and side of the net.

But the strongest part of Oksentyuk’s game is arguably his stick handling ability. He has quick hands that can be deceptive in 1 on 1 situations and helps him create some space on zone entries.

Dylan Galloway, FCHockey’s head Eastern scout, shed some light on why Oksentyuk was able to catch plenty of attention this season.

“Playing in the OHL rather than Belarus helped him gain the attention he deserved,” Galloway started. “I would say what made him standout this year was his dynamic play in the offensive zone.

“I was always impressed when I saw him with his ability to change direction on a dime, quick hands and ability to get the puck from the half wall to middle ice with a pass or some quick puck skills.”

Those skills have Oksentyuk’s stock soaring.

To the point, potentially, that he is among the best of the best when it comes to overagers in the NHL Draft.

“In my mind, Oksentyuk is the best overager in this draft class,” said FCHockey Eastern-based scout Josh Bell. “I think the biggest reason for that is what he can do with the puck. It’s like a magnet on his stick. He’s extremely creative with the puck and that allows him to make space for himself and his teammates on the ice.”

Bell continued to state the offensive skill sets Oksentyuk possesses as a big reason why he can be considered the best overager in this class.

“This elusiveness is his biggest strength and is a large reason that I think he’ll be the first overages taken off the board this year,” Bell said. “On top of this, he’s got a great shot and he can dish it out, making him a dynamic, offensive threat.

The excellent peripheral vision Oksentyuk showed when in possession of the puck enabled him to make cross ice passes in the offensive zone. Looking one way and passing another with accuracy is a strength in Oksentyuk’s game that makes him unpredictable with the puck.

His 78 points (33 goals, 45 assists) in 58 games can attest to that.

Even as an older player, Oksentyuk averaged just over a half-goal per game and needed hardly any time to adjust to the North American game. While his goal scoring showed some highlight reel potential, Oksentyuk has also proven to be an excellent playmaker as evidenced by his healthy assist total.

As with many highly skilled players in juniors, there can be some deficiencies in their defensive play. Oksentyuk wasn’t necessarily a liability because of his strong play driving ability, but did show the need to fine tune play in his own end.

Galloway touched on Oksentyuk’s need to improve his defensive game.

“As a winger he honestly doesn’t have a ton of involvement in his own zone,” Galloway said. “He puck watches a lot and if he isn’t able to activate on the puck carrier he can get pulled out of position to try and get the puck, leaving vulnerabilities.”

Additionally, Oksentyuk could stand to develop his skating more.

Being a smaller player, having elite skating ability is what can give him an edge over larger competition.

“The biggest thing is his skating,” Bell said. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good skater that gets to a high top speed, but he’s not elite. Being on the smaller side, he’s going to need to improve his skating to get to the next level.

“In particular, I’d like to see some more explosiveness in his few steps and his acceleration, which may come down to building leg strength.”

Strength can be an issue with the 5-foot-7, 163-pound forward.

“The size is definitely something to think about,” Bell said. “Players can succeed at the NHL level that are slightly undersized, but they do need to make up for their size with elite skating, which he doesn’t have yet. He’s a good skater, but as mentioned, this is something that he’ll need to improve to make up for his size. If he can get his skating to an NHL level, his size won’t be an issue.”

Oksentyuk exemplifies a high-end talent who can be taken in the middle rounds of the draft and is a bit more seasoned than some of the first time eligibles.

Given the low risk of his expected draft capital combined with the high end potential, Oksentyuk is absolutely worthy of being selected this year.

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