210th Overall: 7th-Round Options for Nashville

A more in-depth look at who Nashville should target late next Saturday.

This past week I ranked who I determined were the 93 best draft-eligible prospects for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in a week in Vancouver. If you missed it, you can read those here, here, and here. But the NHL draft goes well beyond 93 selections, and with Nashville having seven of them this season, I thought it best to identify a handful of plausible options for David Poile at each selection. I’ll begin with the seventh round and work my way down throughout the week leading up to next Friday and Saturday.

My method here is to identify players who I think will be available at this selection and who I think present the best value. Therefore, this exercise doesn’t account for the trading of any picks or the whims of other general managers. With several hundred draft-eligible players, it’s very likely none of these players end up being Nashville’s pick. Bear that in mind as you read further.

Oliver Okuliar

Sherbrooke Phoenix [QMJHL] - 2000 - LW - Trencin, Slovakia

NHL Central Scouting Rank: NA

2018-19 Stats: 66 GP / 14 G / 28 A / 42 PTS

Okuliar is a fascinating skater in his second year of draft eligibility. Last season he was second in scoring on an U20 HK Dukla Trencin in Slovakia with 24 goals and 64 points in 37 games. He also added eight points in five games at the U18 World Junior Championships that season.

Okuliar still leaves more to be desired, but he finished eighth on the Phoenix in scoring this season with 14 goals and 42 points in 66 games. Only 10 of his points were not primary ones and he shot just slightly over 9.00% on the season, leaving room for improvement. Two of his goals were scored on the power play, and he maintained an impressive 11.78% Goals-For rate relative to his teammates this season.

If you haven’t already noticed, Elite Prospects does some excellent work. That includes Mitch Brown and his recently released CHL Tracking Data. Read more about that here and please support his work.

Take a look at Okuliar above. Like I said, there is still more to be desired offensively, but his rank in controlled entries and exits is impressive.

Okuliar isn’t the most impressive skater. He’s got decent speed but can work on his edges. However, he has really impressive hands and good offensive instinct. The QMJHL has crafted his puck support skills, as seen above. He scored a lot from that area battling for open space and weaving through stick- and crosschecks.

He’s a project, like most seventh-round picks will be, but I was impressed with his first North American season and only see him going up from here.

Alexander Popovic

MODO Hockey J20 [SuperElit] - 2001 - D - Uppsala, Sweden

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 56th - European Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 45 GP / 7 G / 20 A / 27 PTS

Popovic was the leading scorer from the blue line this season for a MODO team that featured top-93 pick Mattias Norlinder (albeit for significantly less games) and finished seventh in team scoring. It was an impressive jump from 12 to 27 points in one year of SuperElit play. He was also seventh among all defenders league-wide in scoring.

In the clip above, Popovic, #3 in yellow, gives a good controlled zone entry and exit. You can notice his patience with the puck, his drawn-out skating stride, and decent stick-handling ability, but you also want to see him attack more instead of moving laterally. His entry does, however, lead to a goal.

Later that game, watch Popovic wait way too late to cross over while defending. He is completely blown by. At 5’9” with okay skating ability, this could be an issue, but his awareness and skill are enough to snag him.

Eric Ciccolini

Toronto Jr. Canadiens [OJHL] - 2001 - RW - Vaughan, Ontario

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 108th - North American Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 48 GP / 27 G / 35 A / 62 PTS

I have had a hard time ranking Ciccolini, and I’ve seen some rate him much higher than this part of the seventh round; I think that’s completely fair. Ciccolini is committed to Notre Dame next year but had an excellent season, leading the Jr. Canadiens in scoring by nearly 20 points.

Jack McBain made the leap from the OJHL to the NCAA last season with similar numbers and was selected in round three. He had a difficult freshman year, though, but on a bad Boston College team. So, I’m really unsure if Ciccolini will be available here.

Ciccolini, #19 in white, has an incredible separation gear and a really impressive top speed. His stride is very good technically, and he combines that with an excellent shooting ability. I wasn’t able to see it much, but I understand he dabbled at center, too, this season.

Alexander Yakovenko

Muskegon Lumberjacks [USHL] - 1998 - D - Karaganda, Kazakhstan

NHL Central Scouting Rank: 107th - North American Skaters

2018-19 Stats: 56 GP / 19 G / 33 A / 52 PTS

As you probably noticed, Yakovenko is an overage player in his last year of eligibility. At 21, you have to understand that’s part of the reason for his dominance in the USHL this year. He scored 19 goals and 52 points in 56 games as a defender—that’s third on his team and second among defenders league-wide. He also took just ten minor penalties all season.

He will be playing for Jukurit in the Finnish Liiga next season, which will be an excellent opportunity to see how much of his skill sticks.

Yakovenko is an average skater with a wide base when defending. He is under six feet but does like to play the body. In the clip above, he (#7 in black) defends well after a slightly unnecessary move on the zone entry, getting back into position and then dropping to the back door. But, as the shot is coming from the point, he’s almost completely out of the picture. I understand he didn’t want to cause a screen, but he likely had time to clear that body.

One of his best assets is his shot, but he’s also smart with directing the puck from the blue line. Instead of a low-danger slap shot in the clip above, he pulls the opponent in closer and sends the puck in low for a rebound or deflection that eventually leads to a goal.

Honorable Mentions:

Jere Innala (LW) - HPK [Liiga] - 60 GP / 24 G / 45 PTS

David Aebischer (D) - Gatineau Olympiques [QMJHL] - 59 GP / 4 G / 28 PTS

Nikita Nesterenko (F) - Lawrenceville School [USHS - NJ - 31 GP / 30 G / 59 PTS

Jacob LeGuerrier (D) - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds [OHL] - 68 GP / 6 G / 16 PTS