LA Kings: Yevgeni Oksentyuk one-year wonder or draft diamond?

(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

Yevgeni Oksentyuk went undrafted in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, but could he be a target for the LA Kings this time around?

Undrafted in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Yevgeni Oksentyuk is doing his best to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. The LA Kings and other prospective NHL franchises should be put on notice after the 19-year-old’s impressive debut in the OHL. He was drafted fifth overall by the Flint Firebirds in the 2019 CHL Import Draft, tallying 33 goals and 45 assists for 78 points in 58 games this past year.

His point total was by far and away the most on the Flint roster last season, with a +13 rating finishing third-best on the team as well. With regards to overall OHL placement, Oksentyuk finished with the 18th most points and just four behind the presumed second-overall pick, Quinton Byfield. Also of importance, five of his 33 goals came on the man advantage.

I think many teams are approaching Oksentyuk with tremendous caution, given his lack of a proven track record. He played the previous year with Shakhter Soligorsk of the Belarus league, tallying six goals with 12 assists for 18 points in 49 games. His point total was good for eighth-best on the team but 67th best in the league.

Yevgeni Oksentyuk broke the Firebirds franchise record with a 17-point streak, that saw him tally 13 goals with 16 assists during the incredible run. In the World Juniors, he tallied a goal with six assists for seven points for Team Belarus.

I think a big reason why he went undrafted last year is that Oksentyuk is extremely undersized. On a good day, he stands at 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds. Comparable players similar in stature have gone on to have successful NHL careers, with Patrick Kane coming to mind, who is 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds. But Kane had the track record leading into his draft year, whereas Yevgeni Oksentyuk’s 2019-2020 season leaves many to wonder if it was a fluke?

Here’s what I see when I watch his film. Oksentyuk plays with a ton of confidence, leading rushes up-ice while navigating through defenders with excellent stickhandling abilities. He’s a terrific skater with great straight-line speed, and he can flat out blow by defenders. There was one particular play last year against the Owen Sound Attack, where he received a pass from his centerman entering the opposing zone, and he carried the puck around the back of the net, sneaking into the right side before the goalie could get back.

If anything, his size can be a significant advantage because he often gets lost in congestion with goalies realizing where he’s at on the ice after it’s too late.

Oksentyuk has such good vision on the ice, and he’s a high Hockey IQ player, that I am inclined to believe he could end up being one of the biggest draft’s diamonds. The track record isn’t there, but the kid plays with a lot of conviction. He makes passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates that undrafted players typically don’t make.

And despite how small in stature in he, Oksentyuk spends a lot of time in front of the net when his team has the puck. He plays much bigger than he actually is, and his film jumps off the page.

Defense is still a work in progress, but he’s trending towards a two-way player. There were several instances where he used his stick to frustrate opponents. He definitely needs to get stronger, but I liken his story to Alex Iafallo, who was overlooked in the draft and now plays on the first line.

Oksentyuk has been projected as a third-round or fourth-round pick, and that’s likely due to his size and lack of track record. However, the LA Kings have two picks in both the third and fourth round, so they could afford the risk in taking Oksentyuk. The rewards are enormous. I see him as a Martin St. Louis-type player from a stylistic and stature comparison with the potential to be a 30-30 guy in the NHL.

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