Photo Credit: Erica Perreaux / Lethbridge Hurricanes
The feisty Slovakian winger is going into his third NHL draft this year. For the third year in a row he is a player who is likely on several teams draft boards, but still might be passed over. It is hard to see how there have been 434 players taken over that time and Okuliar not be amongst them. He was very good in U-18 WJC in his draft year, always had great production in Slovakian juniors, and played pro hockey at the end of his draft year. 2018-19 however was a bit disappointing from Okuliar. Coming to Sherbrooke in the QMJHL he struggled with consistency, and did not get to the danger areas as well as he had in Slovakia. His point totals, however, were also suppressed by some bad luck, shooting at 9%.
This year he moved to the WHL and has had a great season, and also shone at the World Juniors. At the premier u-20 hockey competition on earth he put up two goals and five points, and was one of the few Slovakian players who really stood out. He benefited in Lethbridge this season from having a fantastic linemate in Dylan Cozens. However, Okuliar complemented him well, and no-one else on the team seemed to understand where to be on ice, and how to create space for Cozens, as well as Okuliar.
D.O.B – May 24, 2000
Nationality – Slovakia
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Height – 6’1
Weight – 192 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Okuliar’s Style Of Play
In terms of his game, Okuliar is a plus skater who loves to get engaged physically. He forechecks relentlessly and never gives up on a play. This should make him a coaches dream, but he can take stupid penalties and lose his discipline at times. This however has been more noticeable at the international level than in the Canadian juniors. Skills wise he is nothing special. He has a decent shot, and is great at tipping pucks from point shots. However, his hands are unexceptional, and he is not to be relied on to thread passes into high danger areas. He produces due to a good IQ and an understanding of defensive coverages, alongside his physical tools, and good, old-fashioned, hard-work. In the defensive zone he knows where to be, and is strong enough there that he has played center at times. Furthermore, Okuliar can penalty-kill, and uses his speed and tenacity well in this phase of the game.
In terms of upside Okuliar – with good development from here on out – is a good bottom six winger. In the later rounds he could be a good pick who might not be that far off being a solid pro. He could probably handle a third line AHL role right away, with the skill-set to be a capable depth NHLer in the next two years.
Michael Raffl, Left Wing, Philadelphia Flyers
Okuliar is a player who projects to play a similar role to Raffl if he hits. Good skating and a responsible two-way game echo the Austrian winger’s style as well. Neither are overly skilled, but have good hockey minds. Both are also strong forecheckers who are good on the boards and don’t mind going to the danger areas. Okuliar plays a chippier game than Raffl however.
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