Prospects News & Rumors: Ovchinnikov, Niemeläinen, McKay & More

Today’s peek into the world of prospects has a major Canadian feel to it. We check in with a Toronto Maple Leafs’ pick from the most recent NHL Entry Draft as well as a pair of prospects in the Edmonton Oilers’ system. In addition, there is a college goaltender dominating between the pipes who is yet to be signed by an NHL team.

Dmitri Ovchinnikov Continues to Roll

The Maple Leafs used their fifth-round pick (137th overall) this past October to select Ovchinnikov, a 5-foot-11, 163-pound forward out of Russia. The 18-year-old played in 10 games in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for Sibir Novosibirsk but did not find the scoresheet. However, it is in the MHL, Russia’s top junior league, where he has done some serious damage.

On Saturday, he and Sergei Dubakin hooked up twice in Sibirskie Snaipery’s 4-3 win over Tyumensky Legion.

Ovchinnikov also had an assist on the opening goal of the game. He is up to 20 goals and 50 points in 36 MHL games this season. He has three power-play goals, two shorthanded and four game-winners including two in overtime.

Markus Niemeläinen Nets First Pro Goal

It has been a long time coming for Niemeläinen and the Oilers. Edmonton drafted the big 6-foot-5 defenseman in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He is finally playing in North America with the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League.

He scored his first AHL goal, in his third game, on Friday night. It was the Condors’ lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the Henderson Silver Knights.

Niemeläinen did a nice job to get his wrist shot from the left point through heavy traffic and in behind goaltender Logan Thompson.

The 22-year-old defenseman is not known for his offense, despite being a very good skater. He hasn’t scored more than one goal in a season since 2016-17 when he had three with the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League. He has spent the last three-plus seasons in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, developing his game. With the Oilers in need of help on the blue line, it is only a matter before he gets a look at the NHL level.

Matej Blümel Scores on the International Stage

Another Oilers prospect, Blümel, has been enjoying a successful season overseas. The 20-year-old winger is currently representing the Czech Republic at the Beijer Hockey Games. This is a quick four-country international tournament, played in Malmo, Sweden, which also features national teams from Russia and Finland.

Blümel scored his second of the tournament in as many games, on Saturday, during the Czech Republic’s 3-2 loss to Finland.

The 2019 fourth-round pick (100th overall) has spent the season with HC Dynamo Pardubice in the Czech League. He is having a career year with 14 goals and 26 points in 40 games. He has not played in North American since 2018-19 when he scored 30 goals for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.

Dryden McKay is Dominating the Crease

Our final player is technically not an NHL prospect, at least not yet. 23-year-old netminder McKay, who was never drafted by an NHL team, is having an unreal season at Minnesota State-Mankato, where he has had a tremendous college career.

On Friday night, he stopped all 16 shots he faced in the Mavericks’ 5-0 win at Alabama Huntsville. This was McKay’s eighth shutout of the season in 14 starts. He has a .959 save percentage (SV%) and 0.79 goals-against average (GAA) to go along with his 13-1-0 record.

McKay has 22 career shutouts, which are the most in the history of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He is four shy of Ryan Miller’s all-time NCAA shutout record of 26. In 85 career games with Minnesota State-Mankato, he is 67-12-4 with a .938 SV% and 1.40 GAA. With those numbers, you have to believe an NHL club will take a flyer on McKay when his college career is over.

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