The 2021 NHL Draft will be held on July 23-24. NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects and other features. Today, a preview of the top eligible prospects from the United States Hockey League. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here nhl.com/draft.
Shai Buium of Sioux City is a projected first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft after quite a showing as a rookie in the United States Hockey League this season.
Buium (6-foot-3, 209 pounds), No. 20 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, is the highest-rated United States Hockey League defenseman. He ranked third among USHL rookie defensemen with 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) and first with 12 power-play assists in 50 games.
“Big kids that can skate always have a chance and that’s what he is,” NHL Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen said. “He has a tall, lean body, so he has room to grow into. I loved his game at Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep. He’s got good puck-moving ability, skating ability, and was able to get the puck out skating or passing it … that’s a high quality for a defenseman today.”
Buium, who will attend the University of Denver in 2022-23, scored 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 17 games for Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school in Minnesota before the season was shut down due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He then joined Sioux City and remained there the rest of the season.
Buium’s parents are from Ashdod and Tel Aviv in Israel, but Shai grew up in San Diego and later moved to Los Angeles to play for the Los Angeles Junior Kings in 2016-17. He’s one of 54 players with USHL ties on Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters.
To break it down, here are five questions with Rajanen:
Top projected forwards Matthew Coronato (No. 9) and Mackie Samoskevich (No. 26) each play for Clark Cup champion Chicago. What makes them special?
“Coronato’s speed, strength, ability to make plays and the fact he plays a 200-foot game … he’s kind of a guy you want out there when you need a goal late or when you’re protecting a lead. He plays power play, penalty kill, takes extra shifts and has high-end passion, compete.
“Samoskevich is one of those quick, elusive players. It’s hard to get a piece of him. What makes him even more difficult to defend him is he thinks the game so well. He makes plays at high speed … if you’re going to make it to the highest level of hockey, that’s what you need to do, and he’s been able to do that.”
What can you tell us about Sioux Falls center Cole Sillinger (No. 10), the son of former NHL forward Mike Sillinger, and Chicago right wing Josh Doan (No. 87), the son of former NHL forward Shane Doan?
“Sillinger’s strong on his skates, really quick in tight spots and manages his skating so well. He manages his skating so well, he’s a smart player and high-end pick for me.
“This is the second time through (the draft) for Josh Doan. He gained strength, confidence, made plays, and played hard both ways. He was a top-six forward and top power-play guy for the Steel and had a great year point-wise (70 points; 31 goals, 39 assists).”
There are seven players from Chicago on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, the most of any USHL team. Is there another player other than Coronato, Samoskevich and Doan not receiving the attention he deserves?
“Defenseman Jack Bar (No. 41) plays a firm game with a good first pass. Defenseman Ryan Ufko (No. 43) puts up points. He’s not really flashy, so you think you might want to see a few more, ‘wow’ plays from him, but at the end of the game, when you look back, he has a goal and four assists. Right wing Jackson Blake (No. 52) didn’t have a good playoff as far as points with Chicago, but he led Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School to the championship. He’s really quick and elusive, has good leverage in contact areas and he played before the high school season in Chicago and then after his high school season with Chicago.”
What can you say about Fargo center Tristan Broz (5-11, 178), No. 28 in the final ranking?
“He played at Blake High School in Minnesota (in 2018-19) and went to the USHL as a junior in high school. He’s got good speed with the puck and a second gear that you like to see. He’s got nice hands and this little stutter-step move on the rush that’s hard to contain. Tristan just needs to gain that strength, that way he’ll be able to play a little better in the contact areas. But in open ice and the skill areas, he’s really high end.”
Do you get a feeling that since this has been such an unusual scouting season due to the coronovirus, we could see a record-number of players selected from the USHL since the league was able to play a full season and crown a champion?
“I think it’s possible that could happen. Teams have more viewings. Players are happy to be there and compete and play for their fans and teammates, and it’s possible more players will be drafted out of the league. The players have a passion for the game and wanted to play. It was frustrating for them to be held back somewhat, but again, it was a serious situation with COVID-19. There were different protocols in different states throughout the U.S., but it was a good year for the USHL.”
Photo: USA Hockey
Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class