Over the next two weeks I will be writing a series that takes an in-depth look at the Penguins draft selections. Each article will cover the prospect’s strengths, weaknesses, and fit within the organization.
After drafting Scott Harrington in the second round, Penguins General Manger Ray Shero had to wait 90 picks before selecting another player–a cost relatively low for the success Pittsburgh has enjoyed over the past few seasons. The fifth-round ultimately brought about center Dominik Uher.
At 6’0″, 195 pounds, the Czech native’s size is not overwhelming. He fell outside of Central Scouting’s top 20 European skaters, leaving his chances of being drafted low. And, his final ranking of 162 was 18 spots behind his actual selection.
Perhaps Uher’s best talent is fighting. Totaling eight scraps in just two seasons, the 18-year-old has a tough-guy reputation in the WHL. He is not afraid to drop the gloves and stand up for himself or his teammates. Penguins first-round pick Joe Morrow found out personally earlier this year.
Uher doesn’t just use his hands for fighting though.He prefers passing, but releases a quick, hard shot when called for. He flashed those skills last year on his way to 21 goals and 60 points for the Spokane Chiefs. The jump was a significant one from his prior season’s output of four goals and 16 points. Uher also delivered in the clutch, posting 11 points in 17 playoff games. He appeared in six games with the Czech U18 squad as well, posting one goal and two points.
Grit and determination are Uher’s main offensive draws. He is vicious in the corners and strong along the boards. His stocky base affords him good lower body strength, making it difficult to check him off the puck. When challenged one-on-one, it is a likely bet that he will win the battle.
Most appealing about Uher is an extensive track-record for increasing his productivity. Every league he has played in has seen him top his previous year’s points. Not bad for the youngest player ever selected in the WHL Import Draft.
It is hard to speculate on Uher’s future due to the little information available. He is a hard-nosed player with a great work ethic. But, it seems like the Penguins are intent on drafting these players when forced to choose between rugged, work horse types and skilled, but inconsistent guys.
The Detroit Red Wings picked winger Philippe Hudon one pick after Pittsburgh selected Uher. Hudon is heralded as a Milan Lucic type player with nice hands, quick feet, and a good shot. There have been cries of inconsistency, but he has the tools to become a threatening NHL player.
It is impossible to know whether Hudon will be better than Uher. But, in the fifth-round of a shallow draft, why not take a chance?