|2020-21||Czechia U-20||Kladno U-20||6||4||7||11|
I will admit that when NHL Central Scouting released it’s mid-term rankings, I was all giddy that they had Saginaw Spirit Centreman Matyas Sapovaliv ranked fourth among Ontario Hockey League prospects eligible for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. I was equally giddy when Sapovaliv appeared third among OHL players On Bob McKenzie’s mid-term list.
I will be the first to admit that Sapovaliv was not originally on my top-10. Having watched him at the Under-18 and some Under-17, I felt his skating was going to hold him back some. Well, credit to Sapovaliv as he put in the necessary work to improve both his mobility, agility and speed. There is more work to be done, but I am told he is putting in the extra effort and it will pay dividends.
Through Saginaw’s first 32 games this season, Sapovaliv has 10 goals and 16 assists which places him second among Spirit skaters. In the league he is fifth among rookies and just 5 points off the lead with games in hand on everyone ahead of him. His 10 goals come on 76 shots for a 13.2 shooting percentage. He is especially deadly on the powerplay where 6 of his 10 goals have come and easily leads his team in that department. He also leads his team in faceoff attempts (528), faceoff wins (271) and faceoff percentage (51.3%).
At 6’3” Sapovaliv has great size. While he uses that size, along with his reach effectively in different situations – protecting the puck and breaking up plays – I would like to see him use it to his advantage to win more battles and to drive to the net more often. He’s not soft by any means, but he could certainly use it to his advantage to dominate more at this level.
Sapovaliv is a shooter and a play maker. While I am impressed with his shot accuracy, ability to get it off quickly and that it has some mustard behind it, I am more impressed with his playmaking abilities. He sees the ice very well, has superb anticipation, and can thread the needle with a pass. He can slow the pace down and wait for the play to develop or allow his teammates to get into areas and then send a tape-to-tape pass. At the next level, I think his playmaking skills will translate better.
I am also impressed with Sapovaliv’s defensive game. He uses that long reach of his to break up plays, but he is also very adept at coming back into the slot and winning that vast majority of his battles there. As a center, he knows his role of coming back to help the defenders and he puts in the effort.
There is still half a season to go in the OHL. Sapovaliv just needs to keep on improving.