Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “2021 NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you our Ryan Ufko Scouting Report.
It was a magical season for the USHL’s Chicago Steel. After being the best team in the USHL during the 2019-20 season, the Steel felt that they were robbed of the opportunity to compete for the Clark Cup. The Steel would come back in 2020-21 and bring home the Clark Cup. For defenceman Ryan Ufko who played a minor role on the 2020 team, it must have been especially sweet to be one of the top defenders on this year’s squad. Last season Ufko had just two goals and seven assists for nine points in 43 regular-season games. This season, Ufko scored 10 goals and 29 assists for 39 points in 53 games. He also added a goal and six assists for seven points in eight playoff games. Along with being part of the Clark Cup Champions, Ufko was also part of the USHL First All-Star Team.
Ufko will get the chance to help the Steel defend their Clark Cup title as he will be back with the team next year. Going forward, he is committed to attending the University of Massachusetts and playing Division One hockey for the Minutemen, starting in the 2022-23 season.
Ryan Ufko Scouting Report
Right Defence — shoots Right
Born May 7th, 2003 — Smithtown, New York
Height 5’10” — Weight 181 lbs [178 cm / 82 kg]
An undersized defenceman, Ufko is a good skater but there is not quite at the elite level that one would like to see given his size. He is a bit too upright in his stride. This leads to a lack of explosiveness in his game. Ufko’s acceleration and top-end speed are slightly above average, but he’s not the type of burner one would like to see. However the rest of his skating ability is quite good. Ufko has very good edgework and agility. He is able to quickly change directions as well as to move laterally. This allows him to walk the line in the offensive zone as well as to maintain good gap control defensively. Ufko has sharp, crisp pivots. This allows him to transition quickly from defence to offence and vice-versa.
He could stand to add some muscle to his frame. This would make him stronger on the puck. It would also help him in board battles and in front of the net. Ufko will need to add strength to compensate for his lack of size. This will also improve his balance and help him to fight through checks.
Ufko loves to push the pace and is very aggressive in creating offensive opportunities. While he makes a good first pass and can hit a forward to start the transition game, he also loves to carry the puck and lead the rush himself. With his good stickhandling ability, Ufko generates effective zone entries, gaining the zone and establishing possession. He is also poised with the puck on his stick, able to control the play at blue line and wait for teammates to get open. His vision and passing skills are very good and Ufko sets up teammates for one-timers and other scoring chances. He is willing to skate the puck down low himself as well. Ufko is also good at pinching in at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Ufko works as a shooter from the point as well. His ability to walk the line creates passing and shooting lanes. Ufko has a hard slap shot and is able to get it through traffic and on the net. He understands how to keep his shot low and on the net. This allows his teammates to set up in front of the net and create screens. They are also able to deflect his shots and pounce on rebounds. Ufko can be deceptive and utilizes a slap pass to a teammate as well. His wrist shot is powerful and accurate. Ufko has a quick and deceptive release that can fool goaltenders. He loves to use it off the rush as well as sneaking in to the top of the faceoff circles to use it when set up in the zone.
Ufko’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. He can sometimes shy away from physical play along the boards and in front of the net. Ufko needs to be more aggressive and use his body instead of always trying to make a stick check. His lateral movement helps Ufko to maintain good gap control against most opponents, but the lack of explosion in his game means that he can struggle against particularly fast opponents. Ufko is good at retrieving dump-ins and other loose pucks and passing them up the ice quickly. This ability to start the transition is vital in preventing him from being pinned in his end for long periods of time. He is also good at avoiding forecheckers and skating the puck out of the zone.
Projection and Comparison
Ufko has many of the offensive skills needed to be a puck-moving defenceman at the next level. However, his lack of size and physicality are real issues. He will need to improve his strength in order to play his game against men. With another year in the USHL as well as time in college hockey he will get the opportunity to do so. The lighter schedule in college will also give him the time in the gym needed. Ufko is a long-term project but one who could provide a lot of value if he reaches his ceiling. Stylistically Ufko’s game is reminiscent of Tyson Barrie. However, this comparison is not based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Ryan Ufko that are available on youtube and Twitter.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) April 8, 2021
#2021NHLDraft eligible Ryan Ufko (#7) @ChicagoSteel has some intriguing offensive skill and displayed some strong edge work here. He currently has 25 points (7G,18A) in 25 games #USHL pic.twitter.com/5al0IhKfb7
— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) February 4, 2021
— Mathieu Paradis (@mat_paradis) January 3, 2021
While watching Sean Farrell this morning, I saw this from Ryan Ufko (draft 2021). I really like this D-man for his offensive skills, but boy what a hit on that one! Last saturday, it was clearly his best game (same thing for Farrell) #TheRhyno #TheMeatloaf #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/JwPbgaR0es
— Mathieu Paradis (@mat_paradis) January 18, 2021
Ryan Ufko scores the OT winner, along with two assists. Such an impressive breakout year. Up to 29 pts in 29 games (had 9pts in 43 last year). pic.twitter.com/QUi9o3010u
— Tri-State Hockey (@TriState_Hockey) February 14, 2021
Michigan recruit Mackie Samoskevich showing those silky mitts again.
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) November 29, 2020
Good morning here’s the game winner from Ryan Ufko last night! pic.twitter.com/H9ITLnbjv4
— Chicago Steel (@ChicagoSteel) February 14, 2021
#NTDP Alumni Update. The Chief strikes again for the Steel.
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) December 13, 2020
Massive hip check from Ryan Ufko!
— Chicago Steel (@ChicagoSteel) January 17, 2021
Check back later for our latest draft article.
Ryan Ufko Scouting Report Main Photo:
No. 5 in NYHJ’s Top 12 for ‘21 prospects is defenseman Ryan Ufko (Smithtown, N.Y.)
— NY Hockey Journal (@NYHockeyJournal) March 23, 2021