Vladislav Firstov is a contender to become the third Waterloo Black Hawk in the last five years to be selected during the first round of the National Hockey League Draft, according to the final rankings released by the NHL Central Scouting service on Monday.
The 17-year-old from Yaroslavl, Russia, ranked 23rd on the NHLCS list of draft-eligible prospects skating for teams in North America this winter. The NHL’s 31 teams will also consider a separate ranking of players on European clubs, while goaltenders in both regions are classified on a different basis. The 2019 NHL Draft will be conducted in Vancouver June 21st and 22nd, entailing a total of 217 picks over seven rounds.
Second-year Black Hawk Matej Blumel also caught the eye of league scouts, claiming the 150th position on the North American list. Both Waterloo players are committed to the University of Connecticut.
With a goal and an assist in Saturday’s season finale, Firstov helped the Black Hawks secure a 6-2 road win against the Dubuque Fighting Saints while also bumping his scoring totals to 26 goals and 32 assists. The resulting 58 points rank second among United States Hockey League rookies – one behind Shane Pinto of the Tri-City Storm – and tied for 15th for all players on the loop. Firstov played in all 62 Black Hawks games, recording five two-goal performances and scoring a game-winning goal for Waterloo six times. His +11 plus/minus margin ranked sixth for Hawks forwards. In the NHLCS January Midterm Rankings, Firstov had been 21st in North America.
Blumel completed the regular season with 60 points (30 goals, 30 assists), ranking second on the team behind only Emil Ohrvall in goals and points. Only nine other USHL players reached the 30-goal threshold this season. The Czech forward’s point production stands him in an 11th place tie as 2018/19 is consigned to the record book. Blumel’s season was particularly notable for timely scoring; he recorded eight game-winning goals, tying for second in the league. A hat trick against the Central Illinois Flying Aces on October 6th was the first of seven multigoal nights. Blumel had been 107th on the January list.
Two Waterloo’s three all-time first round NHL Draft selections have come since 2015: Brock Boeser, 23rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2015 and Shane Bowers, 28th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2017. Jack Drury was the Black Hawks’ highest selection last summer, a second round choice by the Carolina Hurricanes, 42nd overall.
After finishing second in the USHL Western Conference this season with a record of 39-16-7, Firstov, Blumel and their Waterloo teammates await their playoff opponents. The Hawks will begin the postseason on Friday or Saturday night at Young Arena, with further details to be announced.