Every season, fans get a chance to read a lot about the top draft prospects. While those players rightfully get plenty of attention, it’s worth checking out those guys that find themselves lower in the rankings as they aren’t as far along in their development. Some of these late round picks do develop and make an impact at the NHL level. Today, we’ll take a look at Eric Uba, a forward from the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League who has been on a slow but steady developmental path since being selected by Flint in the OHL Draft a couple of years ago. Let’s get to know more about Uba and his game and find out if he could be worth a shot with a late round pick in this year’s draft.
Who is Eric Uba?
According to his OHL page, Eric Uba is a 6’0, 196 lbs., right-handed, right wing that was born on December 17, 2000 and is from Kitchener, Ontario. Thanks to his EliteProspects page we can see that he played his Minor Midget hockey for the Kitchener Jr. Rangers Minor Midget AAA team in the 2015-16 season. That season he would put up 17 goals and 25 assists in 33 regular season games, leading his team in assists and points. In 13 playoff games he remained very productive with 6 goals and 6 assists. That performance would lead to the Flint Firebirds taking a chance on him with a 9th round, 164th overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft.
In 2016-17, Uba would move on to the Ayr Centennials of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL), a Junior C league under the Ontario Hockey Association. Uba would be a stand out player on that team with 28 goals and 34 assists in 40 regular season games, that goal total good for a second place tie on the team leaderboard. He was also solid in the playoffs with 7 goals and 5 assists in 16 games.
Uba would face a step up in competition in the 2017-18 season mainly playing in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), a Junior A league under the Ontario Hockey Association, as well as a cup of coffee in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Uba started the season in the OJHL with the Wellington Dukes, putting up 9 goals and 13 assists in 39 games. Uba’s solid first half would earn him a contract with the Flint Firebirds of the OHL. He would end up playing in 4 OHL games that season, 2 at the end of December and 2 at the end of January. He put up an assist and 7 shots over those games for the Firebirds. Uba would be traded to the Oakville Blades of the OJHL to finish out his season and put up 6 goals and 6 assists in 12 regular season games. In the playoffs he had 2 goals and 2 assists in 13 games.
The 2018-19 season would see Uba cement himself as a full time OHL player for the Firebirds. As an 18 year old rookie, he would put up 19 goals and 23 assists in 67 regular season games. Those 42 points and 2.42 shots per game would rank him 4th on the team in both categories for the rebuilding Firebirds.
Where is Eric Uba Ranked?
- NHL Central Scouting Services: North American Skaters - 150 (Midterm), 141 (Final)
- Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst: 164 (Midseason 400, December 2018), 212 (Top 500, April 2019)
Uba seems to have been on the radar for numerous outlets but didn’t end up making many rankings throughout the season. Central Scouting views him as a top 150 player among North American skaters which puts him as a 7th round/bubble player for the draft. The Draft Analyst seems to view Uba in a similar regard.
What Others Say About Eric Uba
First, let’s take a look at some of what OHL expert, Brock Otten of OHL Prospects, had to say about Uba. He ranked Uba #41 in his Top 50 OHL Players for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft list.
Uba is a North/South attacker who is at his best when the pace picks up. Uba is ultra aggressive in attacking the net and has quick hands that allow him to make creative plays while at full speed. He is very effective at putting defenders on his back and plays a lot bigger than his 6’0 frame. Uba also has a sneaky wrister that he loves to shoot coming down the wing. As a penalty killer, his energy level and aggressiveness are big time assets, and having seen him a bit during his time with the Oakville Blades, I would say his skating has improved a lot.
I like reading that Uba attacks the net, drives at defenders, and has an effective wrist shot. He may not be the most skilled player but it seems he knows how to use what he has. I’m also encouraged to read that he’s a strong penalty killer and has made notable improvements in his skating in just a season.
Next, let’s take at part of this profile on Uba from Dominic Tiano of OHL Writers.
Uba is a player who can be trusted to play in any situation, be it the powerplay, the penalty kill, or going up against the best the opposition has to offer. He’s smart and understands defensive responsibilities. He plays high tempo, high energy at both ends of the ice. His anticipation skills are very good and he can create turnovers, close up passing lanes and transition to the attack. He led all draft eligible players in short handed goals.
Offensively, Uba sees the ice very well and can make a very good pass. As mentioned, he can shoot the puck from anywhere. His shot isn’t exactly over powering, but it is accurate and has a deceptive release.
Once again, I like reading that Uba is a trusted special teams player, especially excelling at the penalty kill. Being able to stand out on the PK will help him earn more chances as he develops and tries to become a professional player. It seems like Uba has a limited offensive game but does a decent enough job to utilize his game into points at the OHL level. I would be worried about how he would transition that to the next level though.
Finally, let’s take a look at what Bill Placzek of Draft Site had to say about Uba.
Ultra-competitive take no prisoners winger who has had a solid campaign. You won’t notice high end offensive skills or blistering speed-just a player who fights a 200 foot war in the puck battles. His expertise wall and corners are where his value comes from. Scores most of his goals from in close fearless of contact and thrives on contact. He is very defensively responsible. His value exudes when you take into consideration he is usually the forward down low in the dee zone even though he is one of the wingers.
This further paints the picture of a hard-nosed wing that plays the game hard and thrives defensively. I would still be a bit concerned about his overall offensive game though.
A Little Video
There isn’t an individual highlight package available for Uba, but here are highlights from a November 24, 2018 game against Windsor where Uba put up 2 goals and an assist. You can see the goals starting around the 0:12 and 1:16 marks and the assist around the 2:31 mark. The first goal comes on a 2 man advantage but Uba occupies the center of the ice well and gets a quick release off to open the scoring. On the second goal he helps get the puck into the zone, assist in winning a battle along the boards, drives to the slot, and uses that quick release to put his team back up a goal. His assist is a simple secondary assist on a puck back to the point.
As we know by now, Uba is a tough player and here he is defending himself in a fight against Gerard Keane.
An Opinion of Sorts
When it comes to Uba, I have to say that while I am a fan of his style of play (North/South, defensively responsible, willing to drop the gloves), I would rather see the Devils pass on him in this year’s draft. I fear that his overall offensive game doesn’t have enough potential to advance to the NHL level. I think he can continue to be an effective junior player and even go on to a solid minor league career or perhaps take on some of the European leagues, but I feel that is where he will level out as a professional player. By all accounts he has a great work ethic, battles hard, and can make an impact on the game defensively and physically but that isn’t enough to carry a player to the NHL level anymore. Uba seems more of like a David Conte type of pick than a Paul Castron type of pick. I’d rather see the Devils focus more on skilled players throughout the draft, especially those that are better skaters, and see if they can hit on another late round pick like they did on Jesper Bratt.
With that said, I feel like there will certainly be teams out there that will have Uba on their list of potential draftees. He seems like an easy player to cheer for and I do wish him well in his career. We’ll have to wait and see if and where his name gets called on the second day of the draft.
What are your thoughts on Eric Uba as a prospect? Would you be in favor of seeing the Devils select him with a late round pick? What parts of his game that stand out to you in a positive or negative way? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!