Plum sophomore Oravitz gets call from USHL
Twenty years ago, R.J. Umberger left Plum after his sophomore year and joined the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League.
It was the beginning of a journey that would land Umberger in the NHL with Philadelphia and Columbus.
Cole Oravitz hopes he has a similar path in his hockey career. The Plum sophomore will get his shot in the USHL with the Madison Capitols after being drafted by the franchise May 7.
“It was pretty surreal,” said Oravitz on being selected by a team in the top junior hockey league in the country. “I've been talking about this for two years now. With all of my injuries and adversity I had to deal with, it was pretty special to get drafted, especially in the fourth round, pretty high up.”
Oravitz, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound defenseman, has overcome a broken thumb in January 2017 that caused him to miss two months of action with his Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U14 team.
A broken hand that required surgery at the start of the 2017-18 season forced him out of action for five months.
“It took a mental toll on me,” Oravitz said. “There were times I was depressed and mad. But I was able to take that negative energy and turn it into a positive when I was able to get on the ice and skate. That really helped me in the long run.”
Oravitz came back from the broken hand in February and played 14 games with his Pens Elite U16 teammates.
“I wanted to make all the time on the ice count and prove that it was just a little bump in the road and that I was the same player I was before the injury,” he said.
Oravitz's selection came in the 10-round Phase I for “Futures” players, which are U17 players (2002 birth year) for the next season.
“Cole really uses his size in the defensive end in a smart way,” Madison coach Garrett Suter said. “He cuts down angles and uses his physicality to get the puck in transition to the offense.”
Oravitz will head to Madison for a training camp/tryout June 3 to see how he stacks up against other newcomers to the team.
He is Madison's protected property. One option for him is to be placed on an affiliate list, which would allow him to return to his Pens Elite team while also getting an opportunity to play 10 games with Madison.
The 10 games, he said, would help him get used to the feel and speed of junior hockey at that level.
If he wows the coaches enough during the training camp, he could join Madison full time in September.
Oravitz said he skated with and talked to several teams before the draft, including the Youngstown Phantoms, the league's closest team to Pittsburgh.
“I just want to play in the USHL,” he said. “I just want to be a part of the league and develop. It wasn't a concern where I went.”
While only a sophomore in high school, Oravitz is on Ohio State's radar, Oravitz said.
“My main goal is to go from juniors to college,” he said. “They need to see you and what you can offer before they commit to you.”
Oravitz also is one of only three defensemen from the USA Hockey Mid-Am District selected to try out for the International USA team in Amherst, N.Y., in July.
That team will play in the Five Nations Cup in August against Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic and also take part in other international events.
Team USA won last year's U-17 Five Nations Cup title, its sixth tournament crown in seven years.