With this being the year dominated by centers and wingers and one defensemen and a goalie in this year’s top five and possibly top 10, what about the other forwards and defensemen?
With teams like the New Jersey Devils holding picks in the top 10 and top 20 outside the sixth overall pick, there is a lot of great talent to find. Outside of the top 14 picks, according to Future Considerations, they have a Czech left-winger who is projected to go 15 to 30th overall. What I like about Jan Mysak (Me Shak) is his determination to play really well amongst his age group back at HC Litvinov from his U-16 to the big club in the Czech League.
One of the things I noticed about Mysak is his smart decision making in the neutral zone which is an important asset that teams are beginning to value a lot. Jan is a very graceful skater and is very good at getting open and getting shots off really quick on goalies like Yaroslav Askarov. Mysak yielded 15 goals and 25 points in 22 games since joining the Bulldogs.
Anytime a player in their draft year gets over to play in North America right away and produces at a high rate is a positive sign. This positive sign is a key and playing with fellow teammate Jan Jenik in Hamilton. With the skill and the youth he has with his amazing energy game Jan brings on a daily makes me believe he will be a very successful first line elite left wing on any NHL roster. My timeline for him to make the NHL would be one-to-two seasons at the least, but having him play to develop in the AHL after his 19th birthday wouldn’t hurt his development.
Like Mysak, another fellow teammate from the Czech U-20 national team that signed with the Hamilton Bulldogs is Jan Jenik. Jenik beat his total points from 30 to 56 both in a minimal of 27 games played in Hamilton. Jenik’s report I have from watching him during the U-20’s is his ability to use his silky smooth wrist shot in the high danger slot scoring on Askarov.
He had a power play goal in that game versus Russia in Ostrava, Czechia. He’s also smart forward on the forecheck, being able to pick loose pucks in the offensive zone. With today’s game being a fast paced game, having a forward making well educated reads in the opposing end is both excellent defence that can produce capitalize on huge points in crucial situations.
Sticking with the Czech theme, we have a defensemen in Simon Kubicek. Kubicek scored a very clutch slap-shot goal with a lot of mustard on it. Simon’s mechanics where his left hand was waist level and his right hand went even at his right shoulder.
After watching his fight for the Seattle Thunderbirds against the Tri-City Americans showed me he is a very nitty gritty player. He has a long reach and if taught properly by his NHL affiliate, he can harness that aggression and physical play. He does have the ability to be a great offensive-defensemen.
When in the right situation, I firmly believe Kubicek can become that true slap-shot hammering defensemen that can learn to separate puck carriers both with his stick and learning to bruise opponents the right way and keep them out of his teams goalie crease. My projection for Kubicek is a third-line pairing at this rate who could become a true second pairing defensemen. I believe it’ll take him three-five seasons to fully become a very useful defensemen at the NHL level.
This time, we will talk about a goalie who I believe will be a true sleeper pick. Hailing from Martin, Slovakia is a 6’4, 207 pound backstop in Samuel Hlavaj. The QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix have the third best North American goalie on their club by NHL Central Scouting. Hlavaj is projected to go 71st by McKeens Hockey. After watching some footage on Hlavaj, he made a secondary save off a snap shot that got snagged when Samuel was down from the first save and used his left skate to springboard move he booted out of the air.
He covers the lower portion of net very well due to his tall frame. Samuel really uses his stick side to keep pucks out and take weak angles away. What I find interesting about Hlavaj is that he comes far wide from the trapezoid of his crease and slides into a quick shot on net to boot it away. On breakaways, he does near split saves proving his flexibility is one of his best assets to grow his game. In the third round, I do see teams desperate for a super athletic goaltender like him to be part of their future.