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The Montreal Canadiens announced on Saturday afternoon that they were not going to match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet made out to Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Carolina Hurricanes. In exchange for the Finnish forward, the Canadiens received a first and a third-round pick as compensation. They later acquired Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes, sending a top 10 protected 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick.

Who is Christian Dvorak?

The six-foot, 194 pound forward is a strong skating, net driving centreman, who’s ability to produce offensively has developed nicely in the desert. The native of Palos Township, Illinois ranks among the better centremen when it comes to face-offs and is relied upon defensively on the penalty kill.

Dvorak has consistently put up respectable numbers on a team that has particularly lacked in the scoring department. In the four seasons in which he scored 15 goals or more, Arizona was in the bottom third in goals per game and never placed beyond 23rd overall. He was also given numerous responsibilities earlier in his career when the Coyotes started to trend in the wrong direction.

What Qualities Does He Possess?

Hockey Sense

Dvorak’s vision is two-fold. He can both find his teammates for scoring opportunities, as well as get himself open to receive passes for his own scoring chances. He’s not elite at either, but he has gained the ability to be good at that, and he’s only gotten better each season.

His awareness is strong, with and without the puck, and plays are usually executed through him. He either starts them, transitions them, or finishes them. Though he hasn’t put up the point totals of a top tier centerman, he’s done well with what he’s had around him in various line combinations.

His overall awareness translates well on defence. He prefers to shadow his assignment rather than play zone defence, which allows him to apply continuous stress on the puck handler, while being more aggressive. He’s got a strong stick and he’s a competent board player, whether he’s pinning opponents to the glass, or searching for the puck in a scrum.

Danger Area Presence

One big complaint today is there are a lack of high skilled players that drive to the net and are present in the danger part of the offensive zone. Dvorak thrives in-and-around the net.

Though he has a quality release and can shoot from a perimeter spot, he’s often found driving and cutting towards the net and around players for a more dangerous opportunity. His confidence, when attacking the slot and the crease to a larger extent, is what makes him a legitimate offensive threat. The points will come with better line-mates and a different style system.

Another positive about Dvorak is he can be placed anywhere on the ice on the power play. He can be on the half wall, lower down in the trapezoid, or in his favourite spot, the slot. As mentioned earlier, a lot of plays go through him, and especially when he plays the bumper role. He’s got a quick release to shoot, but he’s also got a quick read of the game, where he can one touch pass it around to keep defenders moving. The area around the crease is where he makes his plays and always without hesitation.

Faceoff Ability

Face-off wins and the competency to win them consistently is not easy, especially when you take over 1000 in a season.

Dvorak saw a 52.07% success rate in the face-off dot, ranking him 20th in the NHL during the 2020-21 season. However, he also slots in at the ninth spot in face-off win percentage for skaters who drew 1000 face-offs or more. He finished with the seventh most behind a deep group of star centremen.

Outside of his rookie season, where Dvorak took 1,006 face-offs, only winning 46.8% of them, he’s been above 51.4 in win percentage, even reaching the 55 percent threshold twice. In the four seasons where he played 95 percent of the games, or more, he drew 1000 or more face-offs three times, missing just one year by 51. He was also relied upon in London, where he took over 1,300 face-offs in his last year of junior, winning just over 60 percent of them. That’s one aspect of his game that has translated well to professional hockey and should also continue to develop as the centreman gets older.

Final Thoughts

Dvorak was relied upon heavily with the Coyotes, especially defensively under Head Coach Rick Tocchet. From the moment he made the team, Dvorak was given important responsibilities that saw him earn harder assignments, thus increasing his ice time to a career high of 18:24 last season. He’s focused a lot of his energy and time on defence since Arizona has been progressively trending downwards in recent seasons.

With all the negativity surrounding the team and the lack of success during the season and beyond it, Dvorak has done his best to produce in a system that was not offensively friendly. With a wide range of skilled wingers, a role centering the second line behind Nick Suzuki, and a spot on a strong transitioning team, he should, in theory, see an increase in primary and secondary production.

The abilities are there, and if things continue the way they have in his yearly progression, then he’s set for a career high in point production in La Belle Province.

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