Red Line Report scout Radim Jelinek interview: 2011 Eastern Europe draft prospects midseason report Pt. 1
As promised, here is part 1 of the interview I just conducted with Radim Jelinek, Czech/Slovak scout for Red Line Report in his 9th season with the independent draft review. In his own words:
Iīm based on the east of Czech republic covering all action in Czech republic and Slovakia. I scout professional and junior (U-20, U-18) leagues in both countries and take all international actions held in both countries. Plus if there is any interesting event/prospect in neighboring countries(Germany, Austria, Poland) than I even go there to cover it.
As mentioned in the previous post, Radim has a very good reputation in the business and has a nice eye for talent. I'll let him do the rest of the talking.
Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: How would you characterize the 2011 NHL Draft class from Eastern Europe based on what you have seen so far? How does it compare to past classes in terms of depth?
Radim Jelinek: Itīs poor year for Russia unless there are some hidden gems deep in Russia, prospects who havenīt appeared on international stage yet. Itīs necessary to say that this yearīs crop would be much better with all Russians already playing in CHL ((Vladislav) Namestnikov, (Andrey) Pedan, (Alexander) Khokhlachev, (Anton) Zlobin, Kuvaev, (Andrei) Makarov). Still even with all those mentioned names, Russia would lack depth. Russian hockey is still able to produce a few top NHL prospects every year but they donīt produce by far as many NHL prospects as in the past, (and they) especially stopped producing good defencemen.
As far as Czech and Slovaks, it is concerning; itīs slightly better than in previous two or three years in terms of depth, there are more prospects who are worth of scouting then in previous years but barring Dmitri Jaskin they are mostly sleepers and long-term projects who wonīt be more than later round picks and I actually donīt expect many of them being picked up in June. Speaking about top prospects however, itīs as bad as in several previous seasons, Jaskin is alone this year as well as Martin Marincin a year before. And two years before there were only Panik and Tatar. I have to remark again that things would look differently with (David) Musil, (Tomas) Jurco, (Marek) Tvrdon, (David) Honzik (all having left Europe and playing in the CHL) and some other less heralded kids(Stransky, Galansky, Matej Machovsky, Hrbas, Uher).
B2011DW: In the January issue of Red Line Report, Dmitri Jaskin is 35th overall. Does that have more to do with the fact that he's been injured while other players on the list have been able to perform?
RJ: Absolutely. And actually, no way there is 34 better prospects than Jaskin. I believe he would be top 20 right now if he had not hurt his knee in November. Iīm big fan of guys like (Tobias) Rieder or (Sven) Bärtschi but if I could judge them by last season(which could be misguided) and compare them with Jaskin, then I would definitely prefer Jaskin over the mentioned pair. Right now I rate Jaskin higher than Joel Armia, another big European winger.
B2011DW: For those not familiar with Jaskin, can you talk a little bit about what kind of player he is and how he projects in the NHL in your opinion?
RJ: Jaskin is a complete package; skating is a certain drawback, as he lacks smooth stride and looks awkward at times but has deceptive speed, is strong on his skates and is able to get where he needs to be. He is strong on the puck, tough to separate off the puck down low. Goes through checks and tough to handle physically, shields the puck well. Excellent puck puck control in tight space and very good hands in close to the net. Very creative with the puck, anticipates well, has vision and soft hands, passes are crisp. Drives the net, very instinctive player around the net with scoring touch, looks for tips and rebounds close to the net. Quick release of his wrist shot. Finishes all checks causing (defenders) to throw the puck away, creating turnovers plus absorbs checks well, tough to knock him down.Very solid defensively, responsible in own zone and make good decision with puck in own zone showing poise and hockey sense, smart and poised with puck around own blue line, does even the small things well. Has enthusiasm for the game, always plays hard, strong competitor, plays with heart and character.
B2011DW: After Jaskin, who are the players from the Czech Republic you're keeping an eye on for the 2011 draft? Where do you think they stand a chance of being picked in the draft?
RJ: After Jaskin, there is bunch of prospects who I regard as sleepers; guys with long-term potential/upside however alll having serious flaw. Here belongs: Jaroslav Pavelka, athletic, flexible goalie with quick gloves, strong reflexes and excellent legs. Needs to work on technique and improve reading and anticipation. Already 6-1 with potential to add another inch or two.
Then there is the revelation of this season, tall and lanky scoring winger Daniel Pribyl. Has quick and soft hands, beats D regularly 1 on 1 with nifty moves and dekes off the rush and creates separation in tight with strong puck control and finesse stick skills. Smart and quick release of wrist shot. Not developed physically yet and doesnīt use his size enough, okay in puck pursuit and not afraid to play in traffic but rarely finishes checks and doesnīt win many battles for puck. Next, undersized winger Tomas Hyka who is smart, skilled, instinctive but physically very weak, and doesnīt like to take hit/avoids contact at times. Soft touch on his passes, quick soft hands, slick with puck, anticipates very well. Very good wheels, quick burst of speed and first steps, agile. Smooth handling the puck in top speed, has vision finishing touch , makes creative sets-up through traffic.
My personal ultimate sleeper is for the second season in row 92īborn playmaking center Tomas Nosek who has skills, size, smartness, vision, skating, creativity to be NHL player. The question is if he has enough determination and heart to make it. Long term project who will need time to develop but has all the tools to be player in about five years, plus has made nice improvement since injury-plagued last season.
And there are some other players who could hear their name pronounced in June in at the draft table like center Lukas Sedlak(biggest disappointment of the season), enigmatic winger Vaclav Tomek, hardworking, character defenceman Tomas Pavelka, soon (to be) 20-year-old puck moving D Jakub Jerabek or pair of older goalies Marek Mazanec(despite of subpar World juniors) Roman Will. However unless they really dazzle at international stage in remainder of the season, no one will be more than later-round pick.
My personal opinion is that while 10 years ago Czech prospects were slightly overrated as Czech reigned the world of hockey, now they are on the contrary slightly underrated and underscouted as a result of a big crisis of Czech hockey. Undoubtedly some of the mentioned guys would have better chance to get drafted if they were Swedes and not Czechs.
We'll have Part 2-- a look at Slovakia and some options for 2012 and beyond on Monday.
Red Line Report scout Radim Jelinek interview: 2011 Eastern Europe draft prospects midseason report Pt. 2
We're back with the second part of the interview with Red Line Report Czech/Slovak scout Radim Jelinek.
Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven't seen it yet.
This is a pretty lean year for Czech and Slovak players in the NHL draft who aren't already over in North America this season, playing major junior hockey and in Czech forward Petr Placek's case, prep hockey in New England for Damon White's Hotchkiss club.
Radim will now detail the Slovak and Russian crops and we'll look ahead to 2012 and beyond, with a taste of things to come in the future out of Eastern Europe.
Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: With Slovak forwards Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon (among others) in North America this season (and Tvrdon injured for the rest of the year), is defenseman Peter Ceresnak someone to keep an eye on as a draft option from Slovakia who is still playing in Europe this season?
Radim Jelinek: I wonīt be surprised if Ceresnak is first and the only one Slovak still playing in Europe selected in June in Minnesota. However Iīm not a big fan of him and Iīm personally much more interested in 6-4 tall D from Kosice Martin Gernat who also belongs into the group of sleepers I mentioned in previous answer. Gernat is a smooth skater with fluid stride and decent footwork for his size. Has very good vision and hands, moves the puck well, handles the puck with confidence making solid decision with puck. Likes to join the rush regularly and shows good instinct in sliding from the point into scoring positions. Just started developing physical play in his game, still very inconsistent using his body, needs to play aggressive, physical game all the time. When he uses it then he is tough to beat 1 on 1, angles forwards to the outside, tights forward up at the boards, hits hard. Lacks strength right now and still growing but has frame to fill it out. D-zone coverage is still very average, needs to read the play better defensively, improve positional play and play much tighter game. Very raw but I like his progress throughout the season and see some similar things in his game as in Martin Marincinīs. He is far from him as Marincin was first rounder in my eyes while Gernat is later-round pick but upside is there.
On the other hand, Ceresnak is already well built physically, strong on skates. Feet are a bit slow and heavy, passes are firm and can make good outlet but not smart or creative with puck. Defensively he is strong in battles and is tough to beat in 1 on 1 situations. However doesnīt read the play in own zone, when opposing forwards start cycling, collide each other, shift spots then he is not able to read those situations properly, picks up wrong player consistently, gets out of position, wanders around own zone without his player.
B2011DW: How does the crop of Russian players look to you this season? Maxim Shalunov and Zakhar Arzamastsev are the highest-ranked players who stayed in Russia-- can you talk about those two and what chances they have to be drafted in June?
RJ: As I already said before, I personally consider Russian crop without all CHL-ers as extremely weak. I donīt see many NHL prospects behind Shalunov and Arzamastsev, at least those who are first year eligible. Both mentioned guys are the best Russians, at least for now.
Shalunov has first round tools but no toolbox, classical Russian enigmatic player. Februaryīs Five nation tournament and then World U-18 champs could have great impact on where he is selected in June. He is a big, powerful winger built like a tank, when he plays with passion he goes through checks, finishes checks and drives the net hard. Soft hands, can beat D with variety of moves off the rush and cuts to the net from wide. Hard wrist shot with quick release. Deceptive skater, first steps are very short and stride is wide and a bit short but has actually good speed and strong on skates. Problem is that he lacks intensity, invisible for longer periods with zero effort off the puck. Lazy on backcheck and plays very selfishly trying low percentage 1 on 1 flashy moves all the time.
Arzamastsev is more of offensive D who runs the PP well, sees the ice well and can make good first pass out of zone. Handles the puck well and good thought process with puck. Okay skater, doesnīt initiate contact much but not afraid of physical play. From mid to later-round prospect. Last guy I should mention is winger Nikita Kucherov. Not big but doesnīt stop trying to make something offensively, good skills. Has good hands and quick and shifty skater, creates separation and moves his feet. Not more then potential late-rounder though.
B2011DW: With high-end Russians like Alexander Khokhlachev and Vladislav Namestnikov in North America this season, have you heard talk of more Russian and Eastern European players like G David Honzik leaving their clubs to play in the CHL to try and improve their chances of being picked high in the NHL?
RJ: I havenīt heard anything particular yet, no specific names but I donīt doubt that tendency from several previous seasons will continue and some of the top Czechs and Russians(and also some other who should better stay home) will come over next summer. One of the reason for so many Russians coming over to play in CHL nowadays could be the fact the if they leave as 17 year old and spend three years there, then they become free agent in KHL.
By the way, annual exodus of majority of top Czech/Slovakian NHL prospect to CHL before their draft year became big problem(along with outdated system of players development and inability to bring up new generation of good players) for future of many Czechoslovakian NHL scouts. I counted 8 local scouts losing their job mostly because of that in last couple of years. Scouts understand reasons why very young players tend to leave so early and mostly approve of that step but in the end they get into very bad situation (partially) because of that.
B2011: Kosice defenseman Tomas Tkac is 144th on the Red Line rankings this month; a 6-5, 180-pounder is interesting. What can you tell people about his game and possible upside?
RJ: Uff, I was probably too ecstatic after first two viewing before Christmas. Tall guy who came absolutely out of nowhere, just converted into defenceman Early on he impressed me with solid thought process with the puck, decent mobility for huge D, steady puck movement, willingness to get involved physically in battles. However when I have seen him this month, he looked very awkward, lacking coordination, choppy handling the puck, having no idea how to play defence in own zone. I still think that he is worth of keeping an eyes on him next year if there is any progress in his game but right now Icanīt imagine him as legitimate draft prospect.
B2011DW: Looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, Martin Frk is certainly one player attracting attention, but are there players still over in your area of expertise in Europe who are worth noting and keeping an eye on 18 months from now?
RJ: There are certainly prospects worth of keeping an eye for 2012 but I havenīt seen another Dmitri Jaskin yet. Actually 94ībirthyear is considered as weaker in Czech. Tomas Hertl(late 93ī) is probably the best but needs to stay healthy. He is big and strong creative playmaker with soft hands, excellent stick skills, vision, smartness. Smooth skater with speed, agility, balance. Slick with puck in tight, tough to separate off the puck, shields the puck very well.
I also like natural tools of tall goalie Marek Langhammer, puck skills and offensive upside of tall D Ronald Knot, Michal Plutnar and Karel Plasil. Among forwards I could mention names like Radek Faksa, Dominik Volek(David Volekīs son) or Patrik Machac but I donīt see another Michal Frolik, Jakub Voracek or David Krejci. I should also note that outside of Frk, several other promising 2012 eligible already play in USHL: Zehnal twins or Adam Chlapik.
It looks like very poor year for Slovaks next season conversely to 2013 which could be strong year for Slovakian forwards(but many things could happen in next 30 months) with names like Marko Dano, Matej Paulovic, Tomas Torok, Martin Reway, Patrik Koys.
Special thanks once again to Radim for taking time out of his busy schedule to provide such detailed answers on players that most of us have little to no access to.
If you have any specific questions, email me or post comment and I will try to pass them along to Radim for clarification.