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 won´t be surprised if Ceresnak is first and the only one Slovak still playing in Europe selected in June in Minnesota. However I´m not a big fan of him and I´m 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 Marincin´s. 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 doesn´t 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 don´t 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. February´s 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, doesn´t 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 doesn´t 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 haven´t heard anything particular yet, no specific names but I don´t 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 Ican´t 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 haven´t seen another Dmitri Jaskin yet. Actually 94´birthyear is considered as weaker in Czech. Tomas Hertl(late 93´) 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 Volek´s son) or Patrik Machac but I don´t 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.
Be sure to visit the Draft Watch blog tomorrow (Tuesday) for the next part in the "Case For" series, where we will break out a candidate for that Toronto pick at the top of the 1st round and why that player would make sense for Boston.
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