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FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2019: #10 Martin Pospisil

There’s a debate in hockey circles that has been raging on for a long time, and will presumably rage on even after the final hockey game is played: toughness versus skill. Should teams bulk up and try beating their opponents into submission, or sacrifice the rough stuff for the fancy yet less physical?

Thankfully, Martin Pospisil is both tough and skilled, so he should satisfy everyone. The 6’2, 183 pound left-shooting centre has become notorious in the USHL for his foul temper and his playmaking abilities. He comes in on the top 20 at 10th, up 10 spots from the year before.

How did he get here?

Pospisil is a bit of a hockey nomad. Born in Slovakia, he played for the Austrian Red Bull hockey academy, leading the traveling team in PPG scoring with 31 points in 18 games as a 17 year old. After that, he followed his older brother’s footsteps to Sioux City in the USHL. He also succeeded in this challenge, picking up 37 points in 49 games in his draft year and finishing second in team scoring. Pospisil was also noticed because of his ability to rack up penalties, leading the league by a large margin with 253 PIMs. His style of play and production interested the Flames, who snagged him with their first pick in the 2018 draft at 105th overall.

Pospisil returned to the USHL for his 2018-19 season, which was the plan all along. What wasn’t part of that plan was the NCAA ruling him academically ineligible to attend St. Lawrence University, his presumed destination for 2019-20. Instead of finding another college despite interest, the Flames opted to sign him and turn him pro at age 20.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

Pospisil exploded this season, nearly lapping his 2017-18 self.

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs
44 16 47 63 118

With Bobby Brink and Markus Kallionkieli, Pospisil centered one of the USHL’s most effective lines, a scoring threat every night. Pospisil was the distributor, picking up 46 primary points all season. He also proved helpful on special teams, racking up 24 points on the man advantage as a net-front presence, and picking up two shorthanded goals on the PK.

Pospisil also cleaned up his act a bit, cutting his PIMs nearly in half and finishing outside the top ten in the USHL. Although 118 minutes served is still enough evidence that he loves the rough stuff, he demonstrated that he’s learned where the line is and how not to cross it. He cut his total number of suspensions from six to one, and the one was for him attempting a Mike Milbury impression, rather than for reckless on-ice play. He can still put his team at a disadvantage with his antics, but he’s at least starting to knock it off.

Pospisil also chipped in for Slovakia at the World Juniors, picking up two assists in five games as the team unceremoniously exited early.

Those in the know

We talked to Sioux City’s head coach Luke Strand about Pospisil’s season. First, here’s what the coach said about Pospisil’s strengths on special teams:

Power play, I found him very effective on the goal line, around the net area. He’s got a scoring touch, but he’s got a size about him. He’s got a nastiness. He’ll pay a price to earn that front position. Penalty-kill wise, the attractive part about Martin is his length. He’s a long player with a long stick with skill, with a good brain to match. All of a sudden with those pieces, he’s an offensive threat when he was killing because could take a situation and use his skill to create offense out of it, as well.

Where does Strand think Pospisil will need to grow to make the transition to pro?

The main thing to make is his strength. His body, he has a frame to fill out… He’s gonna be a 200-pound centerman with skill. That part is going to be a big thing. I think with that strength, though, everything’s going to have more pop. His skating is going to have more pop to it. His shooting is going to have more pop. And he does those things very well now, but I think it’s going to increase what’s going to come down.

On the horizon

As explained, there were few options besides fast tracking Pospisil to the pros. He’s already signed his ELC and is Stockton bound.

From there, who really knows what happens with him. The first question could be: what position will he play? Although a centre, he may be moved to the wing depending on how Stockton’s depth breaks down. The second is: how will he perform? Skipping the NCAA to go to the AHL rarely happens, especially when a player is still a teenager. The most notable recent example is Zemgus Girgensons, who went from 1.12 PPG in the USHL to 0.28 in the AHL, though he was also a year younger than Pospisil at the time. It’s fair to say that some tough times are coming.

Although, it shouldn’t really matter whether or not Pospisil struggles in his rookie year. With a three year contract and a lot of learning ahead of him, it’s fair to say that Pospisil won’t be in the NHL any time soon, and that it’s best for his development if the Flames take their time (back to Girgensons for a second: Buffalo promoted him to the big club after just one AHL season). The club was likely looking at bringing him into the fold when he was 21 or 22, but circumstances forced their hand. They’ll be patient with him.

Pospisil is taking the long road to the big show, but given his fast rate of acclimatization, you have to wonder how soon it will be for the young forward.

Previously

  • Puck Head

    ☝️ This is the type of player we need a few more of. I think BT finally clued in and tried to find a mix of players with skill, character and compete in the draft.

  • Vinnsanity0412

    Sorry, Christian, but are you sure you don’t want a redo on that introductory paragraph? If there is a scenario where the ‘final hockey game’ is played, I’m sure the last thing anyone would be doing is debating toughness vs. skill…just sayin’.

    • Albertabeef

      He may want to rethink the ending too. “Pospisil is taking the long road to the big show”. He is skipping college and heading the the AHL 2-4 years early. Sounds more like a cut corner fast tracking to the Show to me.

  • cjc

    Going against Pospisil: Very few guys who play their 19 yo season in the USHL eventually make the NHL – there are some notable exceptions: Blake Coleman, Craig Smith, Teddy Purcell, Anders Lee, Joe Pavelski, Alex Iafallo.

    Going for Pospisil: He is a November birthday, so was actually a “young” 19 yo, and all of those guys were “young” 19 year olds too (July or later birthdays).

    None of those guys made their NHL debuts until they were 22 (Iafallo was 24 and Coleman was 25). All debuted with the teams that drafted them, except Purcell who was undrafted and signed by the Kings.

    • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

      Most NHLe calculations have the USHL above the QMJHL in terms of league strength and just behind the WHL. The USHL actually even passed the QMJHL & WHL last year for alumni in the NHL and now only trails the OHL (they do include the USNTDP, which inflates it). Just because NCAA teams pull in most 19 years old, doesn’t mean his 1.43 PPG or his 31.7 NHLe isn’t legit and should be downgraded.

      Being a European makes him a unique case, he actually would have been in the NCAA this past year if he could have passed the NCAA clearinghouse, but I believe he couldn’t finish the required USA course credits as an exchange student.

      Not to mention, NJ Pick Akira Schmid is going back to Omaha next year as a 19 year old, so it’s starting to happen more and more. I’ve seen live USHL games, as my father lives in the States and it’s a really good league, it’s miles ahead of the BCHL and AJHL. I’ve watched the WHL my entire life and the USHL is right there for quality of play.

    • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

      Exactly. How many players scored 1.43 PPG (NHLe 31.7) in Junior Hockey last year and also cracked 100 PIMs!?!?! Isaac Ratcliffe (1.26 PPG, NHLe 31.6) is literally the only one in the entire CHL who comes close to cracking 100 PIMs and having a similar NHLe.

      If he pans out he’s the skilled and extremely hard to play against power forward everyone wants so badly and you can rarely find outside of the first round.

  • Sea of Redd

    I’m hoping he can be an effective player this year with Stockton. Would love to see him make the flames in a few years. Seems like he may be an effective 4th liner in the NHL. Even though, like cjc said, odds are slim to none.

  • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

    Martin Pospisil would be way higher on my list. He finished 2nd in USHL in PPG (outside of USNTDP players who run up the score on people) with an impressive 1.43 PPG. Pospisl fits the mould as a total late bloomer. Watching him in the World Juniors, I think Slovakia kind of dropped the ball not giving him enough ice time, which signals to me that they didn’t expect much of him a few years ago and wrongly miscalculated how effective he has become now as a player. He’d be way higher than someone like Adam Ružička for me because he has the toughness to fall back as an energy line player at the NHL.

  • everton fc

    I like this kid, and I think the fact he’s played – and lived – in North America, will help him. He’ll have to gain about 10-15 pounds of muscle to play pro in the AHL. And next season could be a tough one for him, if he comes into the “A” trying to be a physical presence – older pros will take advantage of that, and he’ll not only accumulate sometimes unnecessary penalty minutes, but may get wailed on a bit.

    But… Overall… He’s an intriguing prospect. Personally, I think Nikolayev is the better prospect. I may have put Parsons, and perhaps Tuulola, above him.