Calgary Flames bet on size and skill with first-round selection Samuel Honzek
Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
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For the past several seasons, the Calgary Flames have had an issue. For the most part, their skilled players aren’t particularly big and their big players aren’t particularly skilled. So you could understand that when 6’4″, 185 pound Slovakian forward Samuel Honzek of the Vancouver Giants was still available at 16th overall, Craig Conroy jumped on the opportunity to select him.
So what does Conroy like about Honzek?
“Size, skating, and just how he’s improved from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” said Conroy as he spoke with media following the end of the opening day of the draft. “The offence: I mean, a lot of nights he did a lot of the offence by himself there. Just to see the skating, the size, it checks all the boxes. The way he reads the game and sees it. He’s got all the things that we’re looking for. Big, skates well, skill. Just a good all-around player.”
Speaking with the media after his selection, Honzek offered a succinct description of his playing style.
“I would describe myself as a two-way forward,” said Honzek. “Good player on both sides of the puck. Good offence, good defence. I’m the player that will do whatever coach will tell him. I will accept my role and do everything what is good for team. With my shot, I’m really, really good and I can expose NHL goalies, I think. There’s still lots of things for me to work on, but I want to be one day there.”
Conroy noted he sees Honzek primarily as a left winger, though it would be a bonus if he could play centre. He noted that he frequently heard positive things about the player’s character and off-ice demeanour, and praised the player for how he was able to adjust to playing in North America after previously playing in Europe.
“The one thing when you talk to everybody behind the scenes, he’s just a good person and a good teammate,” said Conroy. “He’ll probably be the captain next year in Vancouver, which says a lot about what kind of player he is. But to come over here and do what he’s done, says a lot.”
Honzek had an interesting 2022-23 season. He had 23 goals and 56 points in 43 games; his games-played total was diminished by a trip to the World Juniors to represent Slovakia… and a bad skate cut he suffered in his second World Junior game on Dec. 28 that kept him out of action until mid-February. Honzek credited the Giants’ mental coach with helping him work past his frustration regarding the injury, which aided in his rehab.
Honzek mentioned that he models his game a bit after Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl – specifically mentioning Draisaitl’s size, ability to protect the puck, vision and hockey IQ. When the comparison was mentioned to Conroy, he chuckled and joked that may be shooting a bit high. He declined to provide his own comparison when asked.
“I don’t even want to put a name there because I have one in my mind, but I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him,” said Conroy. “But it’s a good player.”
As a November 2004 birthday, Honzek is slated to return to the Western Hockey League for the 2023-24 season for his 19-year-old season, and is expected to return to the World Juniors with Slovakia – it’ll be his third trip to the tournament. He’ll be eligible to play in the American Hockey League starting in 2024-25.
The 2023 NHL Draft concludes on June 29 in Nashville.
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