Potential first rounder Samuel Honzek could be a more polished version of Adam Ruzicka
Photo credit:Kevin Light/Vancouver Giants
By Ryan Pike3 months ago
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Over the past decade or so, hockey in Slovakia has taken a big, big step. In particular, several Slovakian players have played well enough to become high-end draft selections, with three Slovakians being selected in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft.
One very promising Slovakian prospect in the 2023 class is Samuel Honzek, a big-bodied centre from the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants.
Originally from Trencin, Slovakia, Honzek is a November 2004 birthday, making him one of the older first-time eligible players in this draft class. He’s a left shot centre listed at 6’4″, 185 pounds.
Honzek came up in the HC Dukla Trencin system, playing his first pro games under their umbrella during the 2020-21 season – as a 16-year-old. He played the bulk of 2021-22, his 17-year-old season, with Trencin’s pro team in the Slovak Tipsport Liga before heading over to the Western Hockey League for 2022-23 via the CHL’s import draft.
Sebastian High of Dobber Prospects wrote the following about Honzek back in April:
Honzek will likely be picked higher than we have him ranked (23), but we like this player a lot, and he could be a riser on our final board. Honzek is well-rounded and can play a variety of roles effectively. He is among the strongest and most powerful players in the class, he can play keep away with his tremendous reach like few other draft eligibles can. He consistently establishes inside positioning and initiates contact in puck battles. This array of pro-level habits that he formed while playing professionally last year really popped in the WHL this season. He is a good distributor, if not a high-end playmaker, but it is his shot that poses the biggest offensive threat in his toolkit. He generates impressive power and is a real threat to score from medium range. His handling, compete, and skating all project as plus-level professional tools, as well. While Honzek lacks significant top-line upside, he is a very good bet to become an impactful and versatile middle-six winger.
Over at Smaht Scouting, Ben Jordan had this assessment:
Honzek is a powerful centreman that uses his plus agility and edgework to get to dirty areas in front of the net. He is great a creating chances using little stick lifts and plays to free up lanes to his stick. With this being Honzek’s first year playing in North America, he has showed that his game is best suited for the smaller ice surface. He has shown a willingness to be dogged on pucks in the defensive zone, but filling out his frame is the next step on route to being a dominant modern day power forward.
On paper, there seem to be quite a few similarities between Honzek and Flames forward Adam Ruzicka. Both are left-handed centres from Slovakia who had a season of Canadian major-junior under their belts when they were eligible for the NHL Draft. But relative to Ruzicka, Honzek seems to be a more polished product; he’s already played a season and change of pro hockey in Slovakia, while Ruzicka had no pro games under his belt when he was drafted.
Honzek still sounds a little raw, but he’s got a frame that can probably add a bit of mass, and he seems to have adjusted to the nuances of North American major junior fairly quickly. The perceived lack of high-end upside might be a downside to him as a prospect, but he does seem like a lower-risk selection than some of the other players potentially available at 16th overall.
In his first North American season, Honzek had 23 goals and 56 points in 43 games. He was his division’s finalist for the WHL’s rookie of the year award. He was third among WHL rookies in points, tied for second in goals, tied for fourth in even strength points and second outright in even strength goals. He was second on the Giants in points.
Honzek represented Slovakia at the World Juniors for the second consecutive season. His tournament was cut short after he suffered a cut on his leg in his second game.
Availability and fit
The Flames, like all teams, value centres highly. Smart, big-bodied centres are always highly coveted. Honzek is big, has pro experience, and has adapted to the North American game within the heavily-scouted WHL really smoothly. He fits a lot of the needs the Flames have.
Will he be available at 16th overall? It seems probable. He was ranked 10th by Sportsnet, 13th by Corey Pronman, 14th by Daily Faceoff, 18th by McKeen’s and 25th by Scott Wheeler. If you split the difference, he feels like a player that either lands right when the Flames are selecting… or is gone just before they hit the podium.
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