The Analysis: A deep look at Markus Vidicek’s game
It’s nothing new to see high-end draft eligible prospects develop their game with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Established NHLers like Nathan MacKinnon, Nikolaj Ehlers and Nico Hischier — to name a few — have all come through the Mooseheads program. Add to that the recent crop of NHL prospects who boast Halifax as their QMJHL franchise and you see a well-worn path to the highest level of the game.
This season’s version of the Mooseheads is no different.
And all eyes will be on Markus Vidicek to see if he is going to be the next top draft pick to come out of Halifax.
The Road to the QMJHL
Vidicek came to the Mooseheads by way of one of the top Midget programs in Quebec, the Lac St-Louis Lions.
After two impressive seasons with the Bantam AAA Lions, Vidicek was coming off a 33-point season with the Midget AAA Lions when Halifax selected him with their first pick (No. 14) of the 2020 QMJHL Draft.
Vidicek was also drafted that same year by the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League, but opted to follow the QMJHL route and suited up for the 2020-21 season for Halifax where his quality play continued by notching 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 43 games.
|2017-18||Lac St-Louis Lions Sud Btm AAA||QBAAA||30||26||17||43||14|
|2018-19||Lac St-Louis Lions Sud Btm AAA||QBAAA||27||25||31||56||60|
|Lac St-Louis Lions Espoir||QMEAA||1||0||1||1||2|
|2019-20||Lac St-Louis Lions||QMAAA||39||15||18||33||14|
Vidicek’s offensive numbers have always been very respectable, no doubt. But when compared to Jonathan Drouin’s 58 points with Lac St-Louis his last full season before coming to Halifax, you are immediately struck by the noticeable difference in production.
Although they followed the same path to the QMJHL, that is where the similarities between Vidicek and Drouin end.
Vidicek compares his own play to that of Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson, which seems to be a more appropriate point of reference.
Both are lighter framed, two-way centers who are effective contributors in all three zones. Each has a calculated and cunning offensive skillset but neither puts up gaudy stats at the expense of their defensive responsibilities.
Vidicek’s skating is very impressive.
His stride may not always look the prettiest with his cross-body arm extension and exaggerated forward lean, but the fact is Vidicek gets around the ice well. He has quickness over short distances, can maintain top speed the full length of the ice and with a motor that doesn’t stop and excellent edges that allow for sharp directional changes to separate himself from defenders.
In the clip below, Vidicek (No. 6, green) displays his straight line speed and stamina on a full ice sprint.
Vidicek’s stick skills are downright filthy and can border on jaw dropping.
He can control the puck on both the forehand or backhand. He can pull it across his body, extend the puck into space or work in near his feet. Vidicek is generally very good at protecting it and he can make evasive maneuvers at speed and can be really slippery in tight spaces.
In the above video, Vidicek (No. 6, white) shows some excellent puck protection skills on this breakaway by having quick hands and establishing a wide base.
In the below video, Vidicek (No. 6, white) is able to bait the defender and pull the puck to his backhand for a net drive before going back to his forehand again for the scoring opportunity.
Again, Vidicek (No. 6, red), shows his elusiveness below. He moves at full speed on the rush and slips past the defenders.
With the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, Vidicek’s vision and creativity can open up so many options. He can initiate offense from various directions and can quickly identify and move the puck into high quality scoring areas.
In the below clip, Vidicek (No. 6, green) takes advantage of a high-to-low cross ice option and creates a scoring opportunity that is extremely difficult for goalies to track and save.
With his stick to the inside and the puck in a good shooting position, Vidicek (No. 6, green) identifies a better option and passes off his back heel across the mid line of the ice.
In the below clip, Vidicek (No. 6, white) shows some power play prowess. He draws the penalty killers low and slips it to the defenseman coming off the blue line for an uncontested shot.
A distinct shoulder check before winning a loose puck race below the goal line allows Vidicek (No. 6, green) to gather the information required to one-touch a pass into the low slot for a goal.
Below, Vidicek (No. 6, white) sets up a late game tying goal with a cross ice, low-to-high pass from below the goal line.
An Offensive Mindset
As a shooter, one of Vidicek’s best weapons is that he is a threat to score from anywhere in the zone.
He is particularly effective at slipping into soft spots between defenders where he can find the time and space to release his strong and accurate shot.
Vidicek is fearless and has a willingness to take pucks to the net. His stick skills and weight shifts make him elusive. He can attack from below the goal line on one side and with an explosive burst beat his defender and create a scoring chance at the back post.
He’s not limited from certain areas on the ice, either. From the side wall Vidicek can scramble out of a crowd with full possession and drive to the net for a quality scoring opportunity. The clip below illustrates this well.
Off the rush, Vidicek can carry the puck into the zone or provide puck support for a teammate. He has the speed to push defenders back and go hard for a mid-lane net drive.
A Well-Rounded Game
The details make the difference and Vidicek employs those details all over the ice.
He’s smart about his energy output and can adjust his tempo which allows him to occasionally prolong an offensive zone shift and maintain quickness. He’s generally quite disciplined with his shift length, avoids getting trapped in the defensive zone and makes good line changes.
Although he has the talent of a skilled player, he can play without the puck and has the work ethic of a fourth line role player. Vidicek is willing to do things that many other skilled guys won’t do, like block shots. Vidicek is also an excellent back checker willing to come all the way back to support the defense and battle deep in his zone with a good stick and body positioning.
Areas to improve
As much as Vidicek has developed a game that showcases his skill, patience, on-ice reads and work ethic, there is still room for him to take his play to a higher level.
Most notably Vidicek will need to add some muscle and overall strength, which is not uncommon for players entering their draft year. Currently there are times when he does everything right but can still find himself overpowered and unable to control a situation. I would expect those instances to decrease as Vidicek physically matures.
For example, the Cape Breton forward scores a late period goal after pushing through Vidicek (No. 6 red) and grabbing a loose puck.
I would also like to see his ability to identify, prioritize and react to threats become quicker.
His play in his own end is already quite good, but for Vidicek, his defensive positioning and three-zone responsibility is a primary component of his success, any improvement would elevate his game and expanded his opportunities at the next level.
He can be slow to identify and react to the open man in his own end, and as a result can be on the wrong side of who he should be defending. Other times, he can become too puck-focused, failing to pick up the net-drive player coming late.
A player with Vidicek’s refined offensive skill is always going to draw attention, but when you add to that his ability to impact the game across the entire ice, with or without the puck, then you have a player who would be of interest to a number of teams.
His projected ability to play up and down the lineup will be valuable, though I believe he’s better suited to contribute in a shutdown role. He seems like the type of guy who becomes more needed late in games when the result is still in question. I would not at all be surprised to see Vidicek develop into a good penalty killer, too.
Though will need to pack some muscle onto his frame to handle the rigors of professional hockey, Vidicek has the tools to become a reliable top-six forward who could project as a second-line center at the NHL level.