NHL Draft Notebook: Kasper, Slafkovsky, Wright & More
Every season, FCHockey’s scouts are scouring the globe to get eyes on prospects eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft and beyond.
They spend countless hours watching both live games and game tape to get the best possible analysis on the prospects entering the NHL Draft. Our Unpacking the Notebook series typically looks at prospect reports filed within the last week but with the conclusion of the season has been expanded to feature top NHL Draft prospects.
Here’s a glimpse at their analysis.
Vladimir Grudinin | D | Russia | December 28, 2021
FCHockey Rank: 70
Scouting report by Whittaker Heart
Vladimir Grudinin fits the prototype of many modern defensemen, a dynamic puck-mover with electrifying skating. His flashy skating style is extremely fun to watch as he utilizes great edgework and occasionally the 10/2 skating style to maneuver through defenders. The terrific ankle flexion in his stride allows him to shift his weight laterally, resulting in elite evasiveness. His shooting ability doesn’t particularly stand out but he can consistently get pucks through to the net. This was my first viewing of Grudinin, and I especially noted his extraordinary ability to walk the blue line. At times it seems his possessions don’t result in many high danger chances, but his deceptiveness will keep creating time and space to make that happen. Stickhandling is no issue as his hands often mirror his feet, shifty and agile. He holds pucks in the offensive zone at a freakish success rate, pinching often and rarely getting burned. His defensive game was not tested as much against a subpar opponent, but he looked good against the rush and breaking the puck out. At times his lack of size was apparent in his own corners, something that will likely be a long-term constraint of his defensive potential. Grudinin’s game has some refining to do but his undeniable offensive potential could land him a selection in the top two rounds in the 2022 draft.
Marco Kasper | C | Austria | December 28, 2021
FCHockey Rank: 18
Scouting report by Austin Broad
Marco Kasper is a high-end, two-way player who showcased some of his high-end potential despite playing against a juggernaut Canadian team. He has an elite motor and gives his best effort on every shift even with the game out of reach. Seeing him engage physically, get chippy after the whistles and never back down really stood out from his performance. Kasper has great skating ability and solid puck skills, he can skate end-to-end and attack off the rush. He uses his patience and puckhandling ability to open up lanes and he can use his passing or his skating to exploit the open lanes and generate offense. He generated a few quality chances for the Austrian team and was able to show exactly why he’s a highly-regarded prospect in the upcoming draft class. In a game like this, it’s tough to gauge a top prospect’s performance because Canada was immensely more talented than Austria, but I think there is some room for improvement in Kasper’s all-around game. Like any young player, there are mental gaffes that lead to chances against but I have the utmost confidence that Kasper is the type of player to never make the same mistake twice. I think he’s a top-25 pick in the upcoming class and has the potential to be a second-line player in the NHL and be effective at 5-on-5, on the power play and on the penalty kill. He’s the type of player every coach will want on his team.
Jiri Kulich | LW | Czechia | December 28, 2021
FCHockey Rank: 58
Scouting report by Donesh Mazloum
Kulich slotted in on the second line for the Czechs in the tournament opener, and I thought he was one of the players most able to handle the pace that Canada brought. His combination of size, speed, and strength serves him well at both ends of the ice. His puck pursuit and player tracking abilities are especially impressive, and he can be a tough player to shake in 1-on-1 battles. There was a shift in this game where he hunted down Mason McTavish, matched his speed and strength, and pinned him to the wall that particularly stood out. Offensively, Kulich is a straight-line attacking threat who again leans on his speed to create. He consistently has his nose pointed towards the next front and he possesses an extra gear when he senses an opportunity. I’d love to see a little more east-west and speed changes incorporated into his game as he tends to run headlong into traffic if the opposition stays patient. He shows the hands and agility to maneuver through pressure when defenders collapse on him but when left to his own devices, he struggles to come up with a game plan to create a problem for the opposition to solve. Kulich does not possess elite IQ with possession however he has a general awareness of his surrounding, puts himself in advantageous positions, and has a good feel for pressure. I don’t see huge point potential in his game and think he projects as a sound two-way complementary forward that can slot into the third line and give an honest day’s work. His physical tools should translate seamlessly but I question the upside with his currently limited creation abilities. I’d likely target him in the second or third rounds of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Juraj Slafkovsky | C | Slovakia | December 28, 2021
FCHockey Rank: 9
Scouting report by Miroslav Simurka
Juraj Slafkovsky is a big, skilled, smooth-skating winger with playmaking abilities and a great passing game. What stood out to me today was how great he was moving with the puck. Slafkovsky is not the most dynamic player, but he is a great skater for his size. He can move his upper and lower body separately and beat players with his stickhandling and quick weight shifts in tight areas. In open space there is almost no way to separate him from the puck as he can gain solid speed, has soft hands and can protect the puck perfectly with his long arms and big body. In my opinion, his puck distribution in the offensive zone is outstanding. Slafkovsky is not a pure playmaker but his playmaking skills are near to the top of this draft class. There are not many players who are as nearly as good on their backhand as they are on their forehand, Slafkovsky seems to be this player. Slafkovsky, however, made questionable decisions in the defensive zone and in the transition game. A couple of times I also thought he was holding on to the puck for too long waiting for a perfect play. In my opinion, Slafkovsky projects as a top-six winger and is a potential top-six selection in the 2022 draft.
Elias Stenman | C | Sweden | December 28, 2021
FCHockey Rank: NR
Scouting report by Fredrik Haak
Elias Stenman is a forward that you could trust and he has a high work ethic both ways. You always know that when he is on the ice you have a link between defenders and forwards because he takes a lot of responsibility on the ice. Stenman does know how to handle the puck and is a good passer overall. He is often playable and has good vision of the ice and he does the right things at the right time and moves the puck rather fast to help his team gain scoring chances. I like that Stenman mostly plays a rather easy game and does not often get interrupted or loses the puck in wrong areas. He sometimes struggles with offensive skills when he enters the offensive zone and is not a player that challenges or creates a lot of scoring chances. He often ends up along the boards. I would like to see him participate more and find his way to the right areas where he could shoot or be a bigger threat overall. He is smart, but I hope he develops his smartness in the offensive zone more. This was my first viewing of Stenman this year and I think that he’s moved in the right direction from last season without taking major steps. He does things well overall, but Stenman is not the most physical player and is rather small, and without the real edge in the offensive areas, I am a bit doubtful if his stability is enough to get him drafted this year either. He could after all be a player to take a chance on in the later rounds of the 2022 draft.
Shane Wright | C | Canada | December 28, 2021
FCHockey Rank: 1
Scouting report by Olivia McArter
Shane Wright only partially showed the talent he is capable of in this one. He did very well in the faceoff circle where he was often able to win it back and at times, try to create an offensive zone rush. He showed good passing abilities and is often quick to the puck. When playing in the defensive zone, Wright brings a good net-front presence and once he gains possession he’s a decently well playmaker. He does well offensively and is able to knock his opponents away from the puck to keep the play in defending possession. His control once he gained possession wasn’t great, nor was his stick prep where he missed a few passing plays. I noticed a couple of times throughout that he was stuck puck-watching rather than reacting to the play. Wright’s game still looks a little off so far so I’d really like to see him settle in more. He is still the top prospect for the upcoming draft but he needs to show more of that ‘wow’ factor.
Want access to all of FCHockey’s scouting reports? Sign up for one of FCHockey’s subscription plans so you can boost your NHL Draft knowledge!