Scouts In Rinks Chatting With Eligibles: Lukas Svejkovsky
Scouts In Rinks Chatting With Eligibles is a series of articles on FCHockey which features our scouts having candid conversations with NHL Draft eligbles about their games; the strengths, weaknesses, usages, goals and everything in between. In this instalment, Western Canada regional scout Joel Henderson talks to Medicine Hat Tigers forward and 2020 NHL Draft eligible Lukas Svejkovsky, No. 113 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2020 draft, about the ups, downs and everything in between.
JH: You started off the year playing C. Do you have a preference?
LS: When I got to (Medicine Hat), our center depth was about as good as it gets in the league. If I’m needed in the C spot, no complaints, I’ll definitely play C. I like playing C and right wing. Playing with Hamblin, the first three quarters of the season was really good for me. He’s a puck distributor and plays a complete two-way game. I think we compliment each other a lot. It was really fun for sure.
JH: I saw you in Moose Jaw and Regina here. I think it was game four or five on the year for you. You put up six and seven shots. You were all over the ice in those games for Vancouver. You were playing C and jumping on loose pucks. How did you feel early on in the year for Vancouver?
LS: I wouldn’t say I wasn’t happy. Honestly, just the style of play in Vancouver with the systems and strategies…really defense-first. There is a lot of standing around and waiting for this guy to do a thing. It wasn’t the best style of game for me because I play with such high tempo. I’m always moving. I felt like I had to change my game a lot. I really felt like it wasn’t the right fit.
JH: You were all over the place. You played C and W and on the PP. It seemed like they were still trying to figure out where you fit?
LS: I agree. It wasn’t anything against the coaching staff. I like all those guys in Vancouver and I have respect for them obviously. It just wasn’t the right style for me. I was lucky enough to go to Med Hat. I think that the style of game I play slides right in the style of play that we play as a team.
JH: You played a little bit in the BCHL. You played in the WHL. You’re American. You have a Czech background.
LS: (chuckle) Yeah, I guess my story is a little bit more dense than others, playing BCHL and then the Dub and being a dual citizen. I played in Wenatchee when I was 16 and I didn’t really set out the WHL doors. I was pretty focused on going college, but Vancouver was on me trying to get me to sign. That summer, after the season was when I decided to sign. It was right after the Select 15 camp for the States. I had a pretty good start to the season as a 16-year-old, but then eight or nine games in, I broke my left leg. That took me a while to recover from. I was out and missed maybe 50 games. I only finished with 16 games that year. I played the entire playoffs and we won that year but I was still kind of banged up. I wish I would have stayed out a little bit longer, but being a 16-year-old kid, all I wanted to do was play. It was still kind of bothering me a little bit at the start of the year in Vancouver. It doesn’t bother me anymore.
JH: You get sent to Medicine Hat, which is another team with a lot of veterans and a lot of guys who love to shoot the puck. You got put right away with James Hamblin who was their top player. Where did you see your role fitting in with this team?
LS: We started clicking right away. Honestly, we were more of a shutdown line as well. I think that was really good for me, playing against other team’s top lines. Still maintaining that offensive style but maintaining that shutdown role really helped my two-way game a lot.
JH: It seemed like a lot of your skating paths when your line had the puck, meant you were driving the net hard and then stay around the net. Is that the system you were basically running?
LS: We just knew our roles. James would have the puck on his stick a lot of the time. Our line did a really good job of complimenting each other. We knew where each other would be. Whether I was in front of the net or had the puck on my stick, we really tried to wear the defensemen down. We were also a really good energy line which was good for our team in the long run.
JH: You’ve got a very quick jump to you. You get to pucks quicker than other guys. Normally guys with your skillset want to be the puck distributor. Do you see yourself developing into that role?
LS: I think as I get older I see progress in my game. I think I keep getting better and a lot of that has to do with confidence. When I was in Vancouver, there are guys there who were obviously going to have the puck on their stick. I think next year hopefully I can go into that role. If I end up having the puck, I’m confident in my abilities to create scoring chances.
JH: Compared to some WHL guys being ranked in the middle rounds, your 5-on-5 numbers are parallel with a lot of them. You only had three power play points, talk to me about the PP in Vancouver when you were apart of it.
LS: It just wasn’t really clicking. It seemed like other teams read what we were doing. The biggest thing in moving to Medicine Hat was the amount of breakouts I had to learn. We got to be more unpredictable. We also got a lot of goals off the entry in Med Hat. I think in Vancouver, we were trying to get pucks to the net. We would have possession of the puck and just get an unlucky bounce and they’d clear it.
JH: I don’t think you had zero points on the PP in Vancouver because there weren’t moments of high danger creation. You’d make a move on the half-wall or down low with a pass to the slot and it was a good save or whatever the case. It seemed like there were opportunities.
LS: I don’t think anyone has talked to me about my power play points before even though it has been in the back of my mind so it’s cool that you noticed that. I appreciate that.
JH: Well, I’ve seen you drag pucks, circulate pucks, create space for yourself and these are translatable skills to the PP. It’s not hard to recognize you for zone entries. People are going to have to imagine a bit of what your growth into those roles will be like. In Med Hat, you scored three goals on the PP. You got a tip in goal, a wrist shot on the right side, and then how you got most of your goals which was just digging for a puck off a rebound. If we were to imagine you at your best, what would that look like for the PP?
LS: I think I played just about in every spot this year. I don’t complain about that stuff. I just see what I can do best where I am. I did enjoy the side wall for being creative but I think I can be creative down low, too. I think you can find the open guy or take it to the net. Near the end of the season we changed our second unit with three guys going to the net. That’s how I scored that one goal against Tri-City. It was just a rebound and I thought that was working pretty well. Most of our chances would come on the rush. We had so many set plays. We had a lot of good looks that way.
JH: After my early views of you, it seemed like you wanted to score. Talk to me about your shot. Where do you wanto to see it growing?
LS: Looking back on the stats, I actually had one of the lowest shooting percentages for draft eligible guys. I think I get a lot of good looks and I trust my shot. I have to do a better job of bearing down and making every shot count. I’ve been doing a lot of that this summer by shooting in the garage and being on the ice. My goal next year is to be an elite goal scorer in the WHL.
JH: In four to five years, what do you think are going to be your elite strengths; your defining qualities?
LS: I think I still have to grow a little bit. I’ve got to keep on getting stronger. With that, I have to keep my speed and quickness. I’m more focused on taking it day by day right now. In four to five years I hope I’ll be ready to play pro hockey.
JH: Do you have any NHL comparisons in your style of play? Guys you look to?
LS: I watch a lot of Matthew Barzal and Brayden Point. Little bit undersized players but with the edge to their game. They are different, but I put both styles of their game into mine. Brayden Point is feisty and relentless on pucks. Barzal is obviously so dynamic with the puck. He can change direction and angles so quickly. Those are guys I really like to watch for sure.
JH: When I watch you, I’m constantly wondering how you think about spacing. I find since you’re often heading to the net, you’re engaging in battles right away. You haven’t gotten a lot of one-timer looks or things like that. How do you think about your spacing?
LS: I personally think I’m really good down low. I think I can beat almost any defender when I have the puck on my stick. I take pride in those net front battles. At the end of the day, the goals might not be pretty but lots of the pucks do end up getting scored in the goalie’s feet or in the crease. I like to hang out there for sure. Whether it is creating space for my teammates or myself with quick little turns and wearing the other teams down a little bit. I’m just getting other people open and getting myself open.
JH: Are you working on tipping pucks?
LS: Oh for sure. Last year I didn’t get too many tipping goals but it is something I’ll work on. Now a days, you can see guys like Brendan Gallagher, a lot of his goals are tips in front. Greasy goals.
JH: Do you envision your role with Medicine Hat next year being similar?
LS: Yeah. Obviously nothing is written in stone, I’ve just got to keep playing my game. This summer for me is a big one. Keep getting faster and work on my shot. I think I can make that big step to being an elite player in the league and a key guy for a team.
JH: Does it put a little boost in your step getting an invite to WJC USA camp?
LS: For sure. It’s something to look forward to. It’s motivation. I’ve just got to focus on training as hard as I can to be the best I can be for that camp. Hopefully I can impress.