For most North American players entering their first draft eligible year, they have almost exclusively played in junior leagues. Some are committed to NCAA teams in the fall, while others will remain in their respective junior teams for another year or two before moving into the AHL or even the NHL. For European players, this can still end up being the path for many. Players like Pavel Zacha come to North America and play a year or two in the Canadian junior leagues to showcase their skill in the North American game, which they feel will help their draft stock.
Not all take this path, however, and right winger Martin Kaut is one of those. Despite being from the same city as Zacha is from, he has played exclusively in his home country of the Czech Republic. This is a different path to take to the draft, but potentially a good one. For Kaut, it means that he already has professional experience, and might continue to gain even more. This past season, he played exclusively in the Czech Extraliga, which is a professional league and the highest league in the country. The year before, he played over half the season in the same league. According to The Hockey Writers in 2015, it was ranked as the 6th best professional league in the world. This means that as a 17 and 18 year old, Kaut was playing professional hockey against grown men, many of whom were probably considerably bigger and all of whom were way more experienced than him. Does this lead to killer stat lines like 1.25 points per game that you might see with some top forwards in the Canadian juniors? Not a chance, the pro hockey that Kaut has been playing is quite different. However, some might think it a better route, as it prepares these kids from a younger age how to play against men. We’ll see where this leads with Kaut, but some consider him a mid-first rounder because of his experience.
Who is Martin Kaut?
Martin is a decently-sized winger for his age. Standing 6’1” and weighing 174 pounds, he has the height to play in the NHL, and 174 is not terribly low at this point for an 18 year old. He will need to bulk up some for sure, even if he wants to play better in the Extraliga, but given his frame, that seems to be likely.
As I mentioned above, because of where he has been playing most of his games, the numbers don’t jump off the charts. As a 17 year old, he produced basically nothing for Pardubice in the big league, with only 1 assist in 26 games played. That is quite poor. However, if you consider it a learning experience for a young 17 year old, and you see his considerable improvement the following year, it doesn’t seem as bad. This past year, in 38 Extraliga games, he had 16 points, with 9 of them coming as goals. 0.42 points per game is nothing to get crazy about, but again this is an 18 year old playing with grown men.
To further that point, his numbers look a lot better in international play when he is up against players his own age. As a 17 year old, in 27 international junior games for the U18 Czech team, he produced 28 points, just over a point per game. This season, in 19 international junior games for the U20 Czech team, he scored 16 points. In the World Juniors this year, he had 7 points in 7 games. And perhaps most impressively, in the Extraliga playoffs this season, after scoring only 16 points in 38 regular season games, he produced 5 points in 7 playoff games. He produced for Pardubice in the clutch, and has good numbers internationally, which should only aid in his draft position.
Where is Kaut Ranked?
Central Scouting has Kaut as the 4th ranked European skater in their final rankings. This is a considerable boost from the midterm rankings, where he was ranked 11th. However, there does not seem to be as huge of a consensus with Kaut as with other skaters, so this might not be terribly unusual in this circumstance. His rankings show a pretty decent gap in projected talent:
-Sporting News has him ranked #36, which is in the 2nd round
-He is not on Sportsnet’s top 31 ranking from March
-At Dobber Prospects, he is ranked 22nd, a later first round pick, but not too far from 17
-Future Considerations also has him at #22
-ISS, on the other hand, has Kaut as the #13 overall prospect, a lottery pick
-Hockey Prospect has him at #18, only one pick after NJ
-Draft Site currently has him projected to go with the 1st pick in the 2nd round, 32 overall
As you can see, there is a fairly wide area in which analysts expect Martin to be taken. You have ISS, the International Scouting Services, placing Kaut all the way up as a lottery pick. On the other side of the coin, Sporting News has him all the way down at 36. That is a 23 pick differential. That might not be significant for someone projected in later rounds, but for someone who could potentially go in the first round, that is a rather wide gap. It just showcases that there are lots of different opinions about his game.
What Others Have Said About Kaut
The Hockey Writers, in their profile of Kaut, wrote specifically about how he did well this year playing internationally, which has given him a spotlight to aid in his draft projection. In terms of discussing his game, THW writes that he “uses his smarts to position himself…especially effective around the net…great at reading the play develop and making the perfect pass…can play in all situations.” The two questions that they have about Kaut are his size and consistency. They feel the former is less of an issue given his production this year in the Extraliga, but they definitely worry about consistency.
The Last Word on Hockey wrote how Kaut was projected as a mid-first rounder this year, which goes with some of the higher rankings we’ve seen. They believe he can end up as a top-six winger after development, and compares his game to Marian Hossa (not a reflection of potential or ability, but of play style). Specifically, they say he has “very good top end speed. However, his first step and his acceleration can be improved…has excellent balance and is tough to knock off the puck…is a pure goal scorer…quick hands to make moves in tight…very good wrist shot…quick release…a smart player…talented playmaker. He anticipates plays well…works well in the cycle…works on the backcheck. However, he doesn’t do well with physical play.” So, you have a true offensive threat who works defensively, although he is not very physical defensively and has some speed concerns with his first step.
The Draft Analyst, Steve Kournianos, wrote up notes about a bunch of players at the World Juniors this year, and had a piece to say about Kaut. He wrote that he loves seeing players in adult leagues get a chance against his peers, which is what was happening with Martin. He was fairly positive about Kaut and his three (primary) assist game he had in the first game of the WJC, specifically writing “Kaut isn’t just some sort of flashy playmaker – he’s a highly-responsible 200-foot player who plays in all situations.” On another page about the WJC, he wrote “he’s a defensively-responsible winger and a sound decision maker.” Kournianos definitely talked up his two-way game.
Two different people from Dobber Prospects wrote up blurbs about him in their draft rankings. In March, Peter Harling wrote similar things to the Draft Analyst, praising his defensive game. Cam Robinson, a month later, wrote that he is “quick, elusive, and knows how to finish.”
A Little Video
Here are all of his highlights from the World Juniors this year. He wore #16 for the Czech Republic:
Here you have Kaut in a 4 point game in the Extraliga this season. Remember, this is against pros:
And finally, here is a highlight video of some of his plays for Pardubice:
This is an interesting one. In the end, I have to say that I don’t think Kaut should end up on New Jersey, although that has less to do about what I think of him as a potential player and more about when the Devils pick. The Devils have the 17th pick, and then don’t pick again for a very long time. As we saw with the rankings, Kaut could go anywhere from the mid-first to the early second, but that really only leaves #17 for him to come to Newark. While some places project him to go before then, I have a good feeling that he will probably still be on the board by the time Ray Shero has to make a pick, but I think he will take someone else, and I probably think that is a good idea.
Kaut has potential; that much is clear. He took a huge jump in the Extraliga from last season to this one, becoming a decent producer in a professional league despite being only 18 years old. If he stays there next season after being drafted, I could see him taking another good jump and producing a lot more. He also was very, very good in international play when playing against his peers, producing basically a point per game in most international games. That says a lot about his abilities moving forward, as when he grows and develops more, he will definitely be able to handle those his own age.
However, I think at #17, it might behoove the Devils to look elsewhere. There are questions still about his game, and the simple fact remains that we have not consistently seen Kaut produce. His overall international numbers are good, but there were games and tournaments where he did very well, and others where he did not. Likewise with Pardubice, he did poorly to start the season, then turned it on later. Inconsistent play is maddening, at least in my opinion, and if it becomes synonymous with his game, it could prevent him from really becoming a solid top-six winger. In my opinion, there are other, more consistent, potentially safer picks the Devils could make at 17, like the forward I profiled last week, Joel Farabee. This is also confirmed by the fact that several places don’t even have him as a first round pick, but instead see him as an early 2nd rounder. There are enough analysts who would see Kaut at #17 as a reach, and that gives pause. Yes, he could still become a great player in time, and if the Devils take him and he becomes a top-six producer for them, I will be happy. But at this point, I think going a different route with the first round pick might be a better option.
That is my take, however. What do you think about Martin Kaut? Do you think he is someone New Jersey should consider at #17 overall, or do you see him as a later first rounder or even a 2nd rounder like some of the other analysts? What about his game do you like, and what about him potentially gives you pause? What do you feel about his path to the NHL, staying in the pro league in his home country instead of playing major junior hockey over here? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!