Welcome to another prospect profile here at AATJ! Today, we are going to take a look at Czech defenseman Stanislav Svozil. Svozil is a LHD who has spent his entire career up until this point in the Czech system, rising up through the Czech junior ranks before playing in the top Czech professional league almost exclusively over the past two seasons. Given that he has extensive professional experience in Europe already, that could help him greatly in terms of being more pro ready for the NHL than most. At the same time, the level of competition in the Czech Republic is not as high as elsewhere, with the Czech Extraliga being considered by some to be the 5th best pro league in the world, after the NHL, KHL, SHL, and the Liiga.
Nonetheless, his experience and play up until now have scouts excited, and analysts have him ranked anywhere from the mid-first round to the beginning of round 2, so there is certainly a shot that he could be there for the New Jersey Devils’ second pick of the first round. Let’s dive in.
Who is Stanislav Svozil?
-LINK TO ELITE PROSPECTS STATS-
According to Elite Prospects, Svozil is listed at 6 foot even and weighs 172 pounds. If he wants to play consistent defense in the NHL, he will need to add some bulk to that frame, but given his height, it is not out of the question. He probably already knows that as well, given he has been playing lots of pro hockey over in the Czech Republic. He rose quickly through the Czech junior system, playing 40 games in the U19 league in 2018-19 as a 15/16 year old and playing well that year, producing 27 points in those 40 games. That followed his time in the U16 league where he consistently produced over a point per game for parts of two seasons. He then saw a short 10 game stint in U20 the following year before being promoted to the Czech Extraliga as a 16 year old. He would go onto play 41 games in 2019-20 in the pro league. He only produced 5 points, but as a 16/17 year old, that is awesome that he got that much experience against men. Plus, he was good enough to win the Rookie of the Year award in the Extraliga.
This past season, he played almost exclusively in the Czech Extraliga, dressing in 30 games for HC Kometa Brno. It was somewhat of a disappointing season, as despite already having a year of pro hockey under his belt, he did not improve on the scoresheet, only producing 3 points in those 30 games. He also was briefly loaned out to HC Prerov for the Czech2 league, the second level of pro hockey there. He only had 3 games there, and produced 2 points, which obviously shows he still has the ability, despite not getting there yet in the Extraliga. However, it should also be noted that his club, Kometa Brno, is a largely successful club. They consistently won during the Iron Curtain years, including European Cup titles in the mid-60s, and have regained some of that success recently with Extraliga titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Being a part of a winning organization is certainly a positive for Stanislav.
Svozil also has extensive experience in international play for the Czech Team. He played in both the U18 and U20 World Junior Championships this season for his country, producing 2 points across 10 games. He also had 9 games of U20 International Jr. competition this year, with 6 points there to show for it. In the U17 World Hockey Challenge last season, he had 4 points in 6 games. Overall, he has loads of experience in international play to go on top of his extensive pro hockey experience, which makes him sort of unique in that sense. Not sure if another player has that much experience in pro/international play in this draft class.
Where is Svozil Ranked?
The spread on Svozil is decent, although not as crazy as it is with some other first round talent. You will see ranks anywhere from the mid-to-end of the first round.
-Central Scouting ranks him as the #16 European Skater heading into the draft, which could track for the end of the first/early second round depending on the NA skaters.
-Elite Prospects is much higher on him that CS, ranking him #17 overall, as opposed to #16 just among European skaters.
-Future Considerations is more in line with CS, having him #33 overall, first pick of the second round.
-McKeen’s has him #30 overall, which could be about where the Devils take.
-Dobber Prospects is similar to EP, having him ranked #18 overall.
-The Draft Analyst is low on him thanks to his Extraliga play, ranking him #44 overall.
-The Hockey Writers had him ranked #33 overall from their May rankings.
-Among the Canadian broadcast rankings, Sportsnet and Craig Button do not have him ranked in their top 32. Bob McKenzie has him ranked #34 overall.
What Others Have Said About Svozil
Ben Kerr at The Last Word on Sports has his scouting report up on Svozil. Here are clips of what he has to say about his game in each category:
-Skating: “skating is a bit hit or miss. He needs to work on his stride”...”this is something that can be fixed with hard work and a good skating coach”...”very good agility and lateral movement”...”edgework is also good and it allows him to make tight turns”...”fights hard, battling with bigger, fully grown men in the Extraliga.”
-Offensive Game: “has the tools to play a strong offensive game but has not really been productive in the Extraliga. Part of that is a lack of opportunity”...”smart player who reads the play well and picks the right pass”...”can also skate the puck up ice with strong stickhandling”...”generates successful zone entries”...”needs to work on his shooting. His slap shot and wrist shot lack power.”
-Defensive Game: “excellent defensive ability for his age”...”maintain good gap control as well as force opponents to the outside”...”uses his reach to cut down passing lanes”...”willing to engage in battles on the boards”..”able to skate the puck out of danger or start the transition game.”
-Projection and Comparison: “has all the tools needed to become a top four defenceman in the NHL”...”his technical skills are good”...”could be two more years before he’s ready to play in the NHL”...”needs to work on his shot a bit”...”needs more time in offensive situations.”
Ben has a stylistic comparison for Svozil to Ivan Provorov. Overall, he loves his defensive game, calling it excellent for his age, but thinks he needs to work on his skating and especially his offense more, namely his shot. However, he also attributes some of that to lack of opportunity so far in the Extraliga, something he should get more of next season.
Smaht Scouting has their report up on Svozil as well. He doesn’t break down his scouting report like Ben Kerr does; however, I have tried to do that here for the quotes I pulled. However, definitely check out the entire piece if you are more interested in Svozil’s game:
-Passing: “Svozil’s game is built around his fantastic passing ability and his high-end hockey IQ”...”uses this ability to produce mesmeric outlets that freeze neutral zone defenses and send his forwards into the offensive zone with speed”...”utilises his vision and touch well to pick out seams in coverages and thread passes cross-ice, onto tape”...”can make what appears a ‘nothing’ situation on the cycle into a scoring chance.”
-Skating and Stickhandling: “if there are no passes available, Svozil can simply skate his way up ice”...”his ability to enter the offensive zone with the puck on his stick is just as impressive as his ability to exit his own zone”...”agility, acceleration, and edgework are good, but he does have room to improve on his stride at top speed.”
-Offensive Game: “extremely dangerous and aggressive on the rush”...”can be a bit ‘safe’ in the offensive zone when set-up”...”can get a bit trigger happy near the blue line”...”fantastic at protecting the puck on the cycle”...”has some silky mitts for a blue-liner. He can beat opponents with a deke or a dangle, even at high speed.”
-Defensive Game: “anticipates what is going to happen next extremely well”...”intercepts passes and gets his stick in lanes with great prevalence”...”breaks up a lot of entries with his extremely active stick alongside great backwards and lateral mobility”...”his aggression can get him into trouble in his own zone”...”at times he loses his position puck-chasing.”
-Projection: “If his game continues to mature the young Czech blue-liner can certainly become a top-pairing level NHLer. Additionally, it would be surprise if Svozil -at worst- does not become a solid NHL #4 in the not so distant future.”
Dobber Prospects had their update on him back in December, and here is what Tony Ferrari had to say about him at the time:
Stanislav Svozil is a bit of a raw defenseman who has the potential to round out into a do-it-all, minutes eater on the back end. He possesses very good mobility overall with a good skating stride and the ability to move in all directions, he stays in front of defenders and uses his stick to disrupt play. He works well with his teammates in transition, reading when and where to jump into the play without making many mistakes in that regard. The offensive upside in his game exists and he isn’t a black hole offensively by any means. He has a good shot from the blueline, thanks to a heavy release and the ability to just hit the net. He is a skilled passer in the offensive zone as well. The consistency in the offensive zone is what he will need to rectify as he moves forward. The responsible game he plays is a result of his time playing against men. The young Czech defender is representing his country at the World Juniors and will be looked at to be a difference-maker for a team that is a bit lacking in the high-end talent department. He should get a bit of runway to showcase his offensive ability playing with his age group again after playing in the Czech men’s league last year and coming home with the league’s Rookie of the Year award. As he matures, his offensive game should come to the forefront as he becomes more comfortable with the speed and strength required to play consistently important minutes against men. Svozil should be in the conversation for the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft at this point and some have him in the top-20 players available.
A Little Video
There isn’t much out there, as the Czech league isn’t getting much press overall. Here is a shift by shift video from March:
Here is a highlight package from 5 random games from this past season:
So from what it looks like to me, Svozil is a defender with a high floor who has a strong chance to translate his game into consistent NHL minutes. He is a responsible defender in his own end who isn’t afraid to fight for the puck and uses his stick effectively to diffuse situations and transition the puck up ice. At worst, you are looking at a minutes-eating defensive defenseman who can play solid minutes and not hurt your team. At the back end of the first round, any team can certainly do a lot worse.
That being said, he also isn’t the sexy pick. He doesn’t tantalize you with incredible speed or a wicked slap shot. Outside of his high hockey IQ and ability to anticipate the play, and perhaps his height which isn’t too bad, he doesn’t have those skills that you can’t teach. He is a solid defender who plays the game well, and he uses his smarts to defend the play effectively, even against men in the Czech Extraliga. He needs to work on his shot, he needs to work on his skating, he needs to work on developing his size, and those are things he can do. But he will never have the Shea Weber slap shot from the point, or the breakneck speed to outrun a defender on the rush. He is simply a responsible, quality hockey player. To me, I kind of see him as the type of role player you need on your roster if you want to win a Stanley Cup, but not the star who will lead the team there. He is the unsung hero of that team, not the one who gets all the press.
The question becomes, is that the guy Tom Fitzgerald wants to take near the end of the first round if he is still available? Remember, he might not be, there are those who think he goes before then. Some have him as a late teens pick, perhaps early 20s. The Devils will be lower than that. But if he is available, as others think he will, should Fitzgerald grab him? Put it this way: if the Devils do take him then, I won’t be upset with the pick. The organization needs an influx of defensive talent, and drafting Svozil would certainly help with that. The blue line is shallow, both in New Jersey and in the system, so it isn’t a bad play. Especially given his relatively high floor, it is a safe pick for sure. But will I be crazy excited if he is the pick? Not really. But that’s just how it is with a big defender who defends better than he plays offense. He isn’t going to wow you or excite you, but odds are he will contribute, and your team will be better off for having him.
That’s my take on the Czech defender Stanislav Svozil. What do you think about him? Are you excited about him and his potential, or does he seem more like I said, a solid guy but not exciting? What do you like about his game, and what do you find lacking? Where do you think he should go, and should the Devils take him if he gets to their pick near the end of the first round? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for checking out another prospect profile here at AATJ!