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Adam Sykora: 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: The Defensive Whiz

Adam Sykora is considered one of the best defensive players in this year’s draft, and he has some interesting aspects to his game that could make him a first round pick

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Adam Sykora celebrates after scoring the first goal of the QF game vs Finland
Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Who is Adam Sykora?

Adam Sykora was born on September 7, 2004. He is 5’10”, 174 lbs. He is from Piestany, Slovakia. He shoots left and plays both wings. His father Roman Sykora played in the Slovak top and 2nd tier leagues and also the WHL and BCHL.

Adam Sykora has played his whole life with HK Nitra, except for one stint with HK Levice where he played 6 regular season and 4 playoff games for them.

This past season Sykora had 3 points in 6 world championship games, 17 in 46 in the Slovak league, and 5 in 19 in the Slovak league playoffs.

I’ve been able to find plenty of information about Sykora’s game online. He is regarded as one of the best defensive players in the draft, but without enough offensive upside to be a first line player. Even so, he still shows pretty well in Byron Bader’s model

The Kaprizov comp is interesting, but the name I’ve heard the most from what I’ve read is Artturi Lehkonen. Someone who can drive play at both ends of the ice, but doesn’t have the finishing ability to be a top player.

Where is Adam Sykora ranked?

  • Ranked #44 by EliteProspects
  • Ranked #100 by FCHockey
  • Ranked #48 by McKeen’s Hockey
  • Ranked #42 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
  • Ranked #56 by Recruit Scouting
  • Ranked #73 by Draft Prospects Hockey
  • Ranked #40 by Smaht Scouting
  • Ranked #47 by Chris Peters
  • Ranked Tier 5 (29-59) by Scouching

What people are saying about Adam Sykora

I found plenty of reports on Sykora online. Josh Tessler from Smaht Scouting said about Sykora’s defense:

By lowering his body to take as much as space up as possible, he forces an ill-advised shot as the attacker runs out of open ice. Not only does he widen and lower himself to eat away open ice, but he also does a good job of echoing the attackers movements at the point and forcing them to take an ill-advised shot and dump the puck to the corner... When looking to keep puck carrying attackers away from high danger areas, he leverages his active stick. Sýkora will extend his stick blade out towards high danger and manipulate attackers to pass back towards low danger.

Tessler says that Sykora is very good at getting in the lanes and preventing shot or pass attempts. On offense and skating, Tessler says Sykora is good at protecting the puck in the corners and waiting for the opponent to give him an opening to pass to a teammate, but often gets boxed out by older, stronger players when he tries to go to the net. On his skating, he said Sykora is fast but his agility on his edges isn’t great. For neutral zone play, he said Sykora, as he does sometimes in the offensive zone, doesn’t always use the best lane, but is usually a reliable puck mover and good at pivoting to escape pressure.

Alex Chauvancy also did a profile on Adam Sykora. He was a fan of Sykora’s work ethic, but also noticed his lack of upper-body strength:

That’s something else to like about Sykora’s game: his motor. Though he’s a 17-year-old playing in a pro league, he’s not afraid to get in on the forecheck and work to gain the puck. At the same time, there are moments where he gets knocked off the puck easily because he doesn’t have the strength yet. And it’s not only on the forecheck. It tends to happen when he’s defending the rush and trying to knock the puck off an opposing attacker coming through the neutral zone. What also stood out to me about Sykora is his defensive game, which is quite good for someone his age playing in a pro league. He’s excellent at getting in shooting lanes and taking them away, especially for defensemen trying to shoot the puck from the blue line. He’s also a stout shot blocker and even saw plenty of time on HK Nitra’s penalty kill.

Hadi Kalakeche and Sebastian High wrote about Sykora for DobberProspects. High said Sykora resembles Artturi Lehkonen and possesses a good shot, but needs to work on his acceleration. Kalakeche had plenty to say about Sykora:

Sýkora is among the best defensive forwards in his draft class. He understands defensive positioning very well, directs opponents into unfavorable areas, and approaches them at angles that maximize the odds of him escaping contact with the puck. He forechecks hard, backchecks diligently, and makes himself troublesome for his opponents on loose pucks and broken plays. On top of that, the winger has decent hands, a surprisingly good shot from medium range and some playmaking tools that are foundationally sound but need refining. He can find seams and exploit them, but doesn’t create them as often and tends to go for safe passes rather than take risks. The main concern with Sýkora is his lack of pace, especially with the puck, but some fine-tuning to his skating mechanics as well as the inevitable physical growth ahead of him should iron that out. He mans the boards well with his puck-protection mechanics already, and that should only become more of a strength as he matures physically. Sýkora could well be a second-line penalty-killing specialist when all is said and done, and has a fallback game as a bottom-six checking forward that makes him a safe pick-up in the late-first to early-second round.

Kalakeche, like Cam Robinson of EliteProspects, suggests that Sykora could be a late first round pick. Kalakeche is the first I’ve seen other than his fellow Dobber writer High to say Sykora lacks pace. He did have plenty of good things to say about Sykora, and considers him a safe pick to make the NHL.

Video of Sykora

Sykora shows off some pretty great hand-eye coordination with this deflection in the World Championship:

As you can see in the title, Sykora is in fact very young. He is one of the youngest eligible players this year, just a week away from being 2023 eligible rather than 2022. In the video, you can see Sykora drive to the net on the rush and lower his stick to tip the puck perfectly into the net.

The next video shows Sykora’s shot. He’s not known for his shot, but it’s not bad, as you can see here. Josh Tessler said that Sykora’s shot is not powerful enough to be a threat from far out, but he could chip in with some goals from mid-range or in front of the net.

If you were wondering about Sykora’s motor, here’s a hardworking shift of his

Here’s an example of Sykora passing the puck through an opponent’s legs to himself to make space

In the next 2 clips he passes the puck through an opponent’s triangle to a teammate.

Sykora makes his own passing lanes when there are none and this should mean that he won’t have trouble completing passes at higher levels. However, I read that he often doesn’t make high-risk, high-reward passes that you might want to see more often at higher levels. This is something that could probably be fixed, though. If you want more footage of Sykora, here’s a shift by shift from one of his games

My Take

Sykora has good straight line speed, but doesn’t have elite edgework, passing skills, or an elite shot, making him unlikely to be a first line player in the NHL. However, his defense is excellent for his age, and he is quite young, so he might have more development left than other players in the draft. His young age is also holding back the effectiveness of his current game. He often gets pushed away from the crease by defensemen or fails to lift sticks on the backcheck due to his lack of upper-body strength. Once he beefs up, this could make his current game a lot better than it already is. The potential for an NHL player is certainly there with his elite defense, and his passing and transition being solid as well. Normally I’d prefer to take a guy known for defense and effort rather than upside like Sykora later, but with his motor and defense, NHL GMs might like that combination and take an interest in him. If he’s there at 69 I’d certainly take him. I’m not too invested in the draft this year so I’m not sure about options at 37, but with a 33% star probability in Bader’s model, I’d take him there. Maybe it’s a bit higher than he’s ranked, and the eye test doesn’t suggest he’ll be a star, but he seems like a solid bet considering the model and scouting reports.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Adam Sykora? Would you take him at 37, 69, or only if he falls? See anything good or bad in his game that you think others are missing? How would you feel about taking a defensive player in the early rounds? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.