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Alex Ciernik: 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; An Underrated, Undersized Producing Winger

Alex Ciernik is an undersized Slovakian winger who was born in Germany, and has played mostly in Sweden. He is a strong playmaker, and is the son of former-NHLer Ivan Ciernik.

Canada v Slovakia: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Ciernik stays calm whenever he handles the puck.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Who is Alex Ciernik?

Alex Ciernik is a Slovakian winger who was born on October 8, 2004 in Wolfsburg, Germany. He has played youth and junior hockey in Sweden, reaching the HockeyAllsvenskan league (second Swedish men’s level) this season. Alex’s father, Ivan Ciernik, played 89 NHL games between 1997 and 2004 for the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals. Ivan played the rest of his career in the German DEL, with one KHL season in 2008-09, before retiring after the 2017-18 season and becoming a coach for Alex’s U16 team in 2019. You can see Alex’s Elite Prospects page below.

Elite Prospects

Alex Ciernik is listed at 5’10” and weighs 179 pounds. He shoots left-handed, but can play both left and right win. In terms of production, Ciernik has a promising ability to adjust to better leagues over time. You can see above that he played 12 games with his main club in the Allsvenskan league between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, but he did not register a point. But despite his apparent stagnation in the U20 league this season, he was able to show that he could perform in the men’s league, putting up a total of 12 points in 25 Allsvenskan games in 2022-23.

Additionally, Ciernik has been strong in international play. He was the leading scorer on Slovakia’s U18 team in 2021-22, lifting them to the top World Juniors division. Ciernik led the U18 team to their promotion while many of Slovakia’s NHL draftees were playing with the U20 team. Still, Ciernik outscored Simon Nemec, Adam Sykora, Servac Petrovsky (2022 185th overall), and Adam Zlnka (2022 7th round) in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup that year. Other draftees, Juraj Slavkosky and Filip Mesar, outscored Ciernik by 2 and 1 points, respectively, during that series. The Slovakian Hockey outburst should continue with Ciernik.

Where is Alex Ciernik Ranked?

Alex Ciernik is mostly ranked as a second round prospect, with establishment prospect writers putting him at the tail end of the round or the beginning of the third, with some internet scouts giving him more credit and putting him in the middle of the second.

Looking at the NHL Central Scouting rundown, I am a bit confused as to why Ciernik is so low. Having played significant time in the Allsvenskan league, Ciernik is one of only two players in the draft whose league is listed as Sweden-2. The other, Dalibor Dvorsky, scored 14 points in 38 Allsvenksan games with AIK, though he scored just over two points per game in juniors this season. Still, Ciernik’s 12 points in 25 Allsvenskan games is not too shabby, and is probably a bit better than a low-third round prospect.

What Scouts Say About Ciernik

Over at Smaht Scouting, this is what Alex Appleyeard had to say about Ciernik:

A plus skater, he also has excellent play-making ability, is impressive in transition, has great hands and a good release, especially on his one-timer. Additionally, when playing versus players his own age especially he excels at 5v5, driving play and getting to danger areas with regularity. He played on two different Allsvenskan – Swedish 2nd tier – clubs this season, his “mother” club Södertälje, where he had a reduced role and struggled to assert himself, and on loan at Västervik, where he was one of the teams more dangerous players in a bigger role.

Dayton Reimer did a profile of Ciernik at The Hockey Writers, and had this to say:

Being a smaller player, Ciernik is likely a few years away from making his North American debut. Although he’s not afraid to take a hit, he still needs to add strength to withstand the grind of the NHL and its minor leagues. He also needs to clean up his play away from the puck, and playing in Sweden’s professional circuit will help iron those things out. Once he arrives, however, there’s a great chance that he ends up as a dynamic middle-six playmaker, similar to Tomas Tatar or a less skilled William Eklund.

In the video section below, you may see why Alex and Dayton thought what they did about Ciernik. I came to similar conclusions about his strength issue, but I did not find he got to the dangerous areas enough.

Some Video of Ciernik

This first video is of a hat trick that Ciernik scored for his juniors team early this season, before he was moved up to the men’s team. He scores one from the dot, and one off a rebound on the rush, and one off a pass on the rush.

Next, here’s a compilation from a few games that was put together by AMScouting. There is, unfortunately, no sound. However, this is the most video I was able to find on Ciernik, and there are a few things that stick out to me in the video below. You’ll see him in the dark blue jersey wearing #70 in the first game, while he wears yellow in the second game, and blue again in the third.

The first thing I notice is how quickly Ciernik moves. He does not waste a lot of his stride, and he doesn’t seem to need to expend that much energy to get to a good speed. You’ll want to replay what happens from 0:27 to 0:35 — as the video cuts so quickly, it’s hard to notice that Ciernik sets up a goal with a pass across the crease from his backhand after he came out from behind the net. I like what I see at the 1-minute mark, when Ciernik receives a pass smoothly with one hand on the stick before quickly flipping the puck through two skaters in the neutral zone to set up a chance ahead for his linemate. Ciernik dusts a defenseman for a breakaway at the 1:30 mark, but is hooked (to no call) and gets robbed by the goaltender.

Ciernik seems to be a smart puck mover — he does not wait for opposition to overwhelm him or get physical before he makes a pass. He likes to seek out open space, and he is fond of passing across the goalie to set up chances for his teammates. Ciernik scores a second goal at the 4:10 mark, as he likes to fire away from the circle on the power play. He scores a rush rebound goal in the play shown right after, and sets up another rebound for a teammate’s goal in the play shown after the second goal.

My read on Ciernik from the video I have seen here is that he is a very good playmaker, but he needs to gain a lot of weight. He does not shy away from plays on the boards, at least, but he does not get particularly close to the net offensively unless it’s on the rush. And even then, if Ciernik has a guy with him, he looks for the pass to teammates closer to the goal. In that way, he looks like a lot of Devils from the past few years who try to create chances around the net by moving around the zone and centering the puck from further out. If he can add some weight and physicality, he will benefit as a playmaker in the NHL. He needs to shoot to be a guy like Tomas Tatar — an undersized winger who will fight through contact to make plays.

While this video did not show enough defensive play, Ciernik has the speed to backcheck and seems like a decent forechecker. Again, he does not really have the weight to separate bodies from pucks yet, but that should come with time and a NHL diet and weight program. It’s a good thing that Ciernik is a natural skater. For someone who is a short player, he seems closer to the Bratt-like fluidity and economy of movement than the Tatar-like high-octane motor. It does not seem like he loses much of a step by the end of his shift — he’s always moving well from what I see.

My Opinion on Alex Ciernik

The New Jersey Devils currently have a second round pick and Calgary’s third round pick. They traded their third round pick for John Marino last year, while their first rounder went to San Jose for Timo Meier. The Calgary third rounder was their return for Damon Severson’s eight year contract with Columbus — so they’ll be picking at the end of the second and in middle of the third round with those high-round picks. Barring any new moves, the Devils may have a chance to select Alex Ciernik, but should they?

I would not be displeased with the pick. If the core of the team, in five years, looks the way it does now, picking Ciernik might turn out to be a bit of a redundancy. Regardless, I think Ciernik is a bit underrated. On Byron Bader’s Hockey Prospecting, he is given a 50% NHL probability and a 14% star probability — but my issue is that it uses his less-impressive juniors production instead of his strong Allsvenskan performance for his NHLe calculation. I mean, he was very good in his loan! When he got ice time, he rewarded his team. With 12 points in 25 games in that league, he had far better per-game production than Jesper Bratt in his draft year (17 points in 48 games) as well as Dalibor Dvorsky in this draft.

As Slovakian hockey players have been making unusual jumps to the AHL after being drafted (Nemec and Sykora), I think Ciernik could be another candidate for such a move. Teams cannot necessarily trust European teams to give their draftees enough ice time — Sodertalje is constantly working for league promotion in the Swedish relegation system, and I don’t expect them to give a lot of ice time to a 19-year old. Hence, they loaned him to another, far weaker team. The way I see it, Ciernik was able to play his best on a terrible team, and he seems like a prospect who has the aptitude to raise his level accordingly to the situation he’s placed in.

So, if Alex Ciernik is still around by the time the Calgary pick is on the clock for the Devils in the third round, go up there and take him. Time and time again, scouts and teams ignore players with strong European men’s league play because they were not top juniors producers (though Ciernik was in his age-17 season), or because they are smaller forwards and the collective memory of short players outperforming their draft expectations seems to be a bit lacking. In such a strong draft, I expect there to be other good choices when the Devils come up to draft at the end of the second round, but Ciernik is a justifiable choice that can either come to Utica to be developed, or stay in the Allsvenskan league to improve against the second level of Swedish men’s hockey. I would be intrigued to follow him in the Devils’ system, as he could provide support to the team down the line when they need good forwards on ELCs for cap flexibility. With the way he skates, passes, and gets active around the ice, I think he would be a good fit for the Devils’ system as well. If he gains some weight to throw around, he could very well be one of the steals of the Draft.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Alex Ciernik? Do you think he’s appropriately judged by scouts, or should he be ranked higher? How do you feel about someone with such good production for his age being ranked as a second/third round tweener? What do you think of his game on tape? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.