Not participating in the World Under-18 Championship might have caused some scouts and journalists to forget about a stalwart defender from Slovakia. However, Šimon Nemec had a good excuse: he was busy elsewhere playing with his team, Nitra, in the Slovak league final. He performed well in the national playoffs, and had 10 points (4G, 6A) in 13 games.
Nemec himself said after the regular season that he was quite satisfied with his performances. It may be unusual for him to have only one goal and 25 assists, but many of the shots ended up in the goal after being deflected, giving him a lot more assists than expected. He was right in one more thing as he did believe the goals would come in the playoffs, and they certainly did.
Date of birth: February 15, 2004
Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: HK Nitra (Slovak Extraliga)
He was a selection for the Slovak Olympic team but was overshadowed by a certain Juraj Slafkovský. Both of them came away with bronze medals, though Slafkovský was awarded the MVP of the tournament and other individual accolades as well.
Nemec was philosophical about his own Olympic tournament and the impact it will have on his draft ranking as he pointed out that, “the teams have their internal rankings and they roughly know whom they want.”
He has been playing a strong defensive game in a pro league for almost two seasons. What stands out in his game is his intelligence on the ice. He uses his skating well, and his stickhandling benefits from his awareness. The hockey IQ that many scouts and coaches love to rave about is on full display and it will serve him well going forward. He adjusts well to new challenges; he struggled with the narrower ice in the Olympics at the start, but got better as the tournament progressed, albeit with limited minutes.
His decision-making is very strong. He uses that to read the game well especially in the defensive zone, even if he did take a bigger offensive role the longer the season progressed.
The mental elements are backed up by his skating talent. It is smooth, strong, and he accelerates well. He uses this to carry the puck out or close down attackers with equal efficiency. It all comes together to make him a menace to bypass as his quick reads, quick hands, and quick feet can lead to a sudden counter-attack where he can provide an offensive edge that is just starting to blossom.
His weakness is what many young defenders have at this stage of their careers: the physique. While Nemec isn’t small in any way, he hasn’t built up his body to the extent of an NHL defender. It was visible in the Olympics as the competition got better that he couldn’t participate in the game to the same level as he expected.
Having played two full seasons in the Slovak top division, with an added long playoff this year, it would make sense to move to a better league, be it in Europe or North America to take the next step in what would be a very interesting career.
Elite Prospects: #3
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #9
NHL Central Scouting: #6 (European Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #5
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #3
The question that lingers is if Montreal would consider picking a defenceman in the draft. The defence pool is strong, and Nemec will take a few years to get to the NHL level. He will be a top-10 pick for sure, and might rise more with a successful World Championship for Slovakia.
As of this moment, there are two Central European defencemen battling it out to become the first blue-liner picked in the draft, one from Slovakia and the other from the other side of the border, Czechia. The interesting thing is that with Slafkovský coming out of Slovakia as well, it isn’t certain that Nemec will even be the first Slovak player to be picked in the 2022 NHL Draft.