Rise up this mornin’, smiled with the risin’ sun. Four little Slovaks pitch by my doorstep. Singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true, sayin’ “This is my message to you-ou-ou:”
Slovakia has had four players in total drafted over the last three years, none of them going in the first two rounds. This year, they will not only get their first prospects drafted in the opening round since Marko Dano in 2013. They will almost certainly have four players coming off the board before we head into Round Three.
Birthplace: Piešťany, Slovakia
Date of birth: September 7, 2004
Weight: 174 lbs.
Team: HK Nitra (Tipos Extraliga)
A teammate of Nemec at HK Nitra, Sýkora is blessed with an interesting profile himself. He is considered to be slightly undersized, but this must be weighed against his (very) young age. Born in September, 2004, he is one of the youngest players available in the 2022 NHL Draft. In fact, if he were just nine days younger, he would have been part of the 2023 draft class instead of this one. This means that there is still time for him to potentially grow another inch while simultaneously bulking up his somewhat scrawny body.
What he so far lacks in both age and size, he compensates for by working extremely hard in all situations. He is a player who can best be described as intense. Many players show good effort, but end up overworking certain situations and lose focus throughout a game. Sýkora, meanwhile, plays smart, forechecks well, and is not afraid to enter battles along the boards.
I suspect that many scouts during the build-up process to this draft have been enamoured with his raw fearlessness. It doesn’t matter if Sýkora is up against players who are considerably more developed and imposing than himself, he will still go to war on every single shift, reminding you of a spirited Dachshund.
Elite Prospects: #38
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #63
NHL Central Scouting: #42 (European Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #62
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #67
From what we can make out of these rankings, Sýkora should be available at the beginning of the second round. It all really depends on how much upside you see in him and whether you think his relentlessness can translate to the NHL level. He is a good skater but is not described as a Brad Lambert, who just flies forward on the ice like a figure-skating prodigy.
One anonymous NHL scout who spoke to Hockey Prospect back in May compared the winger to fellow countryman Nemec and Austrian Marco Kasper, saying that there is “not much more needed” from these three players to transition into a future NHL role.
Elite Prospects starts its evaluation similarly, stating that he “will play in the NHL” one day. Their question is just how high in the lineup Sýkora’s offensive potential will take him. And therein lies the big question which we have yet to address. While there is plenty of talk around Sýkora’s competitive nature and fighting spirit, there is seemingly much less praise for his offensive skill level.
His shot is described as average by McKeen’s, and while he does possess quite a bit of skill as a transition man and puck-carrier, he is by no means described as a playmaker either. Instead, his offensive production will rely on tracking the puck, winning the battles and getting those gritty points near the net, not unlike another undersized winger who’s been blessing Habs fans with his heart-on-his-sleeve playing style over the last decade.
In this video, you can see Sýkora making an impact on the centre stage, starting a counter-attack in the quarter-finals of last month’s World Championship before joining the rush and beating Finnish goaltender Jussi Olkinuora with a mid-air redirect. This shift gives a tremendous explanation of what kind of player Sýkora is today, and what he ultimately could bring to your prospect pool. You would get defensive awareness, a blistering transition ability and, if that’s not enough, you’d have some offence to sprinkle on top of it all.