Vinzenz Rohrer hadn’t made much of a name for himself back in Europe before he decided to go in the footsteps of his Austrian predecessor and childhood friend, Marco Rossi, and join the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. Sure, he had dominated while playing at the under-17 level in Switzerland, but playing well in a Swiss Junior league won’t get you on the radar of NHL franchises. It can, however, be enough to put you on the radar of teams in the Canadian Hockey League
When he was drafted in the opening round of the 2021 CHL Import Draft, he decided to pack his bags, take his chances, and do what many Europeans have done before him: go west. One season, 68 games, 52 points, and one draft selection later, there are few doubts that young Vinzenz made the right choice for the sake of his hockey career.
Birthplace: Feldkirch, Austria
Date of birth: September 9, 2004
Position: Centre/Right Wing
Weight: 168 lbs.
Team: Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Considering his lack of body mass, I expect most to assume that he is a flashy player who can’t provide a physical edge. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rohrer’s playing style is characterized by his relentless forechecking and active stick, which he uses to dispossess opposing attackers. He is a frustrating type to play against, being in your face on every single shift.
Considering how much the Canadiens seem to have scouted Slovak players in the last few months, I would not be surprised if they were considering getting a third one with Adam Sýkora if he were available with this selection. Style wise, Sýkora and Rohrer have clear similarities. They’re both smaller wingers who skate well, work hard, and can open up extra space where their linemates can operate. Both are the type of player that coaches tend to love because of their adaptability and willingness to put in the work behind the scenes for the benefit of their team.
In Rohrer’s case, there are times when his defensive acumen seems to win out over his potential offensive output. Quite frankly, he doesn’t get into high-quality scoring areas as much as you would want from a top-end winger in the OHL. Still, he ended the season with 25 goals scored, which is not half-bad for a freshman from Alpine Europe.
Given that this was his first season playing CHL hockey and the fact that he is one of the absolute youngest prospects in this entire draft class (the cutoff date is September 15), there should be plenty of time for Rohrer to improve upon his current offensive skill set. Already there are times when he’s in possession when he flashes a playmaking intelligence which, if nurtured and developed, could turn him into more than just an intense checking forward at the next level.
Just as I wrote in the recently published article about Lane Hutson, Montreal and its new front office has seemingly set its sights on smart hockey players in this draft. If there is something Slafkovský, Mešár, Beck, Hutson, and Rohrer have in common, it is what in scouting circles so fancily is referred to as hockey IQ.
They are players who, although skilled in their own right, also understand how to make a team, a line, or a defensive pairing tick. In short, they have all been players who created environments for their respective teammates to thrive in.
With Rohrer still being two months away from celebrating his 18th birthday, he is still years away from an NHL lineup. Still, I can’t help but seeing small glimpses of a certain, recent Stanley Cup-winning Finn in the way he goes about playing his game. The comparison between Rohrer and Artturi Lehkonen is not one made from how they were both playing in their draft year, but rather who Lehky turned out to be for the Montreal Canadiens, as well as for the Colorado Avalanche down the line.
Lehkonen eventually became a player who a coach could send in on everything from fourth-line to first-line duty, and while not looking spectacular to the naked eye, opened up lanes and space for his linemates through relentless forechecking and by using his footspeed on every square inch of the 200-foot rink. Lehkonen’s additional tendency to score when it matters most, well ... that is just something magical that we can’t ask any prospect to replicate.
Rohrer turning into an NHL middle-six winger of the same quality as notre Lehky bien-aimé is naturally a long shot, considering where in the draft he was chosen. But at this point, mere hours after the selection, we can look forward to closely following a smart, European winger who plays much bigger than his size would otherwise suggest. Viel Glück in Montreal, Vinzenz!