2023 NHL Draft prospect profile: Adam Gajan surprised with Slovakia at the World Juniors
Gajan burst onto the scene at the World Juniors, but is that enough to get him drafted?
Adam Gajan was a revelation for the Slovak national under-20 team this year. He is also one of the top goalie prospects in this upcoming draft. A tall and lanky goaltender, who has great positioning and anticipation, Gajan has every tool of a modern goaltender. Committed to Minnesota-Duluth, he will keep polishing an already intriguing athletic toolkit.
Birthplace: Poprad, Slovakia
Date of birth: May 06, 2004
Weight: 176 lbs.
Team: Chippewa Steel (NAHL)
In the quarter-final matchup versus Canada at the World Juniors, he was incredible, facing a total of 56 shots. Let’s be honest, Slovakia wouldn’t have had a chance to win that game in overtime if not for its netminder. He ended the tournament with a 2.40 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Not bad for an undrafted goalie.
As I mentioned in my earlier profile of Trey Augustine, only a handful of goaltenders might be taken in this upcoming draft, such as the Czech Michael Hrabal, Canadian Carson Bjarnason, and Gajan. It's a very limited pool of talent to draft and develop.
Among that group of four prospects, Gajan is among the tallest, yet lightest. His size is still one of his main strengths, being able to cover a large portion of the net.
An over-age prospect, he joined a second-tier Junior league this season. He earned a call-up to the top-tier league, became the starter for his country at the World Juniors, then came back and dominated the second-tier league.
For most of his career, Gajan played in Slovakia. Yet, for the 2022-23 season, he decided to come to North America, perhaps after being passed on in the 2022 NHL Draft despite it being a historic year for his compatriots.
In his USHL stint, he didn't fare all that poorly with 2.48 GAA and .906 save percentage over the six games he played. He was then loaned back to the NAHL, where he played 34 games, going 19-12-3 with a 2.57 GAA and .917 save percentage.
The Chippewa Steel made Gajan their top selection in last summer’s NAHL Draft, selecting him with the 28th overall pick. He made the team out of training camp and has continued to make strides. It's partly due to this support that he seemed to have found his footing in North America and developed his game further.
He is a big, athletic goalie with long legs and excellent reflexes who never gives up on the play. He keeps his positioning tight and square to the shooter. His rebound control is good, and the same can be said of his glove hand. His poise is solid, as seen at the World Juniors.
His anticipation is good, as well as his consistency. You rarely see Gajan out of the play; he tracks and fights for the puck at a very respectable level. Due to his size, he has a certain advantage when it comes to settling into the butterfly and covering the ice. His long legs take away the bottom and seals the ice nicely when he drops. Before dropping on the ice, he takes away a lot of the net by playing aggressively. He knows how to use his size to his advantage. He also has a relatively good technique and can scramble and make a save due to his anticipation and positioning.
One of the biggest issues I have with Gajan's play is not one based solely on his toolkit. He doesn't possess a large enough sample size playing against top competition. As such, his next few years in the NCAA should give us a clearer picture.
Dobber Prospects: N/R in Top 50
Elite Prospects: N/R in Top 80
Hockey Prospect: #24
Hadi Kalakeche: #41
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #56
NHL Central Scouting: #6 (North American goaltenders)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) N/R in Top 34
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): N/R in Top 64
Using a grading system similar to The Athletic's Corey Pronman's prospect ratings, here is how I would gauge Gajan's skillset.
Rebound Control: Good
Glove Hand: Good
Hockey Sense: Good
All in all, Gajan has interesting tools, but limited experience to truly show if he can play at the pro level makes it difficult to use a draft pick on him. If he is still there in the late rounds, I might be willing to take a flyer and see how he improves. The best outcome for a team interested in him would be to sign him as an undrafted prospect if he shows well in camp or throughout his years in the NCAA.