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2023 NHL Draft prospect profile: Samuel Honzek combines size and agility

Beyond the Canadiens’ top-five pick, the Montreal front office has the task of making another addition with their second first-round pick in Nashville. They don’t yet know where it will land thanks to the Florida Panthers pushing Toronto to its limit in round two of the playoffs. Given that the pick can land anywhere from 17th to 32nd, it’s a wide net to cast at this stage of evaluations.

Inside that range is a tremendous amount of forwards, including an intriguing centre out of the WHL, 18-year-old Samuel Honzek of the Vancouver Giants. The Canadiens have dipped into Slovakia twice for young prospects under Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes, so adding another wouldn’t be surprising.

Birthplace: Trencin, Slovakia
Date of Birth: November 12, 2004
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Vancouver Giants (WHL)

The first thing that stands out for Honzek is that he played just 43 games for the Giants this year, far less than a full slate of games in his first North American season. That is tied to an injury he suffered while representing Slovakia at the World Juniors tournament. He was able to return before the end of the season for Vancouver and suited up for the playoffs as well. In the 43 games that he did play, he compiled an impressive 23 goals and 33 assists.

Those totals leave him second in the WHL for goals among rookies, fourth for assists and third in total points. All of the players above him played at least a dozen more games. With those totals, Honzek also finished second in terms of total scoring on his own team.

Honzek’s size gives him a massive advantage over his peers in the WHL. Standing at 6’4″, he has a reach that allows him to cover space in all three zones. He can use that length to effectively poke pucks away in the neutral zone and transition into attack quickly. With his size he is also a strong presence along the boards, keeping plays extended as he uses his frame to protect the puck from defenders.

Despite his size, Honzek isn’t bereft of skill, showing impressive edge control when moving at full speed. His hands are not to be ignored either, with the big Slovak negotiating around goaltenders with relative ease.

Mitch Brown & Lassi Alanen’s tracking project

He generates plenty of offence through his own efforts with the puck on his stick Relative to his teammates, he carrying the puck in often to make that happen.

Honzek thrives around the net and in the dirty, high-danger areas. With his massive frame and agility in tight areas he is a handful for opposing defences to handle near the net. He is often creating opportunities with rebounds or finishing off second chances as he barrels through the opposing defence.

He still has some growing to do as well. He tends to avoid contact, often opting to cut around players or trying to use his reach first. With a bit of muscle added onto his body, he will likely begin to use that size advantage even further.

While he isn’t slow by any means and possesses good edge-work for a player his size, there are a few slight mechanical issues with his first steps in his stride. His top speed isn’t all that bad but with a wonky first few steps he struggles to generate separation from opponents. If he can work that into his game, there’s a chance he’ll find another level to his already impressive attack.

Prelimary Rankings

Dobber Prospects: #23
Elite Prospects: #15
FCHockey: #46
Hockey Prospect: #8
Hadi Kalakeche: #24
McKeen’s: #33
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #19
NHL Central Scouting: #9 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #12
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #27

Looking at the rankings, it seems pretty clear that most of the scouting world sees Honzek as a mid-to-late first-round choice. While the Panthers’ pick originally would have fallen into this range, the odds are that he will be off the board by the time it comes up thanks to the Panthers resurgent playoff showing.

Obviously, at fifth overall, selecting him would be a reach of epic proportions, but if Montreal wanted to trade up from the late 20s to grab him the reasoning is sound. He plays a game that should translate well to the next level as he loves to put himself in the best areas to create offence.

He is listed as a centre, but some scouts have mentioned that unless his skating improves his future might be as a winger. While he isn’t exactly fleet like Josh Anderson, it’s not hard to see why he might be appealing for anyone in the back half of Round 1.

Honzek might, through no fault of his own, fall into the category of being a “safe pick” as he isn’t a big flash and sizzle tip of player despite his skills. With many fans clamouring for a bit of size in the future lineups, they would salivate over the idea of Honzek and 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovský on the same line at some point in the future.

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