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In this week’s installment of DP Draft reports, DobberProspects’ team of draft scouts takes a look at Juraj Slafkovsky, Seamus Casey, Owen Beck, Adam Ingram, and Devin Kaplan.
Slafkovksy, a mainstay near the top of most public draft rankings, is the most prominent name featured this week. A big-bodied forward with smooth hands and good vision, he has split time between Liiga and U20 SM-sarja for TPS this season, racking up 18 points in just 11 games at the U20 level. He is currently away from his club team to represent Slovakia at the Olympics and if the early returns are any indication, his stock could continue to rise following the tournament.
Casey is an undersized but dynamic puck moving defenceman for the USNTDP’s U18 team. After leading the U17 team’s defensive unit in scoring last season, he has continued to produce for the U18s this season and sits behind only Lane Hutson in scoring among NTDP defenders.
Beck has been a steady riser in draft circles so far this season, playing a strong two-way game for Mississauga in the OHL. Though he hasn’t produced at quite the same rate as teammate Luca Del Bel Belluz or top prospect Shane Wright, Beck sits at the top of the scoring race among the next group of OHL draft-eligible players.
Ingram is an intelligent offensive forward who is having a great rookie season for Youngstown in the USHL after making the jump from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League to begin the year. Through 33 games, his 41 points lead all draft-eligible USHL players.
Kaplan, a teammate of Casey’s with the NTDP, has an intriguing mix of size and scoring touch. He has been used mostly in a third-line role this season but has been fairly productive given the minutes he has been asked to play.
Let’s get to it.
Juraj Slafkovsky | LW | Slovakia vs. Finland (Olympics) | 2022-2-10
2 G, 0 A, 2 SOG, 12:57 TOI
Eetu Siltanen: Slafkovsky had a very positive showing against Finland in Slovakia’s first game of the Olympic tournament. He played a little less than 13 minutes in the game and recorded two shots on goal, both of which found the back of the net. Slafkovsky’s first goal came off a rebound; he won the one-on-one battle in front of the net and placed the puck under the crossbar. His second one was even more impressive; he made a nice body fake while getting the puck from the corner, moved his feet well to get open, and placed a nice wrist shot far side.
Slafkovsky’s good puck control, skill, and strong puck protection were on display. It is crazy how well he controlled and protected the puck as a 17-year-old, against big, physical top European players. He was especially good on the cycle as he was able to use those skills in his favor. scoring both of his goals off the cycle game after strong one-on-one plays. The game was played on an NHL-sized ice surface which seemed to suit Slafkovsky’s game well. I have been a little concerned about his footwork in the past but in this game, he showed that it wasn’t a problem and that he is capable of playing at a higher pace as well.
There were a couple of plays where you could see that he is still a young player but for the most part, this was a very good game from Slafkovsky and he was dangerous when he had the puck on his blade. He was the Slovak’s best forward in this one, even with limited ice time. Players shouldn’t be evaluated by one or two games, or not even necessarily entire tournaments, but Slafkovsky strengthened his draft stock in my eyes as he was able to provide answers to many of the questions I’ve had about his game.
Seamus Casey | RD | USNTDP U18 vs. University of Michigan (NTDP/NCAA) | 2022-02-02
0 G, 0 A, 0 SOG, 18:22 TOI
Alexander Annun: This was a quiet game on the scoresheet for Casey but he had some moments that allowed him to shine on both sides of the puck. One thing that stands out for a defenceman of his size (5-10 and 161 pounds) is that he wins a good amount of puck battles. He won 15 puck battles in this contest – good for a 67% success rate against a temporarily depleted #3 ranked Michigan squad.
Casey’s skating ability is well documented by now, but his edgework and agility make him so difficult to shake in one-on-one situations because he is likely the better skater in any matchup, allowing him to stick with opposing players all night in this one. One thing I noticed was his willingness to be the second player to the puck. He is content with not winning the race to the puck but rather closely following a half-step behind and then inserting himself with a stick lift or just outright stealing the puck. This is something that Casey is very skilled at but he will need to engage more physically at the next level. He did have an important intervention in the third period in which the puck took a weird bounce off the corner wall and popped out front to a gaping net and he was able to get a stick lift in and insert his body to box out the forechecker. When he did engage the opposition, his use of his low center of gravity was great and combined with his tight turning radius, he was able to slip away from challenges on multiple occasions.
Casey looked alright in the offensive zone in this one and showed off how quickly he can go from a standstill to beating you along the boards with his explosiveness and puck handling. He took the puck in behind the net and threw a tantalizing feed across the mouth of the net that could have easily been cashed in on.
This was a fairly even game with chances on both sides so it was good to see Casey logging a lot of defensive minutes and showing he is capable of handling himself despite being an offense-first player. His positioning is okay but could use a bit of work in that department, as well as in his decision making but he has great tools and the IQ to succeed in a two-way capacity. There were a couple of moments in this game where you could watch and say he may have been out of position but he did well to recover with his skating and it is something for him to work on. Casey will get the chance to do just that as he joins this Michigan squad next season and looks to round out his game before taking the next step.
Owen Beck | C | Mississauga vs. North Bay (OHL) | 2021-12-17
0 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, 19:50 TOI
Nick Richard: Beck had a strong showing in a tight-checking affair against North Bay and his speed was a noticeable factor in transition all game long. He and his linemates spent their first shift of the game hemmed in the defensive zone, and though he was a little passive in trying to disrupt the cycle for my liking, the Battalion were unable to generate much at even strength against Beck’s line for most of the night. A big reason for that was Beck’s proficiency on draws as he had several clean wins in the faceoff circle.
Though there were times where I would have liked to see him apply a little more pressure in defensive zone coverage, Beck did have the right idea when defending more often than not. He displayed solid positioning and supported the play well in all three zones, covering pinching defenders in transition and patrolling the top of the zone on the forecheck. There was one play in particular that stood out when he was tracking back and identified the trailer, timing it perfectly to arrive and take the man out of the play with a nice open-ice hit as he was receiving a pass. Beck’s only real glaring error on the night came on the penalty kill when he got caught collapsing a little too far towards the net and allowed the opposing forward to get in tight from the flank and score the game’s opening goal.
Beck’s off-puck game on the defensive side was solid but it was his play away from the puck offensively that caught my attention. He was proactive but not overactive in hunting space, showing creativity and a strong sense of timing in his routes to make himself available. He also showed a tendency to stay inside opposing checks, increasing the likelihood of receiving a successful pass, and had a great chance in close after curling high in the slot and beating his man to the net off the cycle.
Beck was even more dangerous as a puck-carrier, pushing the defense back with speed and scanning the play to identify his options. He showed an ability to beat defenders wide but his skill as a puck handler also allowed him to play pucks through defenders to create chances. One such play came on the man advantage as he soared up the wing and beat Ty Nelson with a slick deke, forcing the defenceman to bring him down and take a penalty. Beck was persistent on the play, maintaining possession and ultimately getting rewarded with an assist on what would be the game-winning goal. It wasn’t just his straight-line speed that caused problems for the opposition either, and he showed off great lateral mobility to weave between checks and cut into space with the puck on his stick.
It was a somewhat quiet game for Beck but he still had a solid night and managed to show off many of the attributes that have put him in consideration as a possible first-round pick. There weren’t a ton of opportunities for him to get his heavy shot off in this one but his combination of intelligence away from the puck, speed, and puck-handling ability will surely draw lots of interest leading up to the draft.
Adam Ingram | C/LW | Youngstown vs. Muskegon (USHL) | 2022-01-21
0 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, 21:16 TOI
Evan Pace: While he struggled on faceoffs to the tune of a 29% win rate and is likely better suited as a winger, Ingram displayed excellent playmaking ability and vision in this contest. He plays a passive style of game, especially when he is playing down the middle where he lets the game come to him and doesn’t really insert himself into the play at times but when he played on the left-side in the third period, he was more involved and engaged in the play. I really liked him on the powerplay as well, using patience and never forcing passes or unnecessary shots. All of his passes were tape-to-tape or in the right areas for setting up a teammate’s shot attempt or breakout. He was, however, a step late in support on a few occasions and it resulted in his teammates turning over the puck or having to make a play themselves.
On the powerplay, Ingram didn’t force anything unnecessary and consistently made the right pass at the right time. He makes cuts through the middle of the ice when he is at the point after making a pass, finding his spot down low on the right side of the offensive zone. Patience is one of his most noticeable assets, never forcing passes, as he makes the right play almost every time even if there isn’t a clear passing lane available. He had a great assist on the man advantage, walking the perimeter to draw in defenders before setting up his teammate for a one-timer that found the back of the net.
Overall, Ingram had some solid moments where he utilized his skilled playmaking ability, vision, and patience with the puck. There were where he was less impactful, but he made up for it with his excellent puck-moving and facilitation as a playmaker.
Devin Kaplan | LW | USNTDP U18 vs. Chicago (USHL) | 2021-10-29
0 G, 0 A, 2 SOG, 14:04 TOI
Zack Szweras: Although Kaplan was held off the scoresheet in this game, he showed how he can become an impactful middle-six winger if he can improve his skating. Against the best team in the USHL, the Chicago Steel, Kaplan was able to make plays to alter the momentum of the game. On his first shift of the game, Kaplan wasted little time demonstrating active defensive zone play and good work on the cycle in the offensive zone.
In the offensive zone, Kaplan likes to play around the net front. He is eager and willing to retrieve pucks down low and use his large frame to keep possession. He also recognizes when the defencemen are pinching into the offensive zone and goes to the blue line to cover for them. He made a nice stop on a breakout attempt by Chicago at the blueline covering for a pinching teammate. Later in the game, Kaplan stripped the puck from a Chicago player in the offensive zone, used his puck handling to maintain control before making a fancy no-look pass to set up Tyler Duke for a scoring opportunity. Another strong area of Kaplan’s game is in the trenches. With his big frame, he invites competition along the boards and outmuscles opponents for contested pucks.
One thing I have noticed about Kaplan is that he is not as involved in the transition game as he should be. When he has the puck in the neutral zone, he usually opts to pass to a faster paced teammate. Improving his skating will allow him to take his transition game to the next level. That said, at least he is making the smart play by deferring in transition rather than giving up the puck attempting to be someone he is not. When he does make a transition pass, they do tend to smart reads and accurate passes.
The area where Kaplan truly excelled in this game was on the penalty kill as he is a crucial part of the NTDP’s shorthanded unit. He has a high level of hockey IQ which allowed him to position himself in the passing lanes Chicago was looking to exploit. His second shift came on the penalty kill, where he was able to clear the puck down the ice himself a couple of times.
On this particular five-minute penalty kill, Kaplan was defending the right side of the ice when the puck was sent in between the legs of a Chicago player. Using an active stick, Kaplan was able to poke the puck out of the blueline and onto a Chicago defender. With his momentum carrying him, Kaplan again used his stick to poke the puck away from that Chicago defender, right into the hands of teammate Cole Spicer for a shorthanded breakaway. When the breakaway missed, Kaplan quickly retrieved the puck and sent it back to his defenceman, in order to kill off more time on the PK. Later on, during the same penalty kill, Kaplan was defending his zone well which resulted in drawing a penalty, negating the rest of Chicago’s powerplay.
Unfortunately, his pace and skating are a concern. On an odd-man rush for Chicago, Kaplan was sprinting back and was still a step behind his man due to his lack of speed. In order for Kaplan to reach his full potential he is going to need to put in a ton of work with skating coaches to at least improve to an average pace.