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Welcome to another edition of DP Draft Reports! Today, we take a look at Eduard Sale, Lukas Dragicevic, Mathieu Cataford, Noel Nordh, and Arttu Kärki.
Sale is playing professionally in the top-tier Czech men’s league and has been climbing further into the top-10, and possibly even top-five, conversation for the 2023 draft. He is an electrifying offensive winger who likes to create off the rush, and he has six points through 17 games with Kometa Brno so far this season.
An offensively gifted blueliner with great mobility, Dragicevic is having a stellar start to his draft year for Tri-City in the Western Hockey League. There is room for him to improve defensively, but he has been impactful driving play from the back end, already with 27 points in just 19 games.
Cataford was one of three first-round picks for the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2021 QMJHL draft, and he looks like a safe bet to be the first of them off the board at the NHL draft. He plays in all situations and brings a well-rounded game with some offensive punch, having tallied 15 goals and 16 assists through Halifax’s first 20 games of the season.
Playing in the Brynäs system, Nordh has been putting his physical tools to good use this season. He hasn’t exploded offensively just yet, with 11 points in 16 games at the J20 level, but he has been entrusted with a spot in the SHL lineup for four games already, speaking to his maturity as a player.
Let’s get to the game reports.
Eduard Sale | W | Kometa Brno vs. Plzen (Tipsport Extraliga) | 2022-10-02
0 G, 0 A, 0 SOG, 13:18 TOI
Sasha Lagarde: Not the best game for Sale in terms of production, but he seems to be making small, positive adjustments to his game. Sale didn’t record a point in this contest.
Offensively, Sale created time and space for himself by using small dekes and hesitation moves on the near wall. It allowed his teammates to find some open ice as well. There was a clear-cut two-on-one later on in the period where Sale tried to force a pass through instead of taking the shot attempt. This is part of his game that needs some refinement; Have the confidence to shoot the puck so that his playmaking becomes even more of a threat due to unpredictability. His tendency to pre-scan in the offensive zone is still one of his most notable traits, as he is able to anticipate the movements of the defensive players and attack the middle of the ice. His skating has improved as he has gained some explosiveness in his first three steps while continuing to show why he is one of the more technically sound skaters in this draft class. I didn’t see Sale threaten with his shot, and he was a little lackluster on the powerplay. Watching Sale’s skill with the puck is a treat, but there is a lack of nuance to his game today.
Defensively, Sale still has some work to do. He seemed more engaged in the defensive zone, which shows that he is getting more comfortable with the system put in place. Also, he is showing good closing speed and aggressiveness on the defenseman at the point while understanding when to cover below the faceoff circles during cycles and switch plays. The biggest adjustment is that Sale isn’t shooting the zone as much as he was earlier in the year, as he is in better position for breakout passes while providing support for his centerman and defensemen in particular. If Sale wants to continue improving on his transition game, being able to carry the puck out of the defensive zone as a unit will be very helpful in the higher leagues. Sale was caught flat-footed in the neutral zone several times waiting for a pass, which isn’t ideal; He needs to make better off-puck decisions so he isn’t putting himself in bad positions in the neutral zone to attack on offense.
Lukas Dragicevic | RD | Tri-City vs. Winnipeg (WHL) | 2022-11-05
0 G, 2 A, 4 SOG, 29:48 TOI
Alexander Annun: Lukas Dragicevic is an interesting player to watch on defense due to his exciting offensive ability and his struggles on the defensive side of the puck. He brings with him some exceptional skating ability with sharp edge work, quick acceleration, and great mobility that aid him at both ends of the ice. In this contest against the high-flying Winnipeg Ice, it was a very good litmus test to see where Dragicevic stacks up against some elite competition.
Dragicevic is a very exciting offensive player who patrolled the blue line very actively and ensured that he remained an effective bridge between both sides of the attack in this contest. He moved from side to side, showing as a passing option for the forwards falling under pressure, and also as a shooting option when he was able to get open. His shot from the point was heavy, and he did well to find open shooting lanes; they even scored a goal off the rebound of one of his point shots. He was quick to move the puck, made accurate passes, and made important pinches at the blue line to prevent the puck from exiting the zone and keeping Winnipeg pinned in. He frequently got on the puck and looked very comfortable in handling it, baiting the opposition at times and then effectively dishing the puck off once he lured in the defense.
Defensively, however, it looked as though he was getting exploited for being flat-footed on a couple of occasions by some of the quicker puck carriers on the other team knifing through the center of the ice. His positioning was questionable in a couple of instances, and there were players able to get in behind him for quality chances. There were other times, though, where he did well to get his stick into passing lanes or dislodge the puck from the carrier as they charged at him. Overall, his defensive performance looked shaky and he made a poor decision to pinch from time to time that put his team under pressure. He is looking to be a polarizing prospect given the capabilities that he shows on the puck as a playmaker in the offensive end, but his defensive frailties may keep him out of the first round of the upcoming draft if there are not any signs of improvement.
Matthew Cataford | LW | Halifax vs. Drummondville (QMJHL) | 2022-10-13
0 G, 2 A, 1 SOG, 22:03 TOI
Nick Richard: Cataford didn’t flash a ton of high-end skill in this contest, but his intelligent and refined game was apparent throughout. He was a prominent figure for the Mooseheads, lining up on their first line alongside Jordan Dumais and Markus Vidicek while also playing effective minutes on both special teams units.
It was a quiet first period, but Cataford was a big part of the action picking up from there. His anticipation, work ethic, and processing speed showed up several times during the game. While he didn’t necessarily lay any thunderous hits, he was more than willing to engage physically and used his body effectively to separate opponents from the puck and then protect it from them. Cataford was in the right place at the right time more often than not, and his pre-scanning of his surroundings allowed him to quickly convert puck retrievals into crisp passes to open teammates. He was especially effective pulling pucks off the wall and completing smart passes in short order, and just missed an assist when he found Jordan Dumais streaking into the slot with an accurate backhand pass. He did end up with an assist later on the same powerplay opportunity, working down low to the side of the net before taking a feed from Vidicek, then quickly pulling his hands close to his body to open a lane and find Attilio Biasca alone in the slot. Shortly thereafter, Cataford’s effort level and intelligence created another goal. Patrolling high in the zone, he read the opposing breakout pass, took a great route to its intended recipient, and finished his check to free up the puck for Dumais, who found Vidicek for an easy backdoor finish. Cataford’s second assist came on a powerplay late in the third period where he made a number of strong plays down low to sustain possession before Dumais sniped the eventual game-winner.
Cataford also showed an ability to carry the puck up ice in transition and had a great rush in the third period that he ultimately squandered when he was forced wide on the entry and took a low-percentage shot. It was a rare occurrence on a night where he made the right play practically every time the puck was in his vicinity.
Overall, this was a very impressive showing by Cataford. He always seemed to know where to go with the puck before it came to him and he was exceptional along the boards, securing contested pucks, establishing body position, engaging physically, and completing accurate passes under pressure. He showed an ability to impact the game in all situations and has clearly earned the trust of the Mooseheads’ coaching staff to play a key role. Though he wasn’t particularly flashy in this game, he was incredibly effective in the way that he disrupted opposing possessions while sustaining possessions for his own team and displayed sneaky-good vision with the puck on his stick.
Noel Nordh | W | Sweden U18 vs. Switzerland U18 (Five Nations Tournament) | 2022-11-09
0 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 18:59 TOI
Alexa Potack: In this game, Nordh had many standout shifts, combining his strong skating, physicality, and offensive IQ. On the flip side, a handful of his shifts lacked inspiration and precision. It took a few shifts for Nordh to showcase his speed and be impactful in all zones.
Being well over six feet tall, Nordh has a different set of natural strengths and weaknesses compared to many others his age. His massive wingspan was useful when poke-checking or fighting for pucks in the neutral and defensive zones. He utilized his frame and made a significant physical impact on the ice in this game. Though some of his shifts were inconsistent, as mentioned, his physical play was rarely lacking. He brought physicality along the boards and occasionally in neutral zone play. It is worth noting that this was the only game of the tournament where he did not take a penalty, with most of them being for unnecessary, overly rough plays.
All things considered, Nordh’s greatest size-related strength is likely his screening ability. During nearly every shift with sustained offensive pressure, Nordh was located at the net-front and controlling the goal line. He had a few opportunities for tip-ins, though none went his way. In the second period, Nordh ended up alone in the offensive zone but lost the opportunity when he got tied up with a Swiss defenseman hurrying back. While none of these plays resulted in goals, it shows his offensive instincts and strategy. His one point of the game, an assist, was well-placed and perfectly timed. While it wasn’t flashy on its own, it demonstrated a level of awareness since he was trailed by two defensemen. He found the open man streaking through the right faceoff circle and put it right on the tape. The initial shot was saved, though after some battling, it ended up being a goal. Additionally, one stellar offensive play that did not technically earn him a point was on Axel Sandin Pellikka’s goal that tied the game at two. Nordh parked himself directly in the Swiss goaltender’s line of vision, and the defensive efforts to clear the path were too little and too late.
In terms of skating, he has rapid acceleration and forces his way down the ice using his footwork and physical ability. It is evident how hard he works as he moves up and down the ice. His footwork and agility at the net-front are specific strengths of his, as he shifts fluidly along the goal line, looking to provide a screen or retrieve a loose puck.
Overall, Nordh has a great skill set, especially for a winger with his size. He lacks refinement and struggled with some of the more advanced plays. While his more stationery, straight-ahead passing was clean and mostly successful, he had trouble passing without clear vision. In three instances, Nordh was tied up along the boards but had gained control of the puck. He would try to clear off the wall, but created turnovers due to poor awareness of the quickly changing scene behind him.
Arttu Kärki | RD | Tappara U20 vs. Kärpät U20 (U20 SM-sarja) | 2022-11-04
0 G, 0 A, 3 SOG, 22:44 TOI
Eetu Siltanen: Kärki has been the leading offensively engaged defender for Tappara’s U20 this season, along with Kasper Kulonummi. He played on the right side of the top pairing in this one, as Tappara matched up against Kärpät.
Kärki was left off the scoresheet, and I didn’t see the offensive impact I was waiting for from him. He did, however, play well with the puck, especially on the breakout and along the offensive zone blue line. On the breakout, he has the ability to deke out opposing players and make great breakout passes, but under pressure, he often struggles. He usually was the one giving the first pass and, because of that, seldom supported the rush. However, as mentioned, he plays well on the offensive blue line, thanks to his above-average puck skills. He was able to deke players out, move the puck and get shots through traffic. His shot selection was a bit questionable from time to time, and his shots weren’t threatening scoring chances, though.
Defensively, Kärki has a lot of room to improve. He didn’t manage his gaps consistently, and his below-average quickness left him behind at times in the defensive zone. Kärki’s relatively tall, though, and his long stick allows him to make strong poke-checks and defensive plays. He made a couple of pretty brutal turnovers, which seems to be an unfortunate trend in his game. Kärki should be worth a pick, but his low-pace game could be hard to translate to the North American style.